Tour de France 2021
The Tour is upon us! Cycling’s showpiece, the Tour de France is about to kick off and we cannot wait!
Known world over, the Tour de France is to cycling what the Superbowl is to American Football. Everybody pays attention to it, and every cyclist dreams of riding it. Past winners of the race have become household names. One could say that the popularity of cycling as a sport is largely due to the influence of the Tour de France.
With this year’s event taking place in its traditional timeslot of July (the 2020 edition occurred later in the year due to the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic), the fans and riders are looking forward to conditions one would normally associate with the Tour. Whilst last year was disrupted due to Covid-19, 2021 has afforded riders the familiarity they would desire when preparing for the world’s largest stage race. The 2020 Tour was dominated by the Slovenian duo of Tadej Pogacar and Primoz Roglic. This year however there is a strong contingent of riders who are hoping to prevent a repeat performance and write their own names in cycling history.
History of the Tour
The Tour de France, or simply ‘The Tour’ as we know it first took place in 1903. It was conceived as a means to promote the French newspaper L’Auto. The iconic yellow jersey associated with the Tour de France (affectionately known as the Maillot Jaune) is in reference to the yellow pages that L’Auto was printed on. The idea of the initial event was for participants to compete in an endurance cycling race that would travel through various parts of France. The winner would be the rider who completed the distance in the shortest amount of time. Over the years the race has evolved into the event we are familiar with today.
The race takes place over 3 weeks, and consists of a combination of mountainous, sprint and time trial stages. The race culminates with a final stage run in to Paris. While this stage is traditionally a procession for the overall winner of the race, the sprinters and their teams all vie for glory on the iconic Champs-Elysees. The list of winners of the Tour de France is long and prestigious. Leading the way in number of victories with 5 a piece is Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault. In more recent times, Briton Chris Froome has been the most successful Tour rider with 4 victories to his name.
In the Tour de France there a few classifications that riders target. The most prestigious is the general classification or GC. The winner is the rider who completes the race in the least accumulated time. During the race the rider who is leading this category wears the yellow jersey. The green jersey refers to the points classification. Riders receive points for high placed finishes and in intermediate sprints. The rider with the most accumulated points at the end of the race is the winner. The climber’s jersey is represented by the polka dot jersey.
Riders secure points according to their position over every categorised climb. The more difficult the climb, the more points that are on offer. The rider with the most attributed to them at the end of the race is the winner. In some instances, the winner of the GC holds the polka dot classification too. Lastly the white jersey goes to the best placed GC rider who is under the age of 26. The previous two winners of the overall race, Egan Bernal and Tadej Pogacar both won the white jersey too. Could this be a sign of the times perhaps?
2021 Tour Contenders
Both Pogacar and Roglic were the standout performers during last year’s race. The spectacular fashion with which Pogacar claimed victory on the second last stage will live long in the memory of all who witnessed it. None more so than for Roglic, who slipped to second on that fateful day… This year both riders have shown that they are in the form to fight for the win. While neither have raced much in the past few months, both have won significant stage races this year- Roglic the Tour of the Basque Country and Pogacar the Tirreno- Adriatico. It would be foolish to bet against either of these two for the overall win.
One of the contenders in the mix this year is Geraint Thomas, the 2018 winner and 2019 runner up. Thomas has looked in good form recently. With high placed finishes in multiple races, along with the win in the Tour of Romandie. Richard Carapaz, the 2019 Giro d’Italia winner and teammate of Thomas has also shown good form this year winning the Tour de Suisse. Paired with a strong Ineos team, both Thomas and Carapaz could be the closest threat to the Slovenians.
Who are the other contenders?
French world champion Julian Alaphilippe has stated his intent this year as well. While not a traditional GC contender, he will fancy his chance. Another rider to consider is the veteran Rigoberto Uran. The 2017 runner up has shown some solid form of late, and a good result wouldn’t come as a surprise this year. While both the Movistar climbing sensation, Miguel Angel Lopez and Michael Woods of Israel Start-Up Nation perhaps lack the time trial prowess required for this year’s race, they will nevertheless be aiming for a high position in the GC.
Other outsiders to consider would be David Gaudu, Enric Mas and Jack Haig. While not outright favourites, any of these three could realistically find themselves on the podium after the final stage on the 18th of July.
Entertainment to the end
Having the 2021 event decided on the penultimate day, it would be naive to think that this year will be any less exciting. Can Tadej Pogacar make it back-to-back victories, will Peter Sagan reclaim the green jersey he has won a record 7 times, who will win the prestigious final stage in Paris? These are all questions we will be looking to have answered this July. The cycling circus is back in town- time to buckle up and enjoy.
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