More time trials in altered Tour route

More time trials in altered Tour route

PARIS • Tour de France chiefs on Sunday unveiled the route for the 2021 edition, featuring two ascents of the iconic Mont Ventoux on the same day and a decisive penultimate-day time trial through the Bordeaux vineyards.

The three-week race, from June 26 to July 18, starts with four days in Brittany, eventually culminating with a procession sprint along the famed Champs-Elysees in Paris. In between, the race will sweep through the Loire Valley and into the Alps, continue to the south coast and Provence as a precursor to climbing the Pyrenees.

Then comes the showdown in the Bordeaux wine region before the formalities of Paris, where Tadej Pogacar earned a shock win over Primoz Roglic this year.

Traditionally unveiled in front of 4,000 people at a glittering ceremony, with most of the top cyclists and the mayors of the towns along the route, Covid-19 once again forced a rethink.

The unveiling event was a live TV reveal instead, with race director Christian Prudhomme the master of ceremonies.

The route is a departure from the last two editions, which featured few individual time trials.

Next year will have two of them, while old-style long mountain ascents are back on the menu after the last two Tours featured many more shorter climbs.

Any rider with ambitions of winning the 2021 Tour will need to excel at time-trialling, with a whopping 58km on the agenda.

They will also have to be able to survive the lung-busting long climbs. Known as “the Giant of Provence”, Mont Ventoux, with its lunar landscape upper reaches, will have to be climbed twice on the same day, while the ski resort Tignes is also featured.

“It’s all there for the climbers too,” Prudhomme suggested, although France’s two top climb specialists were more wary.

“I’ll be there,” said Romain Bardet, who described the route as traditional. “But it doesn’t suit my preference for racking up big, tiring mountains.”

“There’s less there than usual for the climbers but it’s an interesting course anyway,” said Thibaut Pinot.

One aspect retained from the last two years is that the action is loaded to explode early, on Stage Two’s finish up the short steep climb called the Mur de Bretagne.

The Tour starts a week early to avoid clashing with the Tokyo Olympics, with organisers having to also reorganise the start to accommodate the postponed Euro 2020.