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Your guide to the 2021 Tour de France

Le Tour, La Grande Boucle, the month-long advertisement for France, or the Tour de France. Whatever you want to call it, the worlds biggest annual sporting event returns this Saturday.

Now in it’s 108th year, this race attracts both dedicated and casual cycling viewers alike.

This year, the race will be held entirely in France, pushing the planned grand depart in Denmark back to 2022. The route will cover nearly 3,500km including mountain stages, flat stages, 58km of time trials and many, many meters of climbing.

The tour is a race of attrition that spins wonderful narratives along it’s three-week journey through the picturesque French countryside. 

The battle for the yellow jersey, worn by the general classification (GC) leader of the tour (the lowest cumulative time) is the main story of the Tour de France. At the end of stage 20, the wearer of the yellow of jersey is declared the winner of the Tour. Stage 21 is a procession stage.

All eyes will be on last years winner, Slovenian wonderkid Tadej Pogocar (UAE Team Emirates), to see if he can hold off the team powerhouses of Jumbo-Visma and Team Ineos.

The daily battles for the breakaway wins, the polka dot jersey (mountain classification), green jersey (sprinters jersey) and white jersey (best young rider), also make for compelling viewing throughout the three weeks.

Tour de France riders on the Champs-Élysées in Paris.

Likely leaders

Tadej Pogačar

Last years winner goes into the tour with confidence. He doesn’t have the strongest team, but last year's emphatic stage 20 win will go down in history as one of the best time trials, almost surpassing the famous win by Greg Lemond in 1989

Primož Roglič

After last year's heartbreak on stage 20 to Pogačar, Primoz comes into the tour with slightly different attitude than last year. His Jumbo Visma team is stacked with talent, and is predicted by many pundits the man to beat.

Geraint Thomas

The popular Ineos rider who won the tour in 2018 is back this year with an incredibly strong Ineos team. They’ve indicated that they don’t have a defined leader, but Thomas has the palmares and will be the one most likely to go the distance.

Julian Alaphilippe

The great French hope, the goateed rider who moves with panache and character is a likely wearer of the yellow jersey at some point in July, but it would take something incredible for him to be wearing it Paris.

Richie Porte

Thomas’s Australian teammate, who finished third last year. If he can make it past stage 9, Richie is always one to watch

Other riders to watch

Caleb Ewan

The Australian pocket rocket. Favourite for the green jersey and a number of spring wins. Watch for his incredible sprinting style as he barrels towards the line at 70kph.

Peter Sagan

Another green jersey contender. Sagan is a winner of eight green jerseys in his career, but fans have noticed a regression as of late, but it would be foolish to count out the Slovak.

Matthew van der Poel (MVDP)

The Dutch everyman. A classics specialist and one from the new generation of riders. It’s his first tour, but he is guaranteed to a card at some point. Look out for his Alpecin-Fenix team's loud kit, which they are wearing in honour of Van der Poel’s grandfather, who rode the tour many years ago.

Wout Van Aert

MVDP’s main rival. Wout has a number of tour wins under his belt, and can do it all. Time trial, sprint and climb. Look for him at the front of the peloton doing work for his team leader Primoz Roglic.

Mark Cavendish

The Manx Missile is back! He only needs four wins to tie the all time record by Eddy Merckx. A surprise addition, but a fan favourite. Look for him going shoulder to shoulder with Caleb Ewen.

One of the many gut-busting climbs on the Tour de France.

Riding terms

The jerseys

Yellow – overall leader

Also known as the maillot jaune, the yellow jersey is worn by the rider who is the General Classification (GC) leader, riding the race in the least amount of time.

Green – points leader

The green jersey, or maillot vert, is worn by the rider that has accrued the most points during the race. Points are awarded based on the positions that riders finish each stage as well as their performance during intermediate sprints within stages.

Polka-dot – King of the Mountains

Worn by the rider that has the had the best finishes and earned the most points in the mountain stages of the race. The more difficult the climb, the more points can be won.

Rider roles

Climber: A light rider who specialises in hilly or mountainous racing.

Sprinter: A powerful rider who can perform high-velocity burst finishes.

Time trialist: A strong endurance rider who excels at maintaining a high speed over a long period of time to win stage sprints or time trials.

Road captain: An experienced rider in charge of executing the team strategy and ensuring each rider goes to the right place at the right time.

