The Tour de France is nine stages into the 2021 edition, and there has been so much happening in every stage, it’s been hard to keep up. As we reach the first Tour de France Rest Day for 2021, it’s a chance to catch up on everything from a frantic first week.
For the basics of the race, read our preview here, and for an inside look at the storylines of the race, read our deep dive preview here.
Defending champion Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) has shown the form that won him the Tour last year. He has won a stage and shown himself to be the strongest climber and the strongest time triallist in the race.
Pogačar’s winning form is reminiscent of last year and has allowed him to build an early lead of over two minutes on the first rest day. Of the pre-race favourites, Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers) is 5:33 down, and Wilco Kelderman (BORA-Hansgorhe) is 5:58 behind Pogačar.
Primoz Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) was forced to abandon the race ahead of Stage 9 after he was unable to overcome the effects of multiple crashes. Geraint Thomas (INEOS Grenadiers) is 39:42 down, and Richie Porte (INEOS Grenadiers) is 47:36 down, just behind Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quickstep), who has conceded 47:02.
In second place on the first rest day is young Australian Ben O’Connor (AG2R-Citreon), who shot up the standings with an aggressive breakaway and brilliant solo ride on the wet and cold Stage 9 to Tignes.
Rigoberto Uran (EF Education-Nippo) has ridden a strong race to be sitting in third, to be the next closest challenger.
The Other Jerseys
Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quickstep) is the current holder of the green jersey, for the best sprinter. He won Stage 4 and Stage 6 to notch the 30th and 31st stage wins of his Tour de France career. After a number of years in the wilderness away from the Tour, Cavendish’s last-minute call up appears to have bolstered his confidence.
Australian Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) is currently his closest challenger and has shown more ability to climb, but Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Victorious) has shown enough climbing prowess and sprint speed that he is a genuine threat for the green jersey in Paris.
Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic) will wear the polka-dot jersey as the leader of the king of the mountains competition. He won the jersey with a strong breakaway (with O’Connor) on Stage 9, but will be closely challenged by Wout Poels (Bahrain-Victorious) and Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation). Each has been aggressive in multiple breakaways trying to accumulate points, and the competition is far from over.
As Pogačar is also eligible for the best young rider competition, he nominally holds the white jersey. Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) will wear the jersey, as white clashes with yellow for Pogačar.
O’Connor has been the rising Australian of the Tour, with a brilliant ride on Stage 9 putting him second overall.
Porte has struggled and has lost 47:23 after being affected by crashes early, and then significant time losses in the mountains. Lucas Hamilton (Team BikeExchange) has similarly struggled in the mountains and is 57:23 down on Pogačar.
Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious) and Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal), who each promised so much for the Tour crashed out on Stage 4’s treacherous finish, with both fracturing collarbones (and Haig also suffering a concussion).
Luke Durbridge (Team BikeExchange) has spent much of the Tour ensuring that teammates Hamilton, Matthews and Esteban Chavez have been in the right place at the right time, as best he can, and has ridden well at the front.
The Winners of the First Week
Mathieu Van Der Poel. The Dutchman came to the Tour to ride in honour of his grandfather and hoping to win a stage. He won Stage 2 in emphatic fashion, and took the yellow jersey, holding in until the end of Stage 8.
Van Der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) rode the time trial of his life on Stage 5 to hold the jersey and attacked on Stage 7 to be part of the breakaway and maintain his lead. Before Stage 9, he announced that he was withdrawing from the race to concentrate on preparation for the Tokyo Olympics where he will be chasing gold in the Mountain Bike event.
Columbian Climbers. Uran, Quintana, Chavez and Sergio Higuita (EF Education Nippo) have all featured prominently, and have set themselves up for exciting racing during the rest of the Tour. Quintana and Higuita have both shown a desire to win the King of the Mountains competition.
Mark Cavendish. Two sprint finishes, two stage wins. The Manx Missile is also a chance at a second Green Jersey, if he can make it to Paris inside the time cut (he’s been close twice), he is a chance at adding to his collection on the Champs-Elysees.
The Losers of the First Week
Race Organisers. The Race Organisers came under fire for the technical finish on Stage 4, and the riders had pushed for the finish to be taken earlier. When Jack Haig, Roger Kluge (Lotto Soudal) and others crashed, the riders expressed their frustration with a protest on Stage 5, where the entire race came to a halt.
While the race organisers deserve credit for exciting racing on Stage 1 and Stage 2, the crash on Stage 4 marred that positive feeling.
Pre-race favourites. Despite talk of how open and even the race would be, none of the favourites has been capable of holding Pogačar in check, or looking like they will be able to challenge him. Pogačar has an early lead, and even when his team has struggled, he has looked to be the strongest climber in the race to prevent any attacks from his rivals.
Team INEOS-Grenadiers. Lauded for coming into the Tour with four possible contenders, Thomas, Porte and Tao Geoghegan Hart have all lost so much time that they are out of consideration for the win. Each has fallen victim to bad circumstances, but the combined loss has prevented any one-two punch from having any effectiveness.
Grandparents. This sign, saying hello to someone’s grandparents, was the story of the Tour for the first day. The carnage that resulted from the crash included serious injuries to a number of riders, and threats of lawsuits still pending.
Heartbreak. Nicholas Dlamini (Qhubeka NextHash) was the first black South African riding in the Tour. After a crash in horror conditions on Stage 9, Dlamini was well outside the time cut, finishing almost an hour and a half after the winner of the stage. Despite certain elimination, he was determined to finish the stage, to the plaudits of all who were watching.
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To watch in Week Two
Stage 11 (Sorgues to Malaucene – 199km) – Stage 11 with three major climbs in the last 120km of the stage will have the contenders licking their lips. Two ascents of the legendary Mont Ventoux provides a chance to put Pogačar under pressure and will be a chance for one rider to ride themselves into the history books.
Stage 15 (Ceret to Andorre-la-Vieille – 101k) – Stage 15 is the first day in the Pyrenees, and will be a chance before the rest day for the climbers to stretch their legs. The first day in the Pyrenees will likely set the stage for the final week.
The Other Tours
Lachlan Morton was not selected for the Tour de France in 2021. As a result, he is returning to the original roots of the race and is riding every kilometre of the race. He’s also riding every kilometre between the stages, stopping in cafes for food and sleeping under the stars.
Morton is carrying all his bags with him and is raising money for World Bicycle Relief. You can find out more about his effort and support his fundraising here.
Jack Ultra Cyclist is also riding the Tour de France, separate from the race. He is aiming to ride the entire race in 10 days, starting on the first rest day. He will aim to ride the full 3,500km and 62,000m of climbing and catch the peloton before Paris.
Jack is essentially riding two stages a day and is riding in support of mental health awareness. You can find out more about his effort and track his progress here.
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