The 2021 Tour de France has been run and won. Over three weeks, across the breadth of the nation, there have been crashes and controversy, fairytale returns and failures to launch. It has been – as it always is – cycling’s finest spectacle.
For all of those 21 stages – plus a few rest days along the way – husband and wife photographer team Jered and Ashley Gruber have been snapping away, their photography blurring the lines between cycling and art.
We’ve gone through and cherrypicked a few favourites from each stage. Some that tell the story of the race, some that tell the story of what it is to be waiting for the race on the side of a road, and some that tell the story of France.
Fire up a big screen and luxuriate in this one.
The Tour began on the winding roads of Brittany, way back in June. Lachlan Morton was there to wave the peloton goodbye, but had a race of his own to get on with. Here he is, checking out the size of a promotional t-shirt. From bitter personal experience: they’re size L. All of them are size L. Even if you yourself are a size L – which Lachlan Morton certainly isn’t – don’t expect it to fit. A breakaway enters the Grubers’ frame, framed by a window frame. CyclingTips readers have long known where the magic happens. This is how a different type of magic happens. Julian Alaphilippe opened his account on stage 1 with an emotional victory, with generational ripples spreading back to last year and into the future. A mischievous old boy who certainly looks like he’s got some cherry pips to spit and an umbrella to aim at. On stage 2, Mathieu van der Poel soloed to an emotional stage win of his own … … and a yellow jersey, as a Groupama-FDJ rider covetously looked on. Yes, yes, ‘France’, we get it. The peloton winds over an estuary, chased by angry skies. I have questions for the architect of this structure. Key themes of discussion I would like to flag are the cascading steps, the window to door proportion, and the little subterranean chamber of secrets. Mark Cavendish roared his way back to the forefront of international cycling on stage four, with his first Tour win in five years. Here he is at the exact instant he knew he had it. The emotion was obvious, with Cav’s return going on to be one of the defining stories of the race over the coming weeks. TotalEnergies (foreground) and Total Energy (background). Défense du maillot jaune de Mathieu van der Poel. Cavendish waits in the wings after picking up a second stage win on stage 6. From the blustery coast of Brittany to the verdant interior of France, the peloton approached the first climbing stages of the Tour. Specators worshipping at the altar of cycling. Matej Mohorič slipped away with a crafty stage win, thoroughly impressing two-thirds of visible spectators. On stage 8, the weather was – charitably – a bit shit. A big dam wall and some little lycra-clad cyclists. As the Tour met the mountains, Tadej Pogačar was in search of yellow … … while Australia’s Ben O’Connor held on for an impressive stage win in Tignes. Perks of the job: copping a wet flag to the face. After a rest day, the race resumed with a flat stage for the sprinters, taking in some big arches along the way. Cavendish again took the win – his third of the race – with Wout van Aert in second. A day later, the peloton faced a double dose of Mont Ventoux. Julian Alaphilippe was in an early move … … as was Wout van Aert, who got clear on the second ascent, experienced newfound depths of suffering on the way to the summit (pictured), and eventually held on for a stunning stage win. It was a day for the breakaway on stage 12, with Nils Politt soloing free late in proceedings … … leaving poor Stefan Küng (fourth on the day) to drown his sorrows with a can of unsatisfying orange-flavoured soft drink Fanta, as he wondered what could have been. On stage 13 into Carcassonne, it was Cavendish again, equalling the Merckx record for most Tour de France stage wins. Rigoberto Uran, meanwhile, continued to be a total vibe. Alleged vampire, Simon Geschke, wheels a suitcase stuffed full of capes and his inflatable travel coffin to the stage start. A bucolic scene of French provincial living, the Tour in full flight, festive bunting, athletes at their peak, and someone’s naked arse. [insert obligatory photo of sunflower field here] : ✓ Just a gorge-ous shot of the peloton on stage 14. Bauke Mollema carving corners into Quillan on the way to a terrific stage win. Sepp Kuss went in the early breakaway on stage 15, took flight on the mountainous roads of Andorra, and held on for the biggest win of his career. Behind him, teammate Jonas Vingegaard put Tadej Pogačar (briefly) into difficulty. Mark Cavendish and his team put the hammer down to survive the time cut. Edvald Boasson Hagen, a three-time Tour stage winner in the past, wasn’t lucky enough: either to have teammates to help him, or to make the time cut. Byrrh? Yes, Byrrh: an aromatised wine aperitif combining red wine, mistelle and quinine, which was popular as a French apéritif [ note: ominous past-tense] and had a reputation as a ‘hygienic drink’, whatever that even means, making it a smash hit a hundred years ago. Was it exported? I’m glad you ask. It sure was, although it apparently baffled customers in English- and German-speaking markets because “byrrh” sounds a lot like – no, scrap that, ‘entirely identical to’ – the popular hops-based hygienic drink, “beer”. Oh, and there’s some bike riders somewhere in the mix there too. Austrian rider Patrick Konrad (Bora-Hansgrohe) had plenty of time to ponder the mysteries of language on his way to a win on stage 16. Tadej Pogačar, meanwhile, continued to come into focus as the likely winner of the race. On the first of two consecutive days of climbing in the Pyrenees, it was Pog that took the win. Here’s a neat visual representation of the final podium in Paris, by the way. Siri, show me ‘wanderlust’. The closest Primoz Roglič got to the Pyrenees at this year’s Tour. Pogačar unleashes a blistering acceleration on his way to a third stage win, and two in a row. Oh look, its Toms Skujiņš! Hey Toms! Matej Mohorič picked up a second stage win for the race on stage 19, did a thing as he crossed the finish line, and made the cycling world briefly melt down due to past Lance Armstrong trauma. An Alaphilippe of the future? Stage 20 was Time Trial O’Clock. An Art … … and Van Aert, on his way to the win. And so, to Paris, where the peloton whooshed past the Arc de Triomphe [‘Triumphal Arch’, 4.7 stars on Google Reviews]. Wout Van Aert won the final sprint, making his third stage win for the Tour de France, with each in wildly different terrain. Wout Van Aert is quite good at his job. Some way behind him, some folks were just happy to be done. It was a case of close but not close enough for Jasper Philipsen, second on the Champs-Élysées, who finished in the top three on six stages. And he’d just finished the Tour de France, and he had a glass of champagne and a cuddle, all of which probably accumulated in a perfectly understandable outpouring of emotion. And to close it out, here’s a dramatically backlit picture of 16 legs of eight riders that had cycled 27,315 combined kilometres in three weeks. FIN.