Despite a couple of decent sprint finishes, the form that saw Marta Bastianelli dominate the Classics a couple of years ago continues to elude her. Marlen Reusser was also short of her best, and though Mavi Garcia had some strong top-six finishes in the hilly Classics, she and the rest of the team were unable to land a podium finish.
Losing a rider of the calibre of Annemiek van Vleuten was always going to make the 2021 season a difficult one of adaptation for BikeExchange, but thankfully Grace Brown stepped up another level on the cobbles, winning the Oxyclean Classic Brugge-De Panne and making the podium at the Tour of Flanders. Sarah Roy was also reliable on the cobbles, while Amanda Spratt came into her own in the Ardennes.
Kasia Niewiadoma’s ongoing struggle to land a win is becoming increasingly frustrating, and she suffered two more exasperating near-misses during the spring at Flèche Wallonne and Dwars door Vlaanderen. The team is dependent on her for success and have, as a whole, failed to win a race (outside of the national championships) since September 2019, although Lisa Klein sprinted to a couple of top-five finishes in semi-Classics.
Lisa Brennauer enjoyed an excellent week on the cobbles when she podiumed consecutively at Gent-Wevelgem and the Tour of Flanders, but a win eluded her and the rest of the team. They missed the guaranteed sprint victories that Kirtsen Wild once promised, but the 28-year-old lacks the punch she once packed.
Given the quality of their roster and the high standards set last season, DSM might have hoped for more this spring, as Liane Lippert struggled to find her best legs. But this was still a good campaign on the whole, with star sprinter Lorena Wiebes delivering a victory at Scheldeprijs and Juliette Labous delivering a couple of top-six finishes in the Ardennes.
FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope 5/10
Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig’s wait for a major Classic win goes on, despite numerous strong performances and a podium finish at Trofeo Alfredo Binda. Solid rides but a lack of x-factor pretty much summed up their spring, as Marta Cavalli continued to impress with a number of high-profile top-10 finishes, including sixth at the Tour of Flanders, and Emilia Fahlin often sprinted for a high placing in the group behind the main selection.
Marianne Vos’ presence alone was always likely to make Jumbo-Visma’s first-ever spring campaign a success, and the Dutchwoman duly delivered with victories at Gent-Wevelgem and Amstel Gold. This isn’t just the Marianne Vos show, however — Riejanne Markus and young Brit Anna Henderson also impressed.
Liv Racing 7/10
Liv Racing achieved a real coup with the signing of Lotte Kopecky. The Belgian was brilliant on the cobbles and was unlucky to only win Le Samyn, making the top four in four other races. In the hilly Classics, Soraya Paladin stepped in as the leader, finishing fifth at both Trofeo Alfredo Binda and Amstel Gold.
What was so impressive about Movistar’s spring campaign was not Annemiek van Vleuten’s wins — for a rider of her quality, massive victories like the Tour of Flanders are to be expected. Rather it was the way that the team emerged immediately as a fully formed, cohesive unit, with 21-year-old Emma Norsgaard announcing herself as a major new sprinting talent (and desperately unlucky not to claim a win after four runner-up finishes), and Leah Thomas doing sterling work as Van Vleuten’s lieutenant.
SD Worx 10/10
A spring that started with Anna van der Breggen winning Het Nieuwsblad ended with Demi Vollering triumphing at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, with four more Classic victories in between underlying SD Worx’s continued dominance of the peloton. Consecutive wins in the Ardennes epitomised the collective spirit that makes this such a special team, with Vollering sacrificing her chances to help deliver Van der Breggen to victory at Flèche Wallonne, and Van der Breggen doing the same for Vollering’s victory in Liège.
This remains the team best equipped to challenge SD Worx’s supremacy in the sport, but they fell short of that lofty ambition this spring. They could have done with Deignan finding her best form, but it was still a fruitful campaign, with Elisa Longo Borghini carrying over the career-high level she reached last season, putting in a superb ride to win Trofeo Alfredo Binda by almost two minutes, while Ruth Winder also won the tightest of photo finishes at Brabantse Pijl.
Valcar-Travel & Service 5/10
A couple of minor Classics were claimed courtesy of 21-year-old Chiara Consonni for the Italian team, while Elisa Balsamo is developing into more than just a sprinter, as she made the selection to finish third at Brabantse Pijl, on top of sprinting for fourth at Gent-Wevelgem and a podium finish at Scheldeprijs.