Tour de France Stage 21 Preview

A final stage in Paris and the likely sprint finish. Don’t miss the opening start of the Tour de France Femmes that precedes this stage and takes over for the next week.

Un Grand Petit Ballon: another frenetic stage that left viewers with fried nerves, the kind that could defeat video editors tasked with shrinking the day’s action into highlights package.

The irrepressible Victor Campenaerts took off up the road in a doomed move. Guilio Ciccone and Lidl-Trek had a plan for the day and he scored maximum points on the early climbs until the polka jersey was arithmetically his, and with help from his team mates with even Mads Pedersen sprinting for the points atop the Ballon d’Alsace to make sure Jonas Vingegaard didn’t score big.

Carlos Rodriguez crashed coming down the Grand Ballon and took out Sep Kuss, both would lose places overall, the Spaniard slipping to fifth and the American out of the top-10 but the glass half full version is they both finished the stage despite nasty facial injuries, better than Victor Lafay who crashed and had to stop. Rodriguez’s fall split the peloton on the descent and Vingegaard found himself in the front group but his presence was condemning the breakaway and the others told him and he’d soon sit up.

Thibaut Pinot stood up made a late move to bridge across to the breakaway, launching on the Croix Moinat climb and having two team mates for help before going solo in a trampoline move on the Grosse Pierre, his training roads. UAE were chasing and the breakaway didn’t seem to have more than a minute’s lead but they couldn’t eat into this on the long descent of the Col de la Schlucht into Munster.

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Pinot took off on the Petit Ballon, thousands of fans were waiting up ahead for him but it already felt like the whole course belonged to him. All stage you could hear cries of “allez Thibaut!” and to reach the expectant fans on the “Virage Pinot” was a form of apotheosis, but more for Pinot-mania than Pinot himself. He sports a tattoo saying “only victory is beautiful” in Italian on his arm and he was insistent after the line that this wasn’t a victory even if it was very special and a day he won’t forget. Riders have raced in front of home crowds before to admiration and respect but this was different, a wave of popular fervour. As he yanked at the bars and chopped at the pedals in his own style he was also pulling at their heartstrings, alone, in front and in charge.

Pinot crested the pass with 30 seconds. This was down to 25 for the start of the Platzerwasel and on the long straight climb he was reeled in by Tom Pidcock and Warren Barguil. Behind Pogačar attacked and a few pedal strokes later he was away with Vingegaard and the surprising Felix Gall and the trio had halved the lead, then caught the leaders and rode past, including Pinot was still thrashing at the pedals but now clearly beaten. The top-10 overall was in play on the final mountain pass of the Tour and with Gall up the road the Yates brothers were in action again, a flashback to Bilbao all those days ago but as they rode across to the front group the cooperation ended once they got there. Adam hit the front to set tempo for Pogačar, Simon tried to upset this with an attack. Pogačar duly won the sprint, coming around Vingegaard for his second stage win.

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The Route: a start in the Yvelines, host to the habitual Paris-Nice opener and then past Versailles and into Paris, including a magical passing through the Louvre courtyard. There are eight laps of the 6.8km circuit. As ever it rises to the Place de l’Etoile more than you might think, the Champs Elysées have their urban pavé and the finish has the chicane off the Place de la Concorde.

The Contenders: Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) won here last year and it’s hard to see past him again, especially with Mathieu van der Poel as a leadout. But no two sprints are the same and it’s on other teams to come up with a plan. Dylan Groenewegen (Jayco-Al Ula) has the speed on paper but has been tired so isn’t an easy pick.

Groenewegen, Pedersen, Kristoff
Girmay, Welsford, Coquard, Laporte, Meeus, Sagan

Weather: 21°C and a high chance of rain.

TV: KM0 is at 4.40pm and the finish is forecast for 7.30pm CEST. Every year people seem outraged that the final stage has an easygoing parade for the early part but if you’re not into these routines, the trick is to tune in late for the action, be in front of your screen for the last half hour and the prestige sprint finish.

