2021 has been a cycling season with several impressive performances. The explosion of Mathieu van der Poel in Strade Bianche, the GrandTour-Monument double of Pogacar and the Tour de France trilogy of Wout van Aert. Many stories can be told at an individual level, but what if we take a broader view? What was the average age of pro-cyclists? How many races were held throughout the season? These and several other questions will be answered in a series of articles on the 2021 male cycling season. We will start off with an overview of the professional races and pro-peloton in 2021.
Population – Statistics are made up off all results of cyclists in 2021, who have been riding a professional race and were under contract of a ProContinental- or WorldTour-team at some point during the year.
Categories of races – All pro-races are divided in three levels: UWT-level (.UWT races, World Championships and Olympics), Pro-level (.Pro races, Continental Championships and Regional Games) and .1-level (.1 races and National Championships).
Individual Time Trials and Road Races on championships were classified as one-day races. Team Time Trials and other Team Events were not counted in individual results.
1. Races and results in 2021
There were 553 individual results of professional races in which at least one cyclists under contract of a WorldTour- or ProContinental-team participated. Results include (inter)national championships Road Races and Individual Time Trials.
167 of those results were races at UWT-level, including World Championships and Olympics.
In 2021, 51 General Classifications were won by a rider from a professional cycling team (UWT or ProContinental). 13 stage-races were held at WorldTour-level with 134 stages in total. Besides the 4 championships at UWT-level (Olympics, Worlds: ITT and Road Race), 16 one-day races were held at the highest level in male procycling.
Besides the 553 individual events at professional level, 6 team events were organised such as Team Time Trials and Mixed Relay events. At WorldTour-level 20 stages were a prologue or Individual Time Trial.
2. Nationalities, age and weight
Italy had most cyclists in the 2021 pro peloton; 137 (under contract of a WorldTour-or ProContinental Team at some point in 2021), closely followed by France, Italy and Spain. These four countries (the big cycling-nations) had 120 or more active. riders in 2021. At WorldTour level, Belgium is the biggest nationality with 64 cyclists. Despite a lower number of total cyclists, at WorldTour-teams more riders had a Dutch nationality than a Spanish.
Norway has a remarkable share of 74% cyclists at PCT-teams while ony 8 Norwegian riders were under contract of a UWT-team.
Polish riders at professional level in 2021 were on average olderst: 31,4 years of age. Also at UWT-level Poland is leading, closely followed by Canadians and Spanish cyclists. The age-difference between UWT-cyclists and all professional riders is remarkably high among Spanish riders. Spanish UWT-cyclits are on average 30 years while the average age of all cyclists with a Spanish nationality was 27,2.
Colombians were on average the youngest of all UWT-cyclists: 26. The 26 Danes in WorldTour teams in 2021 were relatively young as well.
Besides being the youngest, Colombinas were also the lightest WorldTour cyclists in 2021, with a little under 62kg. The 8 Norwegian riders at UWT-teams were on average the heaviest. From the big cycling nations, Belgians and Dutch are relatively heavy which is probably related to the large share of spring-classic-specialists among them.
Colombians were on average the youngest of all UWT-cyclists: 26.
3. Teams, age and weigth
Among WorldTour teams in 2021, Israel Start-Up Nation had on average the oldest riders in their team, which confirms the image ‘pre-retirement team’ that lays upon the team since their existence. On the other end of the list, Team DSM, reknown for their development-skilss, had on average the youngest WorldTour-team. The average age of Movistar riders is closest to the entire UWT-peloton: 28,5 years of age at the end of the 2021 season.
The average weight of 2021 WorldTour team-cyclists was 69kg. 5 teams had an average weight of above 70kg, cyclists from Lotto Soudal being heaviest on average.. The heaviest teams traditionally have a strong focus on the one-day races and cobbled-classics whereas the lightest teams have a stronger focus on good GC-performances in stage-races with a lot of climbing. The average weight of INEOS-riders was lowest in 2021, only 66,5kg.
4. Winners, age and weight
Winners are on average heavier than the average weight of all participants. Especially in one-day races more kilograms seem helpful in performing well. Winners of one-day races were 1kg heaver than podium-finishers. The only exception are GC’s. Winners of GC’s in 2021 are lighter than podium- and top-10 finishers.
Winners of one-day races at UWT-level are even heavier, while winnners of GC’s at UWT-level are ligther, compared to all professional races.
Analyzing the average age of winners and top-finishers it is remarkable that winners of one-day races at UWT-level are 3 years younger than top-10 finishers. Experience (operationalized as age) seems less important for winning races than often thought.
There is one exception: the average age of podium-finishers in General Classifications of UWT-races is higher than the age of all finishers of a stage race.
In the next article performances of cyclists will be analyzed. If you have any remarks or questions, please contact us at email@example.com, or leave a remark on Twitter or Instagram.