Tour de France organisers have confirmed the route for the 2021 edition of the iconic race, which is set to take place from June 26 to July 18 next year.

Riders face a challenging climb up Mont Ventoux not once, but twice, during stage 11 – a 199kilometre route which will finish in the town of Malaucene.

The gruelling double-assent in the Alps will take place approximately half-way through the event, which will begin in the north-west city of Brest and end in Paris.

Next year's edition – the 108th Tour de France – features two time trials, set for the fifth and the penultimate stages.

Organisers have also incorporated Andorra into the race, with stage 15 featuring the highest peak – a 2,408metre-high summit of Port d'Envalira in the Pyrenees.

In the 2020 race that was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Tadej Pogacar snatched victory from Primoz Roglic of Jumbo-Visma in a penultimate-stage time trial.

Chris Froome did not compete in this year's Tour de France, which is one of few major sporting events in 2020 to have gone ahead in front of crowds.

INEOS Grenadiers elected against renewing Froome's contract, and the 35-year-old – who has signed a multi-year deal with Israel Start-Up Nation – is aiming to become the fifth man to win Le Tour on five occasions. 

Primoz Roglic goes into the Vuelta a Espana as favourite to defend his title, with Chris Froome among a strong group of challengers after the Briton was left out of the Tour de France.

Tadej Pogacar beat Roglic by 59 seconds to win the Tour last month as the Slovenian duo recorded a remarkable one-two for their country.

Roglic, who has reached the podium at all three Grand Tours, goes into the Vuelta as the man to beat, having won by two minutes and 33 seconds over Alejandro Valverde in 2019.

Froome, Valverde, Tom Dumoulin, Richard Carapaz, Thibaut Pinot and Enric Mas will all be hoping to challenge.

Ahead of the event, which starts with a stage from Irun to Arrate on Tuesday and runs until November 8 with the finish in Madrid, we take a look at the biggest talking points with the help of Opta data.

A DIFFERENT YEAR

As well as clashing with the conclusion of the Giro d'Italia, which runs until October 25, due to coronavirus-related rescheduling, this year's Vuelta has some other key differences.

For the first time since 1985 there will be fewer than 21 stages, with just 18 in the 2020 race across a 2,882-kilometre route.

Irun will host the start of the race for the time, while it was 1961 when La Vuelta last began in the Basque Country.

SPANISH DOMINANCE WANING

Historically, home riders have thrived at the Vuelta, with Spanish participants winning on 32 of the 74 occasions the race has been run. France and Belgium are the next best nations on nine and seven respectively.

However, a Spaniard has not taken the red jersey since Alberto Contador triumphed in 2014, the country's longest drought since 1992-1997 (six races).

The dry spell came after Spanish riders had won eight of the first 10 Vueltas in this century. Now, Contador's 2012 and 2014 wins are their only triumphs in the last 10.

On the plus side, a Spanish rider has won a stage at every Vuelta apart from in 1996.

THE CHALLENGE FACING ROGLIC

Roglic is looking to defend his crown, but no rider as achieved that at this race since Roberto Heras' triumphs between 2003 and 2005. The Team Jumbo-Visma star also faces some stiff competition. 

INEOS Grenadiers rider Froome is the last rider to have won multiple editions of La Vuelta, doing it so in 2011 and 2017 – the longest span between two wins among all riders with multiple titles. 

He will now look to join Heras (four wins), Tony Rominger (three) and Contador (three) among the Vuelta greats.

Valverde has finished on the Vuelta podium a remarkable seven times in 13 appearances (2003, 2006, 2009, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2019), the most of all time.

He has 10 top-five finishes, although 2009 was his only win. This will be the veteran's 14th participation, more than any other active rider.

Mas finished second in his last outing in 2018, when he also finished as best young rider.

The Movistar rider comes into the race with some form – he was fifth at the Tour and came second in the young riders classification behind only the yellow jersey winner Pogacar.

Pinot has been in the top 10 in each of the two Vueltas he has managed to finish, though he has abandoned in a Grand Tour seven times, which is more often than he has reached the end (six).

Dumoulin has been in the top 10 in each of the last five grand tours he finished, while Carapraz has two major top-five results to his name, though is yet to finish higher than 18th in Spain. 

POINTS JERSEY UP FOR GRABS

Roglic and Froome won the points jersey as well as the overall classification in their 2019 and 2017 triumphs – prior to those doubles, that feat had not been achieved since 2000.

Along with the challengers for overall glory, sprinters Sam Bennett and Pascal Ackermann are among the top contenders for that honour at this event.

Irishman Bennett has seven stage wins at Grand Tours, while German Ackermann won the points classification in the only previous Grand Tour he took part in, the 2019 Giro.

Chris Froome will have "mixed emotions" when he lines up for Team INEOS for the last time at a Grand Tour during the Vuelta a Espana. 

The Kenya-born Briton has won four Tour de France titles, the Vuelta twice and the Giro d'Italia once during a decade of service with the team, although all those titles came under their previous guise of Team Sky. 

Next year, the 35-year-old will ride for Israel Start-Up Nation and Froome concedes it has not fully sunk in he will no longer be at INEOS. 

"It is a sort of bag of mixed emotions really. It is suddenly strange thinking that I won't be in INEOS colours in a few months' time," he said.  

"But after 11 years it's all coming down to the Vuelta again. It is a race that I genuinely enjoy racing.  

"This year's edition is going to be quite different. It is not the typical Vuelta in mid-summer, August, in Spain.  

"We're at much cooler temperatures. It's going to feel a lot more like Pays Basque for three weeks, I think, up here.  

"But I am looking forward to racing and looking forward to finishing my time at INEOS on a high hopefully.  

"We have got a great team here to support Richard [Carapaz] as much as possible. And yeah just take it one day at a time and hopefully finish off on a high note." 

Froome has not truly returned to top form since suffering a serious and season-ending crash at the Criterium du Dauphine in June 2019, while the coronavirus pandemic caused several events to be cancelled or postponed this year. 

Such lengthy time away from the roads is a challenge, Froome admitted. 

"Certainly, given the amount of time off after my injury last year and the amount of time off with COVID earlier this season, I was extremely light on racing and I felt I really missed that," he added.  

"I missed the race speed, I missed just being in the peloton and having to stay on the wheels. I felt as if that took a lot more out of me than it typically would. 

"So a lot of this process has been just getting back up to speed again and getting used to that race rhythm and trying to find some more of that top-end, if you like.  

"But I feel as if I have certainly closed that gap quite recently and it will be interesting to see how far off I am once we get into the guts of this Vuelta." 

Dave Brailsford is backing Chris Froome to show his "remarkable" mental strength and recover from injury with a Vuelta a Espana challenge as he explained the decision to leave two of Team INEOS' top performers out of their Tour de France line-up.

INEOS last week named their Tour team but found no room for either Froome or Geraint Thomas, who have five general classification titles between them.

The hugely successful British outfit are instead again relying on Egan Bernal, the 2019 champion, as Froome and Thomas target the Vuelta and Giro d'Italia respectively.

Froome, 35, only returned to competitive racing in February after a horrific crash at the 2019 Criterium du Dauphine left him with multiple serious injuries. He will join Israel Start-Up Nation next year.

Speaking at the team's season launch, INEOS general manager Brailsford outlined exactly why Froome and Thomas had been held back.

"They're both big champions," Brailsford said of the pair.

"Chris is obviously coming back from his accident. He's won more than anybody else in this current generation. He's a legend of the sport.

"But with a cycling team, the cycling season is spread over the Grand Tours, it's not all about one race. We look at our riders and see who's the best suited to go for the big races.

