The world’s greatest cycling race takes place from Saturday June 26 to Sunday July 18th 2021. The Tour de France is gruelling, exciting and dramatic. Discover the main stages, riders, facts, distances and some fun facts in this guide to the Tour de France 2021 – the 108th race.

Pelathon sweeping round corner on bicycles at Tour de France 2020 in shade from trees at left side of road
2020 Tour de France Stage 19 © chabe01/CC-BY-SA-4.0

The Tour de France attracts over 12 million spectators a year plus 3.5 million TV viewers on a typical day’s coverage in 190 countries. I love watching it, as much for its high drama as for the glorious views of the French countryside both from the road and excitingly from helicopters and drones high above the race.

Founded in 1903 by Henri Desgrange, the editor of L’Auto newspaper, it’s the third biggest sporting event in the world after the Olympic Games and the FiFa World Cup.

Front page of L'Auto magazine in 1903 with headlines and map of the first Tour de France. Black and white
L’Auto in 1903 Public domain

Last year’s 2020 Tour de France was changed from its usual dates due to Covid 19. It started on August 29th, in Nice and finished on Sunday September 20th. It saw empty roads with spectators mainly in Nice at the start and Paris at the end. It was a lonely race for many.

This year, with great relief it’s back where it belongs – in July and August 2021. France is lifting its covid-19 restrictions, so it will be a lot livelier than last year.

Get the latest daily updates on the Tour de France 2021. It’s exciting, fast paced and changing daily. I will update at the end of each day.

Lone cyclist on road at the 2020 Tour de France with motorbike behind and spectators on one side of road shaded by trees
Loneliness of the Tour de France cyclists 2020 © chabe01/CC-BY-SA-4.0

The 2021 Tour de France

The 2021 Tour de France start (named, naturally, the Grand Départ) starts on Saturday June 26th in Brest in Brittany.

Castle at Brest in Brittany showing round tower on one side of water and defensive walls on other side
The castle at Brest © Thesupermat/CC-BY-SA-3.0

The Tour de France 2021 Stages

The Tour is made up of 21 stages and covers a total distance of 3,383 kms/2102 miles. The 2020 race distance was 3470kms/2156miles.

8 flat stages
5 hill stages
6 mountain stages with 5 altitude finishes at Tignes, Saint-Lary-Soulan col du Portet, and Luz Ardiden) in France’s great mountain ranges
2 individual mountain time-trial stages
2 rest days

Stage 8 Vierzon to Le Creusot, 248 kms, is the longest of the Tour since 2000 (Belfort to Troyes, 254.5 kms)

St Thomas church spire seen from distance over green hedges in Landerneau Brittany
St Thomas Church at Landerneau © Louboutinj/CC-BY-SA 3.0

10 new stage cities or sites appear on the map of the 2021 Tour from a total of 39:

Landerneau, Finistère, Brittany (finish stage 1)
Pontivy, Morbihan, Brittany (finish stage 3)
Changé, Mayenne, Pays de la Loire (start stage 5)
Vierzon, Cher, Centre-Val de Loire (start stage 7)
Sorgues, Vaucluse, PACA (start stage 11)
Malaucène, Vaucluse, PACA (finish stage 11)
Quillan, Aude, Occitanie (finish stage 14)
Céret, Pyrénées-Orientales, Occitanie (start stage 15)
El Pas de la Casa, Andorra, Pyrenees (start stage 16)
Chatou, Yvelines, IÎe de France (start stage 21)

