• A great departure from Brittany
If the 2020 Tour was able to come to an end without incident, the global Covid-19 pandemic is still hovering above the Great Loop. As proof: the departure initially planned for Denmark in July 2021 will finally take place in Brittany. Domino effect: it was also brought forward by one week due to the postponement of the Olympic Games to July 2021, so as not to overlap with the cycle race in Tokyo. Still, as announced this summer, the Tour will start from Brittany. This cycling land, which hosted the French and European championships in 2020, will have four stages that will cross the Armorican massif, not to be underestimated. Note, for example, the return of the Mûr-de-Bretagne, which comes to the Grande Boucle for the 4th time in ten years (2011, 2015, 2018).
• A more rolling, less mountainous route
Obviously, leaving Brest does not offer the same possibilities as the great departure from Nice in 2020. And we are not talking about the sun. From Finistère, the mountain is more difficult to find, and it will take a week before seeing the first real alpine stage (Oyonnax-Le Grand Bornand), where the 2020 edition climbed from the second day. But that’s not all. After a 2020 edition sometimes criticized for its too mountainous aspect, which had in particular frightened a lot of sprinters, ASO revised its copy by drawing a more diversified course. Especially since mountain did not rhyme with spectacle last September, the Jumbo-Visma team locking the race there. In July 2021, it will therefore be more complicated to padlock the peloton. And for good reason: it will be necessary to deal with two flat time trials, and several stages of plains favorable to the borders. In other words, after giving pride of place to climbers in 2020, the Tour is now eyeing the rollers and wants to reconcile with the sprinters. Good news for the show, no doubt.
• The return times
One of the strong symbols of this more rolling course is the return to favor of the time trial. Last year, the track had only one stopwatch, which is moreover quite mountainous, but which had overturned the Tour. In 2021, return to the classics for the Grande Boucle with two time trials, including the second on the eve of the arrival on the Champs-Elysées. Above all, these two times will be short and essentially flat, between Changé and Laval for the first, and Libourne and Saint-Emilion for the second. What upset the general classification as Tadej Pogacar on the Planche des Belles Filles last September? Surely that’s the idea. Either way, it diversifies the profiles of favorites for the final victory. Not sure, however, that this is suitable for French climbers …
• A very French edition
These days, prudence is the mother of safety. This is what Christian Prudhomme must have said to himself when sketching out the main lines of this 2021 Tour. If the Tour director claims to have received hundreds of applications to host the race, he has not this year relocated the event. The great Danish start having been postponed to 2022, only the hook by Andorra will make this edition an international Tour de France. On the other hand, no passages in Spain, Italy or Switzerland. We obviously do not want it, but if the health crisis still punctuates our lives in July 2021, it will be easier to manage for the organization. Well seen.
• The stage that Julian Alaphilippe will win
It’s not every year that we have a French world champion on the road to the Tour de France, but it will be the case in 2021 with Julian Alaphilippe wearing his rainbow jersey, awaited for 23 years by the French public. And a stroke of luck: it’s every year (at least since 2018) that the French puncher has at least one stage victory on the Grande Boucle: 2 in 2018, 2 in 2019, 1 in 2020. What will be the happy elected in 2021? As in the last two editions, it will be at the start of the Tour, and even from the second day with the finish cut out for him and his exploited in Mûr-de-Bretagne. You will not be able to say that you have not been warned.
• The retracted Alps, the Pyrenees as justice of the peace
Crossed twice in 2020, the Alps will only have the right to two small stages in July 2021, in a logic of alternation with the Pyrenees. Two days time to climb the col de la Colombière before switching to Grand Bornand first, but above all the time for a queen stage between Cluses and Tignes. Deprived of arrival by a storm in 2019, the ski resort will be there this time, after a long day marked by 5 difficulties including the Cornet de Roselend and the endless climb to Tignes. After that, it is in the Pyrenees that climbers can explain themselves. And there will be something for everyone with four stages in the last week. We will thus find the passes of Tourmalet, Peyresourde, Portet, as well as those of the principality of Andorra.
• A historic double at Ventoux
Between the Alps and the Pyrenees, the Grande Boucle will make a significant detour through Provence. And who says Provence and Tour de France says Mont Ventoux. Five years later, the bald mountain with lunar landscapes will be back. And as if that weren’t enough for us, it will be twice. Indeed, for the first time in the history of the Tour de France, the peloton will climb the Giant of Provence twice before reaching its footing in Malaucène. It will happen on July 7th, and it will be not to be missed. Especially in 16 participations in the Tour, the Ventoux has rarely disappointed. In 2016, despite a shortened end of the stage at Chalet Reynard because of the wind, the scenario had been completely crazy with a Christopher Froome on foot in the ascent, following a fall with a motorcycle.