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The most-read membership stories of the year

Insider analysis and interviews with the sport's biggest names dominated our top 10. (This free piece is open to all readers.)

Don't miss a moment from Paris-Roubaix and Unbound Gravel, to the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, Vuelta a España, and everything in between when you join Outside+.

Insider access.

In two words, that is what we offer members of VeloNews and Outside+. Not that we are highfalutin at VeloNews, but we do have people working 365 days a year covering bike racing, and with that comes insight and detail that you don’t get from casual coverage elsewhere.

Why did Mark Cavendish’s chain keep coming off right after sprints? We asked him, and other industry experts.

What happened when Brandon McNulty sailed off into a ditch on the Cormet de Roseland, or when Caleb Ewan crashed at the Tour? We were there.

We put all of this reporting into our stories, the best of which we reserve for our members.

Here are our top-10 most-read membership stories from the year.

If you are a member, thank you! If not, I hope you will consider supporting the journalism we do every day, and join so that you can enjoy everything we work hard to produce.

10: Sepp Kuss on Ineos Grenadiers at the Vuelta: ‘They had to try something’

Ineos Grenadiers threw everything at Primož Roglič on the “Alpe d’Huez” of Spain, but he didn’t crack.

In fact, Ineos Grenadiers seemed to inflect their own damage, and Roglič and Jumbo-Visma ended up tightening their grip on the Vuelta a España’s red jersey.

“They had to try something for sure,” Sepp Kuss said of Ineos Grenadiers. “From my side, we were really strong, we had a lot of guys left in the group and we just did our own race.”

Read  what Kuss had to say about the well-funded British squad.

9: Getting the shot: Brandon McNulty on the Cormet de Roselend

VeloNews and Peloton contributor James Startt, the winner of the 2021 World Sports Photography Awards, covered his 32nd Tour de France this year. During the race, he provided a regular feature explaining how he gets his favorite shots of the day and also what equipment he uses.

Here, he shares how he captured the moment Brandon McNulty tumbled into a ditch on a treacherous descent at the Tour de France before continuing on with fellow American Neilson Powless.

Read how James Startt shot this photo of Brandon McNulty.

8: Floyd Landis recounts his experience at Big Sugar, his first gravel race

Floyd Landis did his first gravel race in Bentonville, Arkansas. In this interview, Landis talks about how the race went, including taking care of Ted King, who crashed and broke his elbow, and his thoughts on gravel racing in general, now that he has gotten a taste for it.

At Big Sugar, Landis lined up in front and was impressed with how fast the race started. He also noted how technical the course was, and how group dynamics play out differently on gravel than on the road.

Ultimately, Landis did not finish the 100-mile race, but it was for a Good Samaritan reason, as he and TJ Eisenhart switched gears to take care of King.

Read about Floyd Landis’ first gravel race.

7: Tour de France daily digest: The Tour will break your heart

Newsflash: The Tour de France will break your heart.

The race will also shatter your bicycle, shred your colorful kit, and take a cheese grater to the tender skin on your butt cheeks. Primož Roglič, Geraint Thomas, and half of the peloton can already attest to this.

After three stages of the 2021 Tour de France, the biggest story of the race is the near-constant disruption caused by crashes. Nearly every element of this year’s race — from the current GC standings to the winners of each stage — have been impacted by wrecks.

Read about all the early crashes at the 2021 Tour de France.

6: Meet cycling’s new GC hierarchy: ranking the 2021 grand tour racing season

LAGOS DE COVADONGA, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 01: (L-R) Primoz Roglic of Slovenia and Team Jumbo - Visma and Egan Arley Bernal Gomez of Colombia and Team INEOS Grenadiers White Best Young Rider Jersey compete in the Breakaway during the 76th Tour of Spain 2021, Stage 17 a 185,5km stage from Unquera to Lagos de Covadonga 1.085m / @lavuelta / #LaVuelta21 / on September 01, 2021 in Lagos de Covadonga, Spain. (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Professional racing seems to have a way of putting things in their place, and even more so in grand tour racing at the Tour de France.

Sure, there can be the occasional surprise here and there, but it’s more common to see the cream rise to the top.

That was certainly the case in the 2021 grand tour racing season. Egan Bernal won the Giro d’Italia, Tadej Pogačar repeated at the Tour, and Primož Roglič completed a hat-trick at the Vuelta a España.

Bernal, Pogačar, and Roglič — cycling’s “Big Three” — are the absolute best grand tour racers in cycling right now, and they swept the grand tours.

Read about the 2021 grand tour racing season.