Better still tune in earlier for Le Tour de France Femmes with the stage starting at 12.15 and the finish due around 3.30pm CEST in Clermont-Ferrand with a hilly finish that includes a climb out of Durtol to reach the the big road in Orcines climbed by the men on their way to the Puy de Dôme but here it’s a descent back into the city before a slight uphill rise to the line.

65 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 21 Preview”

  1. Pinot is leaving on his own terms and – almost – at the top of his game. A contrast with those seeking forlornly a final declining contract. A good decision by FDJ to include him on the roster too. He had more coverage than many higher placed riders, at least here in France.

    • This seems a little harsh? I assume there are a lot of riders understandably worried about their finances in the upcoming years after they retire and others who also understandably realise they’ll never experience the high of racing at this level again in whatever time they have left post retirement- anyone hanging on seems perfectly fine to me as someone who’s not experienced the psychological/emotional impact of knowing the only you’ve ever done and been paid for is about to end for good in your mid30s.

      • It was meant to be more sympathetic than harsh though maybe badly expressed. In my own life I have seen too many approaching retirement with a tiny pension or needing a new job and not finding it. Thibaut will have had several years of lucrative contracts, and would always find a way, if he wants, to monetise (an awful term) his celebrity in France. I feel for the average rider on a final contract in his early thirties wondering what to do next. Not all have the speaking skills of Jalabert or Voeckler, or the intellectual capacity of G Martin or Bardet.

  2. Thanks to inrng for the great guides.
    Also congrats to ASO for once who put on a course that allowed the riders to race hard. I like the fact that there were not many / any super long over 200 km flat or mountainous stages and the riders still got pushed to their limit. The 130 to 160 hilly km courses seem to encourage harder riding and not only seem to put the riders into more effort and difficultly. If you make it just short enough for a team to pace hard, they can (like stage 20). This does make it more difficult for break aways though.
    Not a criticism of the race course but in this day when eye balls on TV are super important with lots of competition but first week flat stages were even the sacrificial teams don’t want to get in a break may need some tweaking for the future. Not to eliminate bunch sprints but enough to encourage people to try their luck in a break away.

    • I feel a little torn between the spectacular made-for-TV Tour we have witnessed while regretting the loss of long sleepy stages through rural France. The dramatic 2023 TdF will further encourage ASO in this direction, while small country towns like Commercy, as an example for so many, will see the Tour less frequently.

      • You can have Commercy… just with some gravel sections like the women had last year. Or we had Moirans, population 2,000 and Poligny, population 4,000 as host to one of the best stages ever.

        I still find the flat stages like Dax-Nogaro glorious, but they belong to the locals and crowds more than TV and the scenic location helps, it’s a place to liner, while a flat stage across somewhere 1,000km north wouldn’t necessarily look the same.

        More than ever the Tour is made for TV but having ridden several stages in recon it’s a useful reminder that others consume the race differently. You can see how many villages are excited by the Tour coming. Old rusting bikes are spray-painted yellow and placed on roundabouts, flowerbeds are given polka dot themes, thousands of kilometres have been resurfaced, there are analogue signs counting down the days until arrival of the race, shops have Tour-themed window decorations and more.

  3. Bravo Inrng – another lap of France completed. Thank you for the writing and the unmissable daily insight. It truly adds an extra dimension to my Tour experience

  4. Thank you INRNG as always.

    It’s so hard not to end this Tour without a tinge of disappointment… it felt for so long we were on for a total generational classic and while it was brilliant in many ways, Pog’s implosion (again for understandable reasons) felt like it robbed us of the golden edition.

    Congrats to Vinny but hopefully next year we get to the promised land.

    Still, lots of amazing stages and stories, it’s just when to battle for the top step is this good it becomes a little harder to care about anything else… for me at least.

    But maybe the truth is I just want Pog to win, I simply could not like him any more than I do, he’s remarkable in almost every way.

    • I feel it sets things up beautifully for 2024, Pog has a lot to prove now, lets hope he arrives with an ideal preparation for the rematch (perhaps having won in San Remo).

