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? Cyclists from which team won most races? Which team had a rider in the top-10 of every monumental classic in 2021? These and several other questions will be answered in a series of articles on the 2021 male cycling season. While unique performance were presented in the previous article, performances at team-level are analyzed in this one.
Note: Talking about team-performances, all performances of the team’s cyclists are counted, even those races in which a cyclist represented his country instead of the team (e.g.: Olympic Games, World Championships and National Championships).
1. Racedays and victories
WorldTour teams are obliged to take part in (almost!) all races at UWT-level in a cycling season. Besides those races, they can choose to participate in .Pro or .1 races throughout the season. On average, WorldTour cyclists raced 36 races at UWT-level and 17 races at .Pro or .1 level, 53 in total. Cofidis let their riders race most days in 2021. Cyclists of the French team raced on average 38 days at UWT-level and 60 in total. EF Education-Nippo is the team at the other end with fewest racedays per cyclists: 46.
Jumbo riders have the highest share of racedays raced at UWT-level (78%). They seem to choose a whole different approach in lining-up cyclists than the other big teams of the season: INEOS (69%), UAE (61%) and Quick-Step (63%). While Jumbo, EF and Bahrain choose to select their riders mainly for UWT-races, the other teams have a high share of participations in smaller races.
22% of all cyclists under contract of a WorldTour- or ProContinental team won a professional race in 2021, 82 out of 503 pro-cyclist won a race at the highest level: 16%. Again, the team with most victories at professional level is Deceuninck Quick-Step. 66 times did a a cyclist of the Wolfpack win a race in 2021, 24 more than Team Jumbo-Visma. Also in races at UWT-level, DQS was the most succesful team with 26 victories. The win of Kasper Asgreen in Tour of Flanders probably being their biggest win of the season. EF Education-Nippo had the highest share of wins at UWT-level: 11 out of 16 victories.
Alpecin Fenix is the ProContinental team with (by far!) most victories in 2021. The cyclists of the Belgian team led by Van der Poel, Merlier and Philipsen won 32 races. Besides Alpecin-riders Lorenzo Fortunato was the only cyclist from a ProContinental team who won a UWT-race in 2021 on the mytical climb Monte Zoncolan (Giro stage 14).
Opposed to the total number of victories, the share of cyclists with a victory is low at Alpecin Fenix (26% of its riders). The team of the Roodhooft-brothers depends on 3 riders for all 14 UWT-victories in 2021. Off the big teams, also Jumbo and UAE have few riders who took a victory victories at UWT-level: both 4.
Quick-Step is the team with most different winning riders, 56% of all cyclists in the Wolfpack won a race in 2021, 31% at UWT-level. Astana is the second team with few wins per rider. 11 different Astana riders took a victory, 13 wins in total.
Looking at the dependency of teams on their most-winning rider, it turns out that DQS is least dependent. Their most winning rider, Mark Cavendish (10 victories), was responsible for 15% of all wins in 2021. Lotto Soudal and Cofidis have the highest dependency on their most-winning cyclist (Caleb Ewan and Elia Viviani). Does it make those teams more vulnerable for a sudden transfer or injury of the big gun in the team?
Which teams performed worse than expected in 2021? If we calculate what percentage of total victories of riders in a team were obtained in 2021, we get a sense whether teams are over their top, performing ‘at level’ or right in their best years. Compared to other teams, Alpecin-Fenix cyclists obtained the largest share of their wins in 2021: 44%. Therewith, the Belgian team can be classified as ‘overperforming’. Merlier, Philipsen and Van der Poel are in their prime and showed it with 14 UWT-level victories. While winning only 3 UWT-races, Intermarché-Wanty GM is the second most overperforming team. Before 2021, Intermarché’s riders won 7 UWT-races.
On the other end, Movistar and Israel Start-Up Nation are underperforming. Less than 3% of the total number of wins of their riders were obtained in 2021. Cyclists in those teams are at the end of their careers, or at least not winning many races anymore. While EF Education-Nippo was underperfoming regarding number of top-10 results at UWT-level in 2021, they are overperforming if share of victories is considered. Cyclists of UAE were closets to performing ‘at level’: 11% of their victories were obtained in 2021, the same share as the average of all UWT-cyclists.
At what point in the 2021 cycling season did Quick-Step take the lead in the team-ranking of number of victories? The wins of Quick-Step, Jumbo, INEOS and UAE are shown in the figure below. In the first months of 2021 (until the end of March), the four teams with most victories won races at the same pace. INEOS took many wins in April and May (Giro!) and after the victory of Richie Porte in the Dauphiné, INEOS took the lead in the classification of teams with most wins, that being the last moment that a team other than DQS led the classification. The month of May with the Giro d’Italia, was the only month with few wins by Quick-Step riders.
