Now that the World Tour cycling action has officially come to an end for 2020, it’s time to take a look back at the season that was.
There is no denying that cycling in 2020 was unlike anything the sport has experienced. Way back in April, it appeared that the season was on a collision course with disaster. With the COVID-19 pandemic presenting so many unknowns, it was unclear if it would be feasible for any racing to take place. Not only did racing eventually take place, but it did so largely successfully.
There were certainly a few hiccups, such as multiple teams being forced to withdraw from the Giro d’Italia due to positive tests. However, the organizers and riders deserve a lot of credit for making the necessary sacrifices to ensure that the bulk of the racing schedule could be completed.
Considering the circumstances, every race that took place in 2020 was a luxury. However, like in any season, there were riders who stood out. Because the season was so condensed, numerous riders had success in 2020.
Despite the competition, there were two riders who eclipsed the rest. In the ranks of the elite men, that rider was Primož Roglič. From the Women’s World Tour, it was Anna van der Breggen. For their tremendous seasons, those two have established themselves as my picks for riders of the season.
Prior to the pandemic, there were rumors that 2020 would be van der Breggen’s final season as a professional. Once the pandemic made an impact, the Boels – Dolmans star officially announced she would be done after the 2021 season. However, van der Breggen made it very clear that she would be leaving the sport on her own terms.
The rider from Zwolle in the Netherlands was victorious before and after the COVID stoppage. In February, she opened up her season with a stage win and overall victory at the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana. In August, she won the road race at the Dutch National Championships for the first time in her career. Two days later, she added her first title at the European Time Trial Championships.
It was during the month of September that van der Breggen truly shone. To start, she claimed overall victory at the prestigious Giro d’Italia Internazionale Femminile for the third time in her career. At the end of the month she became the second cyclist in history to win the road race and the ITT at the same UCI World Championships. Only Jeannie Longo in 1995 had accomplished the feat previously. As an added bonus, her solo attack in the hills of Imola produced one of the most stunning camera shots of the entire season.
It's back to TT mode for @AnnavdBreggen 🇳🇱 as she glides through the beautiful countryside of Emilia-Romagna 🇮🇹.
— UCI (@UCI_cycling) September 26, 2020
Still, van der Breggen wasn’t done there. On the final day of September, she won La Flèche Wallonne for the sixth straight year. In doing so she pulled clear of Marianne Vos and Alejandro Valverde’s five victories to sit alone atop the record books.
The newly crowned double World Champ capped off her season by playing the role of teammate perfectly at the Ronde van Vlaanderen. She rode intelligently to neutralize an attack from pre-race favorite Annemiek van Vleuten. Ultimately, her actions set up her teammates Chantal van den Broek-Blaak and Amy Pieters to take first and second on the day.
The one argument against van der Breggen would be that she benefited from injuries to rivals like Annemiek van Vleuten and Chloé Dygert. However, this is not something that can justifiably be held against her. Luck always plays a role in sustaining dominance in cycling.
Over the course of the 2020 season, Anna van der Breggen was the most consistently dominant rider in the Women’s World Tour.
A Winning Start
There were some difficult moments along the way for Primož Roglič. Despite facing his share of adversity, the Slovenian remained calm and focused to continue winning throughout the season.
Roglič didn’t race prior to the COVID shutdown, so he began his season with the very first race on the calendar. That event happened to be the Slovenian Road Championships, which Roglič won. After coming up just short to Tadej Pogačar in the time trial, Roglič returned to his winning ways in August.
Roglič was dominant at the Tour de l’Ain. He claimed overall victory by winning two of the three stages and finishing second in the third. At the Critérium du Dauphiné, the Jumbo-Visma man picked up a stage win and wore the leader’s jersey for two days. He likely would have claimed the overall victory as well had he not dropped out prior to the final stage to heal up from some lingering injuries.
Roglič’s main target of the season was Le Tour de France. At this point, everyone is familiar with the manner in which Tadej Pogačar dethroned Roglič to take victory on the penultimate day. However, the end result should not discount how well Roglič rode for the majority of the race. The Slovenian Champ won a stage and added four second places for good measure. With the help of his Jumbo-Visma team, Roglič also held the yellow jersey for a grand total of eleven days.
The end of Le Tour was stunning, but the way Roglič responded only strengthens his case. Roglič took sixth at the World Championships just seven days after the conclusion of Le Tour. After another week, the Slovenian claimed the first monument victory of his career by coming out on top in a thrilling finale at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Redemption at La Vuelta
All that was left for Roglič was defending his title at La Vuelta. With another assist from his Jumbo-Visma team, he did exactly that. Roglič fended off an impressive challenge from Richard Carapaz. The 31-year-old’s victory came in large part due to his four stage wins and three additional podiums. Over the 18 days of racing, Roglič finished in the top ten an incredible 11 times.
Roglič’s Jumbo-Visma teammate Wout van Aert is the one rider who had a season that could contend for the best season. However, the Slovenian’s sustained consistency sets him apart. Roglič lined up at the start for 50 days of racing over the course of the season. He finished in the top 30 on an astounding 40 of those days.
Roglič was firmly involved at the front on over 80% of the days that he raced in the 2020 season. No other male rider made such a considerable impact.
– Andrew Fasciano (@afasc573)
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