TOUR DE FANCE 2021 - STAGE I LIVE: TADEJ POGAR BEGINS DEFENCE, GERAINT THOMAS AND MARK CAVENDISH RETURN

Stage 1 is from Brest to Landerneau, as the 2021 Tour de France begins in Brittany.

TOUR DE FANCE 2021 - STAGE I LIVE: TADEJ POGAR BEGINS DEFENCE, GERAINT THOMAS AND MARK CAVENDISH RETURN

There are many stories to be told: Tadej Pogacar, Primoz Roglic, Geraint Thomas and Mark Cavendish attempt to win a Tour stage once again, and Chris Froome continues to push for his return to elite cycling. It promises to be an epic race!

98KM TO GO: FOOD ZONE

The peloton passes the musette pick up point, 1'40" behind our six leaders. It's fascinating: If today's stage had been a one day race, it would have been handled very differently due to the challenging terrain. It's been quite tame, as it was the first of 21 Grand Tour stages. But we still hope for a fiery finish.

112KM LEFT: IN JUST TWO MINUTES

As they work towards the fourth climb of day four, the gap between the leaders drops to below two minutes. This will precede the intermediate sprint. For water-related fun, be sure to use the #TourSwimmingPools tag during this year’s race.

STAT ATTACK

Here's some information from The Road Book about the World Champion Julian Alaphilippe who swaps his rainbow bands for yellow today.

128KM TO GO: CRUSH!

After a few wheels in the feedzone, Julien Bernard took to the deck and landed towards the back of his peloton. Three gels were in Bernard's back pocket. They fell onto the road. Although it doesn't appear serious, this is the type of incident Grand Tours can alter - the same thing that ended Geraint Thomas's Giro bid last season.

130KM TO GO: VAN POPPEL ATTLES BACK

The Dutchman, who was dropped on the previous climb, manages to recover after a bit of struggle and makes the connection at the top on another steep uphill climb. Declercq is now at the front of the pack, Vakoc taking a well-deserved break. Ineos UAE and UAE ride in team formation, until Dylan van Baarle moves clear to grab a musette in the front of his peloton. He brings snacks to his teammates...

136KM LEFT: PEREZ WINS TUSSLE TO KOM POINTS

The break continues onto the Cat.3 Cote de Locronan (0.9km, 9.3%). After Van Poppel pops it's Perez, who takes the 2pts going up the summit. This puts Perez in pole position for today's polka dots jersey. Declercq, Vakoc and others are still driving the peloton. The gap is 2'30". It should be 2'55, because it seems like it has suddenly risen.

140KM TO GO: THIRD CRIMBLING COMING UP

There is no change in the peloton's frontline as Tim Declercq leads it as it approaches the third of six categorised climbs. The group has a deficit 2'25" over the leading six-man group. French duo Frank Bonnamour and Anthony Perez (Cofidis) are the escapees, as is Christian Rodriguez (Total Energies), Ide Shelling (Bora-Hansgrohe), Danny van Poppel and Danny van Poppel from Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert, and Connor Swift (Arkea-Samsic).

VAN DER POEL: "IT'S NOT GOING to BE EASY"

The Alpecin-Fenix team of his Dutchman are staying in Landerneau for the grand depart. This has allowed him to see today's finish on Cote de Fosse aux Loups. He said that the first stage would suit me well, but it was harder than it appears. So I will have to be at my best to win on a finish such as this.

"We rode the final 30km of this stage on Thursday, and it was a very difficult stage. It's three kilometres long and climbs up a lot. The climb is steep and in some places it can be over 10%. I will do my best to win each stage. It doesn't matter if it's my first or second. This is my first Tour, and I'm here to learn about the Grand Tours. It's going to be hard, but I will do it.

If he wins, he will take the yellow jersey that Raymond Poulidor never got. His Mercier team are immortalized in an Alpecin-Fenix limited edition team kit, which Van der Poel has been allowed to wear with his teammates today.

Who will wear the first yellow jersey?

Six climbs of lower category - including Landerneau's punchy ramp to the finish - make this stage 198km more challenging than your typical Tour de France opener. The final climb of 3km on the Cote de la Fosse aux Loups, which averages at 5.7%, will be the end for all pure sprinters.

This finish suits Mathieu van den Poel, Wout van Aert's long-standing rival, and Julian Alaphilippe, the home favorite. The Tour's world champion was able to win the second stage last year, swapping his rainbow stripes for the yellow jersey. Additionally, the climb's name Fosse aux Loupsliterally translates as "Wolf Ditch" should provide additional motivation for the leader of so-called Wolfpack.

The Tour curtain-raiser is often a surprise. Take for example Alexander Kristoff's win in Nice last year, and Mike Teunissen's victory in Brussels the year before. This means that there is a good chance that Michael Matthews, the new Italian champion Sonny Colbrelli ("Bahrain Victorious") or even the Basque-livewire Alex Aranburu (of Astana) might be the first man in yellow.

150KM TO GO: RACE SETTLLES

Brittany's roads are constantly up and down. While there aren't many steep climbs, the steady stream of rolling hills can really drain your legs. Many riders stopped on the side of road to listen to the call of nature as the gap fell to less than three minutes. They are now riding along a road that follows a large expanse of sandy beaches, right on the Atlantic coast.

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