Ag2r Citroën Team: 5/10
For all the talk of a new focus on the Classics, Ag2r again enjoyed most of their modest 2021 successes on the more familiar hunting ground of Grand Tours. While third at the Tour of Flanders was the best marquee new signing Greg Van Avermaet managed during the spring, the team won stages in all three Grand Tours, and appear to have found a successor for Romain Bardet in Ben O’Conor, who finished fourth overall at the Tour de France.
Although they’re not in the WorldTour, Alpecin-Fenix made such an impact in top-level races this year that it would be remiss to leave them out.
With Tim Merlier and Jasper Philipsen winning sprints throughout the season, including in all three Grand Tours, and Mathieu van der Poel continuing to astonish and win races like Strade Bianche, the second-tier team amassed 32 wins — more than all but three WorldTour teams managed.
Astana-Premier Tech: 2/10
The wins dried up for Astana in 2021. This year’s haul of 12 is the lowest in a decade, and less than half of that scant tally came outside of National Championships. Where in previous years they have entertained and enjoyed success with aggressive racing, this year they deployed most resources to the Grand Tour GC bids for Aleksandr Vlasov and Alexey Lutsenko, none of which resulted in a podium finish.
There were stark improvements in many of Bahrain-Victorious’ riders this year, from Damiano Caruso and Jack Haig registering career-first Grand Tour podium finishes, to Matej Mohorič's and Sonny Colbrelli’s late-season purple patches, the latter’s culminating in a stunning Paris-Roubaix victory. Consequently, the team exceeded 30 wins for the first time in its three-year history.
Team BikeExchange: 3/10
Simon Yates’ podium finish at the Giro d’Italia was to be BikeExchange’s only season highlight in 2021, as the team only won a meagre two races from then onwards, making an overall tally of nine wins — the lowest in the team’s nine-year history.
They missed the departed Adam Yates and Jack Haig, while, for all of the consistency, Michael Matthews did not take a single victory having been signed to be the team’s talisman.
Bora-Hansgrohe have always done well not to rely too much on star man Peter Sagan, and his waning form made doing so especially important this year.
Their 30 wins came from a wide range of sources, with Max Schachmann’s successful defence of his Paris-Nice title and Nils Politt and Patrick Konrad’s Tour de France stage wins being the high-points. But Sagan’s lack of success outside of winning the maglia ciclamino at the Giro d’Italia did mean the team weren’t quite as prolific as normal.
Cofidis’ second year back in the WorldTour went an awful lot better than their first, when they won just two races. Elia Viviani started winning sprints again, albeit in races of much smaller calibre than previously, while Christophe Laporte successfully rebranded as one of the top riders in the cobbled Classics, and Guillarme Martin continued to lead the line at Grand Tours with top 10s at the Tour and the Vuelta.
Frenchman Victor Lafay also ended a barren spell for the team, winning a stage at the Giro d'Italia for Cofidis for the first time in 11 years.
Yet again Deceuninck-Quick-Step comfortably topped the win rankings, with their usual astonishing mixture of spring Classics (Kasper Asgreen at the Tour of Flanders), bunch sprints (Mark Cavendish’s quadruple at the Tour de France and Fabio Jakobsen’s three at the Vuelta), and other top races (Julian Alaphilippe at the Worlds). The only thing that remains elusive is GC success at Grand Tours, as Remco Evenepoel falling short at his much-hyped Giro debut.
Team DSM: 2/10
The season began under the shadow of star rider Marc Hirschi leaving in mysterious circumstances, and the sense that not all was well behind the scenes was exacerbated by a dismal run of results in which they won just one race by the end of July. There was at least a late resurgence at the Vuelta a España, with Michael Storer winning two stages, but like so many of the young talents DSM develops, he’s leaving the team to ride elsewhere next year
EF Education Nippo: 6/10
All in all, 2021 was a mixed bag for EF Education-Nippo. The Grand Tour GC bids of Rigoberto Urán and Hugh Carthy fizzled out after promising starts, and Classics stars Alberto Bettiol and Michael Valgren only impressive sporadically; but young riders Neilson Powless and Stefan Bissegger both made huge leaps with wins at San Sebastian and multiple WorldTour time trials respectively, while Magnus Cort three stage wins at the Vuelta was arguably the season highlight.
