Hmmm, we're talking about the guy who gifted Kwiatkowski a TDF stage win - even though he had been trying for days.. Only because INEOS wanted his teammate to win. (Yeah, Carapaz got his mountain jersey points, but we know how that turned out. lol)Carapaz won't wait for his Mom even if he asked to!
The route is overall pretty meh. The main problem is the lack of properly tough mountain stages and most of all mountain stages where it's probable with long range attacks and/or stages where the peloton are completely destroyed before the very last kms.Damn you guys are down on the route. How about the early ITT? We have wanted such a thing for a long time, and I cant count it on two hands how many times I have read a LS-post arguing about how good it was for the race back in 2008.
The only thing I really need is less sprinter stages, but again, Ill just choose not to watch a couple of these stages in the 2nd week.
Considering that Kwiatkowski has like MSR, AGR and 2xBianche he had now GT stage wins. He was always a very loyal lieutenant to his leaders so it was a nice gift for years of hard working. Carapaz should have more than one chance to win a TdF stage.Hmmm, we're talking about the guy who gifted Kwiatkowski a TDF stage win - even though he had been trying for days.. Only because INEOS wanted his teammate to win. (Yeah, Carapaz got his mountain jersey points, but we know how that turned out. lol)
I dunno. Maybe they won't even ask him to wait IF Thomas drops. They've been talking G up a little too much, IMO. Saying that he can beat the turbo charged Slovenians mano a mano. Iono.
I fear that it will be a long time before we see this kind of stage in the Tour again. Even a shorter stage of something like 170-180 km, but packed with mountains (like Portillon - Peyresourde - Aspin -Tourmalet - Luz Ardidien), seem pretty unlikely give the current regime in ASO.My main problem is the Andorra stage, they could have turned that one in a proper, Giro-level, queenstage with the same start, final climb and finish: https://www.cronoescalada.com/index.php/tracks/view/700199
Yeah, they are watering both the TTs and the mountain stages down. I don't ask for +100kms of ITT every year, but 60-80kms of ITT and 2 proper multi mountain stages would be nice.I fear that it will be a long time before we see this kind of stage in the Tour again. Even a shorter stage of something like 170-180 km, but packed with mountains (like Portillon - Peyresourde - Aspin -Tourmalet - Luz Ardidien), seem pretty unlikely give the current regime in ASO.
Unfortunately, I don't think this will happen in the coming years either. Stages like this year's Tignes stage will be a typical mountain stage in the Tour. And when they do something new and "innovative", it's more like the Portet and Col de la Loze which pretty much delays all the action until the last few kms.Yeah, they are watering both the TTs and the mountain stages down. I don't ask for +100kms of ITT every year, but 60-80kms of ITT and 2 proper multi mountain stages would be nice.
I agreee with most of the stuff, but with the early ITT, a really long hilly stage the day before and Tignes being a rather soft MTF (with 2kms of flat on top of the climb) we could actually see some action on stage 8.For all the slating the big mountain stages have got, to be honest when it comes to the "non-obvious GC relevant" stages (i.e. not high mountain or time trial) this is one of the best Tour designs I can remember. The problem really is that the 'marquee' stages are underwhelming.
Stage 1 is definitely the best opening road stage we've had in at least a decade (2020 could have been strong but the weather and the nervy péloton put the kibosh on that, leading to a much larger group contesting the sprint than would likely have been the case, increasing the chances of crashes. My hope is it's more 2008 than 2011 with all of that uncategorised up and down late on, with the area that is exposed to crosswinds. Obviously the weather needs to play ball, but the issue in 2011 was that because Mont-des-Alouettes was the only obstacle en route and the weather didn't play ball we got a finish marred by major crashes. Nevertheless, this is a huge improvement on either a BS flat stage designed around giving somebody who won't even attempt to honour the jersey a chance to wear it (Marcel Kittel, I'm looking in your direction here), or, worse, something like the Brussels Grand Départ where they had the opportunity to do something cool and deliberately chose not to, but reminded us of the quality of other races by a token gesture in the first hour or two.
Stage 2 is the Mûr-de-Brétagne double climb, while it's become something of a default every time we head into this part of the country, it does at least create some - albeit minimal - time gaps. And for the first time in Lord only knows how long, we have two stages on opening weekend that both might actually play a role in the overall. I think it's the first time since 2015 (and that relied on the wind, but at least did what it could to ensure that it would happen).
