In this Cycling-Classics.com special we highlighted the five cycling monuments of 2021. Read everything about the five cycling monuments 2021: Milan San Remo 2021, Tour of Flanders 2021, Liège-Bastogne-Liège 2021, Paris Roubaix 2021 and Il Lombardia 2021!
Milan San Remo
In the crazy corona year of 2020, Milan-San Remo was exceptionally held on August 8, but this year the Italian classic once again lived up to its nickname, La Primavera. A duel between the “big three” was eagerly awaited before the race, which is just under 300 kilometres long. Wout van Aert, who as defending champion probably had an edge, Mathieu van der Poel and world champion Julian Alaphilippe had impressed in the run-up to Milan-San Remo in Strade Bianche and Tirreno-Adriatico. They were going to battle it out for the win …
But before the traditional showdown between the favourites on the flanks of the Poggio, a classic race scenario was written in the first race hours along the Floral Riviera. A breakaway group of a total of eight got the blessing of the peloton early on, but the early breakaway was caught in time. Taco van der Hoorn resisted for a while, but was called to order at the beginning of the Cipressa. On the Cipressa, the fireworks between the favourites did not materialise and the decision had to be made on the Poggio, the final slope towards San Remo.
At 800 metres from the top, Alaphilippe felt his moment had come. The French sprinter, still winner of Milan-San Remo in 2019, shot forward and this appeared to be the signal for Van Aert and Van der Poel to move with him. With Alaphilippe, Van Aert and Van der Poel the usual suspects were on the appointment, but there was no real separation. In fact, even a particularly strong Caleb Ewan was able to hitch his wagon. And so we started with a first group of about ten riders on the short but treacherous descent of the Poggio.
At a good three kilometres from the finish, just after the descent of the Poggio, the decision was made in this edition of Milan-San Remo. Jasper Stuyven took full advantage of a moment of carelessness by the favourites, jumped away and managed to gather an interesting lead. Only Søren Kragh Andersen was able to close the gap, but had nothing left in the tank. The Dane of Team DSM turned out to be the ideal sprint attraction for Stuyven, who with an ultimate acceleration succeeded in keeping the up-and-coming favourites behind him.
The Leuven classics specialist of Trek-Segafredo thus booked the biggest victory of his career on the Via Roma, ahead of the disappointed Ewan and Van Aert.
Results and top 10 Milan San Remo:
Tour of Flanders 2021
The coronavirus began to spread again in the weeks leading up to the Tour of Flanders, but the “High Mass” still went ahead on Sunday, April 4, 2021. Mathieu van der Poel, Wout van Aert, Julian Alaphilippe, the familiar names in the spring, and the ironclad Deceuninck-Quick-Step team were all expected to be there beforehand. In a race that was characterized by numerous crashes and much-discussed disqualifications, the course really took a turn in the Oude Kwaremont-Paterberg-Koppenberg-Taaienberg zone.
On the always tricky cobbles of Taaienberg, Van der Poel, Van Aert, Asgreen, Alaphilippe and Dylan Teuns found each other at the head of the race. The five riders caught up with Austrian Marco Haller, who had escaped earlier, and then set off at a fast pace for a new section of the Oude Kwaremont. Asgreen, however, decided not to wait for this famous slope and pushed hard on a stretch of false flat between the Kruisberg and Hotondberg at about 27 kilometres from the finish. Van der Poel and Van Aert noticed the danger and joined in, behind them Alaphilippe defended the attack of his Danish teammate.
Asgreen, Van Aert and Van der Poel started simultaneously on the last passage of the Oude Kwaremont. There was no attack on the difficult part of the climb, but Van der Poel decided to accelerate on the spur of the climb. With some mighty lumbar pressure the Dutch champion managed to get rid of Van Aert, but Asgreen bit the bullet and managed to rejoin the race towards the Paterberg. Van Aert also tried to put things right, but clearly had to acknowledge his superiority to his two rivals. Asgreen and Van der Poel were well matched and rode wheel to wheel over the top of the Paterberg.
