A picture is worth a thousand words.
Not only did the 2021 season deliver us plenty of brilliant racing action, but it also gave us some great pictures to remember it by.
From the images of muddy riders slogging it out on the Paris-Roubaix cobbles to Marion Rousse on stage for the unveiling of the 2022 Tour de France Femmes route, the pictures tell a story of a historic season.
- Marion Rousse: The TV pundit and former rider building a Tour de France Femmes to last
- Paris-Roubaix Femmes: Did the inaugural edition live up to the hype, and what next for the race?
- Anna Kiesenhofer on Tokyo Olympics win: ‘So many people have emailed saying it inspires them’
Anna van der Breggen ended an illustrious career with some dominant performances while her compatriot Annemiek van Vleuten showed she’s still a huge force, despite closing in on 40, and finished the season at the top of the world rankings.
Meanwhile, Elisa Balsamo came of age to win the rainbow stripes at the world championships, and Anna Kiesenhofer beat the odds and became the Olympic champion.
Let us take you down memory lane with these 21 pictures from 2021.
The women’s peloton rides past a field of sunflowers at the Giro d’Italia Donne. The race was rebranded for 2021 and featured international live coverage for the first time in its history. After being demoted this year, it will be back on the WorldTour calendar for next season.
The first-ever edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes was held this year in wet conditions. There were plenty of mud and crashes but it was a spectacular race that fit the historic occasion.
Annemiek van Vleuten crosses the line to win her second Tour of Flanders title and deliver Movistar’s first in the team’s 40-year history. Van Vleuten made her move on the Paterberg and none of her rivals could follow the Dutch ace. It was the beginning of a great season for van Vleuten at her new team.
Sometimes the pictures don’t do the Mur de Huy justice, but this one gives a small insight into the brutality of the short climb. Anna van der Breggen was ill in the build-up to this year’s Flèche Wallonne but she was on-song when she took to the start line. Kasia Niewiadoma did her best, but even she couldn’t stop van der Breggen from taking a record seventh victory atop the Mur de Huy.
Trek-Segafredo lead the peloton through the dust at Strade Bianche. The American team came oh-so-close to winning the race with Elisa Longo Borghini, but the Italian champion was outgunned by a clever performance from Chantal van den Broek-Blaak.
Marianne Vos won her 30th Giro d’Italia Donne stage this year — a record that is going to take some time to beat. She pointed to the sky as she won her 29th, as she remembered Belgian racer Jolien Verschueren, who died of cancer at the age of 31, shortly before the race.
Vos dedicated her win to Verschueren in an emotional post-stage interview.
Lorena Wiebes sprayed the champagne at the Women’s Tour in October. Wiebes took 13 wins in 2021, more than any other rider, and cemented her position as one of the fastest riders in the bunch.
An exhausted Lizzie Deignan after winning the inaugural Paris-Roubaix Femmes. Deignan went clear on the first cobbled sector as she tried to avoid the expected crashes. With a gap behind her, the Trek-Segafredo rider decided to push on and she was never caught, despite a strong chase by Marianne Vos near the end.
Anna Kiesenhofer pushed on towards victory in the road race at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. The Austrian rider was on few people’s radars at the start of the day, and she went clear of the peloton in the early breakaway. She held off the group of favorites with a supreme effort and became the first Austrian cycling gold medalist since 1896.
It’s tough being successful. An SD Worx soigneur works hard to carry all of the trophies won by the team at the Giro d’Italia Donne. The team won three stages and took all three spots on the overall podium at the end of the race, with Anna van der Breggen winning the maglia rosa.
Marion Rousse was named the race director for the Tour de France Femmes and she was in Paris for the unveiling of the 2022 route in October. There have been several versions of a women’s Tour de France over the years, but next season will see the first since 2009 and possibly the biggest ever.
As much as Anna Kiesenhofer’s win in the Olympic road race will be remembered, so will Annemiek van Vleuten’s celebration. The Dutch team wasn’t aware that Kisenhofer was up the road until it was too late to tell van Vleuten. She said afterwards that she felt “stupid” but she offered Kiesenhofer hearty congratulations and was ultimately happy with her silver medal.
The BikeExchange team had a difficult 2021 season, which is neatly summed up in this picture from the Giro d’Italia Donne. All three riders would ultimately leave the race after this crash, putting a serious dent in the team’s ambitions. Amanda Spratt, one of the team’s main leaders, recently underwent surgery on an artery this winter and she’s hoping to be in better form for 2022.
The Italian national team celebrated Elisa Balsamo’s victory at the world championships in Flanders. The team worked like a dream during the race to set up Balsamo for the sprint and she delivered the win.
Anna van der Breggen and Annemiek van Vleuten didn’t directly go up against each other too often during the 2021 season but they did at the Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria in May. Van der Breggen came out on top with Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig coming home a few seconds later for third. We’ll miss this rivalry between van der Breggen and van Vleuten in 2022.
Demi Vollering celebrated as she believed she has won Brabantse Pijl. However, the race jury will decide differently after looking at the photo finish. In the end, American champion Ruth Winder was awarded the win with Vollering in second.
After missing out on gold in the Olympic road race, Annemiek van Vleuten didn’t leave anything up to chance in the time trial. She destroyed the rest of the pack to win by nearly a minute.
An exhausted Demi Vollering after the opening team time trial at the Giro d’Italia Donne, which was contested under very hot temperatures. SD Worx went in as the favorites for the stage but it was Trek-Segafredo that took the win by eight seconds with Ruth Winder going into pink.
There was beautiful Norwegian scenery at the Ladies Tour of Norway, which delivered a brilliant week of action. The opening days saw the breakaway get one over on the peloton, but the sprinters did eventually get their chances and Annemiek van Vleuten romped away with the overall win.
White was definitely not a good color at the inaugural Paris-Roubaix Femmes, but Elisa Balsamo showed it off nonetheless. She wasn’t the only rider to hit the deck during this race with the rain and mud making the cobbles very slippy.
An emotional Zoe Backstedt after she beat U.S. rider Kaia Schmid to become junior world road race champion. Her father Magnus, the former Paris-Roubaix winner, was commentating on the race and broke down in tears as she crossed the line. Her mother is also a former racer and the Backstedt family is definitely blessed with good racing genes.
A painter entertained the crowds at the Women’s Tour in Britain, which was postponed to October due to COVID-19 regulations. More races towards the end of the season were able to get fans out onto the road as restrictions around Europe eased.