The Tour de France 2021 Route

Official map of the Tour de France 2021 showing yellow map and route through France starting in Brest, Brittany and sweeping through France, ending in Paris
Le Tour de France 2021 © Le Tour
Tour de France Stages
StageDateRouteDistanceStage Type
1Jun 26Brest to Landerneau187kms/116milesHilly
2Jun 27Perros-Guirec to Mûr-de-Bretagne Guerledan182kms/113milesHilly
3Jun 28Lorient to Pontivy182kms/113milesFlat
4Jun 29Redon to Fougères152kms/94.4 milesFlat
5Jun 30Changé to Laval Espace Mayenne27 kms/16.7 milesIndividual Time Trial
6Jul 1Tours to Châteauroux144kms/89.4milesFlat
7Jul 2Vierzon to Le Creusot248kms/154.1milesHilly
8Jul 3Oyonnax to Le Grand-Bornand151kms/93.8milesMountain stage
9Jul 4Cluses to Tignes145kms/90milesMountain stage
N/AJul 5Tignes0Rest day
10Jul 6Albertville to Valence186kms/115.5milesFlat stage
11Jul 7Sorgues to Malaucène199kms/123.6milesMountain stage
12Jul 8Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux to Nîmes161kms/100milesFlat stage
13Jul 9 Nîmes to Carcassonne220kms/136.7milesFlat stage
14Jul 10Carcassonne to Quillan184kms/114.3milesHilly stage
15Jul 11Céret to Andorre-La-Vieille 192kms/119.3milesMountain stage
N/AJul 12Andorre0Rest day
16Jul 13El Pas de la Casa to Saint-Gaudens169kms/105milesHilly stage
17Jul 14Muret to Saint-Lary-Soulan Col du Portet178kms/110.6milesMountain stage
18Jul 15Paul to Luz Ardiden 130kms/80.7milesMountain stage
19Jul 16Mourenx to Libourne203kms/126.1milesFlat stage
20Jul 17Libourne to Saint-Emilion31kms/19.2milesIndividual time trial
21Jul 18Chatou to Paris Champs-Élysée112kms/69.5milesFlat stage

The Teams for the Tour de France 2021

Shot of cyclists riding towards camera fairly close up in 2020 Tour de France with car behind and a few spectators
Tour de France 2020 © filip bossuyt/CC-By-SA-2.0

There are eight riders in each team. Of the 23 teams, 5 are from France; 4 from Belgium, 2 from the USA, 2 from Germany. All the other countries are fielding one team: Australia, Bahrain, Great Britain, Israel, Kazakhstan, Netherlands, Portugal, South Africa, Spain and United Arab Emirates.

In total (and in theory as there are sometimes very last-minute drop-outs due to injury or illness), 184 riders will take part.

These are the now officially confirmed teams in alphabetical order. Their nationality is in parentheses after every name. ‘2020 Tour team’ after the rider’s nationality indicates that cyclist rode for that particular team. Most of these riders have competed before in the Tour de France but often with other teams.

Official Teams and Riders

AG2R Citroën (France): Ben O’Connor (AUS); Benoît Cosnefroy (FRA, 2020 Tour team); Dorian Godon (FRA); Oliver Naesen (BEL, 2020 Tour team); Aurélien Paret-Peintre (FRA); Nans Peters (FRA); Michael Schär (SUI); Greg Van Avermaet (BEL)

Alpecin-Fenix (Belgium): Silvan Dillier (SUI); Tim Merlier (BEL); Xandro Meurisse (BEL); Jasper Philipsen (BEL); Jonas Rickaert (BEL); Kristian Sbragli (ITA); Petr Vakoč (CZE); Mathieu van der Poel (NET)

Astana – Premier Tech (Kazakhstan): Jakob Fuglsang (DEN); Alex Aranburu (SPA); Stefan De Bod (SA); Omar Fraile (SPA, 2020 Tour team); Dimitriy Gruzdev (KAZ); Hugo Houle (CAN, 2020 Tour team); Ion Izagirre (SPA, 2020 Tour team); Alexey Lutsenko (KAZ, 2020 Tour team)

B&B Hotels p/b KTM (France): Franck Bonnamour (FRA); Maxime Chevalier (FRA, 2020 Tour team); Bryan Coquard (FRA, 2020 Tour team); Jens Debusschere (BEL, 2020 Tour team); Cyril Gautier (FRA, 2020 Tour team); Cyril Lemoine (FRA); Quentin Pacher (FRA, 2020 Tour team); Pierre Rolland (FRA, 2020 Tour team) 

Bahrain – Victorious (Bahrain): Pello Bilbao (SPA, 2020 Tour team); Sonny Colbrelli (ITA, 2020 Tour team); Jack Haig (AUS); Marco Haller (AUT), Matej Mohorič (SLO); Wout Poels (NET, 2020 Tour team), Dylan Teuns (BEL), Fred Wright (GB, neo-pro)

