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Here at Cyclingnews we've been counting down the days until the 2021 Tour de France, with a series of special features to build up to the Grand Départ on Saturday June 26.
- Tour de France 2021: The essential race guide
- Tour de France bikes: who's riding what in 2021
- Form ranking: Tour de France 2021 contenders, pre-race
- Philippa York: I struggle to see Chris Froome as a Tour de France road captain
- Tour de France snubs: The 9 most controversial rider non-selections
- Out of Pinot's shadow and into the glare: David Gaudu takes aim at the Tour de France
- Tadej Pogacar: A life-changing moment captured in a photograph
- Analysing Ineos Grenadiers' 2021 Tour de France team
- Analysing Jumbo-Visma's 2021 Tour de France squad
- Tour de France 2021: 5 key stages
- Brandon McNulty: The Tour de France call-up
- Alberto Contador: Blowing the Tour de France apart
The opening two stages to Landerneau and Mûr-de-Bretagne will provide a chance for the puncheurs, versatile sprinters and climbers to take the maillot jaune early on before the sprinters get two chances to win as the race heads east across the centre of France.
An early GC showdown will come on stage 5 with the 27.2-kilometre time trial from Changé to Laval Espace Mayenne before the road racing resumes with two stages that take the peloton to the Alps.
Stage 8 to Le Grand Bornard will see the first major climbing of the Tour, with three first-category climbs – including the Col de la Colombière – in the second part of the 150.8-kilometre stage. The following day to the 21-kilometre long summit finish at Tignes is just as tough, revisiting the Critérium du Dauphiné one-two of the Col du Pré and Cormet de Roselend.
Tignes also hosts the first rest day on July 5, ahead of a sprint stage in Valence and stage 11's visit to Mont Ventoux, which will be tackled twice before a descent straight to the finish in Malaucène.
Nîmes and Carcassonne offer up two more sprint chances on the following days before a nailed-on breakaway stage in the hills to Quillan take the peloton to the Pyrenees.
There, stage 15 to Andorra brings with it three first-category tests, including the Souvenir Henri Desgrange as the race hits 2,408 metres at Port d'Envalira. A rest day in the microstate. A tough stage to Saint-Gaudens follows but all minds will be on the final two mountain stages.
Stage 17 takes the riders over the Col de Peyresourde and Col de Val Louron-Azet before the HC-rated summit finish at 2,215 metres at the Col du Portet. Stage 18 provides two more HC tests in the Col du Tourmalet and the summit finish at Luz Ardiden, the last chance for climbers to make their mark.
A penultimate sprint stage follows, taking the peloton to Libourne, where stage 20 brings the GC finale in the shape of a 30.8-kilometre time trial to Saint-Emilion. If the Tour hasn't already been decided, then it certainly will be here.
As ever, the grand finale and the crowning of the Tour de France champion comes in Paris on the Champs-Élysées following a 108.4-kilometre ride from Chatou on July 18.
Check out the full details of the 2021 Tour de France route here.
Once again, Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) and Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) will be the main favourites for the title. The two are among the strongest climbers in the peloton and are also world-leading time trialists, which could prove decisive with two tests against the clock lying in wait for the riders.
The pair have enjoyed stellar starts to 2020, with Pogačar taking wins at the UAE Tour, Tirreno-Adriatico, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, while Roglič took three wins at PAris-Nice and the overall at Itzulia Basque Country.
The main challenge to the Slovenian duo should come from Ineos Grenadiers, who are led by 2018 winner Geraint Thomas and 2019 Giro d'Italia champion Richard Carapaz. The Welshman recently finished third at the Critérium du Dauphiné and looks best placed to challenge in both the mountains and time trials, while Carapaz is arguably the stronger climber.
Movistar's triumvirate will this year be headed up by new signing Miguel Ángel López, alongside Enric Mas and Alejandro Valverde. The Colombian looked in dominant form at the Mont Ventoux Dénivéle Challenge in June and will hope to improve on his sixth place in 2020.
His compatriot Nairo Quintana is a three-time podium finisher at the Tour and once again leads out Arkéa-Samsic. He won the Vuelta Asturias earlier this year but was off form at the Dauphiné.