  5. Slight aside – I meant to comment on this the other day but I’m so happy to see Time Trials have their moment this year between Tour and Giro.

    I love a good time trial and have long felt it’s just a case of how they’re used rather than the discipline itself that determines whether they add to a race – so it’s great to see two such memorable TT stages in the first two grand tours of the year, long love the time trial!

  6. Chapeau Inrng, thanks as ever for all the wonderful coverage and Insight, quite a Tour de France this year, a new standard has been set I reckon. What a beautiful contrast with the ominous unfolding and late flourishing of the Giro, what will La Vuelta bring I wonder? Anyone else getting melancholy Vuelta end of season vibes yet?

    I’d like to see a sentimental and surprising winner today, I know its wildly unlikely but Sagan picking his way through a messy sprint like days of old and lunging for the win with a last roar at the tour would be magnifique. Also Girmay, Van der Poel or a late attack from Kung, Campanaerts or Pollit would be great.

    And who will get to ride and celebrate alone ahead of the Peloton as it enters the Champs this year? Pinot surely, Team Bahrain perhaps, Sagan maybe. Its a beautiful tradition that I hope we see today.

    One last thought, concussion protocol for Rodriguez and Kuss yesterday while holding on with one hand to a moving medical car with blood in their eyes, really? Cycling needs to do better than this for its stars, not a good look.

    • +1 on all these points.

      Watching the crowds love on the Virage Pinot will be one of my sporting highlights of 2023.

      You have to feel for Cav crashing out a fortnight ago: surely the peloton would’ve allowed him, Sagan and Pinot to ride onto the Champs at the head of the race today.

      Agreed about the concussion protocol- although maybe there’s something we missed off camera? I didn’t see Rodriguez receiving any treatment – no dressings applied to his injuries. As Mohoric said on Friday – it’s just a race. Sure thing: a podium in a grand tour is a defining moment but it’s not the be all and end all. He’s young and will enjoy further success. Any info from behind the scenes about this?

      Thanks as ever Inrng for your beaucoup Boucle previews and to all btl for your knowledgeable and respectful comments: chapeau to all!

      Yes, I’ll feel a lull for a while but already looking forward to Glasgow and Spain!

  7. A great edition of Le Tour and I have a twinge of melancholy as it draws to a close.

    Also, a massive thank you for your blog, which has made it even more enjoyable.

      • I recall L’Equipe making just such a melancholic observation in the final week and probably in the distant seventies. Something like, “La vie est belle, au moins jusqu’à dimanche”

    • I too get that melancholic feeling every year at this time. I think this is why I actually enjoy the final stage ‘procession’ – I just accept that the Tour is 20 stages long, and the run into Paris is a natural winding-down where we can reflect on the past three weeks and all that has happened without there being a full-stop (albeit with a very important stage win up for grabs at the end)

      I love the almost ‘club run’ feel as the riders come into view of the Eiffel Tower, the entrance onto the circuit, and then the ramping up of the pace

      It’ll all be different next year mind!

    • Did reply… you can see the race go by on the circuit several times so it’s fun to watch many times, also once the race is over you can often mill about the buses and finish area and see the riders up close. Feel free to hand up a cold beer and you might get a photo opportunity.

      However they’ve put more restrictions in place with added barriers on the circuit so it can be harder to get right up close to the race, especially by the Arc/Rond Point de l’Etoile as they don’t seem to have crowds at this point or at least they’re held back far from the route. You can always try one place for the first lap and move to find a better location but this comes at the cost of taking up a good place at the other end or around the Place de la Concorde. Either way go with supplies like food and drink, a hat/umbrella even so if you get a good spot you can stay there.

  8. Nice to see that Pog’s confidence has not been shattered. He rode a canny finish, knowing full well that he could do Vingegaard for speed.

    The brief spell of Pinot-mania brought a tear to the eye. Thanks for the memories Thibault.

    And thanks too to Inrng as usual for the unique blend of sporting and cultural erudition that makes this blog so unmissable.

