TdF2021 - ALLEZ!

Welcome back cycling sport fans to the annual follow along thread of premier grand tour, Le Tour de France, 2021 edition.

Looks like the subtitle of this year’s tour can fairly be named ‘Tour de Slovénie’. It’s Pogacar vs. Roglic, vs. everybody else. I think it’s Pogacar’s to lose but it’s always fun to speculate and be wrong.

Certainly Ineos came to play and they have a very strong group of climbers this year. If they don’t lose too much time on the flat stages, they may very well win the team competition and have someone on the podium.

Sagan (BORA) is in fighting shape and will always be a treat to watch.

Welcome back to Mark Cavendish (Quick-Step). I don’t see him making a huge impact but you never know. If he stays upright and away from Sagan, he may just be in good standing for the maillot vert.

I gotta give a shout out to the old man of the tour and always someone I root for, Alexandro Valverde (MovieStar). The guy is a hero and I can’t believe he still has the legs for this.

So many other greats that have at least one good day in them with a top finish. I don’t think Froome is among them but it will be interesting to see how little his name is mentioned day to day. Not to diminish in any way how massive of an achievement it is just to be on a TdF team. It just goes to show how great you have to be to stand out in this field. More so if you’ve been a sometime winner.

Anyway, could go on but I’m sure I’ll mostly be wrong and will miss some obvious names that you all think are the much more notable and likely to do very well.

So without further ado…


Any US folks expected to do well? Last year I was impressed by Seppo Kuss (15th overall) and Nielson Powless (9th in the young rider classification)


It’s tough to pick anyone besides Pogačar. I at least hope Roglič (or someone) is a contender so there’s still some drama in the last week.

I haven’t figured out who I want to root for yet, so suggestions are welcome. I can’t go with a favorite, so maybe Geraint Thomas. He’s not quite Valverde-level old, but he’s getting up there at 35 so it would still be cool to see him take it to those young whippersnappers. Maybe the team strength of Ineos can get him over his deficiencies.

Does anyone know what the spectator rules/restrictions will be this year?

I’ve not seen anything official that talks about limiting fan attendance or access to the venues to date. I hope the organizers will extend the barriers like they did for TdF 2020. My fear is that the fans will be like mad dogs off their chains this year.

How is that any different from previous years?

We’re about to find out. :crazy_face:

Fun TdF2021 team composition facts:

France is the most represented country with 33 riders, followed next by Belgium with 22 riders, and Spain with 17 riders. There are 9 UK riders, 4 Americans, and 3 Canadians. Michael Woods of Canada is team captain of team Israel Start-up; not teammate Chris Froome (UK).

Only one team is comprised entirely of riders from one nation and that’s B&B Hotels/KTM with an entirely French nationals team. Moviestar is almost entirely Spanish with the exception of one Colombian rider. The rest of the teams are a mixed bag of riders from various countries.

Sort through the wikipedia link and see what curiosities you find.

Here’s something that was brought to my attention.

Compare Team UAE (Pogačar) with Team Jumbo-Visma (Roglič). Seems to me that Roglič has a much stronger team around him than Pogačar. Which may mean that Pogačar has his work cut out for him.

Mikkel Bjerg (DEN)
Rui Costa (POR)
Davide_Formolo (ITA)
Marc Hirschi (SUI)
Vegard Stake Laengen (NOR)
Rafa Majka (POL)
Brandon McNulty (USA)
Tadej Pogačar (SLO)

Robert Gesink (NED)
Steven Kruijswijk (NED)
Sepp Kuss (USA)
Tony Martin (GER)
Primoč Roglič (SLO)
Mike Teunissen (NED)
Wout van Aert (BEL)
Jonas Vingegaard (DEN)

From what I understand, UAE is stronger this year than last, and Pogačar was able to overcome their shortcomings. If I forced you to quantify it, how much time does a weaker team cost him?

I’m no cycling strategist, but according to Eddie Merckx: Jumbo-Visma rode stupidly in TdF2020

He claims that they helped Pogačar win by controlling the front of the race too much and not attacking Pogačar when he was 57 seconds behind Roglič. That’s been the common criticism repeated about last year’s tour analysis.

This year, Jumbo-Visma claims to have learned their lesson.

That said, they appear to be saying two conflicting things at once. On the one hand J-V says they won’t try to control the race as much as they did before, while on the other they say they will want to dominate and attack more often. They certainly seem to have the squad to attack this year. But there is no TTT so that may not be enough. I don’t know if it will be enough to keep from pulling Pogačar along.