"We've decided for Geraint to focus on the tour of Italy, a very important race for us. To try to double up on the back of his Tour win and try to win the tour of Italy, that would be amazing.

"For Chris, he has a little bit longer to get back from his injury and then focus on the tour of Spain. He's won it before and he's on his way back.

"You've got to admire his tenacity and his mental strength to come back to where he has. It's remarkable. I'm sure he can get back to that level and challenge for the tour of Spain."

The Tour is going ahead despite the coronavirus pandemic, yet Bernal is confident the riders' competitive spirit will not be impacted by the crisis.

"I think the race will be the same," Bernal said. "With or without COVID, we will go full gas.

"The racing will be the same, but when we arrive in the hotel or at the start or the finish, it will be different. We will miss the people. Fortunately, they can see on the TV."

Chris Froome feels the Vuelta a Espana represents a more realistic target for him in 2020, though concedes missing out on the Tour de France will be a "readjustment".

Team INEOS announced on Wednesday that four-time Tour de France winner Froome and 2018 champion Geraint Thomas had not been included in their squad for the first Grand Tour of the year, which will begin on August 29.

Froome, who will move to Israel Start-Up Nation next year, will instead target the Vuelta as Thomas leads INEOS' charge at the Giro d'Italia.

Reigning Tour champion Egan Bernal will spearhead the team's hunt for an eighth title in nine years and will be supported by debutant Richard Carapaz, who won the Giro last year.

The decision ends speculation over how INEOS would approach the Tour with a star-studded list of options.

Froome, 35, only returned to competitive racing in February after a horrific crash at the 2019 Criterium du Dauphine left him with multiple serious injuries.

While he will now have to wait until 2021 for his next chance to win a record-equalling fifth Tour, the Briton accepted his ongoing recovery meant the Vuelta option made sense.

"It's definitely a readjustment for me, moving the goalposts from the Tour de France to the Vuelta," said Froome.

"But I think, given where I've come from through the last year, I've had an incredible recovery from the big crash I had last year.

"I'm in a very fortunate position to be back racing now, but I'm not confident that I can really fulfil the necessary job that would be needed for me at this year's Tour de France.

"I think it's a lot more realistic targeting the Vuelta and gives me the chance to really get stuck into something that is deliverable.

"At the end of the day, people have to remember that I'm coming back from a horrendous crash last year where I fractured a lot of bones in my body. I'm still coming back to that full level of fitness at the moment."

All three Grand Tours will take place in quick succession after the coronavirus pandemic caused scheduling changes to the professional cycling calendar.

The Tour is scheduled to end on September 20, with the Giro taking place from October 3-25 and a shortened Vuelta scheduled for October 20-November 8.

Thomas will now look to join an elite group who have won different grand tours.

"It's nice to finally have a firm plan in place and to know exactly what I'm doing and try and get some kind of positive out of this year," he said.

"I've always enjoyed racing there - I love Italy, the fans and the food, obviously. It's a race I've always enjoyed anyway, so I'm certainly looking forward to going back and that is the plan now."

Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas have been left out of Team INEOS' line-up for the 2020 Tour de France, it has been announced.

Four-time champion Froome and 2018 winner Thomas were not included in the eight-man line-up for the first Grand Tour of the year, which will begin on August 29.

Froome, who will move to Israel Start-Up Nation next year, will target the Vuelta a Espana and Thomas will lead INEOS' charge at the Giro d'Italia.

Reigning Tour champion Egan Bernal will spearhead the team's hunt for an eighth title in nine years and will be supported by debutant Richard Carapaz, who won the Giro last year.

Froome only returned to competitive racing in February after a horrific crash at the 2019 Criterium du Dauphine left him with multiple serious injuries.

He will now have to wait until 2021 for his next chance to win a record-equalling fifth Tour.

Team principal Dave Brailsford said: "I am very proud that we have several current, and I am sure future, Grand Tour champions in the team.

