The 2021 season delivered some magic moments and there were some memorable images to go with it.
Also doing the double this year was Julian Alaphilippe, who secured a second year in the rainbow jersey of road race world champion. He did it in front of an awe-inspiring crowd in Flanders, who celebrated his win despite Belgium falling short.
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We also witnessed the multi-discipline rivalry of Wout van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel and Tom Pidcock spill onto the road.
Speaking of Paris-Roubaix, the images of mud-caked riders coming into the Roubaix velodrome after a wet October “Hell of the North” will live long in the memory.
These are just a few of the moments relived in these 21 images from 2021.
The muddied face of Stan Dewulf told a story in itself. The first edition of Paris-Roubaix in over two years was a wet one. The pandemic meant riders and fans had to stay away from the pavé but the wait was worth it as the race returned in dramatic style.
Caleb Ewan and Peter Sagan tangled in the sprint finish of stage 3 of the Tour de France. It was already a frenetic finale that saw many big names come down including Primož Roglič, who would eventually abandon. Ewan had to pull out of the race immediately while Sagan kept going until a wound on his knee that he picked up in the incident became infected.
Tom Dumoulin spoke with Sam Oomen after the Amstel Gold Race. Dumoulin was still on a break from racing, which he announced in January, but the race came close to his home and he wanted to watch it. It was this visit to his home race that helped light the spark for Dumoulin to make his return to racing a few months later.
Mathieu van der Poel waited at the start of the opening stage of his debut Tour de France. He was wearing a kit that was designed to honor his grandfather, Raymond Poulidor. The kit was initially only meant to be worn for the team presentation but Alpecin-Fenix was given special dispensation to wear it for stage 1.
Van der Poel was able to do something his grandfather couldn’t and take the yellow jersey, which he did on stage 2.
Julian Alaphilippe took his second world title in true Alaphilippe fashion, with a daring attack. With much of the peloton on its knees, Alaphilippe struck out to win solo in front of huge crowds in Leuven. The atmosphere across the whole week of the worlds was incredible but the final day was electric and the racing lived up to it.
Egan Bernal held aloft the Giro d’Italia trophy in front of the iconic Duomo in Milan. Bernal had some doubts about his back, which had been plaguing him since 2020, but his body held out. There were times when Bernal looked as though he was in trouble, but his wingman Dani Martínez coaxed him through some difficult moments. In the end, he won by a solid margin over Damiano Caruso.
Fist-bumps on the podium. Having missed out on the top spot at the Tour de France, Richard Carapaz took top honors, in Tokyo, in the Olympic road race. Carapaz took a comfortable solo win after a strong attack, but the bronze and silver medals came down to a photo finish. In the end, Wout van Aert was awarded the silver medal, and Tadej Pogačar claimed bronze.
Mathieu van der Poel found it hard to hide his disappointment on the podium after Paris-Roubaix. The cobbled race was big on van der Poel’s list of targets for 2021 and he looked destined to win it as he came into the velodrome in the front group. However, after working so hard to chase Gianni Moscon earlier in the race, van der Poel was left with little in his legs for the sprint. Instead, it was Sonny Colbrelli that got the win and van der Poel could only get third behind Florian Vermeersch.
There are moments when cycling breaks out of its bubble and into the consciousness of the wider world. A fan causing a crash with her cardboard sign on stage 1 of the Tour de France was one of those instances. On a narrow road, the incident had big ramifications for the bunch. Versions of her “Allez Opi-Omi” sign could be seen on the roadside throughout the rest of the season. Thankfully, none of them caused a crash.
Wout van Aert watched the replay of his sprint finish against Tom Pidcock at the Amstel Gold Race. The win went down to a photo finish with van Aert ultimately being handed the win, though there were many fans that thought it should have gone to Pidcock.
No risk, no glory! Those four words have gone down in cycling history after Primož Roglič uttered them following stage 10 of the Vuelta a España. Despite being in a comfortable position in the overall classification, Roglič decided to go on the attack. It was looking good for the Slovenian until he crashed on a descent. He can be seen here crossing the line after the dramatic day on the bike.
In what was a stroke of genius, the organizers of the worlds in Flanders set up a ‘fans’ podium. Away from the drier, official podium right by the finish, the top three could celebrate their success in front of a jubilant, and possibly drunk, crowd. After two years of hardly any fans at races, it was a nice change for the riders and fans.
Fabio Jakobsen had a long road to recovery following his horrific crash at the 2020 Tour de Pologne. He returned to racing action eight months later at the Tour of Turkey, but there were still some doubts if he could mix it in a top-level sprint again. Fortunately for Jakobsen, he didn’t have to wait very long for his first win, which he took at the Tour de Wallonie in July.
In one of the best days of racing in 2021, Primož Roglič ripped the race lead of the Itzulia Basque Country from UAE Team Emirates with a little help from David Gaudu. The pair worked together, along with some others, to build a sufficient gap over Tadej Pogačar and Brandon McNulty. For his efforts, Gaudu took the stage win while Roglič celebrated his overall win.
Mark Cavendish talked to Eddy Merckx after the Manxman equaled the Belgian’s record of 34 Tour de France stage victories. Cavendish came close to beating it on the final day, but fell short. After signing a year extension to his contract with Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, Cavendish will be hoping that he can go one better in 2022.
Tadej Pogačar won Liège-Bastogne-Liège ahead of Julian Alaphilippe to take his first monument title. It would be the start of another big year for the Slovenian with another Tour de France win and a second monument title at Il Lombardia.
Mathieu van der Poel attacked Kasper Asgreen and Wout van Aert on the Oude Kwaremont. It was a titanic battle for victory between these three, with van der Poel and Asgreen riding together to the line. Van der Poel ran out of steam in the finale and it was Danish champion Asgreen that took the win.
Clément Champoussin took a surprise victory on the penultimate stage of the Vuelta a España in one of the most frenetic and unpredictable finishes of the year. Just when it had looked like one of the favorites would take the win, the Frenchman emerged from the chaos to triumph.
The Tour de France GC battle in a picture. Tadej Pogačar won stage 18 as Jonas Vingegaard and Richard Carapaz trailed behind. Pogačar rarely looked in trouble throughout the Tour de France and comfortably took his second consecutive title.
The German team celebrated as the women’s half of the team crossed the line to secure victory in the mixed team relay at the UCI road world championships. The team beat the Netherlands by 12 seconds, and took the world title. It was the perfect end to Tony Martin’s career as he retired immediately following the event.
While we saw the story that played out at the front of the race on the television, Paris-Roubaix is a race where each rider has a big story to tell at the end of the race. Though he can be seen in front of riders here, former winner Niki Terpstra was the last rider to finish the 2021 Paris-Roubaix. He was outside the time limit but he made it to the velodrome.