To answer your question: I don’t know except to speculate that J-V will try to snap Pogačar’s legs in the high climbs with attacks.

Is there a good reference you know of that really explains these strategies in stage races? I understand how teammates help their leader by letting him draft. But they also chase after opponents and “reel them back in”…somehow? How do attacks on climbs sap his legs? I assume they aren’t kneecapping him with metal pipes or something.

Early in the race, attacks matter more when the top seed (top 10-15) competitors have respective combined times close enough that they all need to cover all attacks. It matters less when someone like Quintana attacks on a later stage because he’s likely already 30-60 minutes behind the race leaders. Almost nobody follows him. Nor gives him much in the way of support (looking at you Moviestar 2019).

To my understanding this is largely a psychological game. Chasing down an attack and sticking to his wheel adds insult to injury of the effort. So that’s covering an attack. Repeatedly attacking a race leader by throwing “fresh” riders ahead of him is also meant to demoralize, particularly when those riders can stay away and cause the leader to lose time in the stage. So while the attacker may not be a podium threat, he may act to pull additional attacks from fellow riders and eventually the race leader has to answer those that are a bigger threat or be forced to lose time.

This year Ineos and J-V have a bunch of very good GC riders who will pose a real challenge to Pogačar. He can’t ignore all of them and he may not have a sufficiently strong team to conserve energy behind if they cannot cover the attacks.

These sorts of tactics matter less on single day classics, but team advantages add up in a 21 day race. That said, it can all go to hell in an ITT stage, as it did for Roglič last year. This year there are two ITT stages.

I did a lazy man’s search for a good cite but didn’t find anything worthwhile. So that’s my understanding of team race strategies. I’m sure others will be along to dispel my ignorance.

Pretty much all cycling strategy boils down to the ramifications of the fact that it takes less energy to ride behind someone than in front. In the high mountains, this effect is lessened because on steep gradients gravity becomes a bigger factor than aerodynamic drag, but at the speeds these guys are going there are energy savings from drafting even on surprisingly steep hills. Even if you’re only saving 5-10% as opposed to the 30% you can save at the speeds they ride on the flat, that’s a savings, and when the strongest riders are closely matched in ability it can easily be the difference.

What happened last year is that Jumbo Visma were riding against Ineos. It’s hard to be overly critical of that, as it’s objectively reasonable to focus on the team that’s won 7 of the last 8 editions of the race (would probably have been 8 of 8 if Froome hadn’t crashed out in '14). Pogacar wasn’t seen as a big threat, but more of a young up-and-comer who was likely to finish in the top 5. In 2018 he’d won the Tour de l’Avenir, and in 2019 the Tour of California, Volta ao Algarve, and took 3rd at the Vuelta behind Roglic and Old Man Valverde. That’s extremely respectable for a kid his age, but it didn’t flag him as a top tier contender.

So, when Bernal drifted back in the standings, TJV tried to execute the strategy of dominant teams before them when riding from the front - set your train to ride hard up the mountains at paces so high that it’s very difficult to attack and get any real separation. You don’t gain time on any rivals who can hang onto your train, but you’ve already got the lead and believe you have the best ITT, or at least close to it. This was all perfectly reasonable for TJV to believe. Roglic is one of the best TTers in the GC group. Then he had a bad day on the same day that Pogacar had the best ride of his career.

But while TJV didn’t put any effort into shaking Pogacar off their train last year, that won’t happen again this year. They’ll try to force Pogacar and UAE to do their own work instead of just riding along behind. Pogacar has shown that he’s up to fighting it out on the steepest, highest slopes, but even he can be put into difficulty if he’s isolated from teammates while Roglic still has Kruijswijk and Kuss. McNulty and Majka aren’t bad riders by any stretch, but they’re not generally on the level of the TJV domestiques.

Also this isn’t just a two-way race. Ineos have got 3 grand tour winners in their lineup plus Porte. They might struggle with picking who’s actually leading, but they can hardly be accused of not knowing how to win this race. They’ll be doing their best to wreck the plans of both the Slovenian supermen.

My guilty pleasure this Tour will be watching to see if it’s really true that any sprinter can win with Michael Morkov as their leadout man.

Ala wins first shunt of the tour.

Van Der Poel is going to wear himself out before he gets to the end of the day. What’s he doing?

Did Mark Cavendish miss the morning race alarm?

J-V and Moviestar coming up to flex against Ineos.

And now we know. Fucking idiot fan.

Not an ideal start for sure. Tony’s back on his bike at least. He got run over by quite a few people.

You think Shelling will stay away with 40km to go?