21 stories for 2021: triple the Wout’s Tour, a female Roubaix, the great ride of Lachlan, and more

From the muddy chaos of Paris-Roubaix to the drama-filled Tokyo Olympics, the 2021 season has been so good that a 10-point best-of wouldn’t do it justice.

That’s why Ben Delaney, Sadhbh O’Shea, Andrew Hood and Jim Cotton bring you their pick of the 21 biggest screenplays of the year and explain why they matter.

This is the first in a three-part “21 for 2021” series, featuring Olympic somersaults, Tour de France triplets and more.

1: Wout van Aert’s hat-trick in the Tour de France

Van Aert conquered Ventoux to claim one of his three Tour stage victories. (Photo: Tim de Waele / Getty Images)

Read more: Wout van Aert, the Swiss army knife of pro cycling

JC: Wout van Aert didn’t win the Tour de France, but he might as well have been.

Van Aert pulled off a historic treble in stages this summer, winning a time trial, a massive sprint and a mountain stage that took not one, but two ascents of the knees-shaking Mont Ventoux.

It was a feat that both marked van Aert as the true “Swiss Army Knife” of the professional peloton and sealed him a place in the history books. The Tour de Wout treble was the first time a rider has won all three stage formats of the Tour since Eddy Merckx in 1974 and Bernard Hinault in 1979.

‘WvA’ made the headlines in the boggy winter of ‘cross through the cobbled spring climbs and the bright sunshine of the Tokyo Games this year, but the Belgian baller’s exploits on the Tour were likely the star of his season.

So what about races for the GC in the future?

“If I retrained to become a great prodigy, I would go to a point of no return – my body will change, I will lose pounds and lose all my qualities to win classics and sprints,” he said. declared after the Tour. “I don’t want this.”

Stay like you are Wout van Aert. You are doing very well the way you are.

2: Lachlan Morton travels the Tour solo in 18 days

Lachlan Morton’s latest mad mission has raised the bar higher than ever. (Photo: Lucy Le Lièvre)

Read more: Tour de Lachlan: Morton arrives in Paris at 5:30 a.m.

BD: At the start of the Tour de France, 185 riders set off from Brest, planning to tour the country and arrive in Paris. One of them, however, was doing the Tour route alone, including pedaling transfers between stages. In addition, he planned to beat the 184 other runners in Paris.

And he beat them, arriving in the French capital five days before the peloton, after having covered 5,500 kilometers of the 3,383 km of the Tour.

Lachlan Morton’s so-called Alt Tour was a promotional stunt for his team EF Education-Nippo and sponsor Rapha who served as a fundraiser for World Bicycle Relief.

While the riders enjoyed the full support of the Tour, with team bus transfers, chefs, hotel beds, etc.

He experienced all kinds of weather conditions, suffered from punctures and knee pain that caused him to switch from driving in road shoes to sandals.

3: Paris-Roubaix Women innovates

The podium of the first edition of Paris-Roubaix Women
The podium of the first edition of Paris-Roubaix Women (Photo: Eric Lalmand / Belga / AFP via Getty Images)

Read more: Paris-Roubaix Femmes: Was the inaugural edition up to the task, and what will happen next for the race?

SOS: Some days it seemed like it was never going to happen, that the women’s peloton would never charge across the legendary Paris-Roubaix cobblestone in a race. The years and months of waiting finally ended in 2021 when the pack left for the first Paris-Roubaix Women. It was a race that will be long remembered with images of runners sliding and sliding through mud and Lizzie Deignan storming off to claim an emphatic solo victory.

Perhaps the only downside to the racing action itself was the fact that we didn’t see Deignan’s winning move – the cash prize discussion is for another day. Runner Trek-Segafredo jumped at the entrance to the opening cobblestone sector, before TV coverage began, and she was never seen again. Up front, she managed to take her own path and came back from a few near misses with excellent handling of the bike.

The late pursuit of Marianne Vos added to the drama of the occasion, but she couldn’t close the gap. The advantage of having a Paris-Roubaix in October is that we only have to wait six months for the next edition.

4: A long-awaited wet Paris-Roubaix men

ROUBAIX, FRANCE - OCTOBER 03: (LR) Sonny Colbrelli from Italy and Team Bahrain Victorious, Mathieu Van Der Poel from the Netherlands and Team Alpecin-Fenix ​​and Florian Vermeersch from Belgium and Team Lotto Soudal covered in mud face each other in the breakaway during the 118th Paris -Roubaix 2021 - Eilte Hommes a 257.7km race from Compiègne to Roubaix / #ParisRoubaix / on October 03, 2021 in Roubaix, France.  (Photo by Tim de Waele / Getty Images)
Mathieu Van der Poel was 7 the last time the peloton faced a wet Roubaix. (Photo: Photo by Tim de Waele / Getty Images)

Read more: We asked the riders what it was like to ride a “wet” Roubaix.

