The 2021 Tour de la Provence opened with quite a spectacle, as reigning world road champion Julian Alaphilippe of Deceuninck-Quick-Step was in a breakaway with Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) and Gianni Moscon (Ineos Grenadiers) for nearly the entire day.
Photojournalist James Startt was there to capture the action, as well as some other moments before and during the stage.
Alaphilippe, as recognizable for his panache as his world champion stripes, always seemed ready to attack to keep racing hot during most of the day’s 182 kilometers.
The race traversed a category 1 and three category 3 climbs, rolling past beaches of the Côte d’Azur on the way to the finish at Six-Four-les-Plages.
Lilian Calmejane (Ag2r-Citroën) and Delio Fernández (Delko) tried to escape and bring back the three at the very front, but the attempt came to nothing.
And while the break was eventually — almost predictably — caught with just 2km remaining, it was a stage not without excitement.
But, at the end of the day, it was Alaphilippe’s Deceuninck teammate, sprinter Davide Ballerini, who got his wheel across the line first on a well-timed sprint and bike throw to edge out Groupama-FDJ’s Arnaud Démare.
Bahrain-Victorious’ service course has plenty of spare Merida bikes, wheels, tires, and tools at the ready.
The peloton rolling through an undulating inland route which included a category 1 climb and three cat 3 climbs. Groupama-FDJ took the lead looking to set up Arnaud Démare for the sprint. Over the weekend, racers will take on Mont Ventoux.
Gianni Moscon chatting with Julian Alaphilippe.
At times Alaphilippe can appear to be such a dynamic and emotional rider that even when he’s at ease, he looks to be on the attack. And sometimes, when he’s on the attack, he appears to be at ease.
A grin, or a smirk, or a smile — or maybe all three — from the 2020 world champion.
Arkéa-Samsic was on the front, with a little help from UAE Team Emirates, to bring back the three escapees.
Nacer Bouhanni was within a few meters of the stage win.
As the peloton approached the Côte d’Azur, the landscape looked less and less like mid-winter.
Sunny skies, white sands, aqua-blue water, and bike racing is happening for the second consecutive week in France. What’s not to be excited about?
Arnaud Démare, in his French national champion’s jersey, was keeping his powder dry for the stage finale.
The Deceuninck-Quick-Step “Wolfpack” is already kicking off a successful 2021 campaign on Ballerini’s win.
Lilian Calmejane opened his KOM account for this season by sliding into the lead of the climbing competition at Le Tour de la Provence.
Ballerini kicked off his second season with Deceuninck–Quick-Step with a stage win at the 2021 Tour de la Provence.