Stage 3 is a worthless flat stage, but at least they've bumped it to the weekend. Might also create some intrigue for the maillot vert if somebody with a fast finish but who's capable on punchy terrain gets into the jersey and wants to try to defend it. Balaphilippe is a possibility, but with Sam Bennett winning in Oviedo in the Vuelta a couple of years back and Sagan winning stages like Longwy a couple of years ago, are the two going to go at it even on the opening couple of days, akin to Thor Hushovd gaining all those points on Cav in Barcelona in 2009?
Stage 4: 0/10, absolute crap.
Stage 5: An early mid-length ITT to set some GC stalls out, giving the climbers a deficit to work from and telling us who needs to reappraise their race and go for stages or secondary jerseys. Hallelujah! If you're starting over in areas like Normandy and Brittany, this is almost a must as you can't put a sizable enough climb that will serve as the Montevergine di Mercogliano of the route (maybe La Loge des Gardes if the route is going in the right direction, but that's at a push), but leaving everybody separated by a handful of seconds until deep in the race is a recipe for a demolition derby. I even like the length of it - this is in the middle of week 1 so you don't want it to be 50-60k and potentially sticking a fork in too many people that it kills the GC à la the Indurain days - but the fact that the other ITT isn't longer is the bigger problem. This needs a 2008-style formula, with the second TT being 50k, to cover for the limited distance here. Nevertheless, this importantly also fights against total backloading, giving riders reasons to have to arrive in form, rather than just peaking for week 3 and trying to sleepwalk through the rest of the race as has been all too common lately (Giro 2019, I'm looking in your direction here).
Stage 6: could well be very dull, but it's through an area which commonly sees wind-affected racing in Paris-Nice, so I'll give the organisers a pass on this one - not much interesting geography in the area, and they've done what they can to encourage the possibility of waaijers.
Stage 7: this I really like. This is an excellent hilly-to-intermediate stage and its length will help it be impactful not just on the day but into the weekend as domestiques will be tired from trying to control a 250km stage on the Friday. There aren't really any super decisive climbs but the last 100km is almost entirely up-and-down, the last climb is 7km from home, and Signal d'Uchon with its super-steep last 1500m is just 17km from home so there is the opportunity to do something with it. I can readily see this one being won from the break and the GC guys having a phony war, testing one another out on Signal d'Uchon then settling in for the weekend, but the organisers have legit done their best here with only the fact there's a couple of steeper roads around Le Creusot at the very end to go against them. This is precisely the type of stage the Giro does well and the Tour doesn't do enough of.
Stage 8: I have little against this stage in a vacuum, but as per usual it's placement that causes the problem in a north-south Alpine route, with the summit finishes coming after the descent finishes, when it would be better the other way around from a pacing point of view. Le Grand Bornand is a pretty regular finish but this is only the third time the Romme-Colombière doublette has been used, although this is by far the easiest stage to use it, both short in length and with the difficulty of the earlier climbs toned down considerably (cat.1 for Mont Saxonnex? Come on, it's the same length as Cordal and 0,6% less steep, with a lower max gradient, better paved and more consistent, and Cordal has been one of the most generous cat.1 ratings for years!). I will also be very sad during this stage as it will remind me of La Course 2018 and what an epic race that was with Cille's epic solo (and even more epic interview) and then the dramatic last gasp chasedown with van der Breggen being caught by van Vleuten on the line after a mano a mano battle on the Colombière and descent, while ASO have put the women on an interesting course in Brittany this year, but of the kind of route that there are lots of in women's cycling as opposed to something unique and different.
Stage 9: We all knew Tignes would be back sooner rather than later after the abortive 2019 stage, but I really wished it would be from the south again via Iseran, because it's really not a very interesting climb from the north. Apart from the Col du Pré being added early on it's not a particularly tough stage and is short once more. Not sure what you could do to beef up the finale, the 2007 route via Montée d'Hauteville would just result in more gradual (4-5%) ascent and moving the steeper climbs further from the finish, while you couldn't do the steep part of the La Rosière climb unless you stopped at Hauteville and descended down the route they climbed in 2007 and then do the climb in full that they do here, which moves the decisive climbing further from the finish again. Best option would likely be to ignore Montée d'Hauteville and ride direct into Sainte-Foy-Tarentaise, and then use the narrow muro from the village to the Station Sainte-Foy, as per this Lasterketa Burua proposal, which still renders the final climb pretty mediocre - 16km at 5,2% - but would hopefully get rid of a lot of domestiques on that really steep 3km at 10% bit, especially if Sepp Kuss deems it steep enough to actually try (unfortunately, though, it's not the last climb of the day, so he's probably liable to pull some 2020 stage 6 BS on it). If I did that I might even be tempted to drop the finish down to Tignes 1800-Les Boisses, just 2km into the last uphill part (after the plateau in the middle of the Tignes climb).
