They say that history only remembers who finishes first. And in many sports, including cycling, that often rings true. But as the script was ripped up by the pandemic in 2020, the stage was set for a season unlike any other. After months of watching replays, cycling fans the world over were crying out for the return of racing.
But it wasn’t displays of dominance or marginal gains that fans were at pains to see. They wanted to watch riders roll the dice, rather than think twice. They wanted to see chaotic races, not controlled ones, and this season it seemed even the most staunchly scientific teams were finally listening.
Recognising what the Rapha Roadmap pointed out years ago, the architect of cycling’s most recent era of domination, David Brailsford, seems to have realised that it’s not how many races you win, but how you win them that counts. Along with other influential figures in the sport, he has seen that whilst winning with regularity is satisfying, winning in style is just so much more fun. Perhaps panache ought to outstrip performance on their list of priorities?
But what is panache? All too often dismissed as vanity or nostalgia, panache is a flamboyant confidence of style or manner. In cycling, it is about throwing caution to the wind, risking a good result for the chance of a great one, wearing your heart on your sleeve and leaving everything out on the road.
If results are cycling’s currency, then panache represents its soul. And happily for us fans, fortune was bound to favour the brave this season. For four glorious months from August to November, chaos reigned in the peloton and it was panache, not performance, that mattered most. Here are Rapha’s picks of the finest performances during the 2020 season.