Over the past few weeks we have explored the route of the Tour de France 2021 in detail. Today we take an in-depth look at how the Tour time trials will have a major impact on the GC in July.
After a few explosive editions of the Tour de France which favored climbers and attackers, the 2021 route returns to a more traditional pattern. There could be as many as eight sprints in this year’s Tour, the most in multiple editions. Although there is spice in the opening week, the itinerary returns to the vision of the unfolding of a modern Tour. There are only three finals at the top – and a unique double pass over Mont Ventoux in week two – which means pure climbers are going to have a harder time this summer in France.
Back in the frame, there are time trials. While there is no prologue time trial or team time trial, two relatively long individual time trials – at least by modern standards – will certainly dictate the dynamics throughout. along the run. In 2021 there is a total of 58 km against the clock in the roadbook – the most since 2013.
What is significant about the two time trials is that both are contested on flat or hilly terrain, favoring the rollers and specialists. The stage favorites will include Filippo Ganna, Wout van Aert and Rohan Dennis (if they run), while the GC contenders will come behind them.
The race is unlikely to repeat last year’s thrilling mountain overthrow at La Planche des Belles Filles, but both stages are sure to set up a dynamic tug of war between the yellow jersey contenders.
Let’s take a closer look at what’s available.
Stage 5, Changé to Laval Espace Mayenne (27km)
Parked in the middle of the first week, this 27 km time trial should impose a certain hierarchy on the GC and probably see one of the time trial specialists don the yellow jersey. Laval will only host its second stage of the Tour, with Deceuninck-Quick-Step sporting director Tom Steels winning in 1999 when it was the third stage of this year’s edition.
At 27km, the stage is in fact the longest individual time trial stage of the Tour’s first week since 2008. This anecdote reveals that many time trials have been regularly reduced in the plan. director of the Tour de France for the past decade. Most of the Tour’s routes over the past few decades have consistently featured around 100km of time trials – with a mix of prologues, team and individual time trials – added to the menu of stages. Over the past decade, time trials have been cut back largely to tighten up GC action and keep the suspense in the race until the last weekend. In fact, the 2012 Tour was the last route to be completed north of 100 km for kilometers against the clock.
The route of the stage is quite simple, without hills or major technical challenges. Making a loop in the agricultural country of the Mayenne valley, a few narrow agricultural roads and the risk of afternoon winds will be the main difficulties.
This is a chance for the time trial specialists to shine ahead of an Olympic bid – assuming Tokyo is a chance – and for the best time trialists among the GC contenders to gain a bit of a head start. pure mountaineers in front of the Alps. The likes of Tom Dumoulin, Primož Roglič, Geraint Thomas should, on paper, see an advantage. This should also provide the best insight into Chris Froome’s performance in the following stages.
Stage 20, Libourne to Saint-Émilion (31km)
Wine lovers will appreciate this stage, with a route that goes around some of the best vineyards in the Bordeaux region. Someone will definitely have the champagne on tap at this point, but will there be a last-minute reversal like in 2020?
With only three top finals spread over the entire Tour route, the GC could still be very tight as we approach this decisive penultimate stage.
This year, the time trials are placed before the Alps, and after the Pyrenees. This dynamic creates a bit of back and forth between TT specialists and pure climbers. However, the relatively short distances mean that any GC rider will need to have strong climbing legs if they are relying on TTs to win the race.
Saint-Émilion has twice hosted Tour stage arrivals, both against the clock. Bernard Hinault won there at Stage 8 in 1978 in what would be his first of five Tour victories. The distance? A whopping 58 km – equal to the sum of the distances of the two time trials in 2021.
The other stop at Saint-Émilion took place in 1996, with growing German talent Jan Ullrich winning the penultimate stage of that year to secure second place overall. Ullrich, who would win next year’s Tour, beat Spanish legend Miguel Indurain in second place by 56 seconds. Indurain failed to win a stage during his last Tour and joined Paris in 11th position overall. Although he gave up 2:18 to his Telekom teammate, Bjarne Riis finished fourth on the stage to secure his only Tour victory (he later admitted he was using the forbidden blood booster EPO ).
The time trial course is largely flat, with a few narrower farm roads mixed into the course. Winds up or down the Dordogne valley can be a factor, and it is often hot in late July.
The route of the Tour 2021 is largely reserved for time trials, a discipline that is returning to the forefront. Will a rider have such an advantage that the stage will simply be a question of a podium shuffle, or will the final TT turn the race around? We’ll have to wait six months to find out.