In the following flat kilometres towards Oudenaarde the two were already hard at work on a sprint, which they won in the final straight line of the Minderbroedersstraat. Defending champion Van der Poel, just like last year, resolutely took the lead in the final kilometre. It proved to be the winning tactic in 2020, but this time Van der Poel lost because he was beaten in extremis by a strong Asgreen. For the Danish rider, who won the E3 Saxo Bank Classic a few days before the Ronde, the holy week of cycling could not have ended better.
Results and top ten Tour of Flanders
The third monumental classic is normally Paris-Roubaix. Not for nothing is this, together with the Tour of Flanders, the iconic Double. However, due to corona, the Hell of the North was moved to the autumn and La Doyenne automatically became the third classic of the cycling year 2021.
The 107th edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège was coloured for a long time by a front group of seven riders, which emerged in a few shifts. Tomasz Marczynski, Loïc Vliegen, Lorenzo Rota, Laurens Huys, Mathijs Paasschens, Serghei Chernetski and Aaron Van Poucke broke away from the peloton by eleven minutes, but it turned out to be not enough to stay away from the big favourites. In the peloton, it was the well-known teams, such as Jumbo-Visma and UAE Emirates, who led the chase.
On the Haute-Levée and Col du Rosier, the peloton attacked, but the big guns kept their powder dry until the Col de la Redoute. On this iconic climb, where we saw Michele Bartoli and the late Frank Vandenbroucke shine so brightly just before the turn of the century, the favourites’ group was torn apart. World champion Alaphilippe, Bauke Mollema, Marc Hirschi and Jakob Fuglsang, among others, had missed the battle, but everything came back together in the aftermath. On the penultimate climb, the Côte de Forges, Tao Geoghegan Hart and Adam Yates pulled the peloton together.
The real finale could start and it was finally Richard Carapaz who took off alone on the way to Roche-aux-Faucons (1,3 km at 11%), where the decision had to be made in this Walloon classic. Carapaz, who was disqualified after the race for descending on his top tube, rode with the necessary grit to build a limited lead. However, on the flanks of the Roche-aux-Faucons, the 2019 Roma winner was caught. Not much later, Michael Woods decided to shake the tree and the Canadian was the instigator of the decisive breakaway.
Alaphilippe, Pogačar, four-time winner Alejandro Valverde and David Gaudu were able to go with Woods, while defending champion Primož Roglič had to pass. The Jumbo-Visma favourite was in a large chasing group with several (shadow) favourites, but it was already twenty seconds behind the leading group. The calf had been drowned for Roglič and the five strongest riders in the race were to decide for the victory. Despite a few pinpricks from Woods and Gaudu in the final kilometres, we had a sprint with five for a very prestigious victory.
The normally very lively Valverde allowed himself to be forced into the lead in the final straight line, after which he completely slowed down the pace. There was no reaction, so the 41-year-old Spaniard decided to launch his own sprint 250 metres from the finish. The only thing was that Valverde didn’t get a fifth victory, as he was passed in extremis by Alaphilippe and Pogačar. The Slovenian pushed his wheel over the finish line just a bit earlier and thus won his first monumental classic.
Results and top ten Liège-Bastogne-Liège 2021
Paris Roubaix 2021
The 118th edition of Paris-Roubaix would go down in the books as one of the most heroic editions since the first edition in 1896. For the first time since the spring of 2019, the Hell Classic was back on the programme, albeit in the autumn, a week after the cycling world championships and a week before the Tour of Lombardy. And what an edition it was! Rain seemed to dominate the race and that prediction came true. The riders started in the pouring rain. Some with fear and trembling, others with a glimmer in their eyes.
After a fast opening hour, a serious leading group of 27 riders emerged, including several big names such as Greg Van Avermaet, Davide Ballerini, Tim Declercq, Florian Vermeersch, Jasper Philipsen, Gianni Moscon, Tom Van Asbroeck, Nils Eekhoff and Max Walscheid. Behind them the peloton was completely shattered by crashes, slips, punctures, broken frames and broken gears. For many riders it was a hell of a job to stay on their bikes at all, as it was so slippery on the cobbled sections. Three riders remained at the front of the race after a real elimination race.
