Wow, the cycling season actually came to an end! Was it when Ben Swift crossed the line in the British Championships race? I know they can run an hour later in the UK sometimes. Maybe it was when tenth place finisher Marie Le Net came home as the last scored place in the women’s Chrono des Nations. Don’t think it was the Cyprus Nats, but I wasn’t paying close enough attention.
I’m so old I remember when the cycling season went out with a bang — most notably the Giro di Lombardia — but in recent years the end of the calendar became a place to push out races that couldn’t be squeezed in anywhere else. In the last pre-COVID year that meant China, a place that would be fine to race in if it weren’t so far away from Europe. Anyway, this year was the second COVID calendar, but unlike the first one it ended up looking more like a normal season than not.
Sure, riders attacking on the famous hellingen of Flanders heard nothing but the whirring motos and helicopters and the whine of carbon wheels, not the thousands of screaming voices they had come to expect. Some races — don’t ask me which — took the year off or just turned away into the uncertainty of the future. But the biggest and best events found a way to carry on, with only a few rescheduled out of their usual spot (hello Roubaix in October!) Add in the slight scramble caused by the Olympic break, in east Asia no less, and you had opportunity for mayhem that didn’t really materialize. It was, in short, a cycling season.
Was it a great one? Maybe, yeah. The races happening was remarkable enough, there were few scandals of note besides the trickle of polemics that happen every year. The youth movement continued apace. The women’s circuit included a historic inaugural running of Paris-Roubaix, and while the Tour de France kicked its women’s program down the road, we already know that 2022 is primed to be unlike anything seen since the 1980s. It wasn’t the best year for me to take it all in, “highlighted” you might say by an American winning a major classic while I was glamping in rural Montana. But with all those caveats, I have to say I had a great time. For a world that hasn’t gone back to normal yet, I’ll take it.
Let’s Do Awards!
In Podium Cafe Tradition, I am asking you now to submit your end of year nominations for our four categories:
- Men’s Rider of the Year
- Women’s Rider of the Year
- Men’s Race Day of the Year
- Women’s Race Day of the Year
Who or what day impressed you the most? What will you remember about the 2021 cycling season in ten years? Please let us know. Make it totally subjective if you like, or state a case as to why others should agree with your nomination. The first two are self-explanatory; the last two are limited to a single day’s racing, e.g., stage 15 of the Tour de France, or the Women’s Olympic Road Race. Once we have our contenders identified, we will vote on the categories and declare a winner. Ready, set... GO!