"Selecting the right leader in the right race with the right support team is critical and has meant we have had to analyse all the latest information to make sure we are in the best position possible to optimise our performances in the coming months. 

"Egan will once again target the yellow jersey in France and we are very excited to give last year's Giro winner, Richard Carapaz, his debut in this year's Tour also.

"Geraint will target the Giro and take on the opportunity to double up his Tour de France win with another Grand Tour title, with the aim of being the first Welshman to win it. 

"In turn, Chris Froome will target the Vuelta. Chris is a legend of our sport, a true champion who has demonstrated incredible grit and determination to come back from his crash last year.

"We want to support him to compete for another Grand Tour title and the Vuelta gives him that little bit more time to continue his progress to the top level."

Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas have been left out of Team INEOS' line-up for the 2020 Tour de France, it has been announced.

Chris Froome believes the delay to the Tour de France will benefit his hopes of regaining the yellow jersey, claiming he is on the right trajectory for the race.

The Tour was postponed from June 27 to August 29 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

It meant Froome, who missed all three Grand Tour events last year after suffering severe injuries in a high-speed crash, had more time to recover after returning to action in February.

Asked if the delay had helped him prepare for his push for a fifth Tour victory, Froome told Cyclingnews: "Very much so in fact.

"The delay to the major races has helped me take the next step in terms of being back to my normal self again.

"I think that given where we are right now, with just about a month to the Tour, I'm on the right trajectory for that race. I'm happy with where I'm at."

Froome will end his 10-year spell with Team INEOS at the culmination of the 2020 campaign to join Israel Start-Up Nation.

However, Froome is not thinking about his future beyond this season.

"There are going to be a lot of changes, but that's still a few months away, so I'm not really thinking about that now," said Froome. 

"I'm just focused on getting the best out of myself for the rest of the season."

 

 

Chris Froome will join Israel Start-Up Nation from the start of next season, after his departure from Team INEOS was confirmed on Thursday.

Four-time Tour de France winner Froome has agreed a "long-term" contract with ISN, tying him to the team until "the end of his illustrious career".

The 35-year-old, who also has a pair of Vuelta a Espana triumphs to his name along with the 2018 Giro d'Italia, will conclude the 2020 season with Team INEOS.

David Brailsford explained Froome's departure from the outfit formerly known as Team Sky was due to the fact he could no longer be assured of sole leadership of a squad that has produced Tour de France winners Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal in the past two years.

ISN, where his team-mates will include Dan Martin and Andre Greipel, can offer that guarantee.

"I'm really excited to be joining the ISN family," Froome said. "I look forward to challenging and being challenged by their talent and continuing to strive for the success that I've enjoyed up to now.

"ISN's impact on the sport is rapidly expanding, and I'm energised to be along for the ride. I feel we can achieve great things together."

ISN co-owner Sylvan Adams believes Froome can become recognised as the finest rider in the history of the sport during his time with the team.

"This is an historic moment for ISN, Israel, Israeli sports, our many fans all around the world and, of course, for me personally – a moment of enormous pride," Adams said.

"Chris is the best rider of his generation and will lead our Tour de France and Grand Tour squad.

"We hope to make history together as Chris pursues further Tour de France and Grand Tour victories, achievements that would make a serious case for Chris to be considered the greatest cyclist of all time."

Four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome will leave Team INEOS at the end of this season, following a decade-long association.

Froome is out of contract in December and will part ways with the David Brailsford-helmed outfit – formerly known as Team Sky – because he can no longer be guaranteed sole team leadership.

The 35-year-old triumphed at Le Tour in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017, although INEOS' domination of road cycling's premier event continued with Geraint Thomas taking glory in 2018 and Egan Bernal prevailing in Froome's injury absence last year.

A scramble for the services of one of the sport's all-time greats is now set to ensue, although Cycling News reports Froome has agreed a multi-year contract with Israel Start-Up Nation.

