After the Giro d’Italia 2022 review it’s time to review the Grand Boucle. As usual, like the Giro, and every other UCI race, you can find the stages on our website (and this is even more important than the Giro considering that for TDF all the profiles are out in end of May / beginning of June – so we have reconstructed them from the videos. There will be small changes of course, but not something that will change significantly the stages themselves). Let’s take a look, first, at the list of stages.


The Tour de France goes more or less over the skeleton of 2014 edition, the one won by Vincenzo Nibali and heavily influenced by the crashes of Alberto Contador and Chris Froome in the first day. All stages was set for a race between the two best riders of that moment – that was just delayed to Vuelta – but ended in Nibali domination for a boring Tour at the end. This brought that type of route to being put on hold for one year, being put back again in 2016, then being put again on hold after Froome dominated it.

TDF 2014 had cobbles, 5 mountain top finishes + Gerardmer and the final 54 kms ITT to define the winner. This race put on the table cobbles, 5 mountain top finishes + Chatel and Mende and a final 40 kms ITT putting a significant change in 2020 route when the MTFs were three and two of them were put in two short stages. It’s a race that unlike tradition of TDF of neverending boring stages in which group is all together try to shift the TDF in a different plan increasing the chances of stages with GC gaps.

Having GC gaps in TDF is something unusual more than Giro and Vuelta due to the high level of the competition. You always get riders grouped and big gaps like Pogacar this year in Le Grand Bornand are usually the exception and not the rule. Giro in last year is able to obtain them in the third week after long efforts making the riders being tired due to the level becoming high also there.

TDF usually never felt the need of doing an hard race after Giro having usually one stage (not even the hardest) as the main decider of the race and the rest just being in control of it. 2019 was a good edition countering the previous ones maybe due to lack of dominant riders resulting in gaps since Prat d’Albis stage – after one year in which Geraint Thomas was able to distance Dumoulin “only” 27” between La Rosiere, Alpe d’Huez, Portet and Mende with the dutch man losing the Tour on a crash in Mur de Bretagne and not being able to take the time back.

Will the choice pay? The last hard route that I remember was 2011 with 4 MTFs (a record for that time) resulting in a first part in which Pyrenees were basically ridden at slow pace because of Contador not being dominant and everyone else being scared of what’s coming. TDF is trying to put an hard route again on the table hoping that different style of racing of Pogacar and Roglic (and even Bernal) can bring something different on the table – stages like Andorra or Quillan are a problem in terms of TV viewers, so the more we get GC action the better for the race sponsors and stakeholders. And this is what this route is all about.

Grand Depart

The Grand Depart in Denmark finally makes it after 2021 and for the first time since 1987 the Tour de France it’s not starting on a Saturday. Last time was for a start in West Berlin that needed an extra rest day to move from West Berlin to Karlsruhe in a TDF of 25 stages + prologue starting on a Wednesday. After that TDFs had always prologue and 21/22 stages of which two of them often being held in the day after it as a normal stage + TTT in same day. The actual format of 21 stages + 2 rest day was there since 1999 and went untouched until now. TDF finally gets an ITT as stage 1 and this will help in the following days – ITT means gaps, gaps means that there won’t be the usual rush because someone may crash and I random rider can get yellow if I stay up making my day out of my career.

Crashes will surely be important in first week and unlike the other races we should here pay attention also to the size of the road – we saw last year Roglic being out in a stage with finals being ridden on narrow roads. Stage 2 is ridden all along the danish coast with the final being on a long bridge in an attempt to get some echelons and gaps like in Zeeland stage of TDF 2015 – the same, but with far less probability being in the mainland, for the Stage 3 that is likely to be a sprint. Rest day, race in France.

First week

There is an interesting thing we can notice in the first week draw: there aren’t any expected mass sprints. There can be one in Calais but surely won’t be a mass sprint with these climbs on the road (even if you should probably start the acton in the three climbs in the middle of the stage). The stage is classified “hilly” and won’t give full points in the shameful anti-sagan rule introduced in 2016. Honestly it’s time to put the rule back as it was in 2010s, with a better level of the green jersey points across the different type of stages and enjoy multiple riders having the chance to compete in it against the sprinters. Calais stage is the classic stage that would end in a breakaway in 2nd week – in the first week may not because of the yellow jersey battle.

