Tour de France stage 21: Jonas Vingegaard wins 2023 Tour de France

Jordi Meeus takes surprise stage win on the Champs-Élysées

Clock18:42, Sunday 23rd July 2023
Alpecin-Deceuninck, Jumbo-Visma, Lidl-Trek and UAE Team Emirates will all be happy with their efforts in this year’s Tour de France

© Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images

Alpecin-Deceuninck, Jumbo-Visma, Lidl-Trek and UAE Team Emirates will all be happy with their efforts in this year’s Tour de France

Belgian sprinter Jordi Meeus (Bora-Hansgrohe) claimed the biggest victory of his career on the Champs-Élysées, winning stage 21 of the Tour de France ahead of Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Dylan Groenewegen (Jayco AlUla) and Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek). The four riders came over the line alongside one another and could only be split by a photo finish.

Coming over the line some time after the peloton, Jumbo-Visma crossed the finish arm in arm as they celebrated the victory of Jonas Vingegaard. It marks the Dane’s second title in as many years. For Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) in second, big questions loom over how he can beat the 26-year-old in France.

The four-up sprint in Paris came at the end of a textbook final day of the Tour, involving celebrations, jovial activities and futile breakaway efforts. Following the photo opportunities that seem to only increase year on year, the likes of Pogačar, Victor Campenaerts (Lotto Dstny) and Simon Clarke (Israel-Premier Tech) attempted to produce an upset on the Paris circuit, but the sprinters’ teams always had the afternoon in hand.

Following another pitch-perfect lead-out from teammate Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck), green jersey winner Philipsen appeared to be gazumped by a clever sprint from Groenewegen, but whilst all eyes were focused on the pair, Pedersen and Meeus engaged their own sprint on the left-hand side of the road. It would be Meeus whose bike throw sealed him an unforgettable final-day victory in Paris.

“Yeh definitely, [it is the greatest day of my sporting career],” said Meeus.

“I knew in the previous sprints that there was more possible than the results I have shown so far, and today everything went perfect. I am super happy to finish it off.”

“It’s my first Tour [de France], it was a super nice experience already so far, and to take the win today is just an indescribable feeling,” Meeus concluded.

A photo finish decides stage 21 in Paris

The final stage of the Tour de France is a procession for the most part, and Sunday was no different, as the peloton enjoyed a relaxed first 55km before arriving on the streets of Paris for the finale. As the winner of the most combative rider in this year’s race, it was no surprise to see Campenaerts launch a comical attack as the flag dropped, but he soon sat up and allowed the picture parade to take place.

After group pictures had been taken amongst the Australians, Danes, classification winners and more, the first indication of racing returned after 42km, when polka dot jersey winner Giulio Ciccone (Lidl-Trek) rolled to the front of the bunch to take the final King of the Mountains points of the race over the day’s only categorised climb. This year marks the first time since 2019 that the polka dot jersey has gone to a rider other than the overall yellow jersey winner.

It was Pascal Eenkhoorn (Lotto Dstny) and Harold Tejada (Astana Qazaqstan) who were the first to make their moves, but Frederik Frison (Lotto Dstny) opened up an initial gap on the peloton. Social media erupted when Tadej Pogačar repeated his unexpected attack of last year’s final day, only this time he was followed not by Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers), but by Vingegaard’s teammate Nathan Van Hooydonck (Jumbo-Visma).

For the next 12km, Van Hooydonck would only contribute the occasional pull as he and Pogačar opened up a 15-second gap over the peloton before the pair were joined by Tejada, Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost), Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe), Mattias Skjelmose (Lidl-Trek), Michał Kwiatkowski (Ineos Grenadiers) and Alex Edmondson (dsm-firmenich).

Despite Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious) and Yves Lampaert (Soudal-Quick Step) joining this dangerous breakaway, the peloton worked well to close the move down with 31km to ride.

With Pogačar’s daring move neutralised, the more usual breakaway artists came to the fore, with Frison, Simon Clarke (Israel-Premier Tech) and Nelson Oliveira (Movistar) clipping off the front of the peloton and soon developing a 20-second gap. After Dries Devenyns (Soudal-Quick Step) launched a brief attack in his final Tour de France stage, the trio would spend 16km off the front, before being caught with 9km to go.

Over the course of the final 9km, multiple futile attacks were launched by the likes of Clarke, Campenaerts, Magnus Cort (EF Education-EasyPost), Omar Fraile (Ineos Grenadiers), Alberto Bettiol (EF Education EasyPost) and Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal-Quick Step), but none could derail the peloton’s plans for a bunch sprint.

Perhaps as a show of friendship to his former teammate Jasper Philipsen, Pogačar led the bunch into the final kilometre before leaving the Belgian sprinter to the trusted wheel of Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck). It was Van der Poel who launched his lead-out sprint with little over 600m to ride, delivering what initially looked to be the perfect set-up for Philipsen to take his fifth victory of the race.

Alas, a quick-thinking Dylan Groenewegen (Jayco AlUla) launched his sprint to the left of Van der Poel, thereby blocking Philipsen’s initial slingshot off of his teammate and forcing him to counteract Groenewegen’s move. For a short while, these two seemed destined to contest the win, but on the left of both riders came Mads Pedersen and Jordi Meeus - with the latter taking a surprising victory over the line.

“I actually felt quite good all day, the beginning was easy obviously but from the moment we went full gas, my legs felt incredibly good and then Marco Haller did a perfect job with positioning,” reflected Meeus. “Danny [van Poppel] was also there and I had the wheel of [Mads] Pedersen, then I just came out of the slipstream and I could catch it on the line.”

Using Pedersen’s slipstream, Meeus was able to produce his best sprint of the race and usurp second-placed Philipsen with an impressive bike throw at the end. Spearheading Bora-Hansgrohe’s sprint team in the absence of Sam Bennett, Meeus came of age on stage 21 and took what is no doubt the biggest victory of his career. Behind him, Philipsen, Groenewegen and Pedersen were left to take second, third and fourth, respectively.

The day marked Jonas Vinegaard’s second Tour de France title in succession, as he and his Jumbo-Visma teammates celebrated their second Grand Tour victory of the season. White jersey winner Pogačar and UAE Team Emirates teammate Adam Yates were left in second and third, whilst Simon Yates (Jayco AlUla) and Carlos Rodríguez (Ineos Grenadiers) round out the top five. Despite missing out in the final sprint, Philipsen celebrated winning the green jersey at the end of the stage.

"It's been an amazing year. What a Tour de France for us," Vingegaard said after the finish. "We started the plans early, and once again, I could not have done it without my team. It's been an amazing Tour for us, and I'm so proud of every one of us.

"Tonight we will celebrate, have a good dinner. It will be a nice evening. Thanks to my opponents, who have been amazing. It's been an amazing three weeks fighting with you guys."

We’ll be showing live and on-demand coverage of all eight stages of this year’s Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift from Sunday, July 23 to Sunday, July 30. Head over to GCN+ now to check the start times of each broadcast so that you don’t miss out on a moment of the action! As always, territory restrictions will apply.

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