Bora–Hansgrohe (Germany): Emanuel Buchmann (GER and in last year’s team); Wilco Kelderman (NET), Patrick Konrad (AUT), Daniel Oss (ITA), Nils Politt (GER), Lukas Pöstlberger (AUS, 2020 Tour team), Peter Sagan (SVK, 2020 Tour team), Ide Schelling (NET, neo-pro)

Cofidis Solutions Crédits (France): Simon Geschke (GER); Rubén Fernández (SPA); Jesús Herrada (SPA, 2020 Team tour); Christophe Laporte (FRA, 2020 Tour team); Guillaume Martin (FRA, 2020 Tour team); Anthony Perez (FRA); Pierre-Luc Perichon (FRA); Jelle Wallays (BEL)

Deceuninck – Quick-Step (Belgium): Julian Alaphilippe (FRA, 2020 Tour team), Kasper Asgreen (DEN, 2021 Tour team); Davide Ballerini (ITA); Mark Cavendish (GB); Tim Declercq (BEL 2020 Tour team); Dries Devenyns (BEL); Michael Mørkøv (DEN, 2020 Tour team)

EF Education Nippo (USA): Rigoberto Urán (COL, 2020 Tour team); Stefan Bissegger (SUI, neo-pro), Magnus Cort (DEN); Ruben Gurreiro (POR); Sergio Higuita (COL, 2020 Tour team); Neilson Powless (USA, 2020 Tour team); Jonas Rutsch (GER); Michael Valgren (DEN) 

Groupama–FDJ (France): Arnaud Démare (FRA); David Gaudu (FRA, 2020 Tour team); Bruno Armirail (FRA); Jacopo Guarnieri (ITA); Ignatas Konovalovas (LIT, 2020 Tour team); Stefan Kung (SUI); (Valentin Madouas (FRA 2020 Tour team); Miles Scotson (AUS)

Ineos Grenadiers (Great Britain): Geraint Thomas (GB); Richard Carapaz (ECU, 2020 Tour team); Jonathan Castroviejo (SPA, 2020 Tour team); Tao Geoghegan Hart (GB); Michal Kwiatkowski (POL, 2020 Tour team); Richie Porte (AUS); Luke Rowe (GB, 2020 Tour team); Dylan van Baarle (NET, 2020 Tour team)

Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux (Belgium): Jan Bakelants (BEL); Jonas Koch (GER); Louis Meintjes (SA); Boy van Poppel (NET), Danny van Poppel (NET); Lorenzo Rota (ITA); Loïc Vliegen (BEL); Georg Zimmermann (GER)

Israel Start-up Nation (Israel): Guillaume Boivin (Canada); Chris Froome (GB); Omer Goldstein (ISR); André Greipel (GER, 2020 Tour team); Reto Hollenstein (SUI); Dan Martin (IRE, 2020 Tour team); Michael Woods (CAN); Rick Zabel (GER)

Lotto-Soudal (Belgium): Jasper De Buyst (BEL, 2020 Tour team); Thomas De Gendt (BEL, 2020 Tour team); Caleb Ewan (AUS, 2020 Tour team); Philippe Gilbert (BEL, 2020 Tour team); Roger Kluge (GER, 2020 Tour team); Harry Sweeny (AUS, neo-pro); Tosh Van der Sande (BEL); Brent Van Moer (BEL)

Movistar (Spain): Jorge Arcas (SPA); Imanol Erviti (SPA, 2020 Tour team); Iván García Cortina (SPA); Miguel Ángel López (COL); Enric Mas (SPA, 2020 Tour team); Marc Soler (SPA, 2020 Tour team); Alejandro Valverde (SPA, 2020 Tour team); Carlos Verona (SPA, 2020 Tour team)

Team Arkéa-Samsic (France): Nairo Quintana (COL); Warren Barguil (FRA); Nacer Bouhanni (FRA); Clément Russo (FRA); Anthony Delaplace (FRA); Élie Gesbert (FRA); Dan Mclay (GB); Connor Swift (GB)

Team BikeExchange (Australia): Esteban Chaves (COL); Lucas Hamilton (AUS); Amund Grøndahl Jansen (NOR); Chris Juul-Jensen (DEN); Michael Matthews (AUS); Luka Mezgec (SLO); Robert Stannard (AUS); Simon Yates (GB)