Ongoing injury problems for Thibaut Pinot and Arnaud Démare’s struggles to find form in the top races made this a tricky year for Groupama-FDJ. Thankfully, their other riders stepped up, with Stefan Küng enjoying his best time trialling season to date and being crowned European Champion, and David Gaudu continuing to improve and making the podium of Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Even missing top form, Démare still won several sprints as well as Paris-Tours, helping ensure the team exceed 20 wins for the fifth successive season, albeit mostly in small races.
Ineos Grenadiers: 6/10
Failure to win the yellow jersey for the second successive season confirms that Ineos Grenadiers reign of Tour de France supremacy is over. They retained the ability to suffocate the opposition in week-long stage races, winning four in succession in the run-in to the Tour, and dominated the Giro d’Italia in exemplary manner to guide Egan Bernal to overall victory, but work is to be done if they’re to retain their status as Grand Tour dons.
Intermarché–Wanty–Gobert Matériaux: 3/10
The World Tour debutants had a hard time adapting to the elite level. There were a handful of great moments, such as Taco van der Hoorn taking a shock win at the Giro, and Odd Christian Eiking spending an unlikely week in the red jersey at the Vuelta a España, but only Qhubeka-NextHash and DSM had a win total lower than theirs of nine
Israel Start-Up Nation 4 / 10
The big gamble of recruiting Chris Froome did not pay off, as the four-time Tour de France winner failed to find any kind of form, meaning the progress made during Israel Start-Up Nation’s second season in the WorldTour was much more modest than hoped. Michael Woods had a stellar spring, the Classics line-up were competitive, and they managed a healthy season total of 17 wins, but the team remains a long way off being a GC force at Grand Tours.
The much-desired yellow jersey once more eluded Jumbo-Visma, with 24-year-old revelation Jonas Vingegaard this time being the man to finish second behind Tadej Pogačar, but the Dutch squad were again prolifically successful throughout the season, mostly courtesy of their two superstars, Primož Roglič and Wout van Aert.
Roglič defended his Vuelta title and was crowned Olympic champion in the time trial, while Van Aert picked up another haul of Classics victories and World and Olympic medals, as well a stunning hat-trick of three very different stage wins at the Tour.
The steady supply of sprint wins provided by Caleb Ewan came to an abrupt halt when he crashed out of the Tour de France, prompting a two-month drought in the team that didn’t end until Ewan returned with a win at the Benelux Tour. The team’s reliance on Ewan and his time out was partly responsible for what was their leanest full season since 2010, and second-place at Paris-Roubaix for 22-year-old Florian Vermeersch was a much-needed sign of revitalisation for a Classics squad that has grown stale.
Although several wins (mostly in second-tier Spanish races) ensured 2021 improved upon last year’s miserable campaign, Movistar are still in a painful process of transition. Their great new hope Miguel Ángel López had begun to settle, until the disastrous meltdown on the penultimate day of the Vuelta saw him drop off the podium and abandon, damaging relations with the team to the extent that his contract is to be terminated.
Enric Mas still managed to finish second overall, the team’s best result all year, but any progress with the rebuild has been undone with Lopez’s departure.
Qhubeka-NextHash’s survival is once again plunged in doubt, with news emerging that riders have been told to look for new teams amid financial difficulty, and their internal turmoil was reflected by results on the road. Aside from one glorious week at the Giro d’Italia when the team won three stages, the team only managed two other wins courtesy of Giacomo Nizzolo, who failed to be as prolific as last year
The spring Classics once again a huge success, with Jasper Stuyven’s victory at Milan-San Remo the team’s highlight of the year. The Grand Tours weren’t as fruitful, as Vinenzo Nibali’s days as a GC contender appear to be over and Giulio Ciccone was unable to follow through after promising beginnings, but Bauke Mollema did manage to win an important Tour de France stage.
UAE Team Emirates: 10 / 10
UAE Team Emirates might not have been the best team of 2021, but they certainly had the best rider. Tadej Pogačar was even better than he was last year, winning the Tour de France in an even more comprehensive manner, and also enjoying extraordinary success in one-day races by winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Il Lombardia, the team’s first ever Monuments.
The likes of Diego Ulissi and sprinter Juan Sebastián Molano also contributed significantly to the team’s 32-win season haul, but most importantly of all, they gave Pogačar the support he needed to flourish.
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