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The Tour de France is the oldest of the three cycling grand tours. Established in 1903, it was designed to be the ultimate cycling tour, demanding the riders to cycle around France, starting in Paris and passing through major cities around the country, Lyon Marseille, Bordeaux and Nantes before completing the race by returning to Paris. The inaugural race was so popular amongst the French public that the event was continued the following year, and then became an annual cycling tour.

Nowadays, the Tour de France has quite a different structure as it is far more regulated, has different types of stages and it does not always necessarily only tour France but it sometimes may start in other countries. The route is decided each year by the Amaury Sport Organisation, the organisers of the event, and the Tour de France has started in many countries including the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom amongst others.

The tour has 21 stages, in which there are flat stages, hilly stages, mountain stages and individual time trials. All stages are important as the times from each stage are accumulated and determine each rider's position in the general classification. The general classification is the most important classification as the player at the top of the table at the end will become the new Tour de France winner and be awarded the famous yellow jersey. There are also other awards in the Tour de France such as the points classification which are given to cyclists who finish high in flat stages or "sprint stages", and these cyclists win the green jersey. There is a mountain classification that awards a polka dot jersey to the cyclist with the best record in the mountains. Finally there is the white jersey, which is awarded to the highest ranking rider under the age of 25.

Tour de France 2021 Structure

The 2021 Tour de France was held between 26 June and 18 July to avoid scheduling issues with the 202 Summer Olympics that was pushed to 2021. All of the 21 stages were also rescheduled to be held in France.

First Week

The first stage was started in Brest and had the cyclists climb a hilly route to Landernau. The stage saw some setbacks as there were two crashes that caused delays to some of the teams, and in the final climb, Julian Alaphilippe sprinted ahead of the peloton and won the stage, winning the yellow jersey and the green jersey.

The second stage was raced from Perros-Guirec to Mûr-de-Bretagne, in a slightly steeper mid-mountain climb. Dutch cyclist Van der Poel took the lead twice in the race to finish 6 seconds clear of three other riders including Tadej Podacar, the defending champion. Van der Poel's winning margin secured him the yellow jersey after the second stage.

Stage three finally gave the sprinters a chance to catch up. This flat stage however saw another crash that brought down Geraint Thomas and Robert Gesink. Thomas managed to continue the race with a dislocated shoulder but Gesink was forced to retire. There were two more crashes in the race and more cyclists were brought down, but in the end Timer Merlier managed to win the sprint.

When the cyclists reached the kilometre zero in stage four, they stopped for a full minute. This was to protest the many crashes and hectic frenzy that happened the day before, and then the cyclists started the race. There were no crashes in the stage, and Mark Cavendish won, taking the lead in the points classification.

Stage five was the first time trial, and was raced from Change to Laval, a distance of 27.2 km. Defending champion Tadej Pogacar won the stage, an impressive 19 seconds ahead of all competition.

In the sixth stage the cyclists competed in another flat race, and Mark Cavendish won again, retaining his lead in the points classification.

In the last stage of the first week, the cyclists had to race along a 249.1 km course, the longest of the competition then, up a medium mountain climb. Matej Mohoric won the stage, his first Tour de France stage win in his career.

Second Week

Stage eight was a mountain stage that was raced from Oyonnax to Le Grand-Bornand over 150.8 km. Up until then Van de Poel held the yellow jersey, but he struggled in the stage, finishing outside the top ten. Dylan Teuns won the race, and Pogacar finished 49 seconds behind him, managing to take advantage of Van der Poels struggle to lead the general classification and win the yellow jersey.

In stage nine, the riders raced from Cluses to Tignes, in yet another mountain stage. Ben O'Connor won the stage and moved up the general classifications to sit two minutes and one second behind leader Pogacar.

Stage ten began after a day of rest, and the cyclists travelled from Albertville to Valence. This flat stage was yet another sprint in which Cavendish won, to further cement his place as the leader in the points classifications.

Stage eleven was raced from Sorgues to Malaucene, a mountain stage that was won by Wout van Aert in a brilliant solo effort on the ascents of Mont Ventoux.

In the twelfth stage, the riders faced a flat course from Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux to Nimes. The race began extremely quickly, with the peloton charging ahead at high speeds. It was Nils Politt who managed to break away from the rest of the peloton and clinch the win.

The riders then travelled from Nimes to Carcassonne for the thirteenth stage, heading towards the south west part of France. Cavendish managed to win this flat race, extending his lead in the points classification.

Stage fourteen saw the cyclists ride from Carcassonne to Quillan in a gruelling 183.7km mountain course. The stage was won by Bauke Mollema, and Frenchman Guillaume Martin managed to finish highly as well, placing second in the general classification behind leader Pogacar.

Podagacar extended his lead in the fifteenth stage, a mountainous stage that saw Sep Kuss, the first American in the 2021 Tour de France to win.

Third and Final Week

After a day of rest, the sixteenth stage was held, with the cyclists racing from Pas de la Case to Saint Gaudens. Austrian cyclist Patrick Konrad won the stage to win his first professional victory.

In the seventeenth stage, the riders had to travel from Muret to Saint-Lary-Soulan over a mountain course. This stage was won by Pogacar who finished in over five hours, and was merely seconds in front of the second and third place cyclists, Jonas Vingegaard and Richard Caparaz, who then placed in second and third place in the general classifications.

Stage eighteen was also a mountainous stage, from Pau to Luz Ardiden, and Pogacar managed to win and extend his lead in the general classification.

This was followed by the nineteenth stage which was run over a flat course. Mohoric won the race, winning his second ever stage in the Tour de France after his first victory in stage seven, twelve days prior.

In stage twenty, the cyclists had to cycle from Libourne to Saint-Emilion. This was a time trial stage over the short distance of 30.8km, which was won by Wout van Aert.

In the twenty first and final stage, the riders travelled up to Chatou, and had to cycle from there to Paris. This flat stage was the final sprint of the competition and was won again by van Aert.

Final Classifications

Tadej Pogacar won the general classification, defending his title from 2020 and becoming a second successive champion. He also won the Young Rider award, as he was aged 23, and he also won the polka dot jersey, for his performances in the mountain stages that included two stage wins.

Mark Cavendish won the green jersey for his performances in the sprints, including four stage wins.



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