2020, the season that so nearly was not. With the Covid-19 pandemic putting the cycling world on hold in mid-March, a new plan was devised.
What a plan this turned out to be. With all three Grand Tours taking place back-to-back and the ‘spring’ classics running alongside them, the 2020 season proved to be one of the most enthralling in years.
At the fabled Tour de France, 22-year-old Slovenian Tadej Pogačar narrowly defeated his compatriot Primož Roglič to take the yellow jersey in Paris (he also took the white and polka-dot jerseys) in a show of real force given the lack of mountain support the youngster received from UAE Team-Emirates.
Meanwhile, Irish sprint sensation Sam Bennett was victorious in the race for the green jersey, beating cycling legend Peter Sagan to make his first appearance on the final podium. In terms of British success, there was very little with no stage wins or final jerseys to take home across the channel. Perhaps the most pleasing result though was seeing veteran nearly man Richie Porte take third in the overall standings before his return to the INEOS Grenadiers in 2021 where he will likely be used as a domestique.
Whilst the Tour did not yield the usual success for Great Britain, the Giro d’Italia certainly did with Tao Geoghegan Hart taking the overall victory ahead of Team Sunweb’s Jai Hindley and Wilco Kelderman.
Geoghegan Hart was not meant to be leading the INEOS Grenadiers however Geraint Thomas’ withdrawal early in the race led to a change of plan from the British team. This plan saw them take seven stage victories and the pink jersey, a truly magnificent set of results even by Dave Brailsford’s high standards.
In the points standings, Frenchman Arnaud Démare took victory with Peter Sagan again second best. Ruben Guerreiro took the king of the mountains, the first Portuguese rider to so. An honourable mention goes to Alex Dowsett who took his first Grand Tour stage win in the colours of Israel Start Up Nation, a victory that saw him secure a new contract with the Israeli outfit for the 2021 season where he will ride alongside Chris Froome.
In Spain there was redemption for Roglič who took the Vuelta’s red jersey ahead of Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz in an enthralling 18 days of racing. There was yet more success for Britain with Hugh Carthy taking the third step on the podium, proving there is certainly a future for us in Grand Tours. Carthy also took the stage win atop the Angliru proving what a formidable climber he is destined to be.
One-day races also provided some real excitement too, from fan favourite Julian Alaphilippe taking the rainbow bands of world champion to the two-up sprint between arch-rivals Mathieu Van der Poel and Wout Van Aert for the win in Flanders the classics did not disappoint. The only disappointment was the cancellation of Paris-Roubaix until 2021.
Speaking on whether next season’s preparations had been affected by the changes to this year’s format Matt White, Sporting Director of Mitchelton-Scott said: “there was too much racing condensed into a small period of time” and that “teams were really on their limit” in terms of balancing racing and logistics.
In the year 2020, it is just a minor miracle the season was even completed.
By Luke Williams