Now that the WorldTour season is over (it comes back in 117 days, just fyi) and most riders are on vacation, it's time to look back and analyze it. Which teams can relax during the offseason which should still be working to make sure next season isn't a repeat of this one?
In this post I will leave my thoughts on which were the most disappointing teams of the season. I freely admit I have a bias towards sponsors that have been in cycling for a long time but I hope I didn't let this cloud my judgement. This bias can also be a disservice to this teams because, in some cases, how can you put up with such mediocrity for so long?
Anyway, without further to do:
AG2R Citroën Team – 13 wins, 4 World Tour (WT) wins
Just like in the mid-2000s, I still see AG2R as the prototypical small French team that could make their season with a stage win in the Tour de France. However, the reality nowadays is that AG2R is one of the biggest teams in the peloton and didn’t do really do much this season. I do consider it to be (barely) passable, on the back of Ben O’Connor’s 4th place in the Tour, along with stage wins in all three Grand Tours, the mountains jersey in the Giro, and the win in the Bretagne Classic. Not a lot, in my opinion, for a team like AG2R. Additionally, Greg Van Avermaet’s signing also can’t be considered a success: the Belgian’s only decent result this season was a 3rd place in the Tour of Flanders. Grade: C-.
Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux – 9 wins, 3 WT wins
I think this team deserves the benefit of the doubt. It’s still a young team and it managed two Grand Tour stage wins (Giro and Vuelta) and wore the red jersey for nine days at the Vuelta. Louis Meintjes placed 14th at the Tour and was forced to abandon the Vuelta while in the top 10. Odd Christian Eiking was 11th overall at the Vuelta. All things considered it wasn’t a good year by the standards of a World Tour. Still, I believe they did enough, given their budget and WT experience, to have a passable season. Grade: C-.
Team BikeExchange – 9 wins, 2WT wins
Simon Yates was really the only relevant BikeExchange rider of 2021 with a stage win and podium place (3rd) in the Giro. Michael Matthews had a disappointing year, as did most of the team. At least the team did manage to win the Australian road championship through Cameron Meyer, an important feat for an Australian team. Furthermore, with only six teams getting a podium place at Grand Tours this year and keeping in mind BikeExchange’s small budget, I will give them the absolute minimum passing grade. Grade: C-.
Cofidis, Solutions Crédits – 12 wins, 1 WT win
I really like Cofidis because of their long-term commitment to cycling. Sadly, I can’t call a year with one WT win (a stage in the Giro) a success. This pains me even more because Guillaume Martin was sensational throughout the year. He was one of the very few bright spots on the team. The Frenchman finished both the Tour and the Vuelta in the top 10 (8th and 9th). These really were the most positive results for the team this year. Victor Lafay won the Giro stage but then was quiet for the rest of the season. After them, Christophe Laporte was really the only other rider producing results at the highest level: 6th in the Paris Roubaix and 2nd in the Dwars door Vlaanderen. Like Greg van Avermaet, Elia Viviani’s signing was a total miss, even if the Italian regained form by the end of the season. I don’t think this was enough to make Cofidis miss him when he leaves next year. Grade: D+.
Movistar Team – 15 wins, 3 WT wins
So much money can’t produce just 3 WT victories. Ironically, it was Miguel Ángel López who "saved" Movistar by finally giving them a Grand Tour win in the twilight of the Vuelta. Alejandro Valverde managed a podium at the Fleche Wallone and three other wins during the season, including a stage in the Criterium du Dauphiné, but a 41-year-old can’t carry a team as big as Movistar. Enric Mas was, by far, the best rider on the team with a 2nd and 6th overall places at the Vuelta and Tour, respectively. Anyway, a team of Movistar’s standing can’t have just one rider "saving" the team’s season. Grade: D+.
Team DSM – 9 wins, 5 WT wins
Up until the Vuelta this team’s year had been disastrous. Their best result had been Romain Bardet’s 7th overall place in the Giro. However, in the Spanish Grand Tour the team won three stages (two by Michael Storer and one by Bardet) as well as the mountains’ jersey, also through Storer. Nothing like a Grand Tour to help mask what would have been a terrible season otherwise. I don’t think it was positive, but it was not horrible either. Grade: D+.
Trek - Segafredo – 19 wins, 2 WT
The American team started out with a bang by winning the first monument of the year: Jasper Stuyven won the Milan San Remo in March. From that point forward, one Tour de France stage was the best (nearly all) the team did for the remainder of the year. They even lost the USA national championship to Rally Cycling, a much smaller team. Trek - Segafredo is not the huge team it used to be but I still expected much more from this team. The future looks bright, though, with Quinn Simmons and Juan Pedro López (13th overall in the Vuelta) so let’s see what the team does next year. Grade: D+.
Team Qhubeka NextHash – 5 wins, 3 WT wins
This was a tumultuous season for the South African team, after which its future in the WT is still not guaranteed for next season. I’m not going to be overly harsh on Team Qhubeka and sincerely root for them to secure their position in the WT next season. The team started the season very well with three stage wins in the Giro (by Mauro Schmid, Giacomo Nizzolo and Victor Campenaerts) but were pretty anonymous during the rest of the season. A 3rd place overall by Campenaerts in the Benelux Tour was the best the team accomplished from the Giro until now. Grade: D.
Israel Start-Up Nation – 17 wins, 3 WT victories
I could give ISN a pass for last season’s poor performances but not for this one. The team has been in the WT peloton for enough time for me to consider this season a disappointment. Their big investment in Chris Froome has not paid off. The best results of the season for the Israeli team were a stage win and 10th overall place in the Giro by Dan Martin, as well as two days in pink through Alessandro De Marchi. They didn’t even win the Israeli national championship this year. The team got a few decent victories at the end of the season which doesn’t change much for me. In fact, it’s arguable if they even improved from last season (their first in the WT) to this one. Grade: D.
Groupama - FDJ – 23 wins, 2 WT wins
One of the biggest teams in the peloton only manages 2 WT wins? Much like Cofidis, I appreciate FDJ for the long term support it has offered the sport of cycling. This season however was just very bad. Sprinter Arnaud Démare had a down year that he polished a bit with a Paris Tours win. David Gaudu was a warrior but much maligned by bad luck during the season. In the end, two WT stage wins (Tour of the Basque Country and Tour de Suisse), a 3rd place in the Liège Bastogne Liège, and a 2nd in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (by promising youngster Jake Stewart) is very, very, very little for a team with such a large budget. I wish I could say the future is bright for the team but, if the past is any indication, Jake Stewart will be another rider that will fulfill his potential on another team. The constant underperformance of the French team is certainly not a reflection of the many high-quality riders on the team. Much less a reflection of the team’s budget. In sports some people at fantastic at scouting but can’t lead a team. Maybe that is what’s happening here. Grade: E.