We’re celebrating the end of the 2021 road season by bringing together some of our favourite races of the year in the one place for you to check them out!
To say it’s an exciting time in women’s road cycling at present is an understatement akin to stating that an Annemiek van Vleuten attack is easy to chase down.
We’ve got the Tour de France Femmes coming up next year on SBS, and a host of extra races and chances to watch the top riders in the world go against each other in a variety of top-notch races. This comes amidst an increased drive for better pay, prize money, conditions and racing opportunities and at SBS, we’re looking forward to being able to bring as much of it as possible.
The question will be, could it possibly be as exciting as some of the races below?!?
The final edition of La Course was a celebration rather than a commiseration because it makes way for next years Tour de France Femmes! The race was an attacking affair, and from an Australian perspective, exciting because of the Australian talent on show.
Grace Brown attacked away with a likely looking group, but cooperation broke down, and in the end, it was mostly Brown riding the front, as the others realised that it would be hard to beat her on the final climb.
That attack was brought back only a few kilometres before the climb and again it was the Australians to the fore as Sarah Roy led the way into the base of the climb, before Tiffany Cromwell launched herself up the early slopes.
It looked to be a dummy move to draw out her teammate‘s, Kasia Niewiadoma, rivals early and it did split the race apart. A great controlling effort from Anna van der Breggen kept things together for her punchy teammate, Demi Vollering, to get a shot at the sprint. That was a lot of confidence shown in the rising Dutch star as she was facing off against Marianne Vos.
Vos started her sprint early to avoid getting boxed in, with Vollering able to follow and pass to claim the final La Course! Brown somehow recovered from driving the attacks to run fifth, yet another marker to show that she’s one of the best in these races.
Amstel Gold Race
Another race and another Grace Brown attack animating the finale! She did another great solo ride but was swept up on the Cauberg by a peloton that wasn’t about to give her any leash, and it was game on for those behind.
A haymaker of an attack from the base by Annemiek van Vleuten was countered by Kasia Niewiadoma on the steepest slopes, with only Elisa Longo Borghini able to follow as they crested the famous ascent. What followed might have been comical if it hadn’t been so hard to watch.
They initially cooperated well and pushed it out to a big lead over a chasing bunch containing some fast finishers on the flat over the top of the climb. From a kilometre to go, Longo Borghini, not a fast sprinter, stopped working, leaving Niewiadoma to flap her elbow in vain as she asked for some help. She eventually went alongside Longo Borghini, with some screaming involved in the conversation as their gap shrunk to nothing. Bizarrely, Longo Borghini was the first to launch the sprint, providing a nice leadout for Marianne Vos to jump clear and win, surprisingly for the first time in her career.
Aussie Amanda Spratt didn’t have the season that she was expecting of herself, but she was very good here, fourth in the sprint after podiuming in 2018.
It wouldn’t have been an accurate representation of van der Breggen’s career to have her retire without another Fleche Wallonne win. This was closer than many, with Niewiadoma going shoulder to shoulder with the Dutch star up the climb, but the Polish rider couldn’t match the acceleration of van der Breggen, who won her seventh consecutive title on the infamous Mur de Huy.
UCI World Championships Elite Road Race
It’s nice to see surprise winners in the women’s races and there was no bigger shock this year than Elisa Balsamo’s victory in the world championships.
Italy played in perfectly throughout, all-in for their tough sprinter despite the calibre of riders she was going up against. Then in the finale, Marianne Vos was isolated and had to make up positions herself and that was all the advantage needed for the Italian rocket to blast to the most famous victory of her young career.
Tour of Flanders
This was a fascinating race, and probably the best one to watch all the way through again from this list. The 'hellingen' of the Belgian roads offered no respite over what was a very attacking race, with Grace Brown again prominently on the attack for all those Aussie fans out there!
She was, unfortunately, the second strongest on the day, with Annemiek van Vleuten powering clear and then an interrupted chase behind saw van Vleuten conquer the cobbles for the second time in career, the first coming ten years ago in 2011. A super-strong Brown was third on the day to complete the podium, one of these monuments of cycling looks well within her grasp.
This is here less for the thrilling racing than for the enormity of the moment and the spectacle of the wet and muddy Roubaix being tackled over those famous cobbled roads.
Of course, Lizzie Deignan was up by a colossal amount for a rider of her quality when the TV pictures from the host broadcaster started, and she skated her way to victory over the top of the treacherous cobbles. The arrival into the velodrome was enough to give you goosebumps and if the first staging of the event was anything to go by, there’s only hunger from the public to see more of what looks to be set to become a cornerstone of the women’s cycling season.
Quality attacking classics racing. I’d recommend that you watch from just before the Kemelberg, 43 or so kilometres to go. That’s when the racing gets hot and attacks just continue all the way into the finish.
Longo Borghini’s strength was just incredible in the final break, and with the peloton chasing behind, they couldn’t reel her in until the final 500 metres. Vos launched a long-range sprint just after and claimed yet another glittering win for her palmares, it’s hard to go past a Vos victory for the fans of the sport, she’s a true legend.