Team DSM (Germany): Tiesj Benoot (BEL); Cees Bol (NET); Mark Donovan (GB); Nils Eekhoff (NET, neo-pro); Søren Kragh Andersen (DEN); Joris Nieuwenhuis (NET); Casper Pedersen (DEN); Jasha Sütterlin (GER)

4 cyclists from Jumbo-Visma at head of group of cyclists in 202 Tour de France with others behind
Team Jumbo-Visma in impressive action Tour de France 2020 © filip bossuyt/CC-By-SA-2.0

Team Jumbo-Visma (Netherlands): Primož Roglič (SlO, 2020 Tour team); Robert Gesink (NET, 2020 Tour team); Steven Kruijswijk (NET); Sepp Kuss (USA, 2020 Tour team); Tony Martin (GER, 2020 Tour team); Mike Teunissen (NET), Wout van Aert (BEL, 2020 Tour team) Jonas Vingegaard (Den)

Team Qhubeka-NextHash (South Africa): Fabio Aru (ITA); Sean Bennett (USA); Victor Campenaerts (BEL); Simon Clarke (AUS); Nicholas Dlamini (SA); Michael Gogl (AUT); Sergio Henao (COL); Max Walscheid (GER)

Trek–Segafredo (USA): Mads Pedersen (DEN, 2020 Tour team); Julien Bernard (FRA); Kenny Elissonde (FRA, 2020 Tour team); Bauke Mollema (NET, 2020 Tour team); Vincenzo Nibali (ITA); Toms Skujinš (LAT, 2020 Tour team); Jasper Stuyven (BEL, 2020 Tour team); Edward Theuns (BEL, 2020 Tour team) 

Team TotalEnergies (Portugal): Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR); Jérémy Cabot (FRA); Fabien Doubey (FRA); Víctor de la Parte (SPA); Pierre Latour (FRA); Cristián Rodríguez (SPA); Julien Simon (FRA); Anthony Turgis (FRA, 2020 Tour team)

UAE Team Emirates (UAE): Tadej Pogačar (SLO, 2020 Tour team and 2020 winner); Mikkel Bjerg (DEN); Davide Formolo (ITA, 2020 Tour team); Marc Hirschi (SUI); Vegard Stake Laengen (NOR); Rafal Majka (POL); Brandon McNulty (USA); Costa Rui (POR)

Who are the main contenders?

Close up of Primož Roglič at Tour de France 2020 with upper body on bicycle, dressed in yellow jersey looking determined
Primož Roglič 2020 Tour de France 2.0

Top competitors this year start with Primož Roglič from Team Jumbo-Visma. In the PCS rankings he is just above Tadej Pogačar from UAE – Team Emirates, the young cyclist who not only won the Tour last year but also the General Classification as well as the Mountains and Young Rider prizes. He is just 22 years old. Both are from Slovenia.

But keep your eye on Wout Van Aert of Team Jumbo-Visma who is the top classic rider this year as well as being ranked third in the PCS rankings.

There are so many top riders in this race, so many days and so many possible accidents and upsets that even the favourites can get beaten. You’ll have to read the experts (see links at the end of this article for a couple), to get the real low-down on the race.

Lone cyclists in red jersey, black shorts and red helmet cycling hard leaning over handlebars at the Tour de France 2020
Stage 19 at the Tour de France 2020 © chabe01/CC-BY-SA-4.0

The French have the most riders this year at 25 followed by the Belgians at 22.

British cyclists

Tour de France 2018 with cyclist riding towards camera and man on right with Welsh flag
Tour de France 2018 with a Welsh flag waver. Must be Geraint Thomas coming up! Photo: Peter Edmonson CC BY-SA 2.0

There are ten British cyclists, Simon Yates of Team BikeExchange; Geraint Thomas, Tao Geoghegan Hart and Luke Rowe all of INEOS Grenadiers (the only British team); Mark Cavendish of Deceuninck – Quick-Step;  Fred Wright of Bahrain – Victorious; Connor Swift and Dan McLay of Team Arkéa-Samsic and Mark Donavan of Team DSM.

Chris Froome is a superb cyclist but he crashed during the Critérium du Dauphiné in France in 2019 suffering numerous injuries including a broken hip. The cyclist who has won the Tour de France four times (in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017), the Giro d’Italia in 2018 and the Vuelta a España twice has struggled to get back his fitness. But the Tour de France is a race that brings very surprising results, so anything is possible. He is riding for Israel Start-up Nation.

