Road Cycling 2021

It’s not just the Tour, you know!

By Richard Jones

If there’s one thing that motivates me to get out on my bike, then it’s the start of the new road racing season, especially the one-day Monuments and the Grand Tours of the Giro, the Tour and the Vuelta.

Road cycling 2021
by Chabe01

I’m a mountain biker first and foremost, and weekends all year round are often dedicated to getting out onto the trails, either here in the Peak District or further afield as and when we’re allowed to travel. My road bike is used for the regular commute to and from work, with these travels extending further into the evening as spring and summer kick in.

But when it comes to watching, then it’s road racing that captivates me. The individual personalities of the riders; the flow of the peloton and the landscape and scenery they pass through; the heroics of the lone breakaway or of the grimacing rider attacking the peloton in the mountains: it all holds me in absolute wonder and I can’t wait for the new season to get going.

Road Racing in 2020

Last year, in 2020, the cycling calendar turned on its head. The early week-long stage race of Paris-Nice, the ‘Race to the Sun’, only made it to Nice because the penultimate stage started there. The final stage was cancelled as Covid-19 extended its grasp. Suddenly, from mid-March, bikes were garaged as all racing came to a standstill.

by Chabe01

Races tentatively resumed at the beginning of August, with the postponed one-day Spring Classic Strade Bianche being won by Belgium’s man for all seasons, Wout van Aert.

Then came a condensed period of racing, with the Monuments of Milan-San Remo and the Tour of Lombardy preceding an extraordinary period of Grand Tour racing, in which all three tours were won by less than a minute. In the Tour de France, Tadej Pogačar overcame pre-race favourite Primož Roglič on the penultimate day’s time trial, for a Slovenian one-two.

Racing into Autumn

The end of September saw the Netherlands’ Anna van der Breggen win the women’s World Championship road race (as well as doubling up with a victory in the time trial), with Britain’s Lizzie Deignan in sixth. If she was disappointed by that result, Deignan more than made up for it to win the one-day races Liège–Bastogne–Liège, the GP de Plouay and La Course, as well as a stage win in the Giro Rosa, to win the UCI Women's World Tour overall.

Road cycling 2021
by Simon Connellan

In the men’s race, Julian Alaphilippe will wear the rainbow bands of the World Champion this year, after darting away from the lead group with 11km to go to win on the Imola motor racing circuit.

The Giro then took place in October, with British hopes seemingly lost when Geraint Thomas and Simon Yates abandoned due to injury and illness. But another Brit, Tao Geoghegan Hart, slowly clawed back the time lost trying to support Thomas and went into the final stage on the same time as Australia’s Jai Hindley. Over a 15.7km time trial, Geoghegan Hart established a 39-second advantage over his Australian rival to secure the ‘Maglia Rosa’, the winner’s pink jersey, and a thrilling victory.

Road cycling 2021
by TomSam

The start of the Vuelta overlapped the end of the Giro for a few days, as the season raced into November. This time Roglič did prove too strong for his rivals, but Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz pushed him all the way, while Britain’s Hugh Carthy produced a fantastic ride to finish third.

Road Racing in 2021

So what of 2021? Well, the calendar is in place, with the Spring Classics scheduled for their usual time on the calendar. Milan-San Remo, the first of these, is due to take place on Saturday 20th March. But who knows what races will be able to start and which will have to be put back or cancelled altogether.

Much media interest has been made of Chris Froome’s move from Ineos Grenadiers to Israel Start-Up Nation, but age is against him, nevermind the terrible injuries he suffered in 2019, and it would take some comeback for him challenge at the top again.

Road cycling 2021
by Markus Spiske

Over at Froome’s former team, Ineos Grenadiers, Geraint Thomas has suffered such poor luck with crashes and injuries, but if he can motivate himself to return in his best shape then one more tilt at glory could be possible.

After Tao Geoghegan Hart’s incredible victory in last year’s Giro, he should surely get higher billing in Grand Tours this year, along with new signing Adam Yates, and with ‘super-domestiques’ like Richie Porte, Filippo Ganna and Rohan Dennis to call upon, then they have a really strong roster. Add to that the introduction of another young, exciting Brit in Tom Pidcock, as well as Richard Carapaz and Egan Bernal, winner of the yellow jersey in 2019, then it could be a memorable season for Dave Brailsford’s team.

