While Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) may have a firm grip on yellow right now, there are plenty of races ahead – and plenty of other stories to follow as well.
Here are some things to look forward to as the peloton prepares for its second part of the Tour 2021 race …
Mark Cavendish will have his chances of breaking a long-standing record.
As unlikely as it may seem just a month ago, Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-QuickStep) is just two wins away from Eddy Merckx’s all-time record of 34 career stage victories in the Tour de France – and it is very possible -year-old Manxman will equal or maybe even surpass this record in the next few days.
He will have the opportunity to get out of the rest day, because Tuesday’s stage 10 has only one categorized ascent that comes at the start. Stages 12 and 13 could also come down to tuck kicks, and assuming they do, Cavendish will have golden opportunities to add to his winning tally. As if his form and his lead weren’t enough, Cavendish is also facing a seriously exhausted peloton, as Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) and Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) abandoned the race this weekend.
Beyond his record hunt, Cavendish will also have the opportunity to collect points in the battle for the green jersey. He has a considerable lead right now, but he will need to keep winning sprints to avoid more versatile quick finishers like Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), Michael Matthews (BikeExchange) and Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious).
Two climbs to Mont Ventoux.
Sandwiched between the flatter stages 10 and 12, it’s a day that could be a highlight of this Tour de France. Stage 11 will take the runners to Mont Ventoux. Twice.
It is an interesting route which offers two first ascents of Cat 4, then the Col de la Liguière Cat 1 as an aperitif for the first ascent of Mont Ventoux, which will be undertaken on the rarely used side of Sault du Géant de Provence.
After a steep descent, the riders will then go up the more familiar route from Bédoin. Instead of finishing at the top of the climb, however, Stage 11 ends after the descent, meaning that any runner who crosses the summit with their head will have to hold it during the descent to Malaucène.
The battle for the stage will be fierce, and it will also be a critical day for the general classification. A bad day could prove to be ruinous on this kind of profile.
Chaos in the cross winds?
Given Pogacar’s strength in the climbs and against the clock, the rest of the yellow jersey hopefuls in this race will be on the lookout for opportunities away from the high mountains and TTs to take some time off the reigning champion. . The next stages of the Tour could (perhaps) offer these opportunities.
There is wind in the forecast for stage 10 on Tuesday towards Valence and stage 12 on Thursday towards Nîmes, and as Christian Prudhomme points out in the roadbook, the fortified city of Carcassonne (where stage 13 ends ) has yet to host a massive Tour sprint, even if the profile seems sympathetic for fast finishers.
No, we don’t expect something as dramatic as the gale force winds along the North Sea that the classics often present, but there is a real risk of a crosswind at some point. as the Tour heads towards the Pyrenees.
The battle for KOM will heat up.
Speaking of mountains, we saw the opening salvo in the battle for the peas last weekend, and the stages ahead will provide those aiming for this leaderboard with more opportunities to rack up points. And given Pogacar’s strong lead in the overall standings, the polka dot jersey fight might offer at least as much intrigue in the days ahead.
The 11th stage will be an obvious battleground for Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic), Mike Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation), Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious), Ben O’Connor (AG2R Citroën), Sergio Higuita (EF Education – Nippo), and anyone else hunting mountain points after building up a good base in the Alps. Stage 14 will be another golden opportunity: there are five categorized climbs on the menu (all Cat 2 or Cat 3) and the profile favors the chances of breakage, so the fight to hit the road should be fierce.
However, those who hunt peas may have to make tough decisions about where to spend their energy, as the next day there will be many more opportunities to score points as the peloton heads to Andorra.
Altitude in Andorra.
The second part of the 2021 Tour de France races will end with a day that will take the peloton to the highest point of this year’s edition of the event. Stage 15 will start from Céret at an altitude of 187 meters and then go deep into the Pyrenees.
The riders will face the Cat 1 Montée de Mont-Louis and the Cat 2 Col de Puymorens on their way to Andorra and the top of this year’s highest climb, Port d’Envalira, at 2,408 meters. They will still have a Cat 1, the Col de Beixales, to go up then, before going down again until the finish in Andorra La Vella.
The climbs themselves won’t be the steepest challenges runners will face during the race, but that elevation could have a real impact. This year’s Giro d’Italia Cima Coppi, the Passo Giau, saw a vigorous attack by future race winner Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers), and the Souvenir du Tour Henri Desgrange will be awarded to the first rider on a climb that is almost 200 meters higher. This should be a great way to wrap up the ‘second week’ of the Tour before the last day of rest.