Moscon, Van Asbroeck and Vermeersch could still dream of a nice final result after the first few hours and cobbled roads, although the favourites were not far away. In the background, a very active Van der Poel had to do all the hard work. The Dutchman from Alpecin-Fenix, who is making his baptism of Paris-Roubaix, accelerated several times and was able to put himself in a good position for the all-decisive cobbled sections of Mons-en-Pévèle and Carrefour de l’Arbre. With more than fifty kilometres to go, the race picture was fairly clear.
The leading trio (Moscon, Van Asbroeck and Vermeersch) had an advantage of 45 seconds on Van der Poel, followed by a group with Wout van Aert at more than a minute and a half. On the long stretch to Bersée, Moscon thought it was time to ride away solo, while Van der Poel also accelerated in the chasing group. The Italian frontrunner turned up the Mons-en-Pévèle not much later with a 1.10 minute lead on Van der Poel. Moscon clearly flew over the cobbles, even catching up with Van der Poel, but after a puncture and a fall, his story was all but over.
Moscon, who had tired, was caught by Van der Poel on the very poor cobbles of Carrefour de l’Arbre, but he was also running out of energy. The Dutchman was unable to knock off his fellow cyclists Sonny Colbrelli and the surprisingly strong Vermeersch. After Colbrelli accelerated, there were three of us left, because it was too fast for the brave Moscon. The three leaders, all debutants in Paris-Roubaix, kept a close eye on each other and maintained a punishing pace.
Van der Poel, Vermeersch and Colbrelli eventually turned in the Roubaix circuit together. Van der Poel took the lead, hoping to catch his opponents, but the great trendsetter was running out of steam. The young Vermeersch was the first to attack in the final bend, but he was beaten by Colbrelli in a sprint of dying swans. The Italian, who also sprinted to the European title last summer, was ecstatic and could not believe his luck. Behind him Vermeersch finished second after a very strong race, ahead of Van der Poel who was tired.
Results and top ten Paris Roubaix 2021:
Il Lombardia 2021
The Tour of Lombardy was the last monument of the 2021 cycling year. The outgoing champion Jakob Fuglsang was not present, but Primož Roglič, Julian Alaphilippe, Tadej Pogačar and Remco Evenepoel were. Just to name a few. Until the climb of Dossena there was a classic race situation, with an early flight that did not get too much space from the peloton. On Dossena the race exploded for the first time, but accelerations from the likes of Eddie Dunbar and Neilson Powless were no more than blanks.
And so the race really had to take off on the steepest sections of the Passo di Ganda, undoubtedly the toughest climb on the route. Tiesj Benoot set the pace for his leader Romain Bardet. Benoot was able to introduce an acceleration of the Frenchman, but also Bardet was not able to counter an attack of Pogačar. The Tour winner went on, looked back and saw no one was joining him. This was the moment for the two-time Tour winner to go all in, perhaps on his way to his second monumental victory in a good six months’ time.
With a half minute lead, the Slovenian climber of UAE Emirates came over the top, although he was certainly not out of reach yet. In the foothills of the Passo di Ganda, Fausto Masnada, who has been on top of his game in the weeks leading up to Il Lombardia, decided to open the hunt for Pogačar. The Italian of Deceuninck-Quick-Step, who rode as Bergamask on his home roads, managed to close the gap to Pogačar after a long chase. This left two contenders for victory in the Tour of Lombardy with fifteen kilometres to go.
The chasers behind Masnada and Pogačar failed to close the gap due to the poor cooperation. Men like Roglič, Adam Yates, Alaphilippe, Michael Woods and Alejandro Valverde were clearly not in line and so the two leaders stayed ahead. In Bergamo they would fight for the victory. In the final kilometres both Pogačar and Masnada attacked again, but both riders could not shake off each other. After more than 239 kilometres a sprint would determine the winner. Masnada was no match for the much faster Pogačar, who was able to add even more momentum to his list of honours.
One thing is certain: With his victory in Lombardy, Tadej Pogačar is the big winner of the season.
Results and op ten Il Lombardia 2021: