2021 Worlds a race for the ages

Despite being, what I would call, a cycling buff, there are many instances where I can’t take in all of a race.

I have even written on this very website how the recent trend of tv coverage from flag to flag sometimes can feel like too much cycling.

The first instance of this trend I can remember was the 2015 Paris Roubaix where the first hour of action waiting for the break to form was much more entertaining that what went after it. So the television execs thought they’d hit on a successful formula and it stuck.

But for every race like that, there has been plenty where ‘sleepy’ would still be too active a description for the action.

Its content like that which gives commentators abuse on the internet. They can only call what they see and if nothing is happening the dead air is filled with less quality. Same goes for the racing.

But.

The 2021 world professional men’s road race yesterday was one occasion where if you invested the time at the start of the race, there were massive rewards at the finish.

The French national team rode the perfect race.

Unlike the Belgians who seemed to back both Remco Evenepoel and Wout van Aert before leaving home town rider Jasper Stuyven to content the finale, the raiding team from south of the border had a clear strategy.

They backed the defending champion to the hilt and were rewarded by his retention of the precious rainbow jersey.

From 140kms out Benoit Cosnefroy and Anthony Turgis were a total pain in the Belgians backsides with attacks and counter attacks forcing lots of chasing.

Italy were caught out in the first big split, something that might have contributed to a subdued finale from their main hope Sonny Colbrelli.

Mathieu Van der Poel was very subdued and was content to follow all day without having any impact on the race.

Julian Alaphillippe attacked four or five times to get his win with a number of these digs coming in the last lap and a half around Leuven.

He eventually wore them down with his desire to get clear and with Valentin Madouas working hard to help him establish his lead he was gone and gone for good.

The splinter group chasing him down had neither Van Aert, Tom Pidcock nor Van der Poel within it and didn’t have the power left to make the catch.

You can argue that Alaphillippe is all show and no content, but the wins he is racking up now make that point of view weak.

He is so entertaining to watch and his attack so wonderful to behold that you can’t help but be engaged and excited.

Last year he won with style. This year he won with persistence, style, panache and flair.

It truly was a world for the ages.

RnkRiderTeamUCIPntTime
1 ALAPHILIPPE JulianFrance6003505:56:34
2 VAN BAARLE DylanNetherlands4752600:32
3 VALGREN MichaelDenmark400190,,
4 STUYVEN JasperBelgium325150,,
5 POWLESS NeilsonUnited States275130,,
6 PIDCOCK ThomasGreat Britain2251100:49
7 ŠTYBAR ZdeněkCzech Republic1751001:06
8 VAN DER POEL MathieuNetherlands150901:18
9 SÉNÉCHAL FlorianFrance12580,,
10 COLBRELLI SonnyItaly10070,,
Top 10 from http://www.procyclingstats.com

2021 Giro Retrospective

With a couple of weeks and plenty of racing having passed under our wheels since the Giro, it seems trite to call this piece a review so I have altered the title to reflect this!

The context of the race and its thrilling final days have been put into more perspective over recent days with the news that winner Egan Bernal has posted a positive Covid-19 test.

Its not especially clear as to whether this diagnosis could explain some of his late race trevails but it was certainly a more exciting Giro as a result of him slowing down in the run up to the final weekend.

The Columbian too the race leaders pink jersey on stage 9 and was seemingly cruising through the race with quiet dominance and backed up by a strong Ineos team.

He rode with calmness and composure on what could have been a tricky stage 11 over the Strade Bianche to Montalcino, a stage where Dan Martin unravelled and Remco Evenepoel started to show he was human.

The first week and a half had gone entirely to Sir Dave Brailsfords plan.

But as we got into the back end of the race, Simon Yates started to pick up pace and managed to distance the race leader on a couple of stages.

There was talk of a bad back for Bernal and in Dani Martinez he had a rider nursing him through and keeping him close to the other contenders.

If Bernal was the ultimate winner of the race, Martinez was man of the match, 100%.

The final road stage of the race was a mountainous one but Yates couldn’t take advantage and actually lost time to Bernal who was carefully managing his efforts despite being behind 2nd placed Damiano Caruso who won the stage.

The time trial was a formality and Bernal was able to get home and win his second grand tour.

This was a different beast to his yellow jersey with a vulnerability and reliance on his team that will stand him in good stead going forward.

Aside from the battle for the pink leaders jersey Peter Sagan won the points despite a fine for intimidation in the transitional part of the race.

Geoffrey Bouchard of Ag2R was the mountains winner after featuring in a number of key breakaways across the whole race.

There were notable stage wins from Taco van der Hoorn in week one when he kept the collective might of the peloton at bay in the closing stages to take an unlikely victory by only a handful of seconds.

Stage 13 saw the end of one of cyclings longest streaks of finishing top 3 in grand tour stage without winning with a popular sprint win for Giacomo Nizzolo who left it late to come over the top Edoardo Affini before breaking down in tears in the finishing zone.

This was a brilliant Giro for a whole number of reasons. The less than spring like weather made the racing harder and ensured that even on a “easy” day, it wasnt an easy day.

We had multiple breakaway winners, a trend that has carried on into the post Giro racing. This is great and for the first time since radios for the riders and mathmatical formulas to decide when to start the chase, the advantage is with the brave riders striking out off the front early in the stage.

Chapeau!

So now we get into the build up races for the Tour de France, a race that will have to create some brilliant memories to be better than this one…

Over to you France!

RnkPrev▼▲RiderTeamUCIPntTime
11 BERNAL EganINEOS Grenadiers85040086:17:28
22 CARUSO DamianoBahrain – Victorious6802901:29
33 YATES SimonTeam BikeExchange5752404:15
44 VLASOV AleksandrAstana – Premier Tech4602206:40
56▲1 MARTÍNEZ Daniel FelipeINEOS Grenadiers3802007:24
68▲2 ALMEIDA JoãoDeceuninck – Quick Step320190,,
75▼2 BARDET RomainTeam DSM2601808:05
87▼1 CARTHY HughEF Education – Nippo2201708:56
99 FOSS TobiasTeam Jumbo-Visma18016011:44
1010 MARTIN DanIsrael Start-Up Nation14015018:35