Stage 10: another mediocre flat stage where the organisers have at least added a final 15km that is intended to court the possibility of echelons. I'm not sure if that will be enough, but it's a gesture.
Stage 11: this is basically the Mont Ventoux Désnivelée Challenge with a descent finish, right? With a flat stage either side of it there's no excuse for not going all out here and there's no reason this shouldn't be a monolithically decisive stage seeing as Mont Ventoux is one of the Tour's few climbs that is hard enough and steep enough that going Unipuerto doesn't matter one iota to how decisive it is. I'd prefer if, from Sault, they went though the D1 and over Nôtre-Dame-des-Abeilles toward Flassan or even Bédoin to climb more of the classic side the first time around rather than just the final 6km, since this doesn't really feel like a true 'double Ventoux' when the first time it's only 6km of steep stuff on the top of a long drag that's more like climbing Petit-Saint-Bernard. It's like having "double Blockhaus" if one of the climbs is only from Passo Lanciano, or "double Sierra Nevada" if the second climb doesn't start until El Dornajo. However, this should give us at least 30km of action.
Stage 12: another dull flat stage that will have to hope for wind in the closing kilometres. For the rest of the stage it will be good for the tourist boards but pretty poor for the viewing public.
Stage 13: rinse and repeat, but with fewer scenic gorges and more prayers for wind.
Stage 14: this is a stage that I like in a vacuum, but I really don't have much time for as a penultimate weekend stage. This is probably going to be one where the bunch comes in ten minutes behind the breakaway, and with such a huge gap between Croix des Morts (73km out) and Saint-Louis (17km out) we know precisely where the decisive move is going to come, it's just a matter of figuring out who the strongest climber in the break is to make that move and take the stage. I don't think the small thimbleful of bonus seconds will make a difference in the GC guys' interests at this point, unlike the Uchon stage, and with mountain stages to follow I don't see anybody risking a solo even on the mostly downhill run-in from here, so I'm thinking this is a baroudeur's day.
Stage 15: one of the least exciting-looking Andorra stages in some time, at least out of those that don't finish at freaking Arcalis. Could you have imagined last year's placid bunch of soporific 2012-Giro-alikes on Arcalis? The mind boggles. Now, the Collada de Beixalis has become an almost everpresent in Andorran stages of the Vuelta and the Tour since being paved for the 2013 Vuelta, largely because there aren't too many climbs able to be used as passes in the nation (Gallina is similarly recently paved, so for most of time it's been Envalira, Ordino/Montaup, La Comella and La Rabassa only). Beixalis being far less commonly-trodden and steeper than Ordino/Montaup has made it an attractive option and a descent finish in Andorra-la-Vella is a good result from it. Unfortunately, approaching it via Envalira from Puymorens means taking the easiest route to get there, and takes most of the tougher options out of the reckoning. I can only surmise that the Catalans south of the border weren't interested in the Tour coming through, because Mont-Louis to Font-Romeu and then into Andorra from the south to give options like Gallina and La Rabassa before the same finish would have been far more interesting than the tempo grinding of the easiest side of Envalira, especially with a rest day following. Whereas now it's clearly a one-climb stage, although at least it means we should get proper action on that last 15km.
Stage 16: fingers crossed that final cat.4 climb is something, because otherwise this is some serious 2009 Tour garbage going on. Reminds me of that year's Saint-Girons stage.
Stage 17: although this isn't a micro-stage like the first visit to Col du Portet, it might as well be, because you know the péloton is just going to roll slow through the first 115km, since there's not even a cat.4 warmup climb to bother them. Since stage 16 is fairly value-less, and they go through its host after 68km of this one, would it have killed them to have the transitional stage into Muret. then start this one in Saint-Gaudens and give them the option to use Portet d'Aspet, Menté, Portillon or, hell, even Ares? Since Luchon is paying for the intermediate sprint I guess Balès is off the cards, and if the Catalans don't want the race that limits Portillon (I would have loved Mirador d'Arres-Portillon as an opening, by the way). Could they have gone over Balestas above Peyresourde too and descended through Peyragudes to introduce a little more intrigue? I guess the final climb is steep enough that it will be definitively decisive, so with another mountain stage tomorrow it would be gilding the lily a bit I guess, but still, this race lacks a proper queen stage.
