We’re into the thick of the 2021 road cycling season now, and this coming weekend plays host to two of the biggest races on the calendar – the Tour de France and La Course.
The Tour de France is one of the biggest sporting events in the world, with almost 200 riders tackling thousands of miles of French roads over three weeks, visiting some of the most spectacular sights, both man-made and natural, along the way. And while there’s no women’s equivalent to ‘La Grande Boucle’ (for now), there is the always thrilling one-day race La Course whose route this year echoes stage 1 of Le Tour. To celebrate these pinnacles of the cycling season, we’ve previewed the events and identified the Canadian riders who have a golden opportunity to ride the most prestigious races of the year.
Now in its eighth edition, La Course is the one-day race featured alongside the Tour de France, this year running during the Grand Départ in Brittany. The 107km route has a lot in common with the opening stage of Le Tour, departing from Brest and arriving in Landerneau. The Spring Classic-style race ends with three laps of a 14km loop that features the Côte de la Fosse aux Loups, before finishing atop the same climb. With 1,800 metres of elevation gain, the course will suit punchier riders such as last year's winner Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo), with plenty of opportunities to attack and activate the race.
So who are the Canadian riders slated to take part?
The Winnipeg native is one of two sprinters taking on La Course for Team DSM, the other being American Coryn Rivera. Kirchmann has steadily been riding herself into form this season, most notably taking second overall at the Ceratizit Festival Elsy Jacobs in May, a three-day stage race very well suited to sprint specialists. In 2019 she finished second at La Course and this year she’ll be looking to go one better if she’s not riding in the services of Rivera.
Sara will be making her third appearance at La Course this weekend as part of Rally Cycling Women. A talented climber, she will be useful for leaders Clara Koppenberg and Krista Doebel-Hickok as they aim to continue their good run of form in Europe. Sara has been a valued domestique so far this season, helping her teammates to some excellent results on the WorldTour stage.
The organizers of the Tour de France recently announced that 2022 will see the long-awaited reintroduction of a women’s stage race, so this weekend’s event will be the last in its current format - all the more reason why it should be a blockbuster edition!
With a start list that features the most Canadians since 2013 when there were also three, the 2021 Tour de France is set to be a thrilling race. The general classification (GC) is predicted to be extremely tight with many contenders in fine form after the spring. The route includes two individual time trials, one of them on the penultimate stage, and plenty of mountainous terrain to test the legs of the climbers. The riders will start in the north-western region of Brittany before heading through the centre and down towards the Alps where the infamous Mont Ventoux will be tackled twice in the same stage. The route then spirals south to the Pyrenees before heading back to Paris for the now traditional finale on the Champs-Élysées.
Last year’s winner Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) and runner-up Primož Roglič (Team Jumbo-Visma) are both returning to fight for yellow. Other contenders for the overall title include most of the Ineos Grenadiers squad - Geraint Thomas, Richie Porte, Richard Carapaz, Tao Geoghegan Hart - and the two Movistar leaders in Miguel Ángel López and Enric Mas.
So who are the three Canadians taking part this year?
Mountain goat Michael Woods is Canada's most likely yellow jersey contender this year. With a race that is often won or lost in the mountains, Woods stands a great chance against some of the less advanced climbers among the GC contenders. He will also have the domestique services of four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome as the Brit continues his long climb back to winning ways following his crash in 2019. Although Woods hasn't added an overall Grand Tour win to his palmarès just yet, he has won stages of La Vuelta and more recently the mountains classification at the Tour de Suisse, so he’s one to watch.
This will be the third Tour de France for Houle, and his sixth Grand Tour participation. He will be working as a domestique for Alexey Lutsenko and Jakob Fuglsang, two strong contenders for the Astana-Premier Tech team. Lutsenko finished second overall in the Critérium du Dauphiné a couple weeks ago, suggesting he has found some great form ahead of Le Tour. Fuglsang has been equally as strong so far this season, finishing third overall in the hotly contested Tour de Suisse, so Houle will have an important job to do.
The second Canadian on the Israel Start-Up Nation team list is Montréal native Guillaume Boivin. This will be his first Tour, and his job will be split between working for lead sprinter André Greipel and looking after Woods on the flat and rolling terrain. Although he is a Tour rookie, he brings valuable Grand Tour experience to the team having raced the Vuelta a España and Giro d’Italia twice each.
If you’re motivated by the upcoming Tour De France and La Course and want to challenge yourself to a cycling holiday, keep an eye on our website for when we launch our bespoke cycling holiday packages, tailored to exactly what you want and/or need from a cycling trip. In the meantime, check out our online shop for all the latest cycling must-haves.