Road cycling 2021
by Filip Bossuyt

Simon Yates, twin to Adam, continues to ride for Team Bikeexchange (formerly Michelton-Scott). Yates is another rider who will be hoping for better fortunes ahead, after having to withdraw from last year’s Giro after testing positive for Covid-19. As a previous winner of the Vuelta a España and still only 28, he has a lot to offer and could yet compete in the coming Grand Tours this year.

Preston’s Hugh Carthy leapt into the limelight with his third place in last year’s Vuelta and, having demonstrated his huge potential over previous years, much is now expected of him. At the other end of their career, Mark Cavendish has joined Deceuninck Quick-Step, alongside fellow sprinter and Tour green jersey holder Sam Bennett. While Cavendish may not have the speed of his heyday, he has bags of experience that he’ll be able to pass on to the team.

Road cycling 2021
by Th G

Known as the ‘Wolfpack’, Deceuninck also have current World Champion and charismatic Frenchman Julian Alaphillipe in their ranks, along with young Belgian star Remco Evenepoel and Fabio Jakobsen, both of whom were involved in horrific crashes last year and for whom a return to racing in 2021 will be welcomed and eagerly awaited.

Jumbo-Visma were the team to beat in 2020, led by the top-ranked rider Primož Roglič, who will be determined to prevail in the fight for the yellow jersey in the Tour this year. Wout van Aert is a phenomenon, leading the peloton up mountain stages, winning sprints and one-day races alike, as well as racing at the very top level in cyclocross throughout the winter.

Over at UAE Team Emirates, current Tour champion Tadej Pogačar will be determined to establish himself as the man to beat, while new signing, Swiss Marc Hirschi, will no doubt continue to be one of the most exciting racers in cycling.

Road cycling 2021
by Hans Erren

One other name to watch out for is The Netherlands’ Mathieu van der Poel, another all-year-rounder, who competes against his rival and nemesis van Aert in cyclocross and one-day races. Hopefully next year will see ‘The Flying Dutchman’ in the Tour for the first time.

Keeping Our Spirits High Throughout 2021

We all know so well that getting out and exercising is great for both physical and mental health, but sometimes we need other things going on to create a spark for us. There’s been much debate over whether football should have continued, but I think it’s played a vital part in maintaining people’s interest and spirits. Bike racing, for many of us, plays a similar role. Only time will tell what sort of season we have ahead, but it has all the hallmarks of being a fantastic and intriguing year.

Road cycling 2021
by HilmarBuschow

So, even if your interest in bike racing doesn’t extend much further than those three weeks in July and the Tour, 2021 is geared up to be yet another classic season of racing. Covid-19 may yet throw a spanner in the works and derail the season, but if last year is anything to go by, then you just can’t keep a good bike race down. It may not all run smoothly — there will be crashes, calamities and comebacks, the suffering endless until that finish line is crossed — and I, for one, will be glued to it.

2021 Calendar

  • Date
  • Race
  • Type
  • 20th Mar
  • Milan-San Remo
  • Monument
  • 4th Apr
  • Tour of Flanders
  • Monument (Men & Women)
  • 11th Apr
  • Paris-Roubaix
  • Monument (Men & Women)
  • 25th Apr
  • Liège-Bastogne-Liège
  • Monument (Men & Women)
  • 8th – 30th May
  • Giro d'Italia
  • Grand Tour
  • 26th Jun – 18th Jul
  • Tour de France
  • Grand Tour
  • 14th Aug – 5th Sep
  • Vuelta a España
  • Grand Tour
  • 19th – 26th Sep
  • UCI Road World Championships
  • Men’s Time Trial – 19th Sep
    Women’s Time Trial – 20th Sep
    Women’s Road Race – 25th Sep
    Men’s Road Race – 26th Sep
  • 9th Oct
  • Tour of Lombardy
  • Monument

Originally published 15/02/21

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