    Also, to those knowledgeable BTL commenters who add the cherries on the cake and spice up the debate.

    A la prochaine.

  9. I love to see one ring for Sagan even if it is just a compliment to his career rather than expression of real chance. I love to imagine he was hiding his true strong form for three weeks only to shine on Champs totally unexpectedly. Yet, taking into account the decline and perhaps also unwillingness to risk in messy sprints, it should be said that he brought the cycling sport popularity to immense levels in Slovakia and some ten to five years ago the question “Is Sagan going today?” a quite frequent part of everyday conversations.

    Perhaps three feats stand out in memories of fans – besides thematical green jerseys and always-remembered rainbow strips (3x in a row) also win in California overall over Alaphilippe on bonus seconds from the last sprint with photo-finish for third place – preceded by heroic limiting of time loss in the mountain stage.

    • Maybe he’s saving it all up for the World Chsmpionships in Glasgow😉

      Seeing Sagan soloing to victory in the Ronde in 2016 in the rainbow bands lives long in the memory, but my favourite is his demeanour when he won those bands – the security were ushering him away and he wanted to celebrate so he gave his bike to the security guard – a kind of “hold my pint” manoeuvre – and proceeded to throw his gloves, glasses etc into the crowd. I loved that.

      • Sagan’s Tour has been bizarre?

        Am I right in saying he wasn’t in a single break?

        I don’t blame him if he’s just taking the money and running with his contract but is that what’s happening? It’s very weird we didn’t see anything from him in three weeks given his status?

        • (Sagan’s interview after even made me wonder if he’s depressed? It was funny to play the too cool for school who care’s about the tour de france vibe… but seriously? I think he’s always had an air of don’t care it just doesn’t fully wash with someone who’s won the amount he has and makes you ask if something else is going on)

  10. Thanks INRNG for all the hard work and information. A race of variety, anarchy and excitement.
    The best GT I have ever seen with a worthy winner and runner up.
    Again thanks for all your efforts and course insights. Like the race, the best cycling blog bar none.

  11. If it rains in Paris, I assume we get the special ruling (from the Rules book) –
    “The race directors and commissaires’ jury may have to employ the following measures for the finish of the 21st stage on the Champs-Élysées in Paris:
    if the road surface on the Champs-Élysées circuit has become slippery before the riders reach it,
    then the times may be taken on the first passage through the finish line;
    if the road surface on the Champs-Élysées circuit
    becomes slippery while the riders are on it, then the
    times may be taken at the next passage through
    the finish line.
    In both cases, the designated finish will be retained however no points or bonuses will be awarded in the different overall classifications.
    (Thanks again to Mr Ring for the daily previews/reviews)

  12. Big thanks to INRNG for daily showing us a massive depth of knowledge in the most accessible way.
    I know it’s been tried before but this time there has to be a rethink on crowd behaviour and that 15milliseconds of fame as the TV motos speed by. Plus there must sadly be those who just have plain old bad intentions towards a bunch of riders. Add all this on top of the risks inherent in just riding the Tour is getting to be too much for the riders.

  13. Thank you for your insightful and even-handed coverage, and to all the commenters who add a range of perspectives. Over the years, your blog has been my cycling education.

  14. @plurien. I have long been of the view that there are far too many unnecessary Moto’s allowed on GT courses. The days when a still photo was the only way to convey an image are long gone. The second problem of spectators obstructing or even worse running along the course is a little more difficult to deal with. Use main engineered roads rather than the smaller twisting climbs is a solution, but will take a lot away from the race. The Gendarme’s often close routes early in the morning to stop motorized and cycle access, but that does not stop the more determined, I admit to being one such individual, from walking up. The one thing that will work is to ban photo Moto’s on climbs, in much the same way team cars are not allowed on certain sections of other events. Educating people to give the riders respect is probably the only way to stop the course being invaded, together with Moto Gendarmes to assist when control is being lost.
    I would like to hear other ideas/suggestions, as dangerous and disrespectful behaviour is clearly becoming an increasing problem as the events popularity increases.

