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Top 10 memorable moments from the 2021 Grand Tours

Robyn Davidson
8 Sep 2021

The good, the bad, the ugly of the three Grand Tours in 2021

Strange. Random. Adorable. Downright crazy. Away from the general classification battle at Grand Tours lay a plethora of moments that helped define each three-week race. Here are some of the most memorable.

Giro d’Italia

Always Time for a Taco

I can’t blame Taco van der Hoorn for not waiting until a Tuesday to win a Grand Tour stage. It left people scrambling for other taco-related puns in the process. But on Stage 3 of the Giro d’Italia he broke away with seven other riders and dared to dream.

Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux’s rider kicked away from Simon Pellaud with 8km until the finish in Canale. He couldn’t… could he? Van der Hoorn retained a gap of 22 seconds on the peloton breathing down his neck, the cycling world collectively holding its breath as the field could begin to see the lone rider up ahead.

The man who didn’t have a cycling contract five months prior put his hands on his head in disbelief as he crossed the line, taking his and Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux’s first Grand Tour stage victory. Just in time too, as the best of the rest finished just four seconds behind.

Team Car Take Down

I’m halfway through reading a book about a serial killer eliminating the competition at Grand Tours. Maybe BikeExchange were flicking through a few pages before Stage 6 of the Giro d’Italia too. Pieter Serry of Deceuninck-QuickStep was busy minding his business, travelling backwards and probably thinking about the nice warm shower he was about to take after the rainy stage into Ascoli Piceno.

What he didn’t envision was being taken out by the Team BikeExchange car 12km from the line. Helicopter shots showed the car never stopping until Serry had already hit their bonnet, after which an apologetic team staff member shot out of the door to help him up. Questions about driver distractions lit up on social media.

The convoy is a busy and hectic place to be, with riders weaving in and around cars and contending with motorbikes en route. It’s certainly better to have the driver just… driving instead, as opposed to doing so many jobs and keeping their eyes on the road?

Schrödinger's Sixteenth Stage

Both everything and nothing was happening during Stage 16. An attack? An abandon? A strike? A fight? Who knew.

On what was set to be the queen stage, the torrential weather shortened the profile and cut potential action on the Passo Fedaia and Passo Pordoi. Also cut was the live feed, meaning spectators got shots of the finish line and nothing else.

Rumours began to fly on what could be happening, mystery lingering in the air as hopes began to fade until a light shone in the darkness. Blink and you’ll miss it. The reason I’m glad I stayed to watch absolutely nothing at all instead of going for a bike ride myself.

Behold, the saviour of the day. An adorable little fluffball, wrapped up in the arms of their owner. Not much is known about this elusive figure – just like Stage 16 itself. But it was all worth it. Oh yeah, Bernal won in the end. Maybe he wanted to be the first to see the dog.

Tour de France

Mr Worldwide

Ground Control to Major Tom… take your protein shake and put your helmet on…

Cycling might be more worldwide than Pitbull – Mr 305 – but stepped it up at the beginning of the Tour de France to progress to out-of-this-world status. Dale. Astronauts on the International Space Station tuned in to say hello and demonstrate their biking ability while experiencing zero gravity. A slight flex.

Thomas Pesquet introduced his colleague Aki Hoshide. Hoshide was clipped in, turning the pedals. He wasn’t on a saddle. Instead he held onto a board behind him for stability, proving that cycling truly transcends gravity now too.

Does it make it easier? Is it harder? I’m not sure the budget allows a trip to space for me to find out. Pesquet explained it allows them to stay in shape and avoid losing muscle mass while on their six-month mission. They ended the broadcast with a cheery wave, before telling everyone to enjoy the Tour.

50 Cent’s Two Cents

Always expect the unexpected, but who had 50 Cent chiming in with his cycling thoughts on their Tour de France bingo card? The opening day crash has been widely documented and opinion pieces opined to death, but it was the viral aftermath that came as a surprise.

‘They should jus [sic] give her a fine, this was not done with malice. It was just a mistake she wasn’t even looking.’

Which was probably why there was a crash in the first place. Let’s hope the next time cycling goes viral again, it won’t be for one of the worst crashes seen in recent memory. Anyway, I wonder what 50 Cent’s thoughts are on disc brakes vs rim brakes?

Pouch Peloton

I haven’t stopped thinking about this tweet ever since I laid eyes on it. Thomas De Gendt is known to grab attention, but he probably didn’t expect to be observed by a sleepy-looking kangaroo during the Stage 5 individual time-trial.

The adorable animal was lying on its back while propped up against a person, watching each rider head down the start ramp from Changé into Laval Espace Mayenne.

Dramatic Reveal

I love a big dramatic reveal. That moment the camera is stationed at the side of the road and slowly starts panning – you know you’re in for a treat. On Stage 7 of the Tour de France, the longest stage of the Grand Tour, I wouldn’t blame riders for feeling delirious or thinking they were hallucinating. Images cut to a camera at the side of the road. Then began the panning.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? It’s a… llama?

The animal stood politely to watch the peloton steam past from Vierzon to Le Creusot, probably wondering how those on the road could travel so fast. It just goes to show that all animals are welcome at a cycling race – just as long as they’re on some kind of lead…

Vuelta a España

Just Dance

They say you can tell a lot about a person based on the way they dance on TikTok. A lie of course, but cycling teams have been pushing more content on the app that’s largely reserved for simply having fun. From Tom Pidcock waving a lasso, Lilian Calmejane doing his best impression of a dad dancing, Lawson Craddock kicking the air and Sam Oomen’s frankly intimidating stare, it’s always nice to see them let loose.

Nothing but Net

After Stage 11, Egan Bernal was warming down after a strength-sapping day into Valdepeñas de Jaén. La Vuelta cameras never strayed too far from the white jersey, catching his attempt to shoot a plastic bottle into a nearby bin.

He missed. Up popped Primož Roglič - master of numerous sports by now – to fist bump his competitor and say, ‘You don’t play basket huh? Luckily you ride a bike,’ with a wink.

Ineos Grenadiers quickly shut down rumours that Bernal was no longer the prodigy of LeBron James or the next Steph Curry.

They responded with a clip of their rider, concentration etched on his face, all eyes on him as his small crowd awaited the Game 7 NBA Finals winning shot... and it was nothing but rubbish bin. Nice one Egan, I hear Kevin Durant is on the phone for the Brooklyn Nets.

Professional Cyclists: They're just like us

You can have your third-straight Vuelta a Espana title all but sown up and the final stage practically in the bag, only to try and deviate from the time trial course on the last day. Clearly not content with the expected nature of the race and trying to inject some of his own drama into proceedings, Roglic veered towards the taped off road towards the right instead of following the course round to the left.

Fortunately he realised just in time, as everyone at home had already shot to the edge of their seats. Even Olympic time-trial champions can forget where they are going sometimes.

Professional cyclists. They're just like us.