Team BikeExchange wrapped up the 2021 Tour de France today, with Slovenian sprinter Luka Mezgec sprinting to fourth place to give the squad a total of ten top-10 stage finishes plus 13thplace overall and a hard fought second place in the points jersey competition.
It was a Grand Tour filled with many ups and downs, as the squad fell victim to crashes, with general classification hopeful Lucas Hamilton and Giro d’Italia podium finisher Simon Yates both forced to abandon the race after an unfortunate crash on stage 13.
Colombian climber Esteban Chaves then took on a lead role in the mountains, riding consistently in the final week to maintain his position in the general classification, which resulted in his best overall finish in the Tour de France with 13thplace.
A thrilling start:
30-year-old Australian puncheur Michael Matthews got the tour off to a thrilling start for the squad with a strong second place on the opening stage, before battling day-in-day-out, relentlessly hunting down that elusive stage victory.
Close, many times:
Despite walking away without a stage victory, it wasn’t from a lack of trying from the squad with seven top-10 finishes from Matthews, four of them top-five placings and three more top-10 finishes courtesy of Mezgec and Yates.
Mezgec also claimed fifth place after going on the offensive into a dangerous breakaway on stage 12, with Chris Juul-Jensen and Luke Durbridge also putting on a strong showings, with Durbridge heading into a stacked breakaway group up the iconic Mont Ventoux on day 11.
Crashes and chaos:
The theme of the first week was crashes as tension raged which resulted in multiple crashes with almost the entire team caught out in the various touchdowns. Most riders bounced back unscathed however, Amund Grøndahl Jansen battled with an injury he sustained in the opening stage crash, which also forced him to retire from the race on stage 15, leaving the team with just five riders.
With Hamilton, Yates and Grøndahl Jansen out of the race, the squad showed a true fighting spirit heading into the final week which echoed through the full team, immediately regrouping and taking every opportunity on offer whilst also continuing the fight with Matthews in the green jersey classification.
Luka Mezgec – 4th
“I was slowly moving on the barrier and I’ve never actually had so much space to launch it and I just committed and followed, I was hoping that if Michael is good he will go on the right. It’s a nice result, but I’m a bit disappointed because I was in a different role, I have mixed feelings to be honest.
I had good legs, I spent a bit in the wind in the final kilometre, but as a sprinter you also always lose a bit, so it’s hard to say what would have happened. I’m happy with fourth, but I would rather lead out Bling to a win than finish fourth on my own.
With a little bit more luck and a stage win, it would have turned out much better than it did. I’m personally a bit disappointed with the results, I was really hoping to win a stage with one of the boys or myself from the break, we didn’t achieve that. But it wasn’t because a lack of commitment or lack of shape, I think we just missed a bit of luck, which you always need in cycling because the differences are so small.“
Matt White – Head Sport Director
“The plan today was to keep Mark Cavendish under the pump, he was the clear leader in the green jersey, but anything can happen in racing and to do that we needed to put pressure on him in the intermediate sprint and the final.
The boys did a good job, obviously positioning-wise we were a bit stuck on the left-hand side there which is why Luka was in front of Michael in the sprint there, they were a little bit boxed-in.
But like everything through this Tour de France, the guys have been committed every day. Things haven’t gone ideally as a group, obviously losing Amund on day one, he didn’t really feature in the bike race until he crashed again and then went home.
Having two of our three climbers eliminated before the real big mountains even started left us a bit short in the tail end of the Tour. But we chased the green jersey with vigour and the guys were committed to getting in breakaways, trying to win stages and chasing green all the way to Paris and I’m very, very proud of the way they have rode and the way they have conducted themselves throughout the month. “
Tour de France – Stage 21 Results:
1. Wout van Aert 2:39:37
2. Jasper Philipsen ST
3. Mark Cavendish ST
4. Luka Mezgec (Team BikeExchange) ST
Tour de France – FINAL General Classification:
1. Tadej Pogacar 82:56:36
2. Jonas Vinegaard 5:20
3. Richard Carapaz 7:03
13. Esteban Chaves (Team BikeExchange) 37:48
Photo courtesy of Getty Images.