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TdF '21 2nd Rest Day Discussion: 6 days to Paris

After the Jul 12 rest day, there are six stages remaining:
16 hilly 101 miles
17 mountain 107 miles
18 mountain 78 miles
19 flat 124 miles
20 ITT 19 miles
21 flat 65 miles

The final day is again a flat stage to Paris. It is almost impossible for the overall podium to be challenged; the things to look for are: the high-profile sprint at the finish, and, of course, pageant. Winner sipping champagne while riding in, and so on.

Usually, the penultimate day is a mountain stage. This sets up a contest for strong climbers to get on the podium. This will create a heavy contest. But here, we have ITT as the penultimate stage. This sets up less contest for the podium, and depends upon a pretty objectively known ability: time-trialing.

The third-to-final stage is a flat stage, so this will belong to the sprinters, and GC contenders will be checking each other.

So, for overall GC, the first three stages after the rest day are the contest.
"Hilly" can allow changes in GC standings, but the mountain stages do, for sure.
Stage 17 is long, with 3 climbs in the second half, with a long Pyrenees mountain top finish.
Stage 18 includes two major climbs, the first being the epic Tourmalet, then another mountain finish on shorter but steeper Luz Ardiden.

Although Pogacar has held a firm lead, there is great possibility for the lead to be overtaken. Since he does well on TT, he should be expected to hold a lead, if he gets to the TT in the lead. If someone gaps him by a small amount, he very well may get it back.

Along with first, there is second and third on the podium. There is a hot contest for these podium places in Paris. So, there is plenty of viewing pleasure ahead.

From how far down might any rider rise to make it onto the podium? If Pogacar gets challenged a lot on the two mountain stages, will he be exhausted and vulnerable on the TT?

How well-designed has this tour been? Did the rough first week play too much on the overall GC? Have we had a normal amount of crashes, or have they been expected? Are the lower-than-average performances of Froome and Sagan and GT just due to injuries? Will they have a come-back next year? Will Cavendish grab the all-time stage win record on the Champs Elysees?
 

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the real GC contest is for 2nd and 3rd places. Carapaz and Uran and Vinegegard and their teams must realize this and make plans to challenge for podium. It's unlike like Pogacar will crack in the mountain stages, and even less likely to crack on the ITT. So the other GC contenders will need to plan to fight it out among themselves and just forget about attacking Pogacar, because if they attack Pogacar, the not only will the fail to beat him, they might also beat themselves from podium'ing too.
 
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