Stage 18: 130km mountain stage over Tourmalet. Good game guys, we're done. I mean, realistically, hopefully this ought to actually be pretty good. Tourmalet is a hard climb, and this is the last chance saloon. The problem is that everybody knows it like the backs of their hands, and while it's enticing to the casual fan because it's so common that even the total novice cycling fan has heard of it, it's just groan-inducing, like "what's the big climactic climb of our Pyrenean stages, guys?" "Tourmalet!" "What, again?" "Well, got any better ideas?" "Actually, come to think about it, I have several" "Yea, but this is Tourmalet". I hope the Japanese purchase the mountains this is built on and quarry the entire thing out to make a new offshore city like they've done with their own mountains in the past. I know, I should be happy with an MTF on Basque Mountain for the first time in a decade, but it's just so... dull. I know, I know, Pau is hosting for the millionth time and there's only so much you can do, but it's not like they even do anything new with it. At least the Lac de Payolle stage a few years ago showed that they were trying with Aspin, you know? And in a race with no actual queen stage, staking everything on a 130km stage with the Tourmalet is just so uninspiring. Hell, in 210km you could go from Pau to Luz Ardiden via Tourmalet west, Aspin, Hourquette d'Ancizan and Tourmalet east, going the 2017 Giro route with their use of Umbrail and Stelvio. Would I be excited by double Tourmalet? Not particularly, my hatred for the Tourmalet is well known. But at least it would be something new and different in their use of it. And at least it would be a worthwhile queen stage, with three HCs, a cat.1 and a cat.2 in a 200km mountain stage (something there are zero of in the race). I mean, it feels like this is designed to make the short mountain stage the most decisive as confirmation bias. Just like how in 2011 they used the 110km mountain stage to prove that short mountain stages are good and we need more of them, when the reason it was so good was that there was a better 200km mountain stage the previous day.
Stage 19: who gives a flying one?
Stage 20: Saint-Émilion is a classic TT location, very common in the 90s and 00s. Usually as a stage start toward Bordeaux, of course, and usually in an ITT around 20km longer than this. Which is what it should be.
Stage 21: Champs Elysées stage. It is what it is, I feel there's no point in dissecting this one, we all know what we're getting, and it's just the further away 2005 gets, the less people talk about anybody "doing a Vino".
I think the main problems with this route are more that the Tour appears to have fallen into the trap of wanting to engineer a close battle by means of reducing the amount of opportunities to gain time, while simultaneously trying to avoid too many waste-of-a-day stages that drive viewership down, since now that they're broadcasting stages start to finish, the interest in a flat stage is waning. We are finally seemingly rid of the flat-stages-on-the-penultimate-weekend disease, and the number of outright nothing sprint days has been reduced - while there are still plenty if the weather is benign, ASO have at least sought out areas that are susceptible to the wind in the early part of the race to try to spice things up, while the stage through the Morvan is the Tour's best transitional stage in quite some time. The problem is that the marquee stages, the ones that you rely on to hook the audience, are pretty anæmic, with the Alpine stages rather negating the good work they've done to try to force riders to work hard in week 1 and counter backloading. Having only 1 easy MTF in the Alps (and the descent finish off a steep doublette coming before it) and the steep mountaintop finishes on stages 17 and 18 doesn't really help, and I feel that the way the Mont Ventoux descent finish stage pans out is going to be absolutely key to the way this race plays out and what kind of entertainment we get across the second half of the race. I think if we could have put the flat and intermediate and transitional stages from the 2021 route onto some superior mountain stages from previous years' editions of the race, we could have had the best designed Tour de France in decades. As it is, however, improving one area while simultaneously neutering another means this is something of an opportunity missed.
While I could make route design improvement suggestions (hell, I've made a bunch above, and will probably continue through the race itself), obviously the route is now set, and barring extreme weather protocol - far less common at Le Tour than at Il Giro of course - this is not going to change, I do have at least a partial solution to improve the racing on the mountain stages and incentivise better racing and increased action.
Ban Sepp Kuss.
Call me a sceptic but with Envalira it's just still Luke Rowe pace on anything before.Better than expected. I really like stage 7, a long hilly stage to wear people down and the next day we have the Grand Bonard stage. With the mid length ITT early n (I'm a big fan of it) already creating some gaps and they Tignes MTF on stage 9 being rather easy (and having 2km of flat at the end) we should see action on this one.
The Ventoux stage looks great, I also would have liked to see another climb earlier on the Luz Ardiden stage.
My main problem is the Andorra stage, they could have turned that one in a proper, Giro-level, queenstage with the same start, final climb and finish: https://www.cronoescalada.com/index.php/tracks/view/700199
Overall it's good enough for a modern Tour, enough kms of ITT to force the climbers to attack before the final week and the first 2 stages are also interesting.