Irish cyclists

But they’ll have to watch the Irish in the form of Dan Martin of Israel Start-Up Nation and Nicolas Roche of Team DSM. Sadly the great Sam Bennett had to retire due to a minor injury that meant his training wasn’t sufficient for this toughest of road races.

Australian cyclists

The Australians are as usual pretty formidable with 9 competitors: Richie Porte of INEOS Grenadiers; Caleb Ewan of Lotto Soudal; Michael Matthews of Team BikeExchange; Ben O’Connor of AG2R Citroën; Lucas Hamilton of Team BikeExchange; Jack Haig of Bahrain – Victorious; Robert Stannard of Team BikeExchange; Simon Clarke of Team Qhubeka Assos, and Harry Sweeny of Lotto Soudal.

North American cyclists

The Americans have three riders: Sepp Kuss of Team Jumbo-Visma; Nielson Powless of EF Education – Nippo and Sean Bennett of Team Qhubeka Assos.

Canada has three riders: Michael Woods of Israel Start-Up Nation; Hugo Houle of Astana – Premier Tech and Guillaume Boivin of Israel Start-Up Nation. 

For the full list of PCS rankings of every cyclist in the professional world, not just those competing in the Tour de France 2021 check here.

Winners and Losers in the Tour de France

Previous winners

2020 Tadej Pogačar
2019 Egan Bernal
2018 Geraint Thomas
2017 Chris Froome
2016 Chris Froome
2015 Chris Froome
2014 Vincenzo Nibali
2013 Chris Froome
2012 Bradley Wiggins
2011 Cadel Evans
2010 Andy Schleck

Four riders have managed to win the Tour five times:
Jacques Anquetil (France) 1957, 1961, 1962, 1963 and 1964
Eddy Merckx (Belgium) 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972 and 1974
Bernard Hinault (France) 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982 and 1985
Miguel Induráin (Spain) 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995

Three riders have won three times:
Philippe Thys (Belgium) 1913, 1914, 1920
Louison Bobet (France), 1953, 1054, 1955
Greg Lemond (USA) 1986, 1989, 1990
Chris Froome (GB)

The record number of wins ever was seven by Lance Armstrong of the United States (1999-2005). But after being found guilty of doping by the USADA in 2012, he was stripped of all of these titles.

Other disqualifications after the winner has been caught out:
In 1904 the winner was stripped of his title after it was discovered that he had caught a train for part of the event
In 2006 Floyd Landis of the United States was found to have raised testosterone levels
In 2010 Alberto Contador was stripped of the win after investigations into his drug use.

And what about…

How do riders in the Tour de France pee? This seems to be a popular question which makes sense. A cyclist can just stop to pee, if possible making sure they are fairly far to the front.
The usual convention is when the leader (rider in the yellow jersey) decides where a pee spot will be, preferably in a remote part of the race. The TV cameras do not film them and riders are not allowed to take advantage of this to improve their position. Sounds very fair to me!

What the jerseys mean and prize money

A total of around 2.3 million Euros will be awarded overall, including €500,000 to the overall winner of each individual classification.

Julian Alaphilippe in 2019 Tour de France picture of him head on leading group of around 7 cyclists. He is in yellow jersey
Julian Alaphilippe in 2019 Photo: Chabe01 CC BY-SA 4.0

The Yellow Jersey (maillot jaune) is the overall winner of the race up to that point, awarded after each stage.
The Green Jersey is for the best sprinter. Points are awarded at the finish of each stage, and for an intermediate sprint in all normal stages.
The Red Polka Dot Jersey is for the best climber. Points are awarded at the summit of each hill and mountain and at altitude finishes.
The White Jersey is the best young rider (for riders who are no more than 25 years old in the year of the race).
The Red and White Stripe Jersey is for the most aggressive rider which is awarded at the end of each stage by cycling specialists.

Here’s the official website for the Tour de France 2021
Cycling News has excellent up-to-date information on the Tour de France 2021 (and is good on cycling generally). Procycling news is another good source.

Here’s the Le Tour Facebook link
Instagram link
Twitter link

Major events in July 2021 in France
Major events in August 2021 in France

More geographic information about France

More about the regions of France
More about the departments of France
More about the mountains of France