The Tour de France is widely accepted as the biggest bicycle race in the world. Throughout the 21 stages that separate the Grand Départ and the prestigious sprint to the line on the Champs-Élysées, the 23 teams will tackle all manner of terrain - from flat to mountainous, short days and long days, time trials, road stages, sprint finishes and even a double ascent of Mont Ventoux.
With its status as the biggest Grand Tour, the race also attracts the largest audience and as a result, the Tour de France is a veritable shop window for sponsors and manufacturers, and teams will work with their sponsors to concoct ways to capture the attention of the millions of onlookers. This means that new releases and custom colourways come almost daily throughout the three weeks.
With the various jersey classifications, each individual stage, hours of broadcast time, and of course, the coveted yellow jersey up for grabs, the most marginal of gains - or losses - can make all the difference between winning and losing. As such, teams are meticulous with their equipment to ensure no seconds are given away to friction, gravity, wind or punctures.
Teams look at everything from the rolling resistance of tyres to the placement of seams on clothing to find free speed. While most of the time this is done in conjunction with their sponsors, they do occasionally look beyond their contractual obligations in the pursuit of victory.
Here at Cyclingnews, as part of our extensive coverage of the race, we'll be keeping you abreast of all of the tech talking points from the race. Here's everything we've seen so far:
- Tour de France bikes: who's riding what in 2021
- Oakley launches 2021 Tour de France collection
- Lapierre launches new Xelius SL ahead of the Tour de France
- Trek-Segafredo bikes given all-new colour schemes ahead of the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia Donne
- Pinarello launches new Dogma F in preparation for the Tour de France
- Michael Matthews gets a custom Bianchi Oltre XR4 for Tour de France
- Why are Jumbo Visma using blue tyres at the Tour de France?
- Ineos Grenadiers switch to sponsor-incorrect Princeton Carbonworks wheels at Tour de France
- Tour de France tech: All the tech and trends from the 2021 race
- Is Canyon's broken Aeroad handlebar now fixed? Van der Poel's Tour de France bike suggests it is
- Tour de France winning bikes: Which brand has won the most Tours in history?
- Julian Alaphilippe's S-Works Tarmac SL7 at the Tour de France
- Van der Poel gets custom Canyon with poignant message at Tour de France
- Radical new sunglasses for Tadej Pogacar at the Tour de France
- Tour de France gallery: 40 years of time trial technology
- Mark Cavendish's Tour de France stage-winning S-Works Tarmac SL7
- 10-hour journey delivers sponsor-incorrect wheels for Van der Poel's Tour de France time trial
- Alpecin-Fenix go all-in with sponsor-incorrect tech as Van der Poel fights to keep yellow
- Kasper Asgreen to ride the Specialized Aethos in Tour de France mountain stages
- Tour de France helmets: Who's wearing what?
- Tour de France power analysis: Ben O'Connor's Stage 9 win in Tignes
- Spotted: Jumbo Visma on yet more non-sponsor wheels at the Tour de France
- How much does a Tour de France bike cost?
What else can you expect to see?
With the enormous amounts of new and interesting tech on display, there is sure to be something for all of our fellow tech nerds out there.
We've already seen new bikes launched, but we're hoping to get a sneak peak of even more as-yet-unreleased bikes, just as we saw new time trial bikes from Factor at the Giro d'Italia, and Trek at the Critérium du Dauphiné.
With teams hunting those marginal gains, we expect to see the latest and greatest in aerodynamically optimised components and kits, as well as even more hyper-lightweight tech like those Princeton Carbonworks wheels from Ineos.
We're almost certain that we'll get more custom kits, as sponsors paint their classification leaders in colour-matching accessories - if we see Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) lead the green jersey competition, expect a green helmet from Specialized at the very least. If Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) gets his yellow jersey, look for a yellow bike, sunglasses and shoes.
What's more, the Tour de France wouldn't be the Tour de France if it weren't for sponsors' attempts to get their prototype tech to fly under the radar. The Tour's unrelenting terrain is the ultimate test for cycling componentry, so what better place to field test next year's kit? And don't worry – we'll be sure to bring you everything that we find.
Just a few short weeks ago, a groupset that appears to be the new version of Shimano's top-tier Dura-Ace groupset was spotted at the Baloise Belgium Tour - a clear case of that real-world field testing we just mentioned.
Could we see more of the new groupset at the Tour de France? Nothing has been spotted so far, but that doesn't mean it won't make an appearance as the race continues.
Disc brakes continue to dominate
In the 2021 Tour de France, all but one of the teams has disc brake technology at its disposal, with the majority of teams being committed to discs entirely. Ineos Grenadiers is the only team steadfast on rim brake tech, although, with the recent launch of the new lighter weight Pinarello Dogma F, it's surely only a matter of time before the technology completes its monopoly.
Chris Froome (Israel Start-Up Nation) returns to the race for the first time since 2018, having recovered from a career-threatening crash ahead at the 2019 Critérium du Dauphiné. Despite having plenty to say on the subject of disc brakes – and being given the green light by his team boss, Sylvan Adams – he will join the rest of his team in racing on discs.
However, despite disc brakes being fitted to the majority of WorldTour teams' bikes for many years now, they've never won the Tour de France. The closest claim they have is Pogačar's 2020 win, having ridden with disc brakes on some of the flatter stages.
Could 2021 be the year that disc brakes finally lay claim on the maillot jaune?
Tubeless, tubes or tubular?
Tyre technology is another hotly debated area of discussion. For decades, tubular tyres have reigned supreme in the pro peloton, for they are glued to the rim and therefore, remain in situ even when punctured, enabling the rider to continue safely until the team car can service them with a replacement wheel.
However, over the past three seasons, teams have toyed with tubeless tyres; a technology that, similar in design to clincher tyres, foregoes the inner tube in favour of sealant, which clogs up holes and self-seals punctures without the rider needing to stop at all.
Despite the promises of tubeless, the technology is still not perfect, and the two Specialized sponsored teams – Deceuninck-QuickStep and Bora-Hansgrohe – are leading the inner tube charge, running standard clincher tyres fitted with latex inner tubes inside.
Josh is our Senior Tech Writer meaning he covers everything from buyer's guides and deals to the latest tech news and reviews. He'll spot something new in the pro peloton from a mile off, and is always keen get his hands on the newest tech.
On the bike, Josh has been racing since the age of 13. After racing XC with friends in his teens, he turned to road racing in his early 20s. Pre pandemic, he was racing as a Cat 1 for Team Tor 2000, but for the time being, he's taking shelter in his garage racing on Zwift and RGT. In the real world, he enjoys a good long road race but he's much more at home in a local criterium.
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