Writing reports about Grand Tour stages is tricky; writing short ones is nigh on impossible. Trying to recall the endless brief iterations of breakaways; recounting the dynamics of a group attacking up a long climb; remembering to mention the quirks and random occurrences that make every day different in a three week race; it all adds up. Is it any wonder that race reports can be long-winded, and that those that are not seem to miss a certain something, failing to recreate an atmosphere that was as unique to that day as the weather, the region and the shifting composition of the various groups of riders on the road.
I wanted to commemorate each stage of the Tour de France without committing myself to swathes of writing every day, and figured what better way to constrain myself, that through the use of poetry. I considered employing a different poetic form to review each stage, but just as quickly dismissed the idea as I didn’t fancy writing a Petrarchan sonnet about a boring flat stage in week 3, so instead decided on the smallest unit of poetry available: the haiku.
For an over-writer, limiting myself to a poetic form consisting of just 17 syllables in order to express the most memorable moments from each stage would turn out to be almost as monumental a task as just covering the racing in long form. I stuck to the challenge though, and here is what I ended up with, three weeks later. If ever you wonder what the 2021 Tour de France was like, but you can’t face reading pages of reviews, perhaps you can bookmark the page for a much more brief reminder…
Stage 1 Lower your weapons; The battle is on the road; Ill-fated signs wound
Stage 2 Foregone conclusion; Yellow jersey legacy; Genetics prevail
Stage 3 Amidst the wreckage; Alpecin-Fenix focus; Take care of business
Stage 4 A legend prevails; And blessed relief, riders; Find safe passage home
Stage 5 Slovenians win; One overcoming the pain; The other, the clock
Stage 6 In the third decade; Cav returned to Chateauroux; A second coming
Stage 7 Cyclocross rivals; Instigate chaos; Slovenes; Suffer and triumph
Stage 8 The boy king strikes out; Defends his crown with strokes of; Stunning majesty
Stage 9 An Aussie out front; Grim Alpine rain inflicted; Timecut tragedies
Stage 10 If sprint lead-outs were; Art, this was a masterpiece; Strokes of pure genius
Stage 11 Master of all trades; Climbs solo to victory; Writes his own story
Stage 12 The peloton more; Restful than the wind; one Nils; To the breakaway
Stage 13 History repeats; Speed against adversity; Manx equals Merckx
Stage 14 French hopes rise over; Pyrenean foothills; Dutch; Solo trek conquers
Stage 15 American dreams; Are made real at altitude; A high point for Kuss
Stage 16 Lonely Austrian; Loves riding his bike in the; Rain. Seeks finish line.
Stage 17 Two young assassins; Thwart Bastille breakaway hopes; Call Carapaz’ bluff
Stage 18 Déjà vu with; Added Mas; stalemate split with; Tadej paramount
Stage 19 New patron rising; Slovenian dominance; Silence the doubters
Stage 20 Three: Asgreen aspires; Two: Danes deliver second; Spot: Wout van Aert, won
Stage 21 Victory on Ventoux; Champs champion, equal to; Merckx, Hinault – van Aert