As a fantastic year of cycling draws to a close, Procycling takes a look back through it in our Review of the Year, which is out now.
While still affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 saw brilliant racing around the world, from the oppressive heat of the Tokyo Olympics to the first ever Paris-Roubaix Femmes in rain-soaked northern France.
Mark Cavendish’s comeback story at the Tour de France was one of the most irresistible of the year, his journey to four stage wins a truly heartwarming tale. At the beginning of 2021 it looked unlikely that Cavendish would be anywhere near the Tour, or even winning any kind of sprint. Come the end, he had won 10 races.
The Manxman told Edward Pickering: “Imagine there’s a path, with a wall at the end. I was riding full speed at it, hoping a door would open. As a pro, that’s all I had to do, and ultimately as a pro, it’s my job to be in good condition in case of that scenario. But on an emotional level, I just hoped the door would open. It would either open up, or I’d bang my head.”
In our Review of the Year we pick through the top 10 themes of the season, which include the resurgence of the long range attack, Lizzie Deignan’s killer instinct, and the fallibility of Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel (though they had their infallible moments as well).
There are also accounts of our five moments of the year, which included the women’s road race at the Olympics and the men’s edition of Strade Bianche. Our team of experts also pick through their highlights of the year.
Tadej Pogačar was our male rider of the year. The 23-year old comprehensively won his second Tour, as well as Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Il Lombardia. He looked unstoppable at times. Alasdair Fotheringham spoke to the key people around the Slovenian to get a sense of who he really is.
This included Jan Polanc, a fellow rider at UAE Emirates, and Iñigo San Millan, head coach at the team. San Millan said: “He’s not scared of losing, because while he loves training and beating records on Strava and competing and so on, he also knows if it doesn’t work out, it’s not the end of the world. He doesn’t overthink things.”
Elisa Balsamo, the new world champion, was another star of the year. Winning the rainbow jersey was the biggest result of the young Italian’s promising career so far. She talked to Herbie Sykes about beating Marianne Vos, coming to terms with fame and her move to Trek-Segafredo.
Balsamo said: “My position is that I love riding my bike and I love racing, but I’m not the most confident person. I’m quite hard on myself, and when things go badly I sometimes struggle to pick myself up. So it’s very important for me to be the best cyclist I can be, and to feel like I’m doing things right.”
Wout van Aert, our 2020 Review of the Year cover star, had another great year, although perhaps slightly less successful than last season. Edward Pickering takes a look at his versatility, which was shown so clearly at the Tour, where he won a mountain stage, a time trial, and a sprint, in his feature The Range of Wout Van Aert.
Also in the magazine, Procycling takes a look at the four Dutchwomen who dominate their sport: Annemiek van Vleuten, Demi Vollering, Marianne Vos and Anna van der Breggen. They stand out way above the rest of the women’s peloton, and in subtly different ways. Adam Becket takes a look at the quartet who won the Olympic individual time trial, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the Amstel Gold Race, and the Giro Rosa between them. And a lot, lot more.
Some teams won more and some won bigger than Bahrain Victorious in 2021, but the squad rode aggressively and imaginatively to some big wins, despite controversy following them at the Tour. Kate Wagner profiles the team’s breakout year, which saw them win stage wins at the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España, as well as Paris-Roubaix. Their method could occasionally be summed up as ‘creative chaos’. But as Vladimir Miholjevic, the team’s technical director, told Kate, “Cycling is emotion. For the spectators it should be a thriller book. It should not be a phone book.”
Primož Roglič may have once again failed to win the Tour, but did instead win the Vuelta for a third year running, alongside the Olympic time trial. James Witts spoke to Jumbo-Visma’s head of performance, Mathieu Heijboer, who revealed the physical and psychological attributes that make the Slovenian near unbeatable, including running every day.
The Review of the Year also contains a comprehensive stats section, and our final diaries from 2021’s crop. Charlie Quarterman, Kevin Réza and Brodie Chapman have offered different, insightful, perspectives to the peloton throughout this year and their final entries are no different.
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Adam Becket is the staff writer for Procycling magazine. Prior to covering the sport of cycling, he wrote about ecclesiastical matters for the Church Times and politics for Business Insider. He has degrees in history and journalism. A keen cyclist himself, Adam’s favourite race is the Tour of Flanders or Strade Bianche, and he can't wait to go to the Piazza del Campo for the end of the race one day.
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