2021 Tour de France Preview: After probably the best Tour de France for years, we already have the 2021 la Grande Boucle route to look forward to. Ed Hood takes a ‘first look’ at the course and stages of the cycling Behemoth that is the Tour de France.
Surprise win, young gun… It’s the Tour
108, the race was first run in 1903.
Earlier than usual from June 26th to July 18th to avoid clashing with the postponed Tokyo Olympics.
The presentation of the Tour de France 2021
The bones of it:
Eight flat stages
Five hilly stages
Six mountain stages with three finishes at altitude (Tignes, Saint-Lary-Soulan col du Portet, Luz Ardiden)
Two individual time-trial stages
Two rest days
note: Stage Eight, Vierzon Le Creusot over 248 kilometres, will be the longest of the Tour since 2000 Belfort to Troyes, 254.5 kilometres [PEZ is hoping for no rider strikes over that one.]
2021 Tour route
A start in the Brittany velo Heartland of the north west, a traverse across the heart of the nation, into the Alps in the east then another long traverse south west to the Pyrenees, another yomp north to a possibly decisive chrono on the Dordogne before yet another transfer to Gay Paris and the finale. The north is shunned, no cobbles for the climbers to worry about then.
All in France
The Hills and Mountains:
The Armorican mountains present themselves as soon as the Grand Départ in Brittany is under way. Then comes the Massif Central, the Alps and the Pyrenees. There will also be a first ever climb in the Morvan, le Signal d’Uchon.
Grand Départ Bretagne 2021
● No ‘gimmick’ big bucks foreign start, there’s a clue in the name of the race – albeit we’re happy with crossing the Border into Andorra down there in the Pyrenees. In France, 9 regions and 31 departments will be visited.
● The Brittany first four stages – Heartland – home of Bobet, Hinault and where Tom Simpson and so many more Anglos learned the craft. Hard roads which breed hard men with the photogenic and selective Mur de Bretagne in there – step forward Julian. Parcours here too for Peter, Wout and it would be nice to see Mathieu. . . And those winds off the Atlantic are sure to play a part in proceedings.
● The ‘throw-back’ Stage Seven, mentioned above, 258 kilometres. It has 3,000m of vertical elevation and a tough finish on the Signal d’Uchon climb, a 5.7km ascent at 5.7% which averages 13.1% for the final kilometre. Caveat: the thought of Carlton Kirby droning through this one on Eurosport is a bit of a worry. . .
No repeat of Roglič Tour’20 stage 20 melt down… please
● As an old ‘clock basher’ myself, I can’t help but like 58km of time trials; the most since 2013, and the first time since 2017 that the race has included two tests. A late ‘knife edge’ TT a la ’89 and ’19 is always a great way to sign the race off.
● Plenty of opportunities for the sprinters, yes, we know that some stages can be ‘paint driers’ but chaotic finales have been part of the Tour since I was a boy and you have to love them. We hope all the heaviest artillery is lined-up; Arnaud, Caleb, Sam, Dylan, Pascal. . . Cav? You know what Donna Summer said; ‘Enough is enough’.
Time up Cav
● Stage 12, Nîmes to Carcassone, we can but hope for the Mistral to come out to play and for those beautiful ‘bordures’ to be initiated by those nasty north European teams. A day you can lose the race if that wind does blow.
● A move away from ever-more mountainous parcours where only a very limited number of riders are in the frame from the first jousts with gravity. There are just three summit finishes; head honcho Christian Prudhomme explained that when stages finish at the top of a climb, the big hopefuls usually wait until the final 800 metres to do anything. I hate to be a smarty pants but it’s taken you a while to figure that one out Monsieur, we could have told you that years ago.
● Stage 18 with the Col du Tourmalet (17.1km @ 7.3 per cent) and Luz-Ardiden (13.3km @ 7.4 per cent), the climbers have to have ‘their big day’.
Stage 18: Col du Tourmalet and Luz-Ardiden
PEZ doesn’t like:
● All those transfers, it adds a lot of time and stress to the coureurs who have enough to do riding the hardest race in the world.
● No northern stages, the other French velo heartland around the Belgian border but we guess it will be back for 2022 and there are enough transfers already.
Could we handle as close a finish as 1989?
● Why not finish the race with the time test on to the Champs Elysees? The 1989 finale was perhaps the best ever and this year’s closing Giro chrono into Milano was beautiful. Those clichéd photo opportunities on Stage 21 are always vexatious to us.
● On the subject of which, I was recently subjected to a rant from PEZ soothsayer and prophet, Viktor about the, ‘everything yellow’ thing around the winner. He reckons it’s an insult to the maillot jaune. As the legendary German designer, Dieter Rams said; ‘Having small touches of colour makes it more colourful than having the whole thing in colour.’
All yellow! Just no…
PEZ isn’t sure about:
● Two ascents of the Ventoux on Stage 11 – why? But we do approve of the downhill finale to this one, it should inspire some desperate racing.
Stage 11 – Ventoux x 2!
PEZ looks forward to:
● A French Champion du Monde being on the start line and seeing the reception he receives.
● The carnage on the Mur de Bretagne.
● Bordures courtesy Deceuninck – Quick-Step and Jumbo Visma.
● The chronos, especially the second one which may well be decisive.
● Seeing if Chris Froome can return; there were flashes on Sunday in Asturias.
● Watching the ‘New Wave’ roll on. . .
2020 Tour winner, UAE Team Emirates’ Tadej Pogačar has also had a look at next year’s route: “It’s an interesting route. It’s more of a classic Tour de France route than the last few years. The first week in Bretagne should be exciting with the chance of crosswinds and bad weather and then the time trial, which hopefully should suit me well. Then it heads to the Alps where they’ll be very tough stages – Mont Ventoux twice in one day will be a legendary stage. A couple of days have more than 4’500 meters of climbing so there will be some very hard days. The stages in the Pyrenees suit me well also, and I know those roads also from the Vuelta last year. There are just 3 mountain top finishes. Ideally I would have liked a few more, but regardless I expect exciting racing as always at the Tour.”
You can find out more at: www.letour.fr/en/