"It has been a phenomenal decade with the team, we have achieved so much together and I will always treasure the memories," said Froome, who also won the Vuelta a Espana in 2011 and 2017 before completing the set of cycling's Grand Tours at the 2018 Giro d'Italia.

"I look forward to exciting new challenges as I move into the next phase of my career, but in the meantime my focus is on winning a fifth Tour de France with Team INEOS."

Froome superseded 2012 Tour winner Bradley Wiggins as the team's dominant force when he topped the podium on the Champs-Elysees 12 months later.

However, Brailsford indicated the likes of Thomas and Bernal now have their esteemed team-mate on the other side of that equation.

"Chris' current contract comes to an end in December and we have taken the decision now not to renew it," he said.

"We are making this announcement earlier than would usually be the case to put an end to recent speculation and allow the team to focus on the season ahead.

"Chris has been with us from the start. He is a great champion and we have shared many memorable moments over the years, but I do believe this is the right decision for the team and for Chris.

"Given his achievements in the sport, Chris is understandably keen to have sole team leadership in the next chapter of his career - which is not something we are able to guarantee him at this point. A move away from Team INEOS can give him that certainty.

"At the same time, it will also give other members of our team the leadership opportunities they too have earned and are rightly seeking."

Four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome says cycling is "in a great place now" but still encounters "negativity" due to past doping offences in the sport.

Lance Armstrong, who won seven straight Tour titles from 1999, was the subject of the biggest doping scandal in cycling's history after allegations throughout his career.

The American was eventually stripped of his honours in October 2012 and admitted to using banned substances the following year.

Other high-profile names were also found guilty in the same era, and Team INEOS star Froome acknowledges the sport has had to work hard to turn its reputation around.

In an interview on Instagram, former England cricketer Kevin Pietersen referred to Armstrong as he asked Froome about a period of widespread doping in cycling.

Froome replied: "We're still having to justify ourselves. It's 15 years on at least, and we're still talking about it. It did a lot of damage.

"That era has damaged the sport to a great extent, but I do really believe that the sport has turned the page.

"I don't think that I could have won the Tour de France four times if it hadn't changed. I think the sport is in a great place now.

"Of course, it's challenging with the negativity and always having to answer the same questions year in, year out to the sceptics who won't believe any performance.

"But at the same time, what can we do? We just get on with it and we know that what we're doing it right. We've got nothing to hide."

Comparing performances between modern-day riders and past dopers, Froome added: "Obviously we know what was happening 15 or so years ago. I'd say that the majority of the field were using something to go faster.

"The sport is 100 times cleaner, yet we're going faster up climbs than they were then. The best way to explain it is that as a sport we've evolved so much in terms of technology and nutrition and ways of training.

"As athletes, we're probably better than they were 15 years ago. Having said that, I don't think that our ability to recover is the way it was back then.

"Using whatever it was to manipulate their blood back then would have meant that they could have done that day in, day out.

"Now we'll have one massive stage and you can visibly see that there's a change in pace for the next two to three days. The whole group needs to go slower."

Chris Froome's burning ambition to add to his haul of seven Grand Tour titles will not be diminished by his injury setback, according to Marcel Kittel.

Froome has been the dominant force of cycling for most of the last decade, with four Tour de France victories underlining his brilliance.

However, the Briton broke a leg, his elbow and suffered fractured ribs after crashing into a wall in a training ride at the Criterium du Dauphine in June.

Doubts have been cast over whether the 34-year-old will be able to return to his best form, and Kittel suggested competition from within Team INEOS could make life even tougher for Froome.

"If you look at Chris Froome as an individual athlete, he has already proven his work ethic over the last few years," Kittel, a stage winner in each of the Grand Tours, told Stats Perform.

"How much time and hard work he puts into his training. Despite his fall, his ambitions are still clear to him.

