The 2021 Tour de France kicks in hard with two punchy finishes. Stage 1 serves a 3 kilometres at 5.7% hilltop finish near Landerneau and stage 2 ends at the Mûr de Bretagne, which made its first Tour de France appearance in 2011 with a Cadel Evans victory. Since then Alexis Vuillermoz (2015) and Daniel Martin (2018) were also successful at the 2 kilometres climb at 6.9%.
Both stage 3 and stage 4 are likely to see bunch sprints before the 5th stage provides the first real test for GC contenders: a 27.2 kilometres ITT on undulating terrain.
Stage 6 travels to Châteauroux, where Mark Cavendish took the spoils in 2011, before stage 7 serves a 250 kilometres long transition stage. The last 100 kilometres are packed with short energy-sapping climbs.
La Grande Boucle ventures into the Alps in the second weekend. Stage 8 goes to Le Grand Bornand, a ski resort where Alaphilippe soloed to victory in 2018. In fact, the finale is a carbon copy with the Col de Romme and Col de la Colombière and a flying descent to the line.
Stage 9 finishes uphill in Tignes. The 2019 Tour de France would have finished there, but landslides in Val d’Isère decided differently. The 21 kilometres finish climb is preceded by three huge intermediate climbs.
The 10th stage travels from Albertville to Valence, host of the Tour de France twice in the past six years. On both occasions the fast men had it their way – André Greipel in 2015, Peter Sagan in 2018 -, which is also the most likely scenario in 2021.
Arguably, the 11th stage is the most anticipated race of the 2021 Tour de France. The route takes in a double ascent of the Mont Ventoux without finishing at the top of the Beast of the Provence. Instead, the riders drop down into Malaucène, which lies at the foot of the famed mountain.
Following stage 12 – a virtually flat race into Nîmes – the race heads over to the Pyrenees, but without entering the mountain range just yet. Stage 13 finishes in Carcassonne, where the fast men are likely to shine, before stage 14 traverses the lumpy foothills of the Pyrenees to finish in Quillan, just shy of the high mountains that the riders penetrate that Sunday. Stage 15 takes in four intermediate climbs before a downhill finish into Andorra la Vella.
The first day of the final week of action is bound to see a successful breakaway. Stage 16 serves three huge climbs before a flat finale with an uphill kicker inside the last 8 kilometres, while stage 17 is quite the opposite with Pyrenean climbing packed inside the last 65 kilometres. After the Col de Peyresourde and Col d’Azet-Val Louron the riders tackle the Col du Portet, which is a 16 kilometres climb at 8.7%, last used in 2018 (Nairo Quintana victory). Summit finish!
The final mountainous test of the 2021 Tour de France – stage 18 – takes in the Col du Tourmalet to finish uphill in ski resort Luz-Ardiden after an ascent of 13.3 kilometres at 7.4%.
The 19th stage travels north on flat to undulating terrain – sprinters or attackers?- before the final GC battle comes in the form of a second time trial. Stage 20 takes place in the vineyards of the Bordeaux region and adds up to 30.8 kilometres.
Obviously, the last stage travels into Paris, where a bunch sprint is next to certain.
Tour de France 2021: route, profiles, more
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