Stage is then followed by the “cobbled day”, back in TDF after 2018 with entirely new cobbled sectors not done in the actual version Paris-Roubaix. There is only one sector classified with four stars according to our map and it’s Tilloy à Sars-en-Rosieres and it’s the sector in which Van der Poel made the attack that allowed him to drop the rest of the peloton going back on Colbrelli group. Stage is only 144 km and it’s on the paper easier than 2018 stage ending in Roubaix that didn’t do any significant gap. To be fair, after 2014, there were barely gaps between GC contenders in the cobble stages (every single one of them ridden in dry conditions). Mathieu Van der Poel can drop the peloton and go for the solo victory, Wout Van Aert also can but we’ll have to see first if he can ride freely or he’ll be bounded to Roglic babysitting like Sagan with Contador in 2015 cobbled stage. At GC level of course the best outcome for ASO is Roglic/Pogacar losing some time here, forcing them to attack in the mountains.

Longvy seems tailored on Alaphilippe. There is a decent length and a punchy final. It’s like having two classics in a row but being Stage 6 this seems designed for a good chance of a breakaway finish specially because 220 kms are a lot to chase for a single team. Stage 7 will feature the first MTF on la Super Planche des Belles filles. We know this climb by heart considering how many times we got that in the last years – the finish will be the same of 2019 and this means that the final wall is likely giving us 10-15” gaps between contenders neutralizing any attack before it. 2019 stage was also way harder than this one before the final climb. Lausanne will be again a MTF but for different type of riders – this is another stage that is likely having “breakaway” written all over it considering being between two hard stages.

Last one is the first mountain stage and it’s the only one being on a weekend. Pas de Morgins will act as a deciding climb for the day – there surely will be some attacks that should be done in the first part of the climb – the only problem here is the first part of the stage that could and should’ve been harder. Likely 8-12 riders here in the finish unless Pogacar goes thermonuclear immediately – we’ll see who will lose the tour.

Second week

Second week follows the trend of the first, but with mountains. Personally I am a bit disappointed for the opening stage in Megeve because the finish was the same of Dauphiné last stage of 2020 – and that was one of the best races of the year – but they’ll basically remove whatever there is before the final ascent to place this stage in the middle of the Tour de France high mountain stages. Considering the two upcoming days this is another stage with “breakaway” written all over it.

Race will then go with the Col du Granon and I am excited to see this climb back in TDF. Someone will probably have played the same final in one of my Pro Cycling Manager Fantasy Tour de France variants – and if you played it you’ll know that Granon is hard. 11 kms – costantly 9-10%. Would not instead reccomend attacks on Galibier but to use it, instead, to select the group – the descent is not so technical and a group vs a single person here can easily recover a gap if they cooperate properly: in 2017 Tour did the same descent with finish being in Serre Chevalier and Roglic lost easily 40 seconds vs the yellow jersey group (and in final the yellow group slowered down a bit due to the bonifications)

There is nothing to say on the Alpe d’Huez stage. It’s a classic. Stage is the same of 2008 except for the length, on that day the start was in Embrun for a total of 210 km that allowed Sastre to win the race gaining 2 minutes basically on everyone in the peloton also thanks to the Schleck brothers that being teammates had to stay on wheel despite Frank was in yellow (even with few seconds on Cadel Evans and an ITT coming). We’ll see gaps and we’ll know that everything before the Alpe is useless except pacing and making the rivals putting fatigue in their legs. Descents are long, you need to push, riders likely regrouping here. Hoping for some crowd control on the climb after 2018.

Saint-Etienne on the paper is a flat stage. And i mean on the paper because it can be a breakaway day or a restricted sprint day. The climbs are enough to drop most of the sprinters if properly paced giving WVA/MVDP a chance to go for the day. Final is the same of the stage Thomas De Gendt won – without the small climb in the park.