After the national championships (June) Quick Step distance themselves from the other teams. Jumbo catched up on INEOS in the number of wins at the end of the season with a succesful campaign in the Italian fall-classics and CRO-race. Interestingly, between June and August INEOS-cyclists won only few races, normally the period in which they win a lot (Tour de France). Team Jumbo Visma won few races between the spring classics and the Tour de France of 2021.
For the 9th consecutive season, Quick-Step won most professional races. Every season since 2013 the team of manager Patrick Lefevre won more races than any other cycling team. Team Sky was the last team that won more races than Quick-Step in a single season (1 more in 2012). Before 2012, Quick-Step had some less succesful seasons with only few victories (8 wins in 2011).
Comparing the pace at which Quick-Step cyclists won their races in the passed 6 seasons, the pattern is remarkably comparable. Except for 2021 (few races held between January and March because of COVID-19 measures), Quick-Step riders start winning early and have won 10 or more races before the 1st of March. During 2021, it seemed that the number of wins woud resemble the lines of 2017 and 2016, but with an impressive winning-streak in August and September, 2021 became almost as succesful as in 2019 and 2018. Also in previous years Quick-Step riders won few races in May compared to the other months.
In the past 6 seasons, August is the most succesful month for Quick-Step riders: they won more than 50 races in the 6 most recent months of August. April and May were least succesful for the Belgian team. In 2018 Quick-Step was somewhat more succesful in April and May and less succesful in June.
2. Team performances in the big races
The team-performances in the biggest races will be analyzed in the second part of the article. 14 teams had one ore more riders in the top-10 of a Grand Tour classification. The top-10 of the Tour de France was with 10 different teams, somewhat more diverse than Giro (9 teams) and Vuelta (8). Bahrain Victorious, INEOS en Jumbo Visma are the teams that had a rider in the top-10 of every GrandTour in 2021. INEOS claimed 5 top-10 results, most of all UWT teams.
AG2R, Alpecin, Bahrain en UAE took a stage-win in all three GrandTours. Quick Step and Jumbo failed to win a Giro-stage in 2021, but won most stages of all teams. Cyclists of Quick Step won 9 stages, Jumbo finished the season with 8 GrandTour stage-wins. In the Giro d’Italia 14 different teams won a stage while in the Tour de France only 8 different teams took a stage-win. In total, 19 teams won one or more GT stages, 5 of those teams while they did not win in the Giro. Team Movistar closed the deal only in stage 18 of the Vuelta a Espana, by a rider who won’t be riding for the team in 2022: Miguel Angel Lopez.
Not a single team received a leader jersey in more than one GrandTour in 2021. Every GT had 3 different teams leading the General Classification. Most leader-jerseys were received by team INEOS, all in the Giro by Ganna and Bernal.
Overall, Bahrain and Jumbo were most succesful in thicking off achievements in all GT’s. Bahrain Victorious won a stage in all GrandTours and got a GC top-10 in all tours as well. A leader jersey is the only lacking achievement. Team Jumbo Visma missed out on a stage-win in the Giro, which is the only missing GT-performance.
In one-day races not a single team had a top-10 finisher in every monument of 2021. Quick-Step, Jumbo Visma and Israel Start-Up Nation were most succesful in that respect, with a top-10 in 4 monuments. Quick Step had 6 top-10 results, most of all teams. Both ISR and Quick-Step lack a top-10 result in Milano-SanRemo while Jumbo did not have a top-10 finisher in LBL. Alpecin-Fenix lacks top-10 results in both hilly monuments, two races at which Mathieu van der Poel did finish top-10 in 2020. MVDP did not take part in LBL and Il Lombardia in 2021.
Milano-SanRemo was most diverse of the monuments in 2021 with 10 different teams in the top-10. 14 teams had a top-10 result in more than one monumental classic.
Overall Quick-Step was most succesful team of 2021. DQS performed on high level regarding the total number of victories as well as in the biggest races of the season, the Belgian team came out on top of several rankings. The only thing that is still missing is a top-10 result (and victory!) in more than one GrandTour. Will Alaphilippe, Evenepoel and the strong young climbers around them fill up that gap in the coming years?
In the next article performances will be analyzed by nationalities of cyclists. If you have any remarks or questions, please contact us at email@example.com, or leave a remark on Twitter or Instagram.