The Mûr de Bretagne is a classic Tour de France finish. The climb has featured on six stages since 2000 and has hosted a stage finish three times since 2010. Cadel Evans, Alexis Vuillermoz and Dan Martin have been the victors on those occasions. The severe gradients on the final climb mean the punchers start as favourites.
Julian Alaphilippe won stage one of the 2021 Tour de France in a stage which was marred by two enormous crashes. The Frenchman attacked early on the Côte de la Fosse aux Loups and despite the best efforts of Pierre Latour, Alaphilippe was untouchable and claims the first yellow jersey of the Tour.
Stage 2 profile
Stage 2 of the 2021 Tour de France gets underway from the Perros-Guirec, a seaside resort in Northern Brittany. The riders will feel the breeze from the English Channel early on before heading inland.
The stage features six classified climbs which means Ide Schelling, the leader of the KOM classification, must join the breakaway to defend his polka-dot jersey. The Côte de Sainte-Barbe, Côte de Pordic and Côte de Saint-Brieuc occur at kilometres 72, 103 and 114, all offering a single point to the first rider over the top.
The stage will change gears with 20 kilometres remaining. Here, the riders will head up the Mûr de Bretagne for the first time which will also host the stage finish. At 2 kilometres, the hill isn’t defined by its length. Instead, it features leg-sapping percentages to average 10% over the first kilometre. The climb does flatten out though, with the final kilometre averaging just 4%
Mûr de Bretagne profile
This is swiftly followed by the Saint-Mayeux climb, which is less severe than the preceding Mûr de Bretagne at 1.4km and 5.5%. Both climbs provide ample opportunity to attack early, and with 12km to the finish line after the peak of the Saint-Mayeux ascent, some riders may play their card here.
The rest of the stage is simple. A downhill ride over the next 10 kilometres will send the riders back to the foot of the Mûr de Bretagne. The final climb is where the stage will probably be decided, and the favourites face a difficult decision. Attacking at the foot of the climb, where the most punishing percentages lie, could provide the biggest advantage over the opposition. However, any failed attackers do not have the time to recover for a sprint which arrives swiftly.
Julian Alaphilippe won stage one to move into the yellow jersey (Image credit: A.S.O./Pauline Ballet)
With a similar, hilly stage to the Tour de France opener, the stage one contenders will again fancy their chances here.
This makes Julian Alaphilippe the key favourite. The leader of the race was fourth on the Mûr de Bretagne in 2018 but will be doing everything he can to both win the stage and hold onto the maillot jaune. Alaphilippe won stage 2 of the Tour de France last year, albeit on a very different finish in Nice, where he defeated Marc Hirschi and Adam Yates in a sprint. Could it be stage two glory two years in a row for the World Champion?
Mathieu van der Poel is another rider who will look at this finish excitedly. The Dutchman is chasing stage victories at his first Grand Tour. The flattening nature of the Mûr de Bretagne will suit the Dutchman, will he be able to resist the tempo and stay in touch with the lighter riders until the final kilometre? If he can, few will be able to compete with Van der Poel.
Unlike Van der Poel, Wout Van Aert has experience at two editions of the Tour de France entering the 2021 race. He has three stages in his pocket too, and although he may be able to challenge for the stage, he may be looking after his GC leader in the finish.
BikeExchange have a real chance with Michael Matthews. The Aussie is a three-time winner at the Tour de France. Speaking before the race, Matthews said, “the first two stages look quite interesting. They are much harder than people think.” Matthews won the Bretagne Classic last season which featured the Mûr de Bretagne, albeit 200 kilometres from the finish line. If Matthews can resist the initial, severe gradients, he’ll be one of the fastest riders left.
Peter Sagan, Sonny Colbrelli and Christophe Laporte are three more quick men who may struggle to stay at the very front of the race but would have a good chance in a sprint if they are able to cling on to the wheels.
We must not rule out the possibility that there could be some serious GC action on stage two — when the Tour visited the Mûr de Bretagne in 2018, numerous riders that ended in the top 10 failed to finish in the leading group including Steven Kruijswijk and Tom Dumoulin, who suffered a mechanical 6 kilometres from the line.
Of the GC contenders, Primož Roglič and Tadej Pogačar are the most likely to challenge for stage honours. Both are supreme on steep inclines and possess a rapid burst to the line which cannot be matched by anyone else vying for the yellow jersey.
Alejandro Valverde is now 41 years of age and entering his fourteenth Tour de France, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t capable of winning here. The Spanish veteran's form has improved this year which culminated in a stage victory at the Criterium du Dauphine earlier this month.
It would be unfair not to mention the man who won here three years ago. That was Dan Martin’s second stage victory at the Tour de France, and it’s plausible that he could have made it a hat-trick by the end of stage two. He isn’t Israel Start-Up Nation’s only option though. Mike Woods is being backed as team leader throughout the Tour de France. However, the Canadian lost eight minutes on the opening stage after getting caught up in a heavy crash, all but ending his GC ambitions. Nonetheless, Woods is particularly dangerous on short, steep hills, making the Mûr de Bretagne a great opportunity for him.
We are backing Primož Roglič to win stage two of the Tour de France. Roglič has started seven Grand Tours in his career and won at least one stage at every single one of them. The Slovenian has all the qualities to win on the Mûr de Bretagne — he’s one of the best on short, sharp ascents and possesses a powerful sprint. After losing the yellow jersey in disheartening fashion last year, Roglič and Jumbo-Visma will not hesitate to gain time at every opportunity this season.
Cover image: Christophe Petit-Tesson/Getty Images