Stephen Cheung – Taylor’s Struggle At Tirreno
We’ve all been there. The day where we have nothing and the pack is long gone. The day where we get caught by some bad weather far from home. The day where you really would rather be anywhere but here. The simplest thing would be to say ‘screw it all’ and head for home. These are times where you question your sanity, your motivation, and your love for the sport. That was Taylor Phinney this spring at the 209 km, 3,000+ m climbing Stage 6 of Tirreno-Adriatico.
Dropped by the pack, facing lousy weather and the rest of the the gruppeto had called it a day, Phinney was no longer the ‘can’t miss star’ hailed for greatness from an early age, but just another struggling rider. Rather than take the easy way out, he found and showed the rest of the cycling world the steely spirit and heart lying within him. Riding the last 120 km solo, he thought of his father’s struggles with Parkinson’s disease and soldiered on.
Rides like Phinney’s jolt us out of our cynicism and remind us of the beauty of sport.
Gordan Cameron – Jan Bakelants In Corsica
There’s a lone hero riding into Ajaccio, only he’s not who the cameras think he is. Jan Bakelants is the last man standing from a six-rider escape. Sylvain Chavanel has resigned his post, unwilling to do the donkey work of holding off the peloton in the Tour de France’s second stage. Bakelants is doing what we’ve all dreamt of … a last kilometer hold-out, a solo head-charge for the line, with the world’s best sprint trains scrabbling for your back wheel. They close, close, close as Bakelants churns the pedals like he’s got barn doors strapped to each leg. They close, close, close … but not enough. Not the death of a hopeful escape, but the glory of a wonderful exploit.
An honorable mention for Bradley Wiggins’ elegant bike-toss which saw his Pinarello glide across the tarmac and come to a graceful rest against the roadside retaining wall at the Giro del trentino. And another mention to Orica-AIS rider Jessie MacLean for her post Giro Wiggo tweet: Caught myself in the rain descending like Wiggins today #soembarrassing But then I got my shit together and started riding like a girl. Smart, funny, knowing.
Mark McGhee – Alejandro Valverde Stage 13 Tour de France
It´s easy to look back at a race, or a season, and say where it all went wrong but few riders this year made as many high-profile mistakes as Alejandro Valverde. Like him or loathe him – and he seems to generate just as many feelings on either side – his attacking style is sure to enliven any uphill finish, where he´s either off the front or off the back of the final select group. But it was the flat stage 13, unlucky for some, in this year´s Tour de France where it all started to go wrong for the Movistar leader. Valverde punctured at the 84km mark and opted to wait for a wheel change instead of taking a spare bike but the crosswinds were blowing and Cavendish´s OPQS team had decided to stretch the race to get rid of the other sprinters.
With his teammates waiting he eventually got going again over half a minute down on the lead group but Belkin, SaxoBank and OPQS were flying and there was no way they would catch them. Losing time they decided to wait for the second group but, with the race stretched across many kilometers, by the finish the rider who had been sitting in second place on GC had just lost 10 minutes.
A defeated Alejandro Valverde crosses the line after losing 10 minutes in one single blow.
This was the first tactical error of the year for Valverde but an even larger questioning of his tactical nouse was to come in the closing stages of the World´s Road Race. For every downside though, there´s an up. A new name came to the fore in Movistar’s Tour team in the diminutive shape of Nairo Quintana and South American fans had something to shout about once again. To his credit Valverde looked after his teammate throughout the rest of the race and the Colombian climber took the second top step in Paris. With team sponsor Movistar committing for another 3 years, there will be more opportunities for Valverde but his time is now and he can´t afford to make many more mistakes.
Alessandro Federico – Giovanni Visconti Stage 15 Giro d’Italia
Visconti’s win on the way to Galibier during last Giro d’Italia was one of the most exciting moments I had of the season and possibly, of my entire cycling chases. To understand why it’s important to recall those days; the Giro was run under continuous bad weather and approaching Alps there was the fear of stages or climbs being cut from the race.
