The world’s favorite road cycling race, the Tour de France, is set to return for its 109and edition in July with Copenhagen, Denmark confirmed as the starting stage. As always, there will be 21 stages in total with just three rest days between them, a grueling test of stamina, stamina and determination. Last year’s race was won by Slovenian rider Tadej Pogacar who managed to retain his title after also winning in 2020. Pogacar and his team, UAE Team Emirates will be confident he can make an impact again and the bookmakers certainly agree. According to Oddschecker, whose free bets page includes several usable offers for Le Tour, Pogacar is this year’s favorite, ahead of Jonas Vingegard and Richard Carapaz. These four will be joined on the starting line by more than 100 others and they will all dream of leading their team to victory.
The Tour de France is the oldest of the three “Grand Tours”, which also includes the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España, both inspired by “The Tour”. The first edition was held in 1903, apparently to help promote the newspaper L’Auto (now L’Équipe), which was struggling with low sales. The race was a huge success in this regard as it increased the newspaper’s sales by more than 500%.
It was reported that 60 professional or semi-professional cyclists were on the start line in Paris, one Italian, two Germans, 4 Swiss and 4 Belgians, with the remaining 49 being French riders. Only 21 of these competitors completed the six stages of the race, which ended with a flat 471 kilometer course from Nantes to Paris. The race was won by adopted Frenchman Maurice Garin who finished nearly three hours ahead of second-placed Lucien Pothier. The last place on the podium goes to Fernand Augereau who is ahead of Rodolfo Muller by just over 10 minutes. All of the top five finishers were part of the “La Française” team, although they were not allowed to work together in the race.
Since then the race has undergone many changes with additional stages added, rule changes and an increase in the number of competitors. All these factors have allowed the Tour de France to become the biggest cycling event.
There are four men who hold the record for Tour de France victories with five each. The first to achieve this feat was Jacques Anquetil, a French cyclist who won in 1957, 1961, 1962, 1963 and 1964. His first victory came on his tournament debut, a year before that he broke the record per hour with more than 46 kilometers in the Vigorelli Velodrome in Milan.
Anquetil’s record only lasted 10 years until it was matched by Eddy Merckx, who won four consecutive titles from 1969 to 1972 before adding his fifth victory two years later. He won a total of 11 Grand Tours during his career, which also included five Giros d’Italia and a Vuelta a España title.
Bernard Hinault was the next cyclist to achieve the feat with victories in 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982 and 1985. The Frenchman is known as one of the best cyclists in the history of the sport with nearly 150 victories, including three Giros d’Italia. and two Vueltas a España, as well as a victory in the 1980 World Championship in Sallanches.
The most recent competitor to equal Jacques Anquetil’s record was the all-round Spaniard Miguel Induráin, who became the only man in history to win all five titles in consecutive years. His Tour de France victories from 1991 to 1995 were the culmination of an impressive career that also included victories at the Giro d’Italia in 1992 and 1993.
The 2021 Tour de France was supposed to start at this year’s location but had to be pushed back to this year due to the postponement of Euro 2020 matches which were being played in Copenhagen at the same time. The Danish town will host the individual time trial portion of the race, before the flat stage from Roskilde on the island of Zealand to Nyborg. The Danish stage ends with a second flat stage from Veijle to Sønderborg before a well-deserved rest day.
The second set of stages begins with a hilly stage from Dunkirk to Calais, followed by a Lille to Arenberg stage the following day. Stage six is an epic 220 kilometer race starting in the Belgian town of Binche and ending in France at Longwy. Stages 8 and 9 take the competitors to Switzerland and back to France, followed by another rest day for the cyclists.
Stages 10 to 15 will take the race from the mountains of Morzine to the fortified city of Carcassonne with two challenging mountain stages of 149 and 166 kilometers respectively.
The last series of stages culminates with 112 km of flat surface from Paris La Défense Arena to the Champs-Elysées. The day before the 21st and final stage, there is another individual time trial stage to determine the starting order for the final day.
Runners to watch
Last year’s three podium finishes are believed to be the competitors to watch in this year’s Tour de France. Defending champion Tadej Pogacar is most people’s favorite after last year’s dominating performance. At just 23, many feel he still has a long way to go before he fully realizes his potential, which is a scary prospect for his rivals.
2021 runner-up Vingegaard Rasmussen is a Danish all-rounder who should make a big impact again this year. He’s another young competitor at 25, so he’s another one who can reasonably expect to improve this year. He won this year’s Drome Classic and finished second in the Tirreno-Adriatico. With the start of this year’s Tour de France in his home country, he will certainly have extra motivation to help him in his quest for glory.
Ecuadorian Richard Carapaz finished third last year despite his teammates crashing out in the first week, meaning they couldn’t help him as much as other competitors’ teammates. He is a particularly gifted climber who thrives in the mountainous stages of the Grand Tours. He won the Giro d’Italia in 2019 before proudly winning an Olympic gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.