We know also everything about the Mende stage – puncheur stage, hard final, gaps likely to be happen. It’s a stage that being for GC riders usually goes to the breakaway with GC riders saving the watt for giving everything on these three steeps kms. Carcassonne is again a sprint on the paper but with several climbs in it it’s unlikely to be – the city hosts again a finish after the Cavendish record (and some criticism for the three turns before the mass sprint). Final is indeed hard than last year and even here there are chances of avoiding the mass sprint.

Third week

Third week fixes the main error of the last year and put finally out of the table the baby stages with two climbs. Foix brings back on the race the Mur de Peguere where due to the steepness something will happen even if the descent doesn’t favour riders on the move. Peyragudes stages features four climbs in 130 km, all short and fast with one technical descent on the Horquette. The big flaw of this stage like the Horquette is the final ramp of Peyragudes being steep (it’s the same of 2017) and not favouring the riders who will want to attack earlier in the climb.

Hautacam will so be the last day on the mountains – the “now or never” day in an unfortunately short stage but better than Luz Ardiden 2021 featuring Aubisque and Spandelles (you may also know this climb from one of the my Pro Cycling Manager TDF variants) before the final in Hautacam. Descent of Spandelles is also technical on a narrow road (unless resurfacing will happen before july) and the final climb of Hautacam done in third week has always delivered some good gaps.

Stage 19 can probably feature a mass sprint. I’d say probably because usually this stage has been given to the breakaway all the time with breakaway riders having their last chance before Paris and sprinters+teams wanting to save energies for the last day after having battled to survive in the mountains (TDF time limits are the most tight by far in comparison with Giro and Vuelta).

Stage 20 will be the usual, traditional, classic penultimate day ITT with punchy finish and proper stage distance. It’s the third year in a row that TDF decides to go back with the final ITT instead of a KOM. Wishing for one hour ITTs back in the game, we can be satisfied with what’s on the table. Nothing to say with Stage 21 that is the usual criterium on the Champs.


Tour de France 2021 – Global Elevation

The official website defines the route “a route for attackers“. This TDF seems in fact heavily designed for taking advantage of the dualism between Van Aert and Van der Poel bringing them rightly into the green jersey contention due to the lack of stages for pure sprinters. Van Aert could’ve easily won the green last year but he didn’t had the green light to go into sprints – in 2020 for domestique duties, in 2021 also being scared of getting injured for Olympics. While we can discuss if it’s fair for Van Aert to go also for his own ambition while helping the captain we cannot unsee how TDF designed a lot of stages in which top 10 gaps can happen likely every day.

ASO picked an experimental route following the “modern cycling” in which you prefer to having more gaps alongside the whole Grand Tour than the big day – will it pay? It didn’t in the last times they tried due to lot of conservative racing but they’ll hope things to change with the current peloton. Lack of the mountain stage over 200 kms remains, there are some proper climbs in the mountain stages unlike last year and the number of MTFs has been increased. The big difference in comparison to Giro remains in the middle mountain stages that are too easy to see any GC contention and the only ones that will feature GC gaps it’s because of a steep climb placed in final.

You won’t see here stages like Diamante – Potenza or Torino – Torino of Giro 2021 (the last one was Porrentruy 2012) and this is first due to lack of infrastructures in French territory, then due to organizers choices. In this sense some different choices for example could’ve been taken in Calais (Cassel in the final) and Saint-Etienne stages. A Team Time Trial would’ve been good on a route like that, first to set some times between Roglic and Pogacar and second to force some teams to take some good TTers instead of mountain superdomestiques making the roster choice more tactical.

As a cycling fanatic I’ll have to hope that the experiment will work and ASO will so be motivated to put other similar routes in the future – and that means a close GC battle and a lot of stages in which it happens. Stages like Nimes, Quillan and Andorra of TDF 2021 are good only for the riders who won it – less for the spectators, considering that last two happened also on a weekend. Target of ASO is trying to bring the first week racing of last year over three weeks and while the profiles of the Tour de France are not necessarily as difficult as the Giro d’italia – the intensity of competition still makes it the hardest grand tour in terms of average level and level required to win stages. Up to the riders now riding like if there is no tomorrow every day and hoping ASO plan to not backfire again.

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