Rain in Nice is not quite as rare as an autumn Tour de France, but the deluge which soaked the riders of the Tour and lubricated the roads of the Côte d’Azur on the first stage of the 2020 race summed up the atmosphere of incongruity which surrounded the grand départ of the 107th edition. Fourteen months previously, in a different era, the Brussels grand départ kicked off in a heatwave; for 2020, overcast skies washed the colour out of Nice and the Riviera.

It was miracle enough that the 2020 Tour, the covid Tour, was taking place at all. Plans of all sorts have been put indefinitely on hold through this year, so for the world’s biggest bike race to be running a mere nine weeks late felt like a dodged bullet. The usual festival

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