08 Oct 2021Fabio Strufaldi
The road-cycling season goes to archive with Colbrelli's epic victory at Roubaix
We are now at the end of the World Tour road season 2021, with only Lombardia as a classic monument to be disputed. The year of cycling's rebirth, after the Covid drama and the consequent unfortunate and odd 2020 season, proved to be exceptional. A beautiful series of races, which has finally seen the attendance of the public, with a large and competent presence, perhaps even greater than expected. Cycling is alive and well: a traditional popular sport, but capable of thrilling ever-increasing numbers of fans, both from the point of view of spectators and practitioners. Speaking more broadly, we cannot fail to mention the boom that women's cycling is having, from the youth categories to the pros.
As for the men, we still have in our eyes the legendary ride in the mud of the heroes of Paris-Roubaix, from which a mighty Sonny Colbrelli emerged. A race like this is the most effective commercial in favor of a sport that is too often mistreated: those who were lucky enough to follow it on TV, not to mention who was on the spot, witnessed one of the toughest, most fought and most uncertain competitions of the last years. The Azzurri victory rejoices us because an Italian has finally managed to climb the top of the podium after 22 years (the last triumph was that of Andrea Tafi in 1999) and because he delivers a true champion to the history and future of this sport, who has perhaps obtained all together what bad luck had taken away from him in previous years. In a few months, the Italian, European and Roubaix championships, plus another five spare victories. But, beyond the winner, it seems right to cheer all the actors on that epic and terrible stage made of pavé in the north of France. A world elite of athletes who make the classic monuments, as well as the stage races, always uncertain and battle-hardened.
The balance of Italian cycling
A season that for Italy, still orphan of a competitive athlete in stage races, sees the consecration of Filippo Ganna. The Verbanese is now number one in the world in time trials, a status achieved after dominating the Giro d'Italia, in the Olympic pursuit quartet and in confirming the world title against time. Having already said about Colbrelli, and awaiting the maturation of some interesting young people, the rest of the dish is a bit poor, with athletes now in decline (Nibali), or good cyclists but hardly competitive with superstars. However, if we had to bet on someone in the season, we would do it on Gianni Moscon. A moving and unfortunate campaign at Roubaix: left on the run alone more than 50 km from the finish, he resisted with just over a minute on a handful of unleashed pursuers and only a puncture and a fall 15 km from the goal took him away a possible victory. This race is tailored to his characteristics and we are sure that his arrival at Astana next year will be a springboard for his talent, not only in the French race, but also in many other races. A talent that perhaps in recent years has remained entangled in the tactics of Sky /Ineos, but is ready to explode, a bit like Colbrelli did this year.
To extend the reasoning in other categories, we meet a huge blue booty not only at the Olympics (where the track pursuit is a certainty), but also and above all at the World Road Championships in Belgium. Apart from the absence of victories in the Elite men's online test to which we are unfortunately accustomed for some time, we have dominated in many other races: the golds of Elisa Balsamo in the women's Elite, of Filippo Baroncini in the Under 23 and the triumph of Ganna himself are to demonstrate that the Italian cycling movement is varied and solid.
Is modern cycling back to the past?
We said that the season has been beautiful: the young superstars Pogacar and Evenepoel have matured at the speed of light, the now very strong Van der Poel, Van Aert and Alaphilippe guarantee a show at every race in which they participate. Roglic is a tractor on all terrains, Bernal has consolidated himself as king in stage races with a nice triumph at the Giro d'Italia. Cycling is obviously changing, and it's doing it for the better. Not only has the new generation finally knocked out the senators who wrote cycling a few years ago, but the races themselves have changed. We see far fewer tactics, and teams are no longer able to keep racing tied up like they were a few years ago. Fewer trains uphill without the possibility of escape (Team Sky in this was the master team), fewer sprint finishes in the flat and valley stages. This translates into great chances of the escapes to arrive: only at the Giro d'Italia, the few fugitives, or the single (even more often) have reached the finish line in 15 occasions out of 19 available stages online. And at the Tour and the Vuelta the music doesn't change that much, with the group often not being able to control the race, which gave new motivation to the day's escapes and solitary breakaways. We have discovered lesser-known riders, who have risen to the world limelight with their achievements: whether they are young emerging or lieutenants and gregari who can crown their career with a victory. We have tasted again a beautiful and ancient cycling, less tied to the tactical logic of the great teams, but more inclined to the romantic solitary breakaway, perhaps with an ending that smiles on David against Goliath!
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