Eyes down for the 108th edition of the biggest bike race in the world. The Tour de France 2021 runs from Saturday, June 26th in Brest to Sunday, July 18th in Paris, and we have all you need to know right here.
While romantics may dream of the Giro d’Italia, and hipsters suggest the Vuelta ranks as the coolest of Grand Tours, we all know in our hearts that Le Tour is the pinnacle of this sport – where legends are made, hearts broken and superstars shine.
On the menu this time out, an amuse-bouche in the French cycling heartland of Brittany, before an eastward entrée across the centre of the country to reach the meaty Alps, with the Pyrenees providing the pièce de resistance. Sandwiched neatly in between looms the mighty Mont Ventoux – tackled not once, but twice, in quick succession. If that doesn’t whet your appetite, go see the doctor.
Can the sensational young Slovene Tadej Pogačar do it again, or will his countryman Primož Roglič get the upper hand? Will Ineos regret putting all their Egan Bernal eggs in the Giro d’Italia basket? And have Geraint Thomas and Tao Geoghegan Hart got what it takes to beat a new generation of talented contenders?
Makes us hungry just thinking about it. Read on for our predictions and our guide to the Tour de France 2021 route. And don’t forget to tip the waiter.
YELLOW JERSEY / GENERAL CLASSIFICATION 🟡
The two main contenders just happen to be the Slovenian duo that stole all the headlines last year. The battle for the yellow jersey came down to Tadej Pogacar and Primoz Roglic in 2020. Although Jumbo Visma dominated the race with Wout Van Aert and Tom Dumoulin acting as super-domestiques, it was Tadej Pogacar who stole the yellow jersey with a breath-taking performance on La Planche des Belle Filles. We can look forward to the rematch this year.
What about the Ineos Grenadiers? After 2019 champ Egan Bernal turned his head to the Giro d’Italia for the first time, Ineos must look elsewhere. Luckily for them, they have multiple Tour de France winners in their side and will be led by Geraint Thomas, who won the Tour de France three years ago. Thomas will start the race aged 35 but won the Tour de Romandie in dominant fashion this season despite slipping from his handlebars when sprinting for stage victory on the Thyon 2000. On paper, Thomas may be very slightly outmatched by Pogacar or Roglic individually, but Ineos have the greatest team depth. Richie Porte, Richard Carapaz and Tao Geoghegan Hart all finished on a Grand Tour podium last season and can step in or act as a second leader if Thomas runs into issues. When you also add Rohan Dennis and Michael Kwiatkowski to the mix, the Grenadiers possess exceptional squad depth that cannot be matched.
Elsewhere we have a range of outsiders. Wilco Kelderman almost won the Giro last year but faded too early — he’ll lead Bora-Hansgrohe. Movistar have 41-year-old Alejandro Valverde, Miguel Angel Lopez and Enric Mas, Mas performed respectably last year, finishing 5th overall, Lopez will always lose time in the time-trials and Valverde, well, he’s 41. When it comes to Nairo Quintana and Arkea-Samsic, he lacks the support in the mountains he’d like and again, would need to make up a huge chunk of time in the mountains to be safe in the time-trial.
The battle for yellow comes down to the Slovenians and, after showing he's even stronger this season, Tadej Pogacar is our favourite to win the yellow jersey in 2021.
POLKA-DOT JERSEY / KING OF THE MOUNTAINS CLASSIFICATION 🔴 ⚪️
The king of the mountains jersey is awarded to the rider that accumulates the most points across the various mountain peaks. The jersey is often won by the winner of the race — believe it or not, being good at climbing mountains helps win the Tour de France. Tadej Pogacar won the jersey to add to yellow last season, and Egan Bernal was second in the KOM competition two years ago just behind Romain Bardet. Julian Alaphilippe, Warren Barguil and Rafal Majka are other recent winners.
Tadej Pogacar has only improved this season and is one of, if not the best climber in the world. He is our pick to win the polka-dot jersey for the second year in a row, a feat that hasn't been achieved since Rafal Majka won in 2014 and 2015.
GREEN JERSEY / POINTS CLASSIFICATION 🟢
How has this jersey not been renamed after Peter Sagan yet? The Slovak won the green jersey on seven occasions between 2012 and 2019. However, he was beaten to the post last season by Sam Bennett. Sagan will be back with vengeance, he doesn’t have the pure sprinting ability to match the best on a flat finish but his climbing skills will help him accumulate points where others can’t.
Talking of accumulating points where other can’t, how about Wout Van Aert? The Belgian superstar won two stages last season but was denied the chance to fight for green as he was strictly on domestique duty. If he’s given the green light (pun intended) this year, he is the favourite.
Not far behind, however, is Mathieu van der Poel. The Dutchman is riding his first Tour de France so we can’t be certain how he’ll respond to riding a three-week race. However, we know that the Dutchman will attack from the get-go which, even if done unintentionally, will help him accumulate green jersey points throughout. Jasper Philipsen will probably lead Alpecin-Fenix in the pure sprint stages though which works against the Dutchman.
Wout Van Aert is our pick to claim the green jersey.
WHITE JERSEY / YOUNG RIDER CLASSIFICATION ⚪️
This happens to be fairly simple. Yet another jersey won by Tadej Pogacar in 2020, the young Slovenian looks almost unbeatable in this competition. Without the presence of Remco Evenepoel or Egan Bernal, the only two riders under the age of 25 who could realistically defeat Pogacar, he has the jersey all but sewn up even before the grand départs.