    • I am always baffled by the number of motos on the route. What do they all do? Some are obvious, but by no means all.
      Perhaps an interesting topic for the blog sometime, what they’re for and how (un)necessary they are?
      Thanks again for all the work that goes into this excellent coverage.

      • There are police motos to open the road, there are UCI officials as referees, there’s media with photos, TV and radio, motos for water at times if it’s hot. There are also extra motos as “regulateurs” who direct this traffic. The trouble is that there’s a good reason for all of these, you want the media there to cover the race and a plurality rather official images, you want riders to have easy access to drinks especially as the smaller teams can’t post staff along the route as much as the big ones, you want officials to ensure the rules are followed from littering to no elbowing etc and you want people controlling all of this. We had a couple of incidents this year but it wasn’t so much caused by the number of motos, more an error in the moment.

        Crowd control is an interesting subject. There are no accurate numbers on the crowds, some say 10-12 million in a typical year but it’s back-of-envelope stuff. What’s noticeable this year is the increase in the crowds, you can feel it. In particular spots on the course ASO have found if they put barriers up these can deter the public who don’t like to be behind them and so they walk down/up the mountain away from them which just makes other places more packed, there’s almost a game theory / waterbed aspect here where one measure to solve a problem leads to another reaction causing a problem elsewhere. You might have seen they’ve been using ropes instead in some places, the idea is to hold the people back but don’t make the fans feel like they’ve been fenced in.

        • I just learned that there are motorbikes for GCN and NBC in the race both with ex-pros providing the same insights. I question the value of most of these “insights” in the first place but could there be just one for the english speaking audience? How many other’s are there for French, Spanish, Italian audiences? I think they add very little to the viewing experience and could easily be cut out, no?

        • That guy on the big moto with the unnecessarily large white aerials is the road chief who’s completely in charge of operations, isn’t he? There’s a security detail goes through after the caravane and there are even technical vehicles with big magnets dangling out front. I see no problem with motos as long as the pilots are true and tested, good around riders.
          The issue has become crowds who get completely dizzy with the approach of riders after a long build up and won’t let the nearest parts of the convoy through.
          I’ve been on the Alp when the Tour went up (twice!!) and things went from a celebratory mood to pretty well complete anarchy in a short period. Sure people are excited but this was something else and it wasnt all good as it became very egotistical. I’d really enjoyed riding up the day before and had been looking forward to it all but I won’t go out of my way to be roadside again, not where there are dense crowds on unbarriered sections anyhow.
          Of course you can’t spoil people’s fun at a national celebration like the Tour, but it’s come to be a case of needing to do something before something gets cancelled.

  15. A Tour for the ages. It was as exciting as those from the mid to late 80’s – maybe better as I recall those through the rose tinted glasses of fond memories of first introductions to cycling. I’ve holidayed in France during the tour once and enjoyed the daily ritual of buying l’Equipe with my morning coffee. This blog provides a similarly enjoyable routine from distant shores. Chapeau and thank you.

  16. I see Rodriguez accident was caused by a broken wheel. Seems to be happening more frequently and, of course, usually the front.

    • Comments I read on other websites laid blame on tubeless tire puncturing and coming off the rim — IDK if that’s true or not.
      A _properly_ glued tubular (2 dried coats glue on rim, 2 on tire base, a final 3rd coat on rim and mount tire) is virtually impossible to separate from the rim.

  17. Many thanks to @inrng and to everyone who contributes to this brilliant blog.

    The riders have put on a great show.

    I think the course has helped to facilitate a very good edition Le Tour. If the planners engineered the last day for Pinot to attack and be celebrated on his home roads it was a master stroke.

    Vingegaard was briefly given that unflattering moniker of being corpse like, but I think it’s the other way round – he strikes me as more of an asssassin – a deadly victory by a huge margin.

    Congratulations to all the riders finishing the race. They’ve had to work so hard to get round.

