The Ventoux twice, the privileged Pyrenees, two individual time trials: the Tour de France 2021, which will start on June 26 from Brest, will be very different from the last edition which was the most mountainous in its recent history. “You have to be pragmatic”, insisted its director Christian Prudhomme who was forced to review his initial copy after the change of site of the Grand Départ after the postponements of the major competitions due to the coronavirus.
Initially planned in Copenhagen, it will finally be given in Brittany, the host region of the first four stages with, as a consequence, the modification of the first third of the course which was presented on Sunday evening in the program. Stade 2.
The double climb of Ventoux
Great novelty of the Tour 2021, the Mont Chauve will be climbed for the first time from Sault, its lesser-known side (only once in the history of the Tour), then in its entirety on the southern slope from Bédoin after the descent from the north side. “Le Ventoux in all its faces”, summed up to AFP Christian Prudhomme who opted for a finish at the bottom of the descent, in Malaucène (Vaucluse). Mainly to disseminate the public over the largest possible area, five years after a chaotic arrival at Chalet Reynard, where the yellow jersey Chris Froome had been stuck in a traffic jam caused by the wave of the public and had run while waiting to be repaired.
The Tour will thus return to one of its emblematic climbs, in a year without any alpine climb of the same order. Two days, in Le Grand-Bornand and in Tignes (a return lift for the private Savoy resort of the race in 2019 for lack of a practicable road), are planned in the Alps, logically softened since they are this time the first of the two great massifs.
The privileged Pyrenees
Five stages in the Pyrenees, including two typical backpackers to reach Quillan, after visiting the Cathar castles, and Saint-Gaudens: there are three major stages left for climbers, in Andorra la Vella for the only foray abroad before the second day of rest, at the Col du Portet and Luz-Ardiden (after the Tourmalet), two long and spectacular climbs.
Christian Prudhomme sought to vary for the six mountain stages, between the finishes at the top – three – which often result in a locked race until the very last kilometers and the finishes at the bottom of the descent. “To extend the range of maximum interest a little more”, explains the director of the Tour.
The same concern for variety applies to the first week. Brittany has two stages for puncheurs, in Landerneau and Mûr-de-Bretagne (blessed bread for the world champion Julian Alaphilippe), two others for sprinters. “The will is not to have more than two consecutive plain stages for sprinters”, confirms Christian Prudhomme. Hence the time trial of the first week entirely on the plain up to the Morvan tackled on the seventh day of the race (Le Creusot).
Two individual times
The Tour revives its forgotten tradition of two individual time trials, the first in Laval on the fifth day, the second in the prestigious Bordeaux vineyards between Libourne and Saint-Emilion, on the eve of the finish judged as always on the Champs-Elysées, July 18.
The total of the two lap times – flat – gives 58 kilometers, the longest distance since 2013 (65 km), significantly higher than the figures of the last editions (36 km in 2020, 27 km in 2019).
Does the set benefit one type of runner? “I do not know if we can draw conclusions from the season if not that the youth arrives in a sensational way”, estimates the director of the Tour. “It is a period of uncertainty on all levels, and also on what will give the results of the competitions”.
LIBERATION with AFP