After a rest day to refresh the legs in the aftermath of a close call with the time limit in the mountains, Tuesday’s Stage 10 of the Tour de France into Valence provided the fast men with another opportunity.
With several of the top sprinters having abandoned at this point in the race, the door was open for riders to grab a season-defining victory. Despite the threat of wind-induced echelons in the final 40 kilometers, things were mostly all together as the riders approached the finish.
Deceuninck – Quick-Step was one of the teams benefitting from the crosswinds. However, they also made sure to keep enough of their powder dry for the finish. As the kilometers clicked towards zero, DQT began to execute a picture-perfect leadout.
In the run in to a kilometer to go, the World Champion Julian Alaphilippe made sure his team was parked at the head of the peloton. Up next was the Danish powerhouse Kasper Asgreen, who took the train into the final 700 meters. At that point Davide Ballerini took over, hugging the barriers on the left hand side of the road. Inside the final 250 meters, it was time for Cavendish’s right hand man, Michael Mørkøv.
The Dane expertly guided Cav into the last 150 meters. Instead of stopping his sprint, Mørkøv continued riding in the center of the road. In doing so, he took up valuable space while Cavendish accelerated to his left.
Wout van Aert and Jasper Philipsen each challenged Cavendish all the way to the line. In the end, the Manx Missile was simply too good. Thanks in large part to the stellar work of his team, Cavendish secured his third victory of this year’s Tour de France.
Tour de France Leadout Clinic
Over the course of his career, Cavendish has had the privilege of riding with some fantastic leadout men. Even so, he will not have been given many leadouts better than the one Deceuninck – Quick-Step delivered today.
Relive the final KM in Valence
— Tour de France™ (@LeTour) July 6, 2021
As you can see from the final kilometer, Decueninck got every aspect of their leadout right today. Both their timing and positioning were spot on.
Deceuninck set Cavendish up to hit the front at an optimal distance. A sprint of 150 meters favors the Brit’s snappy acceleration and aerodynamic style.
At the same time, the team managed to place Cavendish in a great lane. The Manxman had the left side of the road almost entirely to himself, thanks to his proximity to the safety barriers. At the same time, Mørkøv took up space in the center of the road, making it more challenging for other sprinters to get on terms.
In his post-race interview, Cavendish explained just how vital the work of his team was in securing victory.
An interview with the 🇮🇲 "Manx Missile" following the win in Valence
— Tour de France™ (@LeTour) July 6, 2021
In his familiar style, Cavendish dished out plenty of praise for the work his teammates put in. He called the DQT leadout “old-school, run of the mill, like you read in a cycling magazine,” and “textbook.”
Cavendish elaborated that he is “humbled” that riders with such impressive palmarès are willing to give their all to support him.
Cavendish may have downplayed his own contributions, but he really could not have asked for anything more from his team. Footage of today’s performance from Deceuninck could be used to teach the next generation of riders how to execute a perfect leadout.
The ride by DQT is also a perfect example of why cycling really is a team sport. Could Cavendish have won today’s stage without his leadout? It is certainly possible. Would it have been anything close to being as straightforward? Not a chance.
If Cavendish and his team continue riding at this level, the Manxman has every chance of picking up his 34th Tour de France stage win. Perhaps a record setting 35th win will even be in the cards.
With a leadout like that, it’s no wonder a feat that once seemed impossible is now firmly within reach.
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Featured image courtesy of @GettySport.