  18. A thoroughly excellent edition of La Grande Boucle – sure, there was no continuation of the razor thin margins between Vingegaard and Pogacar in week three, but quite literally every stage this year was jam-packed with action. Zero duds in my recollection. The Netflix video editors have no shortage of content on their hands this year – where even to begin? The Yates brothers finishing 1-2 in Bilbao, the wild swings in momentum on the Marie-Blanque and Cauterets-Cambasque, Cav nearly eclipsing Merckx in Bordeaux, Woods’ solo victory atop the Puy de Dôme, Pogacar’s surrender on the Col de la Loze, Mohoric winning and then giving the most thoughtful post-race interview in recent memory, Pinot’s swan song on the Petit Ballon, the heartfelt Gino Mäder tributes…

    The post-Tour blues are a real phenomenon for us cycling diehards, but at least we’ve got the Tour de France Femmes, the Worlds, and La Vuelta in rapid succession to keep us in high spirits. As ever, immense thanks to Inrng for this blog and the thousand ways in which it has enhanced my understanding of this magnificent sport. Long may it continue.

    • La Vuelta is always my favourite and at this stage it looks as though Vingegaard, Roglic, Evenopoel, Ayuso and more will be there. Barring accidents thus should be more interesting than a two horse race.

  19. Hi, first time poster, long time reader. Just wanted to say a massive thank you to Monsieur Ring for this wonderful blog. Your writing deserves a yellow jersey.
    Many thanks to all the commentators too.
    Best wishes,

  20. Has anyone read/heard anything about Pogacar’s plans for the remainder of the season? The Vuelta looks like it’ll have an insanely compelling lineup and I was wondering if there is any chance he’d be tempted to throw his hat in the ring there.

    Not to get on to the next thing before the TdF has even been over for 12 hours…

  21. Just read the latest few comments over a coffee, looking forward like many others I’m sure to your review of the tour, and I found myself wondering how many cogs there are on the actual inner ring – that one at the top. It so happens that the saucer under my coffee cup is roughly the same size as the inner ring itself so with a few rough measurements and a bit of elementary geometry I made it 53.4 cogs. Which seems rather a lot for an inner ring. Anyway, just wondering, don’t want to draw you away from the review obviously…

  22. Thank you for the insight and coverage! This blog is an essential part of watching and enjoying a grand tour for me! It was an awesome TdF!

    • Likewise although it’s fairly obvious also! (Laughing emoji)

      Vin smashed the TT! A legendary TT performance.

      Whether that psychologically wounded Pog for next day or whether Pog’s injury caught up or whether Vin is simply better than Pog and he’ll always break when pushed this hard over three weeks I guess we can’t know yet!! Unless INRNG has a crystal ball.

      Probably a mix of all three as these things usually are…

      I guess the other key analysis of how the race was won is how conservative Vin was being in the days Pog dropped him – did Vin race more defensively than we knew/realised on the days Pog seemed to be moving ahead?

      Or did they simply push each other to the edge and Vin came through the bad moments better and always knew the TT was going to be crucial?

      All questions… I feel like we’ll only have answers in years not weeks!

      • FWIW, and it’s not likely to be completely objective, but a short series of articles at interviewed one of Jumbo’s sports directors or managers.
        Apparently Jumbo started preparing Vingegaard for TdF ~9mos ago, with fairly detailed outlines for training, race schedules, nutrition, altitude camps, etc.
        It would have required great mental fortitude and discipline from Vingegaard to follow the plan, which he seems to possess in abundance.

        • Jumbo & Vingegaard are to use a maybe outdated term very “professional”. Which can be seen as impersonal (Larry’s normal complaint) and robotic, but if Jumbo have the planning skills (nutrition etc), money and riders, then they’re going to be at 100% when they race.
          G Thomas at Ineos joked about having to live like a monk for 6 months to win the Tour, so the mental make-up of modern day GT contenders has to be very disciplined. As we saw at the Tour this year, if the preparation is interrupted, even someone as good as Pogacar will eventually suffer.
          As Jumbo’s Zeeman said, “We could see from Jonas’ numbers and their past fights that Pogačar was also at the very best level ever in those first two weeks.”

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