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25 Jul 2021 5:17
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  •   Home > News > International

    Who to look out for and when to watch the Tour de France 2021

    The world's most famous cycling race gets underway this weekend, and there are a number of Aussies in contention to claim stage wins and major honours. Here is everything you need to know.


    The 108th Tour de France gets underway this weekend, on Saturday, June 26, in the Brittany town of Brest.

    There are 10 Aussies set to compete at this year's race, although only a handful are expected to make a significant dent in terms of stage wins or be in contention for overall honours.

    Here is everything you need to know about this year's race.

    When does the Tour de France start?

    The Tour gets underway on Saturday night with a 197.8km stage from Brest to Landerneau through the Brittany countryside, which you can watch live on SBS.

    The relatively flat first stage, featuring a few short, sharp climbs — including at the finish — will suit the one-day specialists, including Aussie Michael Matthews.

    The three-week-long race will consist of 3,414.4km of racing, featuring a whopping 49,000 metres of climbing, across 21 stages, finishing on the Champs Élysée in Paris on Sunday, July 18.

    Who are the favourites?

    Last year's champion Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) and his Slovenian rival Primož Roglic (Jumbo Visma) are both obvious contenders.

    Neither raced in traditional warm-up races, the Critérium du Dauphiné or Tour de Suisse, meaning their form is questionable, but they are still considered the riders to beat.

    Welshman Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers), Tour champion in 2018, has looked in good touch this season, and will be keen to get back to the top step of the podium.

    His greatest rivals could come from within his own team though, with Richard Carapaz attacking his way to the Tour de Suisse title in recent weeks and former Giro champion Tao Geoghegan Hart in Ineos' impressive arsenal, which also features Richie Porte, fresh from this year's Dauphiné win and last year's third place.

    Among the others who could challenge are Miguel Ángel López (Movistar), Rigoberto Urán (EF Education-Nippo) and Esteban Chaves (BikeExchange).

    Who is Australia's best chance?

    Despite saying he is only at the Tour as a support rider after winning the Dauphiné, Richie Porte is in scintillating form and cannot be ignored as a potential challenger if things go wrong for Thomas or Carapaz.

    In terms of general classification, Ben O'Connor (AG2R Citroën), the 25-year-old West Australian, has impressed this year as a team leader and will likely make a name for himself in the high Alps, while Queenslander Jack Haig (Team Bahrain Victorious) will also be given a chance after impressing with 5th at the Dauphiné.

    Realistically though, Australia's biggest chance of success at the Tour will come in the form of stage wins, perhaps through Michael Matthews, but more likely via Caleb Ewan.

    Caleb Ewan aiming for green

    As the fastest sprinter in the field, Ewan will be looking to secure wins early during the Tour's flat-ish start through Brittany.

    The pint-sized Sydneysider and his Lotto Soudal team will likely look to target stages three, four and six in the first week, followed by stages 10, 12, 13, 19 and 21.

    Such is Ewan's dominance, anything less than two stage wins in the first week will likely be considered a failure for the diminutive Sydneysider, but as it's the Tour, anything could happen.

    He'll face some competition for sprint stage victories from Mark Cavendish, the most successful sprinter in terms of stage wins in Tour history, Arnaud Démare and Italian veteran Elia Viviani, among others.

    Stage one also presents an opportunity for the sprinters, but the sharp final incline might be enough to weed out the bulkier names and leave it to be contested by the puncheurs, such as world champion Julian Alaphiippe, Peter Sagan, Mathieu van der Poel, Wout van Aert or perhaps even Michael Matthews.

    Those puncheurs will also fancy stage two's 183.5km jaunt to the Mûr de Bretagne, a wicked climb that the peloton will ascend twice, including at the finish.

    In terms of going for the green jersey, Ewan will not have to deal with reigning champion Sam Bennett, with the Irishman missing out with a knee injury this year, but the pure sprinters will battle just to finish this year's challenging route.

    Key stages to watch

    While the opening week will produce plenty of intrigue, as ever, the real action will start when the road goes up and into the mountains.

    Stage eight on Saturday, July 3, includes an ascent of the formidable Col de la Colombière, a stage that will certainly weed out the principle contenders as the first real mountain test, followed by the first mountaintop finish of the race at Tignes on Sunday, July 4 — a stage featuring five categorised climbs and immediately preceding the first rest day.

    After that rest day lies the most brutal stage of this year's race, stage 11's double ascent of the imposing moonscape of Mont Ventoux.

    It is unprecedented for the race to climb the Giant of Provence twice in a race, let alone a single stage, so this will be one to stay up for on Wednesday, July 7.

    The race then shifts to five days in the Pyrenees, culminating in mountaintop finishes on stage 17 and 18.

    Stage 17, on Wednesday June 14, finishes on the 16km-long Col du Portet, while Thursday's stage sees the riders first climb the 17km-long Col du Tourmalet and the 13km Luz Ardiden.


    ABC




    © 2021 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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