Galibier isn’t a joke. At over 2500m elevation it’s one of the highest roads of the Alps, located in one of the coldest places of the mountain’s arch and the climb to face that day was the north side. No chance to reach the top. So the RCS came out with the idea of cutting the last 5km fixing the line in the same place where Pantani attacked in the 1998 in the famous Alpine stage of Tour de France to Les Deuz Alpes.
I was in place, waiting for the race and the weather wasn’t bad, but suddenly, when the helicopter was already close to us, and the race down into the long valley, a thick, cold cloud covered the sky and it started to snow. Everyone was excited, we knew the race was safe, because the road wouldn’t become unpassable in such a short time, but the scenario was perfect. When I realized that Visconti, could hold and win the stage I became much more excited, because I appreciate this guy who’s got lot of potential but a big brake has often been working against him; a form of depression. So everything that evening was perfect, and despite the road back home was very long, I didn’t feel tired of that day.
You can re-live Ale’s racechase that day in the snow on the Galibier here.
Jordan Cheyne – Tony Martin Stage 6 Vuelta Espana
Amidst all of the backbreaking climbs and chaotic uphill finishes in this year’s Vuelta a Espana, few would have expected that the flat 170km Stage 6 would emerge as one of the most remarkable stages of the season. World Time Trial Champion Tony Martin took that matter into his own hands however, and produced a 4-hour, 45km/h solo breakaway effort unlike anything in recent memory. Martin boldly grabbed a gap from the peloton after only 2km and just wouldn’t let go.
We have all seen plenty of long solo moves and plenty of agonizingly close catches but rarely, if ever, has cycling witnessed such a spectacular combination of the two. The body of the race was a near stalemate, the peleton trying to keep Martin’s advantage to a safe margin and Martin singlehandedly pushing the gap out into the danger zone again. The final 10km were almost unwatchable-the tension was so high as a tired Martin pushed closer and closer to victory.
It was the perfect thriller and I doubt anyone in the audience knew the ending until it actually happened. And when the ending finally came it was agonizing. A desperate, flailing Martin was vanquished only 40m from the line as Michael Morkov sprinted by to steal the stage. Still, immediately after the finish Martin was beaming with pride and not burdened by much disappointment. Just like every cycling fan watching, he knew that he had put on an unforgettable show.
Richard Pestes – The Battle for The Vuelta
For me the best batch of racing came as it often does – at the end of the summer in Spain. This year’s Vuelta a Espana battle between Vincenzo Nibali and Chris Horner was what cycling entertainment is all about. I’m not talking about the sporting aspect of the race – I’ll leave that debate to the chat rooms and forums. Too much water has passed under the bridge for me to really enjoy the riders’ accomplishments like I would have 20 years ago. But while my rose colored glasses are long gone, I still love cycling and watching a race unfold before my unprotected eyes.
I did look forward every day to watching the drama unfold on the tv screen as Vinnie and Chris traded blows, stole seconds here and there, and finally went mano a mano on those brutal slopes of the fog shrouded Angliru. Then toss in the random and constant attacks from the likes of Valverde & Rodriguez, Roche and Pozzovivo, and the Vuelta served up the kind of racing that made me want to go ride my bike.
Chris Selden – Adam Hansen Gets A Win In The Giro
In a season that was full of quality racing but unfortunately often marred by terrible weather one performance shone through the bleak and the rain for me and it wasn’t Cancellara’s Classics displays or Froome’s dominance in seemingly any stage race. It was instead a superb performance by a man who rarely wins, super domestique Adam Hansen.
Hansen is a man who is one of the hardest workers in the peloton often driving the tempo to set up André Greipel for kilometers on end but it’s a role he cherishes and excels at. With no Andre Greipel at the Giro though Hansen had a free hand on a number of stages and it was on Stage 7 that he pounced, breaking away almost from the gun.
