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Gallery: Van Aert writes his own Champs Elysees fairytale

Will Strickson
19 Jul 2021

The wait for Mark Cavendish's 35th Tour de France stage win goes on as Wout van Aert completes his set in Paris

You won, Wout. Enjoy the money, I hope it makes you happy. Dear lord, what a sad little life, Wout. You ruined Mark's night completely so you could have the money and I hope now you can spend it on lessons in grace and decorum. 

There's a villain to every story, though it's not clear whose story was being written on the final stage of the Tour de France yesterday.

While the world waited for Mark Cavendish to get his fairytale ending with a 35th stage win on the Champs-Élysées, a trio of Belgians were holding out for their own stories.

Although Jasper Philipsen sadly becomes the Tour's Giacomo Nizzolo with another near miss, Wout van Aert cemented himself in two books: the history ones and Eddy Merckx's good ones.

How is it possible for one man to win the double Mont Ventoux stage, an individual time-trial and the Champs-Élysées bunch sprint in the same Tour?

Well, after clinking champagne glasses and a few strong attacks on the finishing loop, it turned out that Mike Teunissen, not Michael Mørkøv, was the leadout man to watch as the Dutchman guided his Jumbo-Visma teammate to the front and on he soared to victory.

It wasn't the best showing for the Deceuninck-QuickStep train with men all over the road in the last few kilometres but Cavendish found himself on Van Aert's wheel down the finishing straight but with no room to come between the barriers and our eventual winner.

His four stage wins and green jersey should be enough to get him a contract somewhere for next season though, whether it's with Quick-Step or not, so that's probably not the last we've seen of Cav and the Tour and Merckx's bum squeaks for another year.

Post-stage, as Wout van Aert did his duties and hopped on a flight to Tokyo, Tadej Pogačar made himself at home on the podium. With six jerseys and six stage wins – in just 10 months – at 22 years old it's only the beginning of his story, somehow, and he will be back on that podium many-a-time.

And finally, Cavendish wasn't the only Brit on the top step in Paris as youngest man in the race Fred Wright found himself front and centre as Bahrain Victorious took home the team classifcation.

The real hero of the Tour though has undoubtedly been photographer Chris Auld, and here are some of his best images from Stage 21: