Tour de France Stage 19 Preview: A Chance for a Record-Breaking Sprint
Stage 19 – Mourenx to Libourne – 207km – Friday, July 15
With the mountains behind them and only three stages left to race, the 144 riders still in the 2021 Tour de France can see the light at the end of the tunnel. A long, lumpy route, Stage 19 heads north from Mourenx, away from the Pyrenees and toward the site of Saturday’s individual time trial in Libourne.
Starting with a short descent out of Mourenx, the day’s only categorised climb—the Category 4 Côte de Bareille—comes quickly. It’s here that a breakaway should form, perhaps with Australia’s Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) putting himself up the road to score maximum points at the Intermediate Sprint in Saint-Sever, 54km into the stage. Matthews is chasing Great Britain’s Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick Step), who wears the green jersey as the leader of the Points Classification. There are 20 points available to the rider who wins the sprint in Saint-Sever, and with Cavendish targeting the stage finish, Matthews could put a good dent into Cav’s 38-point advantage.
Most years, we would expect a stage like this to end with a rider from the breakaway taking the stage victory. It’s a long stage, the riders have just finished two hard days in the mountains, and there’s a time trial the next day—which means the bunch would usually be happy to let a small group of riders escape to fight for the stage win while the peloton rides a steady tempo behind them.
But with Cavendish needing one more win to break Eddy Merck’s record for the most stage wins in Tour de France history, we don’t see a breakaway getting a long enough leash to stay away to the finish. Instead, the Wolfpack will keep the break’s advantage in check, reeling them in slowly during the second half of the stage and making the catch as close to the finish line in Libourne as possible.
The finish itself is rather straightforward, with no corners inside the final 5km, just some gentle bends as the race approaches the finish line in Libourne. This benefits Cavendish, whose Quick-Step squad is the only one with enough firepower to catch whoever’s left from the breakaway, by keeping the pace high enough to discourage any last-minute attacks, and deliver Cavendish to the finish line in the closing meters of the stage.
Stage 19 – Riders to Watch
Mark Cavendish, period. The 36-year-old wasn’t even supposed to be riding this year’s Tour, let alone winning multiple stages. The Manx Missile pulled even with Merckx when he won the 34th stage of his career on Stage 13 in Carcassonne. He can break the record with a win in Libourne. Cavendish is already the story of the 2021 Tour de France, to the point that his quest to break Merckx’s record has even overshadowed Tadej Pogačar’s (UAE Team Emirates) dominating overall performance.
When to Watch
This could prove to be one of the most historic stage finishes in Tour de France history, and you don’t want to miss it. To play it safe, tune in around 16h45 to watch the end of the stage and, hopefully, to see Cavendish make history.