Getting the break clear after just 2 kilometers of racing.
With 177km of wet, rainy and hilly kilometers on the menu punctuated by 4 classified climbs in the last 60kms nobody really expected the big Australian from Cairns to get the win and yet it was Hansen driving the break up the climbs forging clear with dimunitive Italian pure climber, Emanuelle Sella.
The Italian commentators went crazy thinking that Sella would be able to ride away up the steeper climbs to take the win but no, it was Hansen the GrandTour veteran riding in his 5th straight GrandTour who instead rode away to then battle on alone against the elements and a charging peloton. The Italian tifosi might not have got their win that day but even they could appreciate the ride that Hansen put in and they cheered him long and hard as he held on by just over a minute at the end of a magical day.
Ed Hood – Gerald Ciolek Wins Milan-SanRemo
Milano-Sanremo, for me and many others, the best, most beautiful one day race in the world. The race is known as the ‘Primavera’ – that’s ‘Spring Time’ in the romantic languages.
It starts in grey, chilly Milano, heads south across the endless plains of Northern Italy before climbing the Turchino Pass then dropping down to the Ligurian Sea – surely the bluest sea in all the world. From there begins the frantic dash along the Riviera over the nasty La Manie climb, three smaller hills – the Capi Mele, Servo and Berta – follow, before the heart breaking Cipressa climb and the legendary ascent of the Poggio then the plunge to the ‘City of Flowers’ where one man becomes Legend.
But this year there was a hiccup, instead of watery sunshine on the Turchino, there was snow – serious snow.
A frozen peloton slithered to a halt and boarded team buses to change sodden clothes, eat, drink hot coffee and soup – and get minds right for the charge along a wet Ligurian Riviera. But for some the warmth of the bus was too difficult to surrender. The hard men saddled up down beside the sea – La Manie was sacrificed and battle commenced.
In truth, the final selection probably wouldn’t have been so different even if full distance had been ridden; Stannard, Cancellara, Sagan, Chavanel, Paolini, Ciolek, – all hard men. Big Englishman Ian Stannard nearly pulled off the shock of the year as he lunged clear in the streets of Sanremo. But it came down to the sprint and it was Gerald Ciolek, the precocious fast man who has never quite realised the potential which took him to a German Elite Road Race Championship whilst still a boy and a World Under 23 road race title, who wanted it most.
Reborn as a team leader, albeit at Pro Continental level with African outfit MTN-Qhubeka, an inspired Ciolek was too quick for Sagan and Cancellara. Unexpected but worthy and brilliant; respect to the organisers for making the right decision, to all those who got back out of the buses, to Ciolek – and to the Primavera, the world’s most beautiful race.
Alastair Hamilton – The Worlds
After Nibali’s win at the Giro d’Italia everyone had him down as the next winner of the Vuelta a España, as we now know that didn’t work out as the ‘grandfather’ of Pro cycling didn’t give the young Italian a look in. The Pro circus moved on to Florence for the World championships and the word was that this race was going to make Nibali the hero of all Italy.
That also didn’t work out well for Vincenzo and let’s face it the Spanish team didn’t come out of it too well either. But ignoring all the accusations the there was coalition or jealousy or just downright egotism involved in the final lap, the race action was compulsive viewing.
Joaquim Rodriguez put his heart into winning the rainbow jersey with attacks that would rip the legs off any mere mortal, but Nibbali and Rui Costa pulled him back with Alejandro Valverde as passenger. The final effort from ‘Purito’ looked to have put the last nail in the Nibali coffin, but Portuguese hero Costa had enough strength to catch Rodriguez and then the coolness to get the better of the Catalan in the sprint. The recriminations were rife, but in the end those final kilometres were edge of chair stuff of legend.
Do you agree with the cross selection of PEZ contributors or do you have some different highlights from 2013? Let us know in the comments box below.