Tour de France 2021: The Riders, Action and Incredible Gear
By Nicki Giles – 23 July 2021
The thrills and spills of this year’s Tour de France won’t soon be forgotten. We run through some of the amazing brands that made the big moments possible.
This year’s Tour de France has been a memorable one. From the horrendous early crashes that completely rearranged the GC, to Mark Cavendish’s unexpected comeback, it has been full of surprises.
And, while Tadej Pogačar’s success wasn’t unexpected, few were truly prepared for his dominance to be established quite so early and be so unassailable.
At Saddleback, we’re proud to be associated with – and make good use of – some of the most exciting, high performance cycling brands in the world, many of which were represented on the Tour. Here’s a rundown of how our brands’ products impacted this year’s Grande Boucle.
It’s fair to say that Ineos Grenadiers’ race did not go to plan, with major changes in both line-up and strategy being forced upon them. Rather than fielding a choice of four GC contenders, after Tao Geoghegan Hart and Richie Porte lost time in the Stage 1 crashes and Geraint Thomas suffered a dislocated shoulder, the team had no option but to pile all their efforts behind Richard Carapaz.
Throughout the competition, Ineos Grenadiers remained in the fight, working to ensure that Carapaz was one of the riders most likely to be seen dogging Pogačar’s shoulder, especially during the mountain stages. Geraint Thomas commented after Stage 15, “We’re doing everything for Richard now, I really hope we can get him on the podium.”
Those strenuous efforts to guard and assist him paid off in the end, with Carapaz finally mounting that podium in Paris, wearing his distinctive Castelli INEOS Grenadiers Jersey, as third on GC.
You saw the crashes. From scattering on the tarmac like a pack of skittles when a thoughtless spectator held a sign in the way of the peloton, to tumbling down steep tree-lined banks, it’s fair to say that the great majority of riders in the 2021 Tour took a battering at some point.
With the riders reaching speeds well beyond 70kph, falls aren’t something to be taken lightly. Groupama-FDJ team manager Marc Madiot warned that action must be taken to reduce the number of collisions, so it’s fair to say that Tour de France teams take safety considerations seriously.
Both AG2R Citroën and Israel Start-Up Nation chose to kit out their riders in HJC helmets this season, keeping them safe while also maximising their comfort, ventilation and speed. The HJC Ibex 2.0 and Furion 2.0 were the helmets of choice – both perfected in the wind tunnel.
The latter offers an especially strong aerodynamic advantage at times when every split second counts. AG2R Citroën’s Ben O’Connor wore the Furion 2.0 to victory in the Alps on Stage 9 to Tignes and held tough to finish fourth in Paris – quite the feat for a debut Tour.
Like Ineos Grenadiers, Bora-Hansgrohe had mountains to climb in this year’s Tour after one of its best riders was involved in a crash. Peter Sagan was taken out when Lotto-Soudal’s Caleb Ewan touched wheels with another rider on Stage 3 and sustained a knee injury.
Despite recovering slightly, after banging the same leg during the Stage 10 sprint Sagan noticed the injury becoming more painful during the double climb of Mont Ventoux. He later found his knee wouldn’t move and was forced to drop out of the Tour with bursitis.
Although Bora-Hansgrohe was naturally dismayed by the loss of such a formidable contender, in true Tour de France style, the rest of the team rolled up their Sportful jersey sleeves and refused be disheartened. Their tenacity was rewarded with a Stage 12 win for Nils Pollitt, followed by another for Patrick Konrad at Stage 16. At the end of the competition, Wilco Kelderman walked away with 5th place in the GC.
Watching the Tour de France, one thing becomes plain – the riders that take part are some of the fittest athletes on the planet. The problem is, they’re up against fellow riders who are also at the apex of strength and speed. That means any tool or trick that can give a team the edge over their rivals is like gold dust.
To that end, EF Education-Nippo uses the light, aerodynamic Silca Mensola to attach its bike computers securely and directly to the stem itself. And, according to field tests, it has helped them to capitalise on a three-to-five-watt advantage – a welcome bit of free speed. Those saved watts certainly seemed to make a difference, with the team being ever-present throughout the race and coming second in the final team classification!
When it comes to cycling shoes, it’s more difficult to sponsor entire teams. Why? Because footwear is a very personal choice. And where the athletes are given free reign, Sidi has been a popular preference for decades.
This year was no exception, with no less than 21 amazing athletes, including Brits Chris Froome, Simon Yates and Tao Geoghegan Hart, pulling on Sidi shoes. The first mountain stage, Le Grand-Bornand, was convincingly taken by a delighted Dylan Teuns of Bahrain Victorious, wearing Sidi.
Best of all, Richard Carapaz took to the Champs Elysées podium in his photogenic Sidi Shot 2 Road Shoes, the Italian brand’s flagship model. Of course, their on-camera presence was the last thing on Carapaz’s mind when he selected them, but the fact that he achieved the third fastest time in a competition that included fast roads, winding country lanes, mountains and everything in between, shows he made a wise choice!
Tour de France-worthy gear
Even in the years when the Tour de France runs as expected, without surprises, tactical shake-ups or mishaps – as if that ever happens – the equipment used by the team must be top notch. It needs to stand up with ease to thousands of kilometres of hard, high-power riding and do its job reliably when it really counts.
Aerodynamics, speed, protection, resilience and comfort are all characteristics of gear and kit selections that convey advantages to the riders and make the difference between crossing the line with hands aloft in victory or slapping the bars in frustration!
It matters, and if a brand is represented at the Tour, that’s down to more than just sponsorship – you know they’re doing something very right.
To browse more Tour de France-worthy gear, cherry-picked from the collections of the world’s top cycling brands, hit the button below.
If you find selecting the right gloves to match the day’s forecast a chore, why not go for a pair that offers sufficient weather resistance, dexterity and warmth to see you through most eventualities?