There wasn’t a race I enjoyed more in 2021 than the women’s Olympic road race. There are two things I love to see in road cycling: clever tactics and underdogs winning. I’ll never forget Anna Kiesenhofer’s win for those two reasons, but it was more than that - the Austrian rider isn’t even a full-time pro, and works as a postdoctoral fellow in maths in Lausanne. The story of her win transcended cycling.
In some ways Kiesenhofer is the polar opposite of Tadej Pogacar. The Slovenian’s extraordinary run, in which he won Liège, the Tour and
Lombardia, was probably the biggest story of 2021. Pogacar made headlines for being a dominant favourite winning big races; Kiesenhofer’s story was of the underdog having her day. The beauty of cycling is that as fans we can get a kick out of both.
But there are similarities between these two riders as well. For me, 2021 was the year of the long break, and both riders used this strategy to their advantage, even if their rationale for doing so differed. Kiesenhofer’s Hail Mary in Japan was her only, miniscule, chance of winning, while you get the impression Pogacar goes for long ones simply because he can.
Of course, there was more to the year than that. When I look back at 2021, I think of the cluster of bigrace winners just behind Pogacar in the men’s hierarchy - Roglic, Van Aert, Alaphilippe and Van der Poel. But also Mark Cavendish and his irresistible comeback at the Tour. And also of the ongoing era of Dutch dominance on the women’s side, with Vos, Van Vleuten, Van der Breggen and Vollering, but Deignan and Balsamo still taking their own season-defining wins at the historic first Roubaix Femmes and Worlds.
No doubt many of you have opinions about your own moments of the year, so we’ve tried to cram as many as possible into our review of 2021. I hope you enjoy the memories.