Tour de France 2021
After the racing calendar was changed in 2020, the biggest yearly sports event worldwide is now back in 2021 in its traditional spot on the cycling agenda.
The 108th edition of the Tour de France will commence on 26 June in the Breton city of Brest in the north-west of France and will end 3383 km later on 18 July on the Champs-Elysées in Paris, as has been the tradition since 1975. For the first time ever, 23 teams rather than 22, from 13 different countries and with 184 riders, will be starting the race and individuals and teams will be vying for the most prestigious title in cycling.
BORA – hansgrohe / Bettiniphoto
The Tour de France was first staged in 1903 as a promotional campaign for the newspaper “L’Auto”, the precursor publication to today’s paper “L’Equipe”. Riders in this first race had to conquer six stages, spanning a total of 2,428 km, in 19 days. In 1919 Henri Desgranges, who was race director at the time, decided that the race leader should wear a yellow jersey so that spectators could easily keep track of the race, and race leaders have worn a yellow jersey ever since. The mountains classification was created in 1933, and the best climbers were awarded the polka dot jersey from 1975. The green jersey for the leader in the points classification was introduced in 1953. After donning the green jersey in Paris for an unbelievable seventh time in 2019 (more than anyone ever before), last year after a long battle our three-times world champion Peter Sagan had to make do with second place. This year he’s back raring to go and expand on his record. Alongside him from the start and aiming for general classification in his role as second team captain is Dutch newcomer Wilco Kelderman, who will be competing for a spot on the Tour de France podium after coming third in the Giro 2020 and finishing in the top ten in the Giro and Vuelta.
With its 21 stages, the route can be described as a classic. Six mountain stages (including three mountain finishes), five moderately difficult legs and two time trials – 27 and 31 km – are what Wilco Kelderman and his domestiques have to focus on. Anyone who wants to ride into Paris wearing the yellow jersey can’t afford to drag their feet in this race against the clock. BORA – hansgrohe and, above all, Peter Sagan will also be focusing on the eight flat stages.
The decider could, like last year, be the 31 km time trial on the penultimate day, after the Alps, Massif Central and Pyrenees have stretched the riders to the limit. The 11th stage (07/07) from Sorgues to Malaucène is bound to be a highlight as the cyclists climb the legendary – and not only in cycling – Mont Ventoux in the Alpine foothills of Provence not once but twice. The highest point of the Tour this year is the 2408 m high Port d’Envalira in Andorra, which will be negotiated in the 15th stage (11/07).
The BORA – hansgrohe line up
Twenty-nine professional cyclists from ten different countries in one team. Teamwork makes the dream work in cycling, after all. Even if only one of them is the first over the finish line, winning is a success for the whole team because you can’t win in cycling without domestiques who provide slipstreams, go grab water bottles (the so-called “bidons”), keep the competition at bay and lead out the sprinter for the sprint.
Teamwork is top priority in the BORA – hansgrohe team, that’s how they constantly develop, improve and become more successful. The team started in the third division in 2010, still under the NetApp team name, and was evolving and getting better all the time until it was promoted to the first division in 2017. Just two years later and with a total of 47 victories under its belt, the team advanced to the second-best team in the WorldTour division. Resting on laurels is out of the question; in the past two years, the team has been continuously developed, refreshed and also rejuvenated in order to remain competitive. In the process, the team took an unconventional approach and looked outside the box, by, for example, signing up a mountain biker and a ski mountaineer and also relying on many young talents.
As a three-time world championship winner, seven-time winner of the green jersey at the Tour de France and winner of the Queen of the Classics Paris-Roubaix with a total of 117 wins in his career, Peter Sagan is one of the most successful professional cyclists ever. But there is one thing that the 31-year-old Slovakian cyclist is and that’s different. If we’ve learned one thing about this rock star of the cycling world, then it’s that he has unbelievable mental strength and that is he is a force to be reckoned with. He goes all in when he wins and equally so when he’s entertaining the fans. During the race you can see him signing autographs on the mountain passes or delighting the crowds by performing a wheelie because Peter Sagan not only considers it his duty to put on an impressive performance athletically, he also wants to put on a good show for the spectators. This year, he’s already shown what he’s made of in the first big tour – the Giro d’Italia, where he took victory in the points classification by winning the ‘Maglia Ciclamino’ (equivalent to the green jersey in the Tour).
