Analysis & preview of the 2021 Tour de France route


On 21 stages and over 3383 kilometres, the 2021 Tour de France leads from Brittany through the Alps over the legendary Mont Ventoux further into the Pyrenees to the obligatory final in Paris. The Alpecin Cycling course check shows in detail, what awaits riders and fans:

Brittany instead of Hovedstaden. Unlike originally planned, the 108th Tour de France in 2021 will start on 26 June. As the Corona year has a direct and continuing influence on the organisation of major sporting events, the Grand Boucle cannot start in Copenhagen as intended. On the one hand, it will be moved from the Danish capital to the north-west of France, and on the other hand, the dates will once again be moved forward so as not to conflict with the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Two classic stages for the Grand Depart of the Tour in Brittany

There will be no warm-up for the favourites for the yellow jersey, they will have to be alert right from the start. The first two stages already have a demanding course profile, made more for classic specialists than for the powerful, heavy sprinters.

The final climb of the first stage, the Côte de la Fosse aux Loups, is 3.1 kilometres long and has 5.6 percent average gradient peppered with a 14 percent ramp. But even before the final riders will face some challenges as the direction changes frequently and they will have to ride a lap along the coast.

There will almost certainly be wind edges, and besides the “nervousness of a Grand Tour” this factor will play a determining role. Bernd Landwehr from Cyclingmagazine would probably comment on this promising first final with “get the popcorn ready”.

On the second stage, the peloton needs to climb the most famous “ascent” in Brittany in Mur de Bretagne – and riders will have to do it twice. There are special bonus seconds for the first rider, too. Will the GC favourites go to the front and fight? The first two stages seem to be made for puncheurs like world champion Julian Alaphilippe or Wout van Aert as well as Mathieu van der Poel, who is set for his first Tour start in 2021.

On day three it is finally the sprinters’ turn. After 182 kilometres, the final in Pontivy will very likely be theirs. This stage will be followed by another flat stage over a “short” 152 kilometres from Redon to Fougeres, before the first “half rest day” for more than two thirds of the peloton on stage 5 comes along. In Laval riders will compete over 27 kilometres against the clock in the first individual time trial of this Tour. A battle between GC riders and specialists. Cut out for Filippo Ganna of Ineos Grenadier. If he rides the Tour, he will most certainly win this stage.

The “notorious” castles of the Loire – known to many from numerous TV broadcasts of the 1990s and 2000s – will be the highlight of the sixth stage. A sprint royale may end the stage in Chateauroux.

Stage seven will be long and intense: 248 kilometres and an undulating profile. With just 18 kilometres to go, riders will face Mont Julien which is a two-part climb over 5.7 kilometres with an average gradient of 5.7 percent. But: the gradient is deceptive as it includes a short descent! The final ramp, about 1.5 kilometres long, challenges riders with gradients of up to 18 percent.

LINK: All 21 stages with altitude profile

First the Alps, then the Pyrenees at the 2021 Tour

The Alps are calling! From Oyonnax, the route leads to the winter sports resort of Le Grand Bornand. The last 40 kilometres that include Col du Romme and Col de la Colombière are identical to the 2018 Tour stage. The steep ramps at the entrance to Col du Romme are particularly challenging. The descent to Le Grand Bornand will certainly suit riders like Julian Alaphilippe, who won the stage in 2018.

As every crossing of the Alps needs a mountain finish Tour organisers set it for 4 July on the stage from Cluses to the winter sports region of Tignes. A mix of the shortened 2019 stages, so to speak, preceded by the Cormet de Roselend before the riders wind their way up over 21 kilometres to the winter sports resort of Les Trois Vallees at 2113 metres.

After this stage, riders will have a well-deserved rest day before they set off from the Olympic town of Albertville for the Provence region. With the course leading through the valleys of Isere and Rhone rivers everything is set for a sprint final in Valence. Or will the escapees have an easy job of winning, as teams decide to save their energy for Mont Ventoux and refrain from chasing them?

Two times Mont Ventoux

One day later, the “white giant” of the Provence region is on the menu – twice, even though the first time from Salut does not appear too difficult to many in the first part. The second time, the mountain of fate is climbed from Bedoin, which is located lower. But the mountain top is by no means the end of the stage. From the summit, it’s another 22 kilometres to the finish in Malaucene.

Also, the weather will play an important role on this day. When Froome sprinted up the mountain in cycling shoes in 2016, it was very windy – and the finish was moved from the summit down to Chalet Reynard.

Scenically breathtaking but less intense, the route then roughly heads towards the Mediterranean. On stage 12 from Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux to Nimes, the Gorges de l’Ardèche is crossed. If the peloton is not torn apart by the wind, there will be a sprint finish in Nimes after 161 kilometres.

From the former Roman city, the next stage will depart, too. A 220-kilometre flat stage then leads to Carcassone – for now the last chance for sprinters to win a stage, as the peloton will then enter the Pyrenees. A stage with a classic sawtooth profile in the second half of the route leads to Quilan.

Detour to Andorra – to the roof of the 2021 Tour

On the following day, stage 15, riders will have to climb up to the roof of the Tour – Port d’Envalira at 2408 metres – where the Souvenir Henri Desgrange will be awarded. However, this is not the stage’s end, but another climb will have to be ridden, the Col de Beixalis (6.4 kilometres with 8.5 percent), followed by a descent to “Old Andorra”, Andorra-la-Vieille.

Riders will spend the second rest day there. Leaving the microstate, the route leads over undulating terrain to Saint Gaudens. A last chance for classification riders to catch their breath before the strong climbers among them will look for chances to score on the last two mountain stages.

High up is the finish of the 17th stage on French Bastille Day. The peloton climbs up 16 kilometres to the top of Col du Portet at 2215 metres. A climb with an average gradient of nine percent. But the spectacle will begin earlier, with the Pyrenean giants Col de Peyresourde and Col de Val Louron-Azet.

The third and final mountain finish of this 108th Grand Boucle is set for the following day. From Pau over the mythical Col du Tourmalet the course leads up to the ski resort Luz-Ardiden at 1715 metres. Many experts agree that these two stages will whirl around the first ten places of the overall classification, because the climbs are not as brutal as in the Alps so many riders may grab the opportunity and try to escape or attack.

On stage 19, GC riders and their helpers can relax a little. 203 kilometres need to be covered on the flat stage from Mourenx to Libourne, it will be the sprinters’ teams’ task to control the race.

The final showdown for the yellow jersey may happen only one day before the final stage. In the 31-kilometre long “Contre la montre” from Libourne through the vineyards to Saint-Emilion it may be seconds that decide who wins this Tour de France. As is obligatory, the Tour ends with a sprint royale on Paris’ magnificent Champs-Elysees boulevard.

Balanced 2021 Tour route

With two individual time trials and only three mountain finishes, the Tour route seems much more balanced than in previous years. Furthermore, there are no extreme challenges in the high mountain regions, such as the super-steep Col de La Loze.

The route is cut out for riders who like time trials just as much as climbing: Geraint Thomas, Tom Dumoulin, Primoz Roglic but also the two Quickstep youngsters Remco Evenepoel or Jose Almeida. In order to win, GC riders will need a strong team to control the peloton on the windy and classic stages. Teams with sprinters and puncheurs will get more than enough opportunities to shine.

But as always, the old principle applies: the riders determine how hard the race gets!

The Route of the Tour de France