Throwback Thursday: Redux 2021 and the best European highlights

Believe it or not, the VeloNews the crew went to a few bike races last season.

The pandemic didn’t slow the peloton down too much, and in September and at the World Championships, things seemed to be almost back to normal (hold that thought).

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For our veteran European correspondents, the 2021 racing season has been one of the most impressive they have seen in a long time.

The race has been close, fast and unpredictable throughout the season.

On this week’s Throwback Thursday, here are the highlights of 2021 from Andrew Hood and James Startt, who were on the road together at the Tour de France.

What was your highlight of the 2021 season and why?

Tadej Pogacar consolidated his place as the best rider of the peloton in 2021. (Photo: James Startt / VeloNews)

James startt: I would say the attack of Pogacar during the eighth stage of the Tour de France. No, he didn’t win the stage, but he let the whole peloton down on his own on the first mountain day of the race. And he did it in a breathtaking way, attacking the very steep Col de Romme more than 30 kilometers from the finish, undoubtedly in freezing rain.

I was photographing from a motorbike that day and my driver immediately stopped to wait for Pogacar. It was raining heavily and freezing in the mountains. But Pogacar was killing him!

It was for me one of the greatest solo attacks of the modern era, and not far from the historic blows of Eddy Merckx on the Tourmalet of the 1969 Tour, or of Louison Bobet on the Mont Ventoux in 1955.

Of course, it was only 30 kilometers, but the stage was only 150 kilometers.

At that point it was clear to me that the Slovenian was more than the strongest runner in the race, but of his generation. I mean, he had already won the Tour the previous year and he had already won Liège-Bastogne-Liège this year, so he was clearly the big favorite before the race. And he just went out and let everyone down on the eighth step. Legend!

Andrew Hood: For me, it was the Flanders World Road Championships. The event exceeded expectations on every level, both on and off the bike. After the upheaval of the previous 18 months, the world of Flanders almost seemed like things were getting back to normal. Europe was rolling out vaccinations and authorities were confident enough to ease health restrictions.

With around a million fans along the roads in and around Leuven for the elite men’s road race, this day will be one of the most impressive since I had the chance to cover the elite races in Europe. .

Which team or rider did not live up to the expectations?

Primoz Roglic - Paris-Nice 2021
Primož Roglič had another roller coaster season, shown here in Paris-Nice, but won the Vuelta a España and an Olympic gold medal. (Photo: James Startt / VeloNews)

Ah: Peter Sagan just hasn’t had it all season. Health issues, COVID, and accidents certainly haven’t helped, but we’re hoping a new environment will give Sagan a spark back from 2022.

I also expected more from Chris Froome. Maybe not win the Tour, but I thought he would be in the thick of it at least a few times during the season. A schistosomiasis flare, which Froome confirmed to me at an Israel Start-Up Nation team camp in November, certainly didn’t help. A few quickly wrote it off, but I’ve seen Froome prove the skeptics wrong more than once. We’ll see if he writes the Hollywood ending of his career this season. Mark Cavendish certainly did!

Mathieu Van der Poel was everywhere in 2021, but should he have won even more? (Photo: ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT / AFP via Getty Images)

JS: Well two runners, Mathieu van der Poel and Primož Roglič. I know I’ll be ruffling a few feathers here, but in my opinion MVDP has consistently underperformed at many key points throughout the season.

Of course, he crushed everyone in Tirreno-Adriatico, but as Johan Museeuw told me, “For a runner like Mathieu, only monuments matter.”

And in this category it has been short all year round. He was nowhere in Milan-Sanremo. He failed in Flanders and he failed at the world championships and in Roubaix. Sometimes he just didn’t have the legs and sometimes he didn’t seem to be riding very smart.

Fortunately, he had this wonderful race in yellow during the Tour, but he missed a lot. I hope he learns from his mistakes. He is still very young. But he has the potential to be the greatest classic rider of his generation. That should be his goal.

I was also quite disappointed with Roglič. Once again he showed he had a strange difficulty closing the deal when he crashed twice on the final Paris-Nice stage and lost a prestigious race he seemed destined to win. . And then another crash at the start of the Tour de France took him out of the race for his biggest goal of the year.

But I have a lot of respect for Roglič and his ability to bounce back. And he did it in a breathtaking way, winning the Olympic time trial just after the Tour and then the Vuelta a España. Hats off for that.

Who do you see as the next big star in sports and why?

Jonas Vingegaard - Mont Ventoux 2021
Jonas Vingegaard, shown here attacking Mont Ventoux, was one of the 2021 revelations. (Photo: James Startt / VeloNews)

JS: I would say Jonas Vinegaard. In just his third year as a professional, he has just made a huge leap to finish second in the Tour de France. Turning pro in 2019, he spent most of it with the constant complications of COVID, and yet he managed to improve steadily.

Of course, he might never have had the chance to lead his team Jumbo-Visma on the Tour if Roglič, his leader, had not given up. But there is no guarantee that Roglič would have done better than runner-up on the Tour anyway and I think Vinegaard’s performance has proven that he is at the same level and can already be considered a co-leader of this team. .

And he is only 25 years old, so his room for improvement remains much higher than that of Roglic. I was very impressed!

Ah: Tom Pidcock. Just like Remco Evenepoel was so awesome in 2020, Pidcock just blew everyone up in 2021.

I was blown away by how he took him among the top pros in the Spring Classics, with a win at Brabantse Pijl and a second at Amstel Gold Race.

He’s a cool character with huge ambition, which was broadcast around the world as he won the Olympic gold medal in mountain biking.

He also rode a formidable Vuelta a España with a minor knee injury and far from his prime, but this kid is bursting with class on and off the bike.

With so many young top talent, the future is bright among the elite men’s peloton.