Statistics in Wieler Revue – WC 2021

World Championships – Performances and developments

WC Leuven 2021 ©

In this blog, stats on the World Championships cycling are published. They have been input for the World Championships edition of the Dutch cycling magazine ‘Wieler Revue – editie 7 2021 (purchase here)’, published on September 7th 2021. Results of riders, countries, teams and editions are analysed and the highlights are presented. Source of all results: ProCyclingStats.

Dutch: Statistieken over het WK, als bijdrage voor de statistiek-pagina in Wieler Revue (editie 7, 2021, hier te verkrijgen) van 7 september 2021 over het WK van 2021. De resultaten per renner, land, team en editie zijn geanalyseerd en de meest interessante bevindingen gepresenteerd.

Publication in Wieler Revue, no. 7, 2021

Some comments beforehand:
1 – This blogpost and all published stats are about male procycling.
2 – ProCyclingStats is the source of all results.
3 – Active riders are riders under contract of a World Tour team or ProContinental team at the 1st of January 2021.
4 – Some analyses were started in 2000, because in 2000 an active rider participated in the WC for the first time (A. Valverde at the U23 Road Race).
5 – World Championships Individual Time Trial are organised since 1994.
6 – World Championships in the U23 category are organised since 1996.
7 – Thanks to Sander Dijksman for helping with the data.

1. World Championship experience of the 2021 peloton

Participations of active riders in U23 and elite World Championships (ITT and RR)
Participations of active riders in U23 and elite World Championships (ITT and RR)

Interesting observations:
381 out of 975 (39%) active riders did never participate in a World Championship cycling. 362 riders (37% of all active riders) have ever participated in the Road Race of an elite World Championship.

62 riders have participated in all 4 WC-events and 90 riders were never selected at the U23, but did participate in an WC-event with the elite.

2. Riders with most finishes of a WC Road Race (1927-2020)

Cyclists with most starts and finishes (all time and active riders in 2021)

3. Riders with most top-10 results of a WC Road Race (1927-2020)

Cyclists with most top-10 results (all time and active riders in 2021)

Interesting observations:
Raymond Poulidor finished 7 times top-10 in a Road Race of the World Championships, 4 times on the podium, but did not become World Champion in his career.

Alexander Kristoff finished top-10 in 5 of the 6 (83%) Road Races he participated in.

4. Youngest ald oldest participants and champions

Youngest and oldest participants at the World Championships
Youngest and oldest World Champions (all time)

Interesting observations:
In 2020, Enrico Gasparotto participated for the first time at a WC Road Race at the age of 38 years and 189 days. He is not active anymore in 2021, which makes Pozzovivo the oldest first-time participant among active cyclists.

Remco Evenepoel became the youngest first time participant in a WC-RR or ITT in 2019. Besides Remco, only Mohoric and Schär made their debut before their 20th birthday. A year later, Team UAE’s new rider and youngster Finn Fisher-Black was 18 years and 279 days old when he participated in the World Championships Time Trial of 2020. Fisher-Black therewith became the youngest participant of a World Championship event with the elite among active riders, and became part of a World Tour or ProContinental team as from the 14th of July 2021.

Last year, Richie Porte became the oldest first time finisher at a WC Road Race. He already participated in 2012 and 2013, but did not make it to the finish.

If he recovers on time, Alejandro Valverde could become the 8th oldest ever participant at a WC Road Race with 41 years and 154 days at September 26th, 2021. To break the record of Barry Burns (43 years, 239 days), Valverde should be participating in 2024 (Switzerland), at the age of 44.

Lance Armstrong is by far the youngest World Champion in last 30 years. Mads Pedersen was almost 2 years older when he won his title in Harrogate (2019).

5. Riders with top-results in multiple WC-events

Riders with top-results in multipe WC events

Interesting observations:
Among the riders with a top-10 finish in 3 different WC-events (ITT and RR, elite and U23), Fabian Cancellara is the rider with most top-10 results (13). Dumoulin is the active rider with the most top-results among riders with a top-10 in 3 different events.

