THE TOUR DE HONGRIE IN FIGURES
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The Tour de Hongrie, launched in Budapest in 1925, has risen time and again from the ashes and is close to fulfilling its creators‘ century-old dream of a race worthy of the popular and athletic success of the Tour de France.
Its first hiatus stretched from 1965 to 1993, when the Hungarian Cycling Federation put the show back on the road. The second iteration of the race lasted until 2009. By that time, it had transcended the borders of its home country to become the Central European Tour. However, local fans stubbornly refused to give up, and their hard work bore fruit in 2015, when the Tour de Hongrie was reborn as a category 2.2 race in which the most promising U23 riders in the world rubbed shoulders with several international teams.
Its promotion to a category 2.2 race by UCI in 2018 enabled it to attract more prestigious teams. The field is now more competitive than ever, including eight WorldTour squads that rank among the strongest in the world, such as Jumbo–Visma, Team DSM and Bora–Hansgrohe.
Wearing race number 1, Mike Teunissen (Jumbo–Visma) is billed as one of the major attractions of the Tour de Hongrie. The Dutchman sprinted to victory in the opening stage of the 2019 Tour de France and kept the yellow jersey for two days before surrendering it to future world champion Julian Alaphilippe. Following almost seven months as a result of two back-to-back injuries, the 28-year-old chose the Tour de Hongrie for his return to competition and will be a solid contender for stage wins.
The summit finish on Gyöngyös-Kékestető in stage 4 makes climbers the odds-on favourites to win the final general classification, which places the promising youngster Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain Victorious) among the men to watch. The 21-year-old Colombian finished 18th overall in the Volta a Catalunya and will be able to count on riders of the calibre of grizzled veteran Heinrich Haussler, who won stages in the 2009 Tour de France and 2005 Vuelta a España. Team BikeExchange has several cards to play, including Australian Damien Howson (third in last year’s Tour de Hongrie), young Italian Kevin Colleoni (third in the 2020 Baby Giro) and local lad Barnabás Peák, who finished the 2017 edition as runner-up to another whiz kid, Slovenia’s Tadej Pogačar, then 18 years old, who would go on to win the Tour de France three years later. The 22-year-old will be flying the flag for his country in a bid to succeed fellow Hungarian Attila Valter, who claimed last year’s edition and has since joined the French Groupama–FDJ outfit, with which he is currently taking part in the Giro d’Italia. Belgian Ben Hermans (Israel Start-Up Nation), fourteenth overall in the 2014 Vuelta a España is also worth keeping an eye on.
Some of the world’s top sprinters will also grace the peloton with their presence. Italian Jakub Mareczko (Vini Zabù) grabbed the three flat stages and the final points classification last year. This time, he will be facing stiff competition from German Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain Victorious), who won a stage in the Tour de la Provence last February, as well as Frenchman Rudy Barbier (Israel Start-Up Nation), Belgian Timothy Dupont (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB), Norwegian Kristoffer Halvorsen (Uno-X Pro Cycling Team), Australian Kaden Groves (Kaden Groves) and Estonian Mihkel Räim (Mazowsze–Serce Polski), the 2016 champion and only former winner on the start list of this year’s Tour de Hongrie, who is in stupendous form after taking the Belgrade–Banja Luka stage race.
Finally, Belgians Edward Theuns (Trek–Segafredo, eighth in the 2017 Paris–Roubaix) and Tom Van Asbroeck (Israel Start-up Nation, nineteenth in the last Tour of Flanders) are capable of pulling out a rabbit out of their hats at any time.
The 42nd Tour de Hongrie will take place from 12 to 16 May 2021. The 132-strong peloton will weave its way around the heart of the Magyar lands in five stages with disparate profiles that will give sprinters, all-rounders and climbers the chance to shine.
It all starts in Siófok, a spa resort wildly popular with tourists. The riders will roll out from the town on the bank of Lake Balaton, the largest body of water in Central Europe, for the 173 km flat opening stage to Kaposvár. Expect pure sprinters to lay down the law here.
Multiple scenarios could unfold in the 183 km long stage 2 —while both categorised climbs lie within 36 km from the start, the course never really flattens out on the road from Balatonfüred to Nagykanizsa, making life extra hard for the peloton if a strong breakaway manages to give it the slip. The sprinters will have their work cut out for them by the jagged terrain of the last 15 km and, especially, the 2% slope of the final 1,000 metres.
A short stage is a hectic stage, and the 142 km course of stage 3 from Veszprém to Tata will keep fans on the edge of their seats. Coming 17 km into the stage, the climb will serve as a great launch pad for breakaways. The wall of Pannonhalma (1.1 km at 9.2%) throws in a nasty kick around the halfway point, but the mostly flat finale could help the peloton to reel in the escapees and set up a bunch sprint.
Stage 4 will be the longest and hardest one of this edition, a 202 km grind to the summit of Gyöngyös-Kékestető, the highest point of Hungary. It will be the eleventh time that the race visits this climber’s paradise. The peloton will first climb the mountain up to Mátraháza at km 124, while the second (and final) ascent will throw in an extra three kilometres at a gradient of over 8%. The Tour de Hongrie is likely to be decided here.
Finally, stage 5 will be held on a circuit in the heart of Budapest, which last hosted the Tour de Hongrie four years ago. There will be eight laps around the streets of the capital, totalling 92 km, before the sprinters fight over the spoils.