2021 Tour de France

The Top 5 Most Important Stages In The 2021 Tour de France

The Top 5 Most Important Stages In The 2021 Tour de France

Any moment of the Tour de France can turn the race upside down, but these are the five stages most likely to decide the race.

May 1, 2021 by Michael Sheehan
On-Board: Mørkøv Leads Out Bennett

The 2021 Tour de France covers 3,383 kilometers. Any one of those kilometers can provide the right mixture of circumstances for a race-winning attack, or a race-losing mishap. Such is the nature of the sport. 

FloBikes has however attempted to narrow the focus to what will likely be the five most decisive days of this year’s edition.

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Read on to discover the five most important stages of the 2021 Tour de France.

#5 - Stage 1 (Brest > Landerneau)

As the crow flies, Landerneau is just 20 kilometers away from Brest, but for this year’s grand depart, riders will be sent across 187 hilly and potentially treacherous kilometers between the two towns. The stage finishes at the top of the Côte de la Fosse aux Loups, a three-kilometer climb of 5.7% which kicks up to 14% on its opening ramps. 

While the uphill kick to the finish will certainly be an exciting end to the opening stage of the Tour, the kilometers leading up to the final climb are what will make this stage crucial. The opening stages of this year’s Tour takes place in Brittany, France’s coastal, windswept and hilly northwestern corner. 

The nervous energy within the peloton during the opening stages of the Tour reliably produces some of the most dramatic racing seen all year. Rider’s nerves combined with the technical terrain of Brittany, and the ever-present risk of crosswinds will result in many tense moments for the racers and a spectacular show for fans.

The old saying will ring true in the Tour’s opening stage “you aren’t going to win the race here, but you might lose it.” GC teams will be on high alert as they attempt to shepherd their leaders through the chaos, while the classics riders will thrive.

Riders to watch: Mathieu Van Der Poel, Alexander Kristoff, Peter Sagan

#4 - Stage 11 (Sorgues > Malaucène)

Stage 11 has been widely touted as the most anticipated stage of the Tour. At 199 kilometers, this monster of a stage sends riders over the summit of Mont Ventoux not once, but twice.

The first pass of Ventoux takes riders through Sault and up a side of the mountain that is rarely featured in the Tour. The climb is a whopping 24.3 kilometers long, but only averages 5% in gradient. 

177 kilometers into the day, the peloton will begin the iconic 15.7 kilometer long ascent which averages 8.8%, back up and over the bald, windswept mountain. Riders will then embark on a 22-kilometer downhill plunge to the finish in Mauaucène.

The sheer scale of this stage, while exciting on paper, may actually result in relatively subdued racing. It would take a brave general classification hopeful to attempt anything on the first pass of Ventoux. That said, all bets are off on the second climb. 

This stage very well could end some rider’s general classification hopes, but the damage may come from attrition rather than attacks. 

Riders to watch: Nairo Quintana, Sergio Higuita, Simon Yates

#3 Stage 15 (Cèret > Andorre-La-Vieille)

The climbing starts from the gun on stage 15 and takes the peloton deep into the Pyrenees, eventually leaving France to finish in Andorra, where many professional riders live during the season.

In total, the stage covers 192 kilometers and goes up and over four steep categorized climbs before a technical downhill run to the finish.

The steep terrain and the subsequent rest day in the mountains will incentivize climbing specialists to go on the attack. Expect to see riders comfortable at high altitudes flying on this stage. 

Riders to watch: Rigoberto Uran, Richard Carapaz, Michael Woods, Sepp Kuss

#2 Stage 18 (Pau > Luz Ardiden)

Stage 18 will be absolutely critical to the remaining GC condenter’s ambitions. The final mountain stage of the tour will be a short and explosive 130 kilometer blitz with two major climbs. After a relatively flat opening 77 kilometers, the peloton hits the slopes of the storied Col du Tourmalet. 

The 17.1 kilometer climb averages 7.3% and was first used in the Tour 111 years ago, and was last seen in Thibaut Pinot's 2019 summit victory. In 2021 the Tourmalet will be the first of two HC climbs packed into the stage’s final 50 kilometers.

After the descent of the Tourmalet, riders will tackle the 13.3 kilometer climb to the stage’s finish at the summit of Luz Ardiden. As the final climb of the Tour, this mountain is the last stop saloon for any climber hoping to make a difference in this year’s race.

#1 Stage 20 (Libourne > Saint-Emilion)

Last year’s penultimate stage time trial shocked the world as Primoz Roglic crumbled, while Tadej Pogacar stormed to an upset victory.

Organizers have once again placed a time trial on stage 20. Climbing specialists will be under pressure to mitigate their losses, while time trialists in the hunt for the general classification will face one of the most important days of their life.

Unlike in 2020, this year’s final GC test will favor a more traditional time trialist as the flat, 30-kilometer course winds through scenic vineyards outside of Bordeaux.

Riders to watch: Tadej Pogacar, Primoz Roglic, Geraint Thomas, Rohan Dennis

Two Time Trials, Alpine Threats And More

There are of course countless places along the 2021 course where the race can explode. The opening four stages in Brittany all carry the risk of crosswinds and the dangers of the opening week. 

The stage five individual time trial will set an early pecking order on the general classification, and the stage seven and eight Alpine doubleheader, which ends with a makeup arrival in Tignes, is sure to be dramatic.