No single cyclist finished top-10 in all 4 WC events (ITT and RR, U23 and elite), 6 riders finished top-20 in all 4 events: Boasson Hagen, Grivko, Brajkovic, Nibali, Boom and Lutsenko.

5 riders finished on the podium of the Road Race and Time Trial of an elite World Championships. Wout van Aert and Stefan Küng are the only active riders who did so.

Last year in Imola, Wout van Aert was the third rider in history who finished on the podium in both the elite ITT and Road Race in the same edition (2020). Olano and Indurain both succeeded to do so in 1995.

Multiple World Champions

Interesting observations:
3 riders became World Champion in multiple events. Hushovd is the only rider with a title at U23 and elite. Olano is the only rider with a title at both elite-events and Petrov the only one with a title in both U23-events.

ITT-specialists Cancellara and Martin have won most rainbow jerseys.

6. Performances of World Champions the year before their first WC-title

Performances of WC, the year before they became first time World Champion

Interesting observations:
Since 1993, the new World Champion (if it was his first title) did not finish top-10 in the season before his first title. Gianni Bugno was the last rider who became champion in 1991 and finished 3rd the year before (1990). 4 champions did not finish the year before their title and 5 did not participate the year before.

Rui Costa came closest to a top-10 spot in Valkenburg (2012) the year before he won the rainbow jersey in 2013; he finished 11th on the Cauberg.

Mario Cipollini became World Champion at his first and only appaerance at a WC-Road Race in 2002.

First time World Champions more often performed well after winning their first title. Also 2 or more years before their first WC-win a top-10 result was more often achieved. 8 out of 23 first time World Champions since 1993 had already finished top-10 before their first title.

Before 1993 it occured more often that the World Champion finished top-10 the year before his first title. For example, Zoetemelk became 10th in 1984 (WC in 1985), Lemond 2nd in 1982, Argentin 3rd in 1985 and Criquillon 5th in 1983.

7. Active riders with the longest sequence of participations at a WC

Active riders with the longest sequence of participations in WC-events (U23, elite, ITT and RR)

Interesting observations:
Maciej Bodnar and Greg van Avermaet have the longest (running) sequence of participations at the World Championships. They both participated every edition since 2005, U23 included.

Without considering Time Trials, Greg van Avermaet has the longest sequence. When Greg will participate in Leuven’21, it will be his 17th participation in a row and the first one in his home country Belgium. At his first appearence in 2005, 30 other active riders participated in the World Championships.

Alejandro Valverde is the active rider with the first WC-participation at the U23 Road Race in 2000.

Behind GVA, Dion Smith and Krists Neilands have the longest running sequence of WC-Road Race participations with U23 or elite.

The sequence of ‘presence at a WC’ of Philippe Gilbert started in 2001, but was disrupted in 2016 after 15 consecutive WC-Road Race participations. Gilbert missed the race for the rainbow jersey as well in 2018 and 2020. Tony Martin’s sequence was also disrupted after 15 consecutive participations (RR or ITT, elite or U23), he was not selected for the race against the clock in Imola 2020.

8. Medal-table: countries with most top-resuls in World Championships

Medal-table per country, top results at WC- Road Race

Interesting observations:
Belgium is the country with most gold medals at the World Championships in the history of male cycling. 26 out ot 87 championships were won by a rider from Belgium.

Between 2000 and 2020, Spain and Italy lead the table with 4 golden medals each.

All top-results of Slovakia are from Peter Sagan. Sagan became World Champion 3 times (2015-2017) and finished top-10 another 2 times.

The biggest ‘cycling-nations’ in 2021 without a World Champion in history are Slovenia and Colombia.

Luxembourg is the country with most top-10 results without a title: 2 silver, 2 bronze and 21 top-10 results, but never did a male rider from Luxemburg become World Champion.

9. Performances by country – since 2000 and among active riders

Performances by country, starts, finishes and average age.
Performances by country, starts, finishes and average age.