Protected rider: The rider who is favoured by the team for either the day’s stage or the overall. This may be a climber on a mountain stage, a sprinter on the flats or the GC contender.

Domestique: A teammate who helps the protected rider, whether by sheltering them from the wind, physically buffering them from other riders or bringing more water from the team car.

Rider positioning

Peloton/bunch: The main group of racers.

Paceline: When riders arrange themselves in a single or double line to gain aerodynamic shelter from the rider in front of them. Riders will then rotate to the front of the line, breaking wind for their teammates.

Breakaway: When one or more riders escape from the peloton and rides ahead of the main bunch.

Chase: Riders or groups of riders who are trying to catch up with the break but are stuck between the break and the peloton.

Courtesy of www.ef.com

French terms

ALLUMER LES PHARES: "Turning the lights on". Used to describe a rider suspected of taking doping substances before a stage, hence the strange flash in his eyes.

ALPE D'HUEZ: The most famous climb in the Tour, it has 21 switchbacks and is always a coveted win for climbers.

AVOIR LA FRITE: "Having the french fry". A classic expression used to describe a rider in great shape, capable of making big moves, and responding to others' attacks.

BAROUDEUR: "Fighter". A rider capable of launching long-range attacks and staying ahead of the chasing peloton.

BIDON: drink bottle

CHAUDIERE: "Hot water heater". A doped rider.

DOMESTIQUE: "Servant". A rider dedicated to helping his team leader. The most talented of the domestiques often become leaders in their own right. Or sometimes team leaders can be relegated, as in the case in last year's Tour with Chris Froome, relegated to a "super domestique" role in aid of teammate Geraint Thomas.

FLAMME ROUGE: "Red flame". The triangular red banner hanging over the road signaling the final kilometer of each stage.

GRAND TOUR: The term used to describe the three major three-week stage races: the Tour, the Giro d'Italia and the Spanish Vuelta.

GRUPPETTO: "Small Group". An Italian word describing the group of cyclists dropped by the main pack riding together at the back of the race. In French, they are called the "autobus."

LANTERNE ROUGE: "Red Lantern". The last rider in the overall standings.

PASSER PAR LA FENETRE: "Going through the window". This expression full of imagery describes a rider getting dropped and losing ground very quickly after a rival, or the peloton, accelerates.

PUNCHEUR: "Puncher". A rider who can open up a big gap quickly on hilly terrain.

SOIGNEUR: "Rider's aid". Someone in charge of taking care of a rider's every need: massage therapist, finish line care, etc.

SUCER LA ROUE: "Suck someone's wheel". Used to describe a rider refusing to go in front and break the wind for a rival, staying just behind instead and conserving his energy.

SUIVEUR: "Follower". The term used to describe journalists and other workers who follow the Tour.

Courtesy of www.newsobserver.com

The blur of the peloton.

Stages to Watch

Stage 1: Brest to Landerneau (198 km)­

The first stage is always hectic. A chance for every rider to wear the yellow jersey can make for fast racing. Crashes are likely, but whatever happens, it’ll be an exciting finish

Stage 5: Changé to Laval ITT (27.2 km)

The time trial, the race of truth. This is the first chance for everyone to see who looks good of the GC riders.

Stage 8: Oyonnax to Le Grand-Bornand (151 km)

The first big mountain stage, lots of climbing on the menu today. Watch for riders being spat out the back of the peloton as the big teams make life hard by drilling the pace at the front.

Stage 9: Cluses to Tignes (145 km)

Don’t be fooled by the short distance of this stage, two Category 1 climbs and a HC (the highest) climb will make this stage essential viewing.

Stage 11: Sorgues to Malaucène (199 km)

Any stage with Mt Ventoux is going to be a good one! This year the riders tackle the famous climb twice. Look for a big GC shakeup.

Stages 16-18

The last week in the mountains. Loads of climbing on the menu, lots of fireworks, lots of movement in the riders standing. Should be great fun.

Stage 20: Libourne to Saint-Émilion ITT (30.8 km)

Like last year, the tour will be decided by a time trial. This year it’s a flat stage but there is still chance for plenty of drama, have the climbers taken enough time, will Pogačar repeat last years heroics? Tune in to find out!

Catch the tour live and free to air on SBS or at https://www.sbs.com.au/cyclingcentral/

Daily updates and great content can be found at cyclingtips.com.

This article was made possible by the support of Bicycle Network's members who enable us to make bike riding better in Australia.