The men's and women's WorldTour threw up some amazing events in 2021, with tense finishes, storylines that we hadn't seen before and struggles for supremacy between some of the best cyclists in the world. Here's Christophe Mallet's picks of the most dramatic of what was a superb season.
A wet Paris Roubaix
For a while we’ve been dreaming of a Paris Roubaix run in the rain… well, I say we but I mean the general public, not the riders! The 2021 edition of the Paris Roubaix was epic, starting with the first-ever women’s race, and a fantastic win by Lizzie Deignan, but then came the Sunday race, and the battles within battles. The riders had to combat the slippery cobbles as well as punching-on with each other, fight the elements, and as a prophecy, the sky and sun broke out towards the end as it heralded another spectacular finish and an unlikely winner in Colbrelli.
He beat none other than Mathieu Van Der Poel and Florian Vermeersch in the last few meters and becoming the third rider to win “the queen of the classics” in his first participation, only matched by German Josef Fischer, who won the first edition and the Frenchman Jean Forestier, in 1955.
Men’s World Championship road race - King Alaphilippe II
Winning a world championships title is already something, backing it up with another win the year after puts you in the stratosphere of the legends of cycling. What Julian Alaphilippe did in the 2021 edition of the UCI road race was extraordinary, granted I am a “bit” jingoistic, probably fueled by the local media, with L’Equipe naming him no less than King Alaphilippe the second.
The 2021 Alaphilippe was even better than the 2020 vintage edition. It’s with wins like this that in France we start dreaming of an overall winner at the Tour de France, something we haven’t had the chance to experience since 1985. In France, a lot of expectations are on his shoulders, and there is one thing we know about Julian, it is that we don’t actually know what he is capable of… Allez Loulou!
Paris-Tours is always an interesting race, snuggled up towards the end of the calendar, it is often a race for the sprinters, well unless Richard Virenque fights for his life in the peloton but that is a different story, seek it out, it was quite a race.
This year, the winner Arnaud Demare only reached the front of the race with 750 m to the finish line after making his move with 40 kilometres to go, caught with the breakaway with a tense two-on-two battle in the last ten kilometres. The win by Demare also acted as a redemption on what had been a complex year for the French sprinter, often outpaced or misplaced in 2021 especially in major events.
For what it is supposed to be the last edition (for now) of La Course, 2021 was great race. First, because Grace Brown was really strong, and led us believe she could win that one, ending up in a very honourable fifth place.
Second, because marshalling the win by Demi Vollering was the retiring Anna Van Der Breggen. She masterfully controlled the attacks and the nullified counter moves as she played super-domestique for the soon-to-be leader of SD-Worx as the legend of the sport transitions to a DS role.
When the goods had to be delivered, Vollering was no doubt the quickest in a straight line, winning a historical last edition of La Course ahead of Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, and Marianne Vos.
Ladies Tour of Norway Stage 4 - A win for our Chloe
This stage was a stage like no other, not necessary for the thrilling racing, but for what it meant to the winner.
Chloe Hosking had a horrible year, let’s face it. COVID early in the year, isolation from friends and family, a health struggle to get back on a winning form, and the extraordinary support from her team Trek Segafredo that, in her own words, helped her get through all this.
And her words, that’s exactly what made this stage memorable, the post-race interview was one of the best I have ever seen, charged with emotion, articulating what cycling means for a lot of riders. Chapeau Chloe, happy you are back!