Interesting observations:
4065 riders have participated in a WC-Road Race with the elite since 2000.

Italian and Belgian riders are most succesful in finishing a WC-Road Race. 78 % of all Italians who started a WC-Road Race since 2000 also made it to the finish.

Italy and Spain have on average the oldest squad at the start of a WC Road Race since 2000.

Selections from Russia and Colombia are on average the youngest (considering countries with 100 or more riders at the start since 2000).

20% of all Spanish finishers since 2000 (n=131) finished top-10.

From the 2021 peloton, the Dutch are most experienced in participating in the WC- Road Race (75 participations among active riders). None of them finished on the podium.

10. Peformances by World Tour teams (riders with a contract in 2021)

Experience and performances by World Tour teams (2021 under contract riders)

Interesting observations:
Riders of INEOS (2021 contracts) have most experience at WC-RR, 96 times did a rider of INEONS participate in the worlds.

Riders from EF Education have a lot of experience (73 starts), but only 2 top-10 results in a Road Race (both by Michael Valgren), remarkably few.

Riders of UAE and Jumbo have the highest share of finishers at the Road Race with 64% and 63% respectively (teams with 50 or more participations).

Deceuninck Quick Step is the only team with multiple World Champions in their team in 2021 (Alaphilippe and Cavendish).

With 22 participations and 10 finishes, Wanty is the World Tour team with least WC-experience.

11. Developments in World Championships (age and finishers)

Average age of starters, finishers and top-10 at the World Championships (2000-2020)
Share of finishers at the World Championships (2000-2020)

Interesing observations:
On average, finishers ar somewhat older than the entire startlist and the average age of the top-10 is even higher. Experience seems important for a good result and even reaching the finish of a WC Road Race.

The difference in average age between finishers and top-10 seems to become somewhat bigger in last 20 years. Is experience becoming more important for a good result?

World Champions are on average younger than the entire top-10.

Since 2000, the percentage of riders that finishes a World Championship Road Race is steadily decreasing. The wet and hilly edition of 2019 in Harrogate was the edition with the lowest share of finishers (23%) since 1995, when only 19% of the starters reached the finish in Colombia. In the edition of 1980 (won by Hinault) only 15 riders finished in Sallanches after a race of 268KM and 6000 vertical meters.

12. Globalization of cycling – nationalities at the World Championships

Number of nationalities at the start of the World Championships Road Race (elie men)
Nationalities at the start, with a finisher and World Champion in the WC Road Race.

Interesing observations:
Cyclists from 82 different countries have ever participated in the Road Race of the World Championships. On average 22 different nationalities per edition. Only 57 of 82 nationalities that started also had a finisher.

The number of different countries with one or more riders at the start of a WC Road Race is increasing. Between 1927 and 1987 the number of countries slowly but surely increased from 10 in 1927 to 23 in 1987. From 1987 onward the number of countries increased faster and exploded from 2000 onwards. In 2000, 30 countries had a participant and since 2005 every year around 40 countries participate in the elite men Road Race, with a maximum of 52 in 2013.

17 different countries have a World Champion. Between 1927 and 1987 (n=53) the champions had 8 different nationalities. Since 2000 there are world champions from 12 different nationalities in 21 editions.

The share of countries that have one or more riders at the finish is more or less stable over the years. ‘New’ countries also succeed to have riders who finish the Road Race.

Any comments, questions or suggestions can be adressed to Daniël Herbers through e-mail ( or Twitter.

Published by statsoncycling

Cycling Statistics is an initiative by Daniël Herbers. From Maastricht (Netherlands) he talks and speculates about performances and developments in cycling with fellow cycling-addicts Jesper, Sjef and Sander. Cycling Statistics (@statsoncycling) aims to share and highlight unique performances and provide useful insights in male pro-cycling. Daniël is a runner and biker, lives with his wife and three children in Maastricht and is employed at Statistics Netherlands (Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek).

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