Tour de France 2021: Stage 7 preview

Stage 7: Vierzon-Le Creusot

Date: July 2, 2021 

Distance: 249.1km

Stage timing: 11:00 - 17:05 CEDT

Stage type: Hilly

Stage 7 preview video

After six stages that were rethought following Copenhagen’s decision to postpone its hosting of the 2021 Grand Départ, this is the first that was part of the route planned to follow the race’s start in Denmark. At 249.1km it’s not only the longest of this race, but also the longest to appear in the Tour since 2000.

It gets under way in Vierzon, not too far from Julian Alaphilippe’s (Deceuninck-QuickStep) home patch, which is fitting as his is a name that is very likely to feature among the favourites for victory on this long test. Striking out eastwards, it passes through Bourges and Nevers and arrives at the intermediate sprint in Saint-Benin-d’Azy just before half distance.

With 150 kilometres covered and another 100km remaining to the finish, the stage’s complexion changes completely as it enters the rugged and rolling terrain of the Morvan, a northerly extension of the Massif Central. The first of five categorised climbs arrives in the region’s main town, Château-Chinon, another soon following, after which there’s a steady drop into Autun, where the riders will enter the most challenging section of the stage.

The cat 3 Côte de la Croix de la Libération is the appetiser for the main course, the 5.7km ascent of Mont Julien, otherwise known as the Signal d’Uchon. Its average of 5.7 per cent conceals its difficulty, as there are very steep sections towards the top, the toughest reaching 18 per cent. With 18km to the finish from the crest of the Signal d’Uchon, these ramps could well provide the launch pad for attacks by puncheurs such as Alaphilippe. They’ll have one more short climb to negotiate, the fourth-category Côte de la Gourloye, followed by eight rapid kilometres into the finish at Le Creusot.

Although the total climbing amounts to only 3,000 metres, the length of the stage and the concentration of that ascent in the final third of the stage could create some splits among the Tour favourites.

Matt White's view

It’s the longest stage of the Tour at 250km. And getting that deep into the Tour de France, it’s tricky because it’s a stage that could potentially end in a sprint but also has the potential to be a bit more of a selective final, with that category 2 climb positioned where it is.

So, one thing is for sure, it will be a very aggressive first hour or two of racing until the final composition of that break of the day is formed. It could go either way, it could be a day for the likes of Sagan, Matthews, Alaphilippe, Van Der Poel or it could be a break that sticks.

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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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