Yes… Michael Mathews of Team BikeExchange sits in second place with 269 points, just 34 points down from Deceuninck-Quick-Step veteran Mark Cavendish who leads the points table and has been wearing the green jersey since is first win in Stage 4. Now with 4 stage wins, he has picked up 50 points each time and maintained a clear lead. But with 90 points still up for grabs from the Individual Time Trial and Stage 21 intermediate sprint and final sprint, there is a possibility that Matthews could overtake the Manx Missile and win the green jersey again? Yes, but Cavendish and his team will be extremely hard to beat.
The Italian Bahrain Victorious rider Sonny Colbrelli sits in third place with 216 points and there is a theoretical chance that he could move up to first if he wins ITT with 20 points, the Stage 21 intermediate sprint (20 points) and the final sprint on the Champs-Élysées. This is also on the condition that Matthews and Cavendish don’t get any points. In other words, the chances for Colbrelli are remote.
In 2017, Matthews won the green jersey at the Tour de France and equals Cavendish for overall wins, who won once in 2011. Matthews has shown a strong performance in the 2021 Tour de France, in Stage 16 he was in a break-away and finished in third, although has been unable to challenge Cavendish in sprint finishes. In Stage 2 Matthews even wore the green jersey as he finished second in the points classification behind Julian Alaphillipe who won yellow in Stage 1.
The Deceuninck – Quick-Step leadout train been powerful and there remains one more opportunity for Cavendish to beat the record by Eddy Merckx for Tour wins. The flat stage 19 saw an effective breakaway that stole away from a comparatively relaxed peloton who had planned for a bunch sprint – so this opportunity closed. But after the tough climbs where Cavendish struggled at times to clear the hilly stages and make the cut-off times, could fatigue be a final hurdle for the 36 year old Brit?
Everything else in the tour is (virtually) decided. The King of the Mountains jersey was the most hotly contested classification in 2021 and two mountain top wins by the current Tour lead Tadej Pogačar of Team UAE means he will win the Polka Dot King of the Mountains Jersey this year. A single KOM point can be won on Stage 21 which is no threat for Pogačar.
Pogačar will also win the White Jersey for the Young Rider Classification which he has led the entire tour. And of course he takes the Yellow jersey which is has worn since Stage 8. With a 5’45” lead over his nearest competitor and a traditionally strong Individual Time Trial performance, on the final stage the yellow jersey is (usually) never contested and Team UAE wouldn’t allow any competitors break away and challenge the lead. The total domination does take away a lot of the suspense from the tour, but it is also decisive and the humble Slovakian has proven on the bike that he is a league above the rest.
This only leaves the points jersey and the places for second and third left to be decided (or confirmed) along with the Combativity Award which has swapped hand for every single stage it has been awarded.
Before the ITT, Australian Ben O’Connor of team AG2R sits in fourth place at 8’18”, about 2’27” behind INEOS Grenadier rider Richard Carapaz. The second and third place could be the other big fight with Carapaz in 3rd sitting just 5 seconds behind the Danish Jonas Vingegaard of Jumbo Visma. For both riders, their final rankings will rely on their ITT performance.
And not to forget some honorable mentions for Simon Clarke of Qhubeka NextHash who has suffered a back injury but still was in the breakaway on Stage 19. in Harry Sweeny of Lotto Soudal has a strong first tour supporting his team. Richie Porte of INEOS Grenadier is typically stronger in the big tours however the team suffered from numerous crashes and with four GC capable riders, the team is racing behind Carapaz. Luke Durbridge of Team Bike Exchange has just been announced as the Australian Olympic replaement for the injured Jack Haig.
Australians who have withdrawn due to injury include Caleb Ewan of Lotto Soudal, Jack Haig of Bahrain Victorious and Lucas Hamilton of BikeExchange. Miles Scotson of Groupama FDJ withdrew due to illness.
Back to the Green Jersey and Points
The Individual Time Trial are not the strong disciplines for Cavendish or Matthews who will not be able to use the Time Trial of stage 20 to add points. At the time of publishing, Cavendish and Matthews completed the Stage 20 Individual Time Trial outside without achieving points. There remain just the two more chances and Matthews needs to go for both the intermediate sprint on Stage 21 and needs to seek victory on the Champs-Élysées in Paris and hope that Cavendish isn’t too far behind.
But the 35 Tour wins is the next big dream for Cavendish. Although the Tour de France finish-line in Paris is not typically won from a lead-out train, the gradual lead-up to the finish and extremely wide finish line can means the the Paris victory is really up-for-grabs.
Matching the record by Merckx is still a fairy-tale, and all eyes will be on him and team Deceuninck – Quick-Step who will do everything they can and fend off all challengers.
Australians have featured prominently in the points classification in the last decade, in 2002 Robbie McEwen was the first Australian to win and totalled 3 overall wins while Baden Cooke and Michael Matthews share one win each in the overall points jersey. Peter Sagan of BORA – hansgrohe has been a dominant challenger with seven green jersey wins at the Tour de France but had a troubled year in 2021. The Irish Sam Bennett of Deceuninck – Quick-Step who won last year didn’t start this year.
Matthews could still win the green jersey again this year… but the odds are stacked heavily against him because Cavendish will be seeking his fairy-tale win in Paris on Stage 21… and whether or not Cavendish gets this, the green jersey in Paris will still be the cherry on top. And Matthews will do everything he can to achieve this last minute win.