5: Olympic Games notebook: Tadej Pogačar makes history in Tour de France-Olympic double

OYAMA, JAPAN - JULY 24: (L-R) Silver medalist Wout van Aert of Team Belgium, gold medalist Richard Carapaz of Team Ecuador, and bronze medalist Tadej Pogacar of Team Slovenia, pose on the podium during the medal ceremony during the Men's road race at the Fuji International Speedway on day one of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on July 24, 2021 in Oyama, Shizuoka, Japan. (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

If Tadej Pogačar isn’t already a machine on two wheels, he set another mark Saturday in Japan in the Olympic Games.

The 22-year-old made history Saturday to become the first Tour de France winner to also claim an Olympic medal in the road race, when he kicked to bronze behind Richard Carapaz (Ecuador) and Wout van Aert (Belgium).

Tour winners have hit the Olympic podium before, including Bradley Wiggins, who won the Tour and an Olympic gold medal in the individual time trial in 2012. Jan Ullrich finished second in the 2000 Tour, and won gold in the Olympic road race that summer.

Pogačar is the first to win the Tour and an Olympic medal in the road race in the same year.

Read how Tadej Pogačar made history at the Tour and the Olympics in 2021.

4: Getting the Shot: Caleb Ewan on stage 3 of the Tour de France

In another piece from veteran photojournalist James Startt, here is part of what he had to say. 

I started the stage — the third of four for the Tour’s grand depart in Brittany — in search of a scenic shot as the race once again looped along the region’s coastline. While I found a nice spot overlooking a historic bridge just outside of Carnac, I was not convinced it would be my best vantage point.

My only option would have to come at the finish. Arriving in Pontivy, I immediately spotted a sweeping turn about 150 meters from the line. The crowds were dense and the road was framed nicely by the architecture of the old town.

As the riders finally approached I started shooting from different distances. But, suddenly, I heard that all-too-familiar sound of bikes crashing and riders hitting the ground. And it happened right at the front of the pack. It was hard to understand what was happening or who was hitting the tarmac. I just did my best to keep shooting.

Read how James Startt got the shot of Caleb Ewan after a crash at the Tour.

3: Tour de Hoody: Chris Froome stubbornly refuses to give up on Tour de France dream

Team Israel Start Up Nation's Christopher Froome of Great Britain rides during the 5th stage of the 108th edition of the Tour de France cycling race, a 27 km time trial between Change and Laval, on June 30, 2021. (Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP) (Photo by ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP via Getty Images)

Chris Froome (Israel Start-Up Nation) rode a different kind of time trial at the Tour de France.

Instead of racing to win the yellow jersey in the Tour’s first major test against the clock, a banged up and bruised Froome was racing to limit the losses.

“I know I’m nowhere near the pace on today’s course,” Froome said. “It was just about getting through today staying ahead of the time cut.”

Read why Chris Froom won’t give up on his Tour de France dreams.

2: What Mark Cavendish and gear experts say about his chain coming off

Mark Cavendish's Specialized Tarmac with a Shimano Dura-Ace drivetrain, and Roval Rapide CLX wheels.

Sprinting great Mark Cavendish has won four stages of the 2021 Tour de France. Twice, his chain has come off right at the finish line as he abruptly stops sprinting to celebrate. What is going on?

We asked suppliers to the team, industry experts, and Cavendish himself about the phenomenon.

The basic situation is that when the spinning momentum of his cassette and rear wheel and the forward momentum of his chain are suddenly met with an abruptly stopped or briefly backpedaled chainring, the chain loses tension and comes off. The fact that he is usually in a big gear with his chain at an angle (53/11) may contribute. The fact that he sharply switches from a super-high cadence sprint to a brief backpedal sometimes may contribute. And a small bit of friction in the freehub that could prevent it from immediately stopping could contribute to the chain slack, too.

Read why Cav’s chain kept coming off at the Tour.

1: Commentary: I’m already losing hope in Chris Froome’s comeback

Editor in chief Fred Dreier weighed in on the four-time Tour de France winner back in February.

Chris Froome’s comeback is going great.

His rehabilitation is complete, and his once-broken body has healed. His conditioning plan is right on schedule. And now, Froome’s pathway to a record-tying fifth Tour de France victory is as clear as U.S. Interstate 405 at 2 a.m. on a Sunday morning.

Reassuring messages like this have beamed from Planet Froome over the past few weeks, as he wrapped up his rehab in Southern California and prepared for the season. After each positive message, media members like myself have glanced at the calendar to see the UAE Tour circled in red. Seven days of sand and wind would tell us whether Froome was, indeed, on his way back.

Seeing is believing, as the old saying goes. After watching four stages of the UAE Tour, I’ve seen Chris Froome struggle again and again.

Sorry, folks, I’m already losing hope in the Chris Froome comeback story.

Read Fred Dreier’s analysis of Chris Froome’s comeback attempt.