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Which bikes, groupsets and brakes did best at Grand Tours in 2021?

In-depth
7 Sep 2021
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While the same teams won the same Grand Tours as in 2020, we examine which bikes, groupsets and brakes did the best this year

Words: Will Strickson Photography: Chris Auld

The backdrop for our Grand Tour tech summary this year is eerily similar to 2020Primož Roglič has just defended his Vuelta a España title; Tadej Pogačar won the Tour de France in impressive fashion; and Ineos Grenadiers peaked at the Giro d'Italia.

However after Covid forced last season into a condensed package – and an incredibly entertaining one at that – 2021's relatively normal schedule has meant that Filippo Ganna's victory in the Giro's opening time-trial feels like several lifetimes ago.

It also feels a bit premature to be talking about the end of the cycling season when we've still got two Monuments, the World Championships and the conclusion of the Tour of Britain yet to come.

The Grand Tours brings the big bucks though, so here we are. And while professional cycling is as much a race between riders, it's also a competition between the technology they rely on and are being paid to race.

But which brands are getting the most bang for said buck? Whose bikes produced the most victories in Grand Tours in 2021? What is the peloton's groupset heirarchy? And have disc brakes won a Grand Tour yet? (Hint: just about.)

Below is a breakdown of which bikes, groupsets and brake type performed the best across the Giro, Tour and Vuelta in 2021.

Best bikes of 2021 Grand Tours

It won't come as a surprise to anyone that Specialized emerged as the most successful bikes of the season with both Deceuninck-QuickStep and Bora-Hansgrohe sporting their SL7s to a predictable wealth of glory.

It took them a while to get going with Peter Sagan bagging the American brand's only stage at the Giro, however with Mark Cavendish and Fabio Jakobsen dominating the sprints and green jersey competitions at the Tour and Vuelta, Specialized would still come out on top if they only sponsored Patrick Lefevere's men.

Although one of the biggest tragedies of the year was Jumbo-Visma and Bianchi parting ways, the Dutch outfit's new Cervélos more than made up for it, carrying the killer bees to eight victories via Roglič, Wout van Aert and Sepp Kuss.

Two of last year's biggest winners Pinarello and Colnago found themselves usurped somewhat, with only four wins apiece alongside Cannondale (thanks Magnus Cort), as BMC, Canyon and Merida all took six wins.

Merida are arguably the more impressive of the three given they only have one team riding their bikes with Bahrain's season proving pretty Victorious taking two GC podiums to ice the cake.

  1. Specialized (Bora-Hansgrohe and Deceuninck-QuickStep), 12 wins
  2. Cervélo (Jumbo-Visma), eight wins
  3. BMC (AG2R-Citroën and Qhubeka-NextHash), Canyon (Alpecin-Fenix and Movistar) and Merida (Bahrain Victorious), six wins
  4. Cannondale (EF Education-Nippo), Colnago (UAE Team Emirates) and Pinarello (Ineos Grenadiers), four wins
  5. Scott (Team DSM), three wins

100 years of domination

What absolutely hasn't changed is the fact that Shimano has an insurmountable stranglehold on the groupsets of the professional peloton.

As the Japanese brand celebrates 100 years – and releases its latest Dura Ace and Ultegra systems – it upped its tally of Grand Tour wins by one from 2020 to an enormous 49 out of a possible 63.

Possibly aided by the fact that the Vuelta was only 18 stages last season, and someone had to win those extras, just about anyone who's anyone uses Shimano.

We can't count out the exploits of Campagnolo in second though, with some of its 11 stage wins coming via the Tour de France winner, the best sprinter in the world and everyone's new hero Clément Champoussin. However it didn't manage to increase its count as there were also 11 Campy wins in 2020 too. What could've been if Caleb Ewan hadn't crashed out of the Tour.

Picking up the pieces is Bauke Mollema's favourite manufacturer Sram, who would've expected more from Movistar and Trek-Segafredo as they only picked up one win each via Superman's heroic Gamoniteiru display and Mollema's breakaway at the Tour.

They also benefited from Lorenzo Fortunato's anything but lucky win on Monte Zoncolan for Alberto Contador's Eolo-Kometa side on their Grand Tour debut.

  1. Shimano (Alpecin-Fenix, Bahrain Victorious, BikeExchange, Bora-Hansgrohe, Deceuninck-QuickStep, DSM, EF Education-Nippo, Ineos Grenadiers, Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux, Israel Start-Up Nation, Jumbo-Visma and Qhubeka-NextHash), 49 wins
  2. Campagnolo (AG2R-Citroën, Cofidis, Lotto Soudal and UAE Team Emirates), 11 wins
  3. Sram (Eolo-Kometa, Movistar and Trek-Segafredo), three wins

Don't stop thinking about tomorrow

Don't tell yer da', it finally happened. As of Sunday, disc brakes have now officially been ridden to victory at a Grand Tour for the first time thanks to Roglič and Jumbo-Visma.

As rim brakes' grip on the peloton is slowly loosening winning only nine stages to disc's 54 – dropping massively from 26 rim brake wins last year – you could argue there is still ground to be made up.

This year was supposed to be the year that only Ineos were sticking to their guns on rim brakes as the final stragglers seemed to give in to the inevitable industry push.

However you either noticed or were made aware by someone that cares more than they should that Pogačar and his UAE Team Emirates squad actually switched between disc and rim and funnily enough every one of the team's stage wins came on rim brakes. Funny that.

So you could argue that each type has 1.5 Grand Tour wins this year, though Pogi had disc for 17 of the 21 stages. The tides are turning, kind of. We'll just have to see whether Ineos and UAE hold on for 2022.

  1. With disc brakes (AG2R-Citroen, Alpecin-Fenix, Bahrain Victorious, BikeExchange, Bora-Hansgrohe, Cofidis, Deceuninck-QuickStep, DSM, EF Education-Nippo, Eolo-Kometa, Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert Materiaux, Israel Start-Up Nation, Lotto Soudal, Movistar, Jumbo-Visma, Qhubeka-NextHash, Trek-Segafredo), 54 wins
  2. Without disc brakes (Ineos Grenadiers, UAE Team Emirates) nine wins

Dishonourable mentions

Let's just take a final moment to spare a thought for Lapierre and Wilier, who would've expected more from their sponsorships of Groupama-FDJ and Astana, the only WorldTour teams not to take stage wins at Grand Tours in 2021.

Aleksandr Vlasov did bag fourth place overall and borrowed the white jersey at the Giro to give his Shimano and disc brake equipped Wilier some time on TV and Attila Valter wore the maglia rosa for three days on his Lapierre, which also had Shimano and disc brakes.