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? Which country had a stage-winner in all Grand Tours? And how many UWT-victories did every nationality take? These and several other questions will be answered in a series of articles on the 2021 male cycling season. While team-performances were presented in the previous article, performances at nation-level are analyzed in this fifth article.
1. Racedays and victories
14 cyclists from Switzerland in 2021 WorldTour teams raced most days in 2021, 61 on average. Australians raced fewest days, only 45 on average. The average UWT-cyclists raced 53 days in 2021, 35 of which at UWT-level. The 7 Slovenians raced 82% of their races at UWT-level, the largest share of all nationalities, while Norwegians raced 26 days (52%) at the highest level. From the big cycling nations, Spanish and Dutch cyclists race a high share at UWT-level and French cyclists relatively few.
226 cyclists under contract of a ProConti or WorldTour team in 2021 won a professional race, 2.2 victory per winner. At UWT-level 82 riders won 167 races and cyclists with the Belgian nationality won most races. 65 times a Belgian won a professional race and those races were won by 24 different cyclists. The four Slovenians winning a race in 2021 each won 7.8 races on average, most victories per winner of all nationalities. Itlay had most different winners in 2021: 26. and 8 of them took a victory at UWT-level.
At UWT-level cyclists with the Slovenian nationality were most succesful with 26 wins. by only 3 cyclists: Mohoric, Roglic and Pogacar. Spanish riders won 4 UWT-level races. Compared to the other big cycling nations Spanish cyclists were underperforming: only 3% of all Spanish riders won a race in 2021.
The number of wins per winner is displayed in the figure below. The difference in the number of wins per winner between Slovenia and the other countries in the figure is big. It shows that the winning Slovenians are not just ‘winners’, but big-winners.
Another way of looking at the vulnerability of nation-performances is the share of victories by the most-winning cyclists. Countries who depend for their wins on one or two big names are at risk of winning few races when those cyclists get injured or perform worse than expected. Slovakia and Portugal are the nationalities that have only one winning cyclists in 2021: Sagan and Almeida take all professional victories for their country. In that respect the big countries like Spain and Italy have more different winners and are less dependent on one rider who takes it all. Their most-winning rider took only 13% of all victories.
Cyclists from which countries performed worse than expected in 2021? If we calculate what percentage of total victories of riders with a nationality were obtained in 2021, we get a sense whether nations are over their top, performing ‘at level’ or right in their best years. On average, a UWT-rider won 10% of his races in 2021. Compared to other nationalities, Swiss cyclists obtained the largest share of their wins in 2021: 41%. Therewith, cyclists from Switzerland can be classified as ‘overperforming’. ITT-specialists Küng and Bissegger are right in their prime and showed that with 7 UWT-level victories. The Slovenians, again, are in their prime as well with 31% of their wins in 2021. While winning only 3 UWT-races, Ecuadorians are the third most overperforming nationality. Before 2021, riders from Ecuador won 7 UWT-races. On the other end, German and Spanish cyclists are underperforming. Less than 3% of the total number of wins of riders from these countries were obtained in 2021. Cyclists with the Spanish and German nationality are relatively late in their careers, or at least not winning many races anymore. From the traditional cycling countries, Belgiand and Dutch performed well winning a higher share of their races than the average UWT-cyclist.
At what point in the 2021 cycling season did riders from different countries win their races? Italians started off really strong and took many victories already in February. Cyclists from Great-Britain had a particular slow start, winning races from the end of March onwards. During the spring-classics Belgium took the lead being the nationalithy with most victories. In April, May and June, Belgians, Italians and French were winning and a comparable pace. French cyclists won few races in July, while Belgium took the lead again in August and was the country with most wins from that point onwards.
In the pace of Slovenian line it’s remarkable that May and September were months with only few victories.
2. Performances by nationality in the big races
The performances at country level in the biggest races will be analyzed in the second part of the article. Riders from 18 nationalities finished top-10 in a GrandTour in 2021. Colombia and Spain were the countries with each 4 top-results. The Giro d’Italia was the GrandTour with least diversity: 2 cyclists from Great Britain and Colombia finished with the first 10. A Colombian and Frenchman finished top-10 in all three GrandTours this season. While having a GC-contender in almost all GrandTours in recent seasons, the Dutch only took one top-10 result in 2021: the 5th place of Wilco Kelderman in the Tour.
Next to having a top-10 finisher in all GrandTours, a rider from France won a stage in all three GrandTours as well. Also Australians, Dutch and Belgians won a stage in Italy, France and Spain. While not winning in Italy, Slovenians won most stages together with cyclists from Belgium (9).
In 2021, two countries had a leader in more than one GrandTour and not a single nationality had a leader in all GrandTours. Pogacar and Roglic wore a leader-jersey in the Tour, respectively Vuelta and the French received 2 jerseys: one in the Tour and the other in the Vuelta. The Giro and Tour had 3 different nationalities leading the General Classification and cyclists of 4 different nationalities received a leader jersey in the Vuelta of 2021.
Overall, French cyclists were most succesfull in thicking off achievements in all GT’s, just lacking a GrandTour leader-jersey in the Giro d’Italia. Slovenians won most stages and received most-leader jerseys but failed to perform well in the 2021 Giro (no jersey, stage-win and GC top-10).
In one-day races France had a top-10 finisher in every monument of 2021. Cyclists from Belgium took 12 top-10 results but missed out on a good perfromance in Il Lombardia, just as the Dutch (5 top-10’s). 14 different countries had a top-10 finisher in a monument in 2021. The Tour of Flanders had less diversity in its top-10 with 5 Belgians, 2 Dutch and 2 cyclists from France: 4 nationalities in total.
Overall Belgian cyclists were most succesful in 2021. In the biggest races it’s a close call between Belgium and Slovenia. Pogacar, Mohoric and Roglic won several GT-stages and 2 monuments while Belgians took many stage-wins and top-10 results. General Classifcations are the only result-types in which Belgians fail to be succesful: 0 leader jerseys and 0 GC top-10’s. Will 2022 be the year of change for the GrandTour ambitions of the Belgians?
In the sixth and final article race-characteristics will be analyzed. If you have any remarks or questions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a remark on Twitter or Instagram.