NOT A GRAND YEAR FOR THE GRAND TOURS
There was plenty of unpredictable racing in 2021, but not much of it was happening in the general classification of the grand tours. Egan Bernal looked the strongest rider in the Giro, putting in a strong shift on the strade bianche stage to Montalcino then dropping everybody on both Monte Zoncolan and Cortina d’Ampezzo on stages 14 and 16. The sole moment of jeopardy came on Sega di Ala where he wobbled and lost a minute to Simon Yates. But he’d started the day four minutes ahead of the Brit, and handled the last few stages just fine. It had been pretty clear he was going to win from the end of the first week. At the Tour, Tadej Pogacar was helped by his rivals suffering from crashes and bad luck, and from the stage 5 TT onward, was never threatened. Apart from the briefest harmless moment on Mont Ventoux where Jonas Vingegaard put a handful of seconds into him over the top of the climb, he looked invincible. And at the Vuelta, Primož Roglic never looked vulnerable. Enric Mas looked like his strongest rival, but the Slovenian consistently took time on him, and could bookend his race by beating his rivals in the two time trials.
The grand tour organisers have been piling innovation on innovation at their races, and deliberately designing courses full of traps, pitfalls and complicated terrain. However, it didn’t result in open races for the pink, yellow or red jerseys in 2021.