Another Colombian to watch is EF Education-Nippo's Rigoberto Urán, who finished second in 2017 and has taken two top 10s since. His teammate and countryman Sergio Higuita could end up the team leader this year.
Elsewhere, look out for Ben O'Connor (AG2R Citroën), David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ), Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation), Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious), Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe), Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), and Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange). They're all likely to be in the top 10 GC battle, though fighting for the very top spots looks a little tougher.
Finally, the battle for sprint victories and the green jersey looks wide open, with Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) facing challenges from Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal), Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious), Tim Merlier and Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix), Elia Viviani (Cofidis), Giacomo Nizzolo (Qhubeka Assos), Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ), Cees Bol (Team DSM), Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates), and more.
Pogačar is the reigning champion, having overhauled his Slovenian compatriot Roglič in the final time trial at last year's race. The 21-year-old became the race's second-youngest winner after Firmin Labot back in 1904.
Pogačar broke a Ineos/Sky stranglehold on the race, with the British team having won seven of the previous eight Tours de France with Egan Bernal, Geraint Thomas, Bradley Wiggins and four-time winner Chris Froome. Vincenzo Nibali, then riding for Astana, was the other man to break the British squad's dominance with a win in 2014.
The Tour wins record is currently held by four men, with Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Jacques Anquetil and Miguel Indurain all on five titles.
2020 was also the year which saw the rare occasion of Sagan getting beaten in the battle for the green jersey. He lost out to Bennett after a race-long battle, but still holds the all-time green jersey rankings with seven wins in nine participations. Erik Zabel's six jerseys lie second, ahead of Sean Kelly's four.
Pogačar is the reigning mountain classification champion, too, having won the yellow, polka dot and white jerseys in 2020. He broke a three-year French stranglehold on the jersey after wins for Romain Bardet, Julian Alaphilippe and Warren Barguil.
Richard Virenque holds the record for polka dot jersey wins at seven, and it won't be beaten anytime soon as Rafał Majka is the only current rider to have won more than one king of the mountains title, with two.
Read on for a list of the riders with the most wins of the Tour de France, the most stage wins, as well as the major jerseys (active riders in bold).
Most Tour de France wins
- 5 – Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Miguel Indurain
- 4 – Chris Froome
- 3 – Phiilippe Thys, Louison Bobet, Greg LeMond
- 2 – Lucien Petit-Breton, Firmin Lambot, Ottavio Bottecchia, Nicolas Frantz, André Leducq, Antonin Magne, Sylvère Maes, Gino Bartali, Fausto Coppi, Bernard Thévenet, Laurent Fignon, Alberto Contador
- 1 – Vincenzo Nibali, Geraint Thomas, Egan Bernal, Tadej Pogačar
Most Tour de France stage wins
- 34 – Eddy Merckx
- 30 – Mark Cavendish
- 28 – Bernard Hinault
- 25 – André Leducq
- 22 – André Darrigade
- 20 – Nicolas Frantz
- 19 – François Faber
- 17 – Jean Alavoine
- 16 – Jacques Anquetiil, René Le Grevès, Charles Pélissiier
- 12 – Peter Sagan
- 11 – André Greipel
- 7 – Chris Froome
- 6 – Vincenzo Nibali
Most Tour de France green jersey wins
- 7 – Peter Sagan
- 6 – Erik Zabel
- 4 – Sean Kelly
- 3 – Jan Janssen, Eddy Merckx, Freddy Maertens, Djamolidine Abdoujaparov, Robbie McEwen
- 2 – Stan Ockers, Jean Graczyk, André Darrigade, Laurent Jalabert, Thor Hushovd
- 1 – Mark Cavendish, Michael Matthews, Sam Bennett
Most Tour de France polka dot jersey wins
- 7 – Richard Virenque
- 6 – Federico Bahamontes, Lucien Van Impe
- 3 – Julio Jiménez
- 2 – Felicien Vervaecke, Gino Bartali, Fausto Coppi, Charly Gaul, Imerio Massignan, Eddy Merckx, Luis Herrera, Claudio Chiappucci, Laurent Jalabert, Michael Rasmussen, Rafał Majka
- 1 – Nairo Quintana, Chris Froome, Warren Barguil, Julian Alaphilippe, Romain Bardet, Tadej Pogačar
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