The 30-year-old Dutchman joined the team in the 2021 season with a clear focus on the major national tours. A strong time trialist, who also gets on very well in the mountains, has shown his promise with top 10 places in the Vuelta and Giro, occupying third place on the podium in the latter in 2020. More recently, he demonstrated his excellent form by snatching fourth place in the Critérium du Dauphiné. Wilco, who tried his hand at speed skating before cycling, is highly motivated and determined to show it at the Tour.
Emanuel Buchmann turned pro at BORA - hansgrohe and over the years “Emu” has established himself as one of the best tour riders in the world. He usually doesn’t say much; he prefers to let his actions do the talking and show just what he’s capable of on the bike. In the 2019 Tour de France, he was only a few seconds off making the podium thanks to his tremendous consistency over 21 stages in Paris. He rode in the Giro this year, but had to pull out from a promising position following a fall in the 15th stage. However, this enables him to be there at the start of the Tour, where he will be supporting Wilco and will also be at liberty to take his chance at a stage win in the mountains.
Nils joined the team in the 2021 season and above all specialises in the hard spring classics. The 27 year old from Cologne, who has finished in second and seventh place on the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix, is a powerful force on the pedals and, with the exception of hill climber, can take on many different roles. The 2021 edition of the ‘Big Loop’ will be his fifth Tour de France in a row. At 192 cm tall and known as ‘Giraffe’ in the training group because of his long legs, Politt will ride into the wind for BORA – hansgrohe, but might also try his luck in the breakaway groups.
Born in Lower Austria, he joined BORA – hansgrohe’s predecessors as a stagiaire (‘test rider’) in August 2014. He’s come on in leaps and bounds since then and consistently snatches a top ten spot in the tours. His invaluable climbing skills have been brought into action at two Tours de France to date. But the keen amateur chef with a love of Austrian cuisine has shown that he can do more by coming 7th, 8th and 13th in the general classification at the Giro d’Italia. If captain Wilco Kelderman should struggle, there’s no better rider than Patrick to have by his side, both having shown at the Dauphiné how well they work together.
The Italian, hailing from Lake Garda, is not just a friend of Peter Sagan, he has also been his domestique for many years. Understanding each other perfectly makes working together so much easier – and it means you’ll sometimes see Daniel do his best Peter Sagan impression in interviews. The 34-year-old brings much experience and a calming influence to the team, both of which are vital during Grand Tours. But back on the team bus, he also makes sure that everyone’s enjoying themselves with tunes to get them pumped up. Keep on rockin’, Daniel!
Lukas Pöstlberger joined the team in 2015 as a stagiaire. The two-time Austriam national champion is deployed as an all-rounder and gives valuable support in whatever role he is given. There’s a good reason why his signature hashtag is #poestipower. During the first stage of Giro d’Italia 2017 (his first Grand Tour ever), he seized the moment and bagged the stage win in style and donned the pink leader jersey for a day. With this win he immediately made history as the first Austrian to ever win a stage at the Giro d’Italia. At the preparatory race for this year’s Tour, the Critérium du Dauphiné, he showed his excellent form early on with a stage win on day two and secured himself the yellow leader’s jersey for 4 days. Perhaps that puts Pösti in with a good chance at the Tour de France?
At just 23, Ide is the youngest cyclist on the BORA – hansgrohe Tour de France team. The Dutchman from The Hague had probably imagined 2020 – his first year as a professional – somewhat differently, but this coronavirus-marked year has certainly given him the chance to learn a great deal and possibly even offered him more opportunities than expected. An eternal optimist, in 2021 Ide stood out at the Ardennes classics for his aggressive riding style, finishing fourth at the Brabantse Pijl and just narrowly missing out on a spot on the podium. In the prestigious Amstel Gold Race he was nominated the most aggressive/active rider and in the Grosser Preis des Kantons Aargau he finally earned his first professional win. Now the Tour de France is on the agenda and he couldn't be more motivated to learn, do a good job and perhaps even cause a bit of a stir.