This was, hands down, the best week of racing of 2021 so far, and perhaps the most thrilling block of bike racing in a year.
- Wout van Aert takes bold step into GC racing at Tirreno-Adriatico
- The flawed brilliance of Primož Roglič
- Why Dutch riders are dominating the women’s peloton
What do we make of the major storylines to come out of the races? Fred Dreier and Jim Cotton chew it over:
How does Mathieu van der Poel’s breakaway win at Tirreno-Adriatico compare to his other major wins on the road?
Jim: Sunday’s ride was up there with van der Poel’s best because it tested him in a way we rarely see. While Mathieu van der Poel’s victories at Amstel Gold Race and Strade Bianche came from racecraft and massive physical strength, stage 5 of Tirreno-Adriatico was as much a test of his grit and guts as it was of his physiology. Van der Poel has shown again and again that he’s almost peerless physically and seemingly capable of almost whatever he wants. But van der Poel almost bit off more than he can chew Sunday, and he knew it. After the race, the Dutchman spoke of his error in not bundling into a jacket when the rain threw down earlier in the stage, and the cold nearly put an end to his chances as Tadej Pogačar charged after him. Van der Poel had to dig into the hurt-locker to pull off his victory this weekend, and for me, that gives it a unique place in his palmarès.
Fred: This one is right up there with the big ones. I put it behind Amstel Gold Race and the Tour of Flanders, and on par with his Strade Bianche win. I think I saw Michał Kwiatkowski tweet out that stage 5 was the sixth monument! It wasn’t just that van der Poel won against Egan Bernal, Wout van Aert, and Tadej Pogačar — he did so with a long solo breakaway, and not his customary burst of power. You could tell that van der Poel was feeling feisty early in the stage, and he led the group up the steep circuit climb a few times, dropping Julian Alaphilippe and other strong riders in the process. At one point he even drew out Bernal, van Aert, Pogačar, and Sergio Higuita, and those top riders decided not to follow him. It was a show of strength that we’re accustomed to seeing from van der Poel. Still, seeing it play out in such dramatic fashion was still incredibly cool.
Ellen van Dijk won the Healthy Ageing Tour. Have the other teams found out how to beat SD Worx at the classics?
Fred: I wouldn’t be so sure. SD Worx still won two of three stages and finished second in the ITT. I think that Ellen van Dijk’s overall win was incredibly impressive, and it definitely places her on the shortest list for Paris-Roubaix, the Tour of Flanders, and the other cobbled classics. But SD Worx was without Chantal van den Broek Blaak, Demi Vollering, and Anna van der Breggen, and my assumption is that these three riders could tip the scales against Trek-Segafredo in the classics.
Jim: Far from it. Van Dijk forged her win with an individual time trial, while SD Worx collectively dominated the racing and slotted five riders into the top 17. I would say that the Healthy Ageing Tour was too small an event to make predictions. None of SD Worx, Trek-Segafredo, and Movistar sent marquee riders — and Liv Racing wasn’t even there. The cobblestones and hills of Nokere Koerse on Wednesday may give a better indication of the playing field ahead of the major classics to come.
What do you make of Primož Roglič’s defeat at Paris-Nice?
Jim: Like when he withdrew from last summer’s Critérium du Dauphiné, Rogilič’s defeat at Paris-Nice was through misfortune rather than form. Roglič proved last year he’s mentally resilient, and the last week in France showed there are no problems with his legs. This latest disaster will weigh heavy on Roglič’s mind, and he needs a result to balance this out, fast. But he’ll be back.
Fred: I don’t think it’s worthy of alarm bells, but it is concerning. Roglič has now lost three of his last four stage races in a crushing manner, tumbling out of the lead with the finish in sight. I think Roglič needs to finish the job at a big WorldTour race, like Romandie or the Dauphiné, as a confidence-builder before the Tour de France.