Tour de France 2021: Stage 1 preview

Stage 1: Brest-Landerneau

Date: June 26, 2021 

Distance: 198km 

Stage timing: 12:10 - 17:00 CEST

Stage type: Hilly

Stage 1 preview video

Brest’s fourth staging of the Grand Départ in a Tour de France marks the start of four stages wholly within Brittany, one of the heartlands of French cycling. It finishes only a few dozen kilometres to the east of the naval port at Landerneau, initially travelling an undulating course to the south that becomes even more challenging as it turns northwards for a very intriguing finale.

There are six categorised climbs over stage 1, that’s just short of 200 kilometres in length, the first of them, the Côte de Trébéolin, arriving after just eight kilometres. This climb and the two that follow as the route heads south, the Côte de Rosnoën and the Côte de Locronan, aren’t long at all, but the roads are narrow and there are some steep ramps.

Reaching Quimper, the race switches to the north. The fourth categorised ascent, just beyond Châteaulin, arrives soon after, quickly followed by the intermediate sprint. Once past this, the riders will reach a critical point as the route climbs into the rugged Monts d’Arrée. Although the terrain is still undulating, the route runs across very open moorland. If there’s wind, there’ll be a chance for the most opportunistic teams to create echelons here as it twists and turns persistently.

The rollercoaster ride continues into Landerneau, where the stage’s toughest test awaits at the very finale. Averaging 5.7 per cent for 3km, the Côte de la Fosse aux Loups doesn’t too taxing, but almost all of that gain comes in the opening couple of kilometres, the first of which averages 9 per cent and includes a short section that’s half as steep again. The puncheurs will attack this section full bore and continue their battle all of the way to the line. 

It looks an ideal finish for Julian Alaphilippe, Wout van Aert or Mathieu van der Poel, and what a story it would be if the Dutchman were to take yellow on his first day as a Tour rider after the jersey eluded his grandfather Raymond Poulidor throughout his whole career.

Audrey Cordon Ragot's view

Stage 1 is always a hectic stage because everyone is fresh, excited and wants to have a good start to the Tour de France. For the leaders, it can be really dangerous because they also don’t want to crash in the first week, coming into the mountains, so they are also trying to be at the front, and the peloton can be like a washing machine the whole day. We know that the Bretagne department can be unpredictable when it comes to the weather; it can be a really good day or a really shit day. We hope it is going to be a good day, but if it’s not, it can be a dangerous day for leaders and a place where they could lose time.  

The first two days of the Tour de France are similar profiles with a climb in the finals, and you never know how the leaders have prepared and they can lose some time there with punctures or incidents that can make the race challenging for them. The stage is held on very small roads, that can make the racing feel hectic, and there is a hard climb at the end. I could see the puncheurs coming out for the win and perhaps a surprise yellow jersey. It’s also a great stage for a breakaway. Certainly, the puncheurs, riders like Michael Matthews and Julian Alaphilippe, will be good on the final climb.

The fans can expect two good races that day with La Course. The women race finale four laps, and much could depend on the weather, but I could see a breakaway winning in Landerneau. In the end, if the main field arrives at the bottom of the climb together, we could see puncheurs like Lizzie Deignan or Anna van der Breggen win La Course.

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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).

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