"One question is just how much he has recovered from his fall and injury. He himself says that it looks good. The other question is how to resolve this within Team INEOS with the additional riders of Egan Bernal and Geraint Thomas.

"So how do you go into a Tour with these riders? I imagine that it is very difficult even if the athletes don't play with open cards, to support each other in form or in a team when other teams are strong and attack."

This year's Tour has been pushed back to August 29 after France president Emmanuel Macron banned mass public gatherings until mid-July.

Kittel, who doubts if the race will be able to commence on that date, believes Froome will be among the contenders whenever the event takes place, but said his legacy is secure regardless.

"In the end, Froome will be on par with [Eddy] Merckx," said Kittel.

"He's won all the big tours. He has won the Tour de France four times so far. Maybe he will succeed a fifth time. There are not many riders who have achieved that."

Chris Froome will return to racing at next month's UAE Tour following a long injury absence.

The four-time Tour de France winner broke a leg, his elbow and suffered fractured ribs after crashing into a wall in a training ride at the Criterium du Dauphine in June. 

Earlier this month the Briton dismissed reports he had suffered a setback in his recovery and on Wednesday the Team INEOS rider provided an upbeat update in a video posted on Twitter.

"Training has been going really well over here in Gran Canaria so I'm really happy to announce I'm going to be starting my season at the UAE Tour next month, starting in Dubai," he said, with the event beginning on February 23. 

"It's a race I missed out on last year so a great place for me to start my season this time around.

"Thanks for all the support and see you out on the road."

Froome turns 35 in May and has seven Grand Tour titles to his name, the most recent coming at the 2018 Giro d'Italia.

Four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome has scotched claims his recovery from injury has suffered a setback.

The British rider was seriously injured at the Criterium du Dauphine in June, when he broke a leg, his elbow and suffered fractured ribs after crashing into a wall.

Froome underwent surgery and missed the rest of the season but is gearing up for racing again in 2020 with Team INEOS.

Reports had claimed Froome was struggling to get back to full health, with Team INEOS sports director Dario David Cioni quoted as casting doubt on that prospect.

In quotes widely attributed to Italian publication Bicisport, Cioni is reported to have said: "After two days of training in Spain, Froome, who aspires to the fifth yellow jersey, returns home. He is not well and who knows if he will recover."

Yet Froome has given his side of the story, and stressed the picture is far brighter than has been suggested.

He wrote on Twitter: "Hope that I can set this straight, I was last at a training camp at the beginning of December. My recovery is going well and I will be heading to my next training camp on Thursday. Onward."

Froome, who will turn 35 in May, last won a Grand Tour event when taking victory at the 2018 Giro d'Italia. His Tour de France triumphs came in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017, while he also has two wins at the Vuelta a Espana on his impressive list of honours.

As well as returning to the saddle for the annual major events on the cycling calendar, including the Tour in June and July, Froome is also hoping to ride for Great Britain at the Olympic Games in Tokyo this year.

He was one of several riders to take an opportunity in October to visit the route for the Olympic road race, which includes climbs on the lower slopes of Mount Fuji.

Chris Froome has undergone successful surgery to remove metalwork from his hip and elbow as he continues his recovery from several serious injuries.

Four-time Tour de France champion Froome has been out of action since June, after he sustained a fractured right femur, a fractured elbow and fractured ribs in a crash on a training run for the Criterium du Dauphine.

The 34-year-old underwent emergency surgery in France before beginning his recovery, with Team INEOS providing a video update on Froome's progress in August.

Froome, who is hopeful of participating in the 2020 Tour de France, confirmed on social media in September that he was back on the road, subsequently taking part in the time trial event at the Saitama Criterium, alongside team-mate and 2019 Le Tour champion Egan Bernal.

On Friday, Froome provided a further update, revealing he has had the surgery required to remove the metalwork from his body had been a success.

"Less (sic) some hardware from my hip and elbow," Froome tweeted. "Feeling groggy but all went perfectly."

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