Then adding La Comella from South after Beixalis and descending down to Andorra a 2nd time afterwards would be the way to go.Call me a sceptic but with Envalira it's just still Luke Rowe pace on anything before.
And it's the general problem with the Tour that the bar for good action is probably higher, especially on lesser mountain stages, but instead the big mountain stages tend to just not be good enough while any medium mountain stages tend to be instant breakaway stages in part due to the geography of the country
Would prefer Gallina/Beixalis as final 2 climbs. Alternatively, Gallina and an easier one.Then adding La Comella from South after Beixalis and descending down to Andorra a 2nd time afterwards would be the way to go.
Envalira-Beixalis-La Comella is a good combination before a downhill finish in Andorra.
Larrau and an easier climb on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees would probably be the best option for that.Would prefer Gallina/Beixalis as final 2 climbs. Alternatively, Gallina and an easier one.
I just really struggle to find massive combos in the Pyrenees where one climb can destroy the peloton super hard. It really doesn't help that they'll always have Tourmalet either as a leg warmer or before another HC.
Surely there's stupid ass goat tracks to pave like Angliru or Zoncolan, no? Buuut the Tour needs the bigger paying finish hosts.....Larrau and an easier climb on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees would probably be the best option for that.
Of course you could do something crazy with Beillurti, but let's keep it a bit realistic.
The climbs in French Euskadi are pretty much that, shorter but crazy steep.Surely there's stupid ass goat tracks to pave like Angliru or Zoncolan, no? Buuut the Tour needs the bigger paying finish hosts.....
Updating tinder profile to "need firstborn to trade it for this very Tour stage profile"The climbs in French Euskadi are pretty much that, shorter but crazy steep.
The people at La Flamme Rouge made a really good potential stage a few years ago:
A big problem is that the roads are too narrow for the circus acts that usually come with the Tour...
The most Tour thing ever is not using the great climbs that you already have, put paving new roads/adding more steep kms on top of an already existing climb to make a monster MTF.Updating tinder profile to "need firstborn to trade it for this very Tour stage profile"
My latest pipedream is actually Pic de Chateau Renard observatory. About 2900m but no *** gradientsThe most Tour thing ever is not using the great climbs that you already have, put paving new roads/adding more steep kms on top of an already existing climb to make a monster MTF.
If ASO want's to play that game they need to go big (pave Col de Jandi) or go home!
Is there really a plausible (easy) MTF of the Spanish side of Larrau? I would guess that Pailheres-Bonascre is the best combo in the Pyrenees that is realistic to use. Otherwise it should just be about creating tough enough stages (like doing a 2005 Pla d'Adet stage instead of this years Col de Portet version) and/or do something like @Netserk described above. It isn't very original or innovative, but it should work better than what they are doing now.Larrau and an easier climb on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees would probably be the best option for that.
Of course you could do something crazy with Beillurti, but let's keep it a bit realistic.
Not for Le Tour. For the Vuelta or the Route du Sud you could probably squeeze everything in at the Santuário de Nuestra Señora de Muskilda (3km @ 7,5%). A small race could maybe put an MTF at Paso de Tapla (8km @ 6,5%) after Larrau or at the bottom of its descent, but that would never have sufficient room for the Tour. The most realistic option for the Tour would be to put Larrau just inside 50km from home, and essentially clone the Spanish part of the 2007 stage over the two, with the MTF at Larra-Belagua, on the plateau just before the summit of the Spanish side of Pierre-Saint-Martin.Is there really a plausible (easy) MTF of the Spanish side of Larrau? I would guess that Pailheres-Bonascre is the best combo in the Pyrenees that is realistic to use. Otherwise it should just be about creating tough enough stages (like doing a 2005 Pla d'Adet stage instead of this years Col de Portet version) and/or do something like @Netserk described above. It isn't very original or innovative, but it should work better than what they are doing now.
I would also love to see Chamrousse via Col Luitel and Plateau des Saix for HC MTFs, and for a hard climb-easy climb doublette, Col du Coq followed by an MTF at the Station de Ski Sarcenas on the Col de Porte; Auron after Col de la Lombarde or Col de la Bonette; or Val d'Azun (Couraduque) after Aubisque.And if they absolutely need to focus mainly on the final climb, Pierre-Saint-Martin via Issarbe would be interesting. If we're talking about MTFs, this and Sierra Nevada via Hazallanas are the two plausible I would most like to see.
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