AH: I’ve been to VeloNews so long that I have covered the last two editions of a “wet” Paris-Roubaix, in 2001 and 2002. La la, how time flies.

I missed it this year, but munched on popcorn like everyone else from the comfortable, dry position of my couch.

And what a spectacle it was.

We almost should have pitied the women’s peloton for having to face greasy paving stones for the inaugural edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes. Lizzie Deignan and the rest of the peloton confirmed to any skeptics that they can handle the most extreme conditions in their first collective taste of ‘the hell of the North’.

No one in the male or female peloton had raced on wet cobbles before. Of course, there have been other botched races over the years, including stages of the Tour de France that featured pave, but nothing like what the pack faced in October.

Both races provided excellent viewing and breathtaking races. Deignan simply got everyone off their wheels in one of the most impressive demonstrations of bike handling and concentration we’ve seen in a while. The men’s race was a real aerial fight, with Sonny Colbrelli taking a breathtaking victory ahead of Mathieu van der Poel.

This year’s edition reminded me why Paris-Roubaix is ​​arguably the most incredible one-day race in the world. It’s hell on wheels, but there’s no such thing on the schedule. Rain or shine, Roubaix reigns supreme.

5: The mountain bike somersault of Mathieu van der Poel

Van der Poel in the air over rocks
Van der Poel blew up the handlebars amid miscommunication about the course design. (Photo: Robin van Lonkhuijsen / Getty Images)

Read more: Van der Poel’s Olympic dreams end in confusion over boulder jumping

JC: Everything was going so well for Mathieu van der Poel this season, until a stone got involved.

Van der Poel headed for the Olympic mountain bike race in Tokyo this summer with his little finger already halfway through a gold medal, but his race ended in disastrous and dramatic fashion.

Van der Poel made a spectacular mistake on the first lap, somersaulting a high jump and landing flat on his back, retiring soon after. A sincerity The Dutch post-race investigation revealed that ‘MvdP’ was unaware that a ramp over the boulder had been removed after the observation tower.

It was a misunderstanding to make you wince, and it turned van der Poel’s season upside down. The Dutchman struggled through August and early September as medics struggled to straighten his hunched back, and the 26-year-old missed the mountain bike world championships and a stack of races as a result.

Van der Poel ended his road season on a high note, dealing with his troubles in a meteoric race for third place at Paris-Roubaix.

How good could his season have been if he had kept him standing in Tokyo? We’ll never know.

6: The Ketone debate rumbles on

Read also: More runners join chorus demanding ketones be banned

Ah: They taste bad, they are expensive and they are very controversial. What are we talking about? Ketones.

The dietary supplement is suddenly all the rage among the WorldTour, with some sources claiming more than half of teams and riders are using them. What are they doing? Aid in recovery and refueling, and some say, provides such a performance boost that they should be prohibited.

As the peloton continues to push the boundaries of nutrition and effectiveness, ketones have become an important tool in the ever-sophisticated line of products that teams and runners alike use to get the most out of their bodies.

While not banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency, some say the extracts, which are also produced naturally in the body, should be.

The ketone debate also puts a new emphasis on the so-called gray areas of cycling, where teams and runners push for peak performance by what some say is tiptoeing to the borderline between what is legal and this cheats.

As long as no one crosses that line; that’s what worries people at night.

7: The UCI’s commitment to pay parity

Elisa Balsamo celebrates as a disappointed Marianne Vos crosses the line
New World Champion Elisa Balsamo to enter WorldTour for 2022 (Photo: Tim de Waele / Getty Images)

Read also : UCI promises equal minimum wages for professional men and women “as quickly as possible”

SOS: The road world championships are more than an opportunity for riders to compete for rainbow jerseys, it is also a forum for the UCI and its various delegates to make major decisions and discuss some topical issues.

The UCI’s commitment to match the minimum wages of riders in the Women’s WorldTeam with those of their male counterparts is among the various key announcements that have come out of the world championships in Flanders.

There is no fixed date for this goal, but the UCI says it wants to do it “as soon as possible”. It could mean anytime in the next five years or it could be a decade from now, but hopefully it will be sooner rather than later. Not so long ago, the UCI pushed back minimum wages for women, believing it could see many teams fold.

This has not happened and the minimum wage for women in the upper tier will soon equal that of male ProTeam riders, in 2023. With all of this, the UCI must ensure that it does not leave behind. ‘other runners as many lower level runners. still operate with minimal or no wages.

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