The 108th edition of the Tour de France begins on June 26 as the world's best cyclists compete for the honour of wearing the iconic yellow jersey on the final stage into Paris on July 18. Who are the favourites and where is the value? Read on to inform your Tour de France 2021 predictions.
How does the Tour de France work?
The yellow jersey is awarded at the end of each stage to the rider who has completed the race to that point in the least time and sits top of the general classification. The time is calculated after a day's racing, with each of these days known as stages.
In 2021, as has been the case for the last few decades, the riders will look to complete 21 stages over varying terrain, with two rest days scheduled for the second and third Mondays of the race.
The field is made up of 23 separate eight-man teams, who will all have different goals for the Tour. This year's route is 3,417.4km long and features eight flat stages, five hilly stages, six mountain stages (three of which will finish at altitude), and two individual time-trials. One of those time-trials will, as has become tradition, take place on the penultimate day.
Tour de France 2021 predictions: Can Pogacar defend his title?
Last year, Slovenian wunderkind Tadej Pogacar, who rides for UAE Team Emirates, produced a performance for the ages as he replaced compatriot Primoz Roglic, who rides for Jumbo-Visma, as the youngest winner since 1904. The duo have again shown strong form this year and, as they are both comfortable in the mountains and in the time-trials, are expected to be at the forefront again.
A strong unit is key to success at the Tour de France.
Pogacar leads the betting at 2.510*, with Roglic priced at 3.320*, while 2018 Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas and his Ineos Grenadiers teammate, 2019 Giro d'Italia champion Richard Carapaz, are priced at 6.890* and 12.040* respectively.
Ineos Grenadiers have picked an extremely strong line-up featuring recent Criterium du Dauphine winner Richie Porte and last year's Giro d'Italia hero Tao Geoghegan Hart and are likely to try and use their collective strength to wear down Pogacar and Roglic.
Having a strong unit allows teams to set a punishing pace in the belief that they can put other riders under pressure. This tactic is most likely to be seen in the hilly and mountain stages where gaps in the peloton, the collective term used for a group of cyclists, most often occur.
Tour de France 2021 predictions: Points classification favourites
Not everyone has the physical gifts to stay near the front of the race for three weeks and there are other classifications. One of these is the points classification, the leader of which wears the green jersey.
The varying route could suit the evergreen Peter Sagan of Bora-Hansgrohe.
Points are handed out for winning stages, with more points often available for triumphing in the sprint stages, while other points opportunities are available along the route to give those riders who may not have the same raw speed as their rivals for the green jersey a chance to stay competitive in the classification.
Deceuninck–Quick-Step rider Sam Bennett won the green jersey last year, winning two stages, including the blue riband for sprinters which is the final stage, finishing on Paris' iconic Avenue des Champs-Elysees. However, the Irishman has withdrawn from this year’s Tour de France through injury, ushering in the return of Mark Cavendish for his first Tour since 2018.
The 36-year-old won the green jersey in 2011 and after a few tough years has a chance to add to the 30 stage wins he’s earned in his career thus far at the Tour de France 2021. He is priced at 10.720* to win the points classification.
However, Cavendish may no longer have the raw speed to match the best and with Bennett absent, Australia's Caleb Ewan is the 2.930* favourite to win the points classification.
Ewan's team, Lotto Soudal, have constructed their line-up to maximise his chances and the 26-year-old has rewarded his team's faith in recent seasons with three stage victories in 2019 and two last year. With no Bennett around and eight sprint stages, Ewan will be targeting green but will face competition from the home favourite, Arnaud Demare of Groupama-FDJ, who is at 4.100*.
Meanwhile, the varying route could also suit the evergreen Peter Sagan of Bora-Hansgrohe, who is at 3.380* to secure a record-extending eighth points classification victory, while Jumbo-Visma's Wout van Aert will also hope to put his many talents into play and is at 8.110*.
Tour de France 2021 predictions: Other riders to look out for
There are two more jerseys handed out at the Tour de France. The white jersey is worn by the rider highest in the general classification who is aged 25 or younger at the start of the year and is likely to be won by Pogacar, who is at 1.377* in the betting.
Deceuninck–Quick-Step’s Julian Alaphilippe will be aiming to once again win the polka dot jersey.
That said, if he is leading the general classification, he will wear yellow due to that colour's precedence in the race, with the jersey passed on to the rider second in the standings. His main rivals to finish top of the young riders classification are Groupama-FDJ's David Gaudu and Team BikeExchange's Lucas Hamilton, who are priced at 5.550* and 9.080* respectively.
The final jersey to be handed out is the polka dot jersey for the rider who claims the most points in the mountains classification. Nicknamed the 'King of the Mountain', this classification is similar to the green jersey, with points awarded to those who cross the summit of the hills and mountains first.
Winners are often split between general classification contenders (Pogacar won it last year), riders who have not fulfilled their goals on general classification, such as 2019 mountains winner Romain Bardet, or those who are happy to go under the radar, such as two-time polka dot winner Rafal Majka.
Deceuninck–Quick-Step’s Julian Alaphilippe won it in 2018 and is priced at 11.270* to repeat the feat, and he could prove his aptitude for finishing fast uphill by winning stage one on Saturday. The world champion is priced at 7.060* to win stage one and the closing 3km climb, which has an average 5.7% gradient, looks to be perfect for his profile.
Looking forward to this year's Tour de France? Bet on the General Classification, Points Classification, Team Classification, Young Rider Classification, and King of the Mountain winners with Pinncle.