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Tour de France tech: All the tech and trends from the 2021 race

Tour de France tech
Tour de France tech (Image credit: Getty Images)

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: 

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. 

New Shimano Dura-Ace closeup

A close-up of what looks to be the new Dura-Ace groupset (Image credit: Dion Kerckhoffs, Cor Vos)

New Dura-Ace? 

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

Disc brakes will be used by all but one of the Tour de France teams (Image credit: Trek bicycles )

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?

Specialized Turbo Cotton clincher tyre

Specialized-sponsored Deceuninck-QuickStep will use clincher tyres with latex inner tubes inside (Image credit: Etienne Schoeman (Specialized))

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

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Josh Croxton

Josh has been with us as Senior Tech Writer since the summer of 2019 and throughout that time he's covered everything from buyer's guides and deals to the latest tech news and reviews. On the bike, Josh has been riding and racing for over 15 years. He started out racing cross country in his teens back when 26-inch wheels and triple chainsets were still mainstream, but he found favour in road racing in his early 20s, racing at a local and national level for Team Tor 2000. He's always keen to get his hands on the newest tech, and while he enjoys a good long road race, he's much more at home in a local criterium.