With the Tour de France now a fading memory, the Olympic programme complete and the Vuelta a Espana fast approaching on the horizon, the VeloVoices team is again reviewing the performances of our selected riders to watch in 2012. I’m following a god of cycling, a future god of cycling and a god of the track: Fabian Cancellara, Taylor Phinney and Geraint Thomas.
Results: 2nd in prologue at Tour de Suisse. Won Swiss national time trial championship. Won prologue at Tour de France prologue, wearer of the maillot jaune until stage seven.
WorldTour ranking: 23rd, 134 points.
After Cancellara’s disastrous collarbone break took him out of commission until the end of May, Spartacus went into the Tour de Suisse with hopes of winning the opening time trial prologue. Unfortunately, he missed out by four seconds to the winner, a certain SuperSagan. A week later, however, he went on to win the Swiss national time trial championship for a record seventh time.
Next up was the Tour de France and the opening prologue in Liege. It was in 2004 in the same city – and on almost exactly the same parcours – that Cancellara first burst on to the Grand Tour scene and took the maillot jaune, and history repeated itself, as he equalled Bernard Hinault’s record of winning on day one of the Tour five times.
How long he was going to be able to keep it was the question. With his superb road captain, Jens Voigt, controlling the peloton and keeping him out of trouble during the first week’s numerous crashes, Cancellara went on to break another record, this time becoming the rider with the most number of days in yellow (28) without actually winning the Tour de France. He left the Tour after stage 11 to be at the birth of his second daughter and to prepare for the London Olympics.
Unfortunately, luck was not with Cancellara in London. Hoping to better his silver medal from Beijing in the road race, the Swiss Express left the station on the final lap of Box Hill and it looked like he was in a good position to go for gold, until he overcooked a corner in Richmond Park at 15km to go and went down hard on his right shoulder. He limped over the finish line five minutes after the winner, Alexandre Vinokourov, holding his arm and putting his defence of his Olympic time trial title in jeopardy.
However, he isn’t called Spartacus for nothing and even though he had injuries that an Olympic doctor said were reminiscent of a car crash, Cancellara took the last position in the starthouse for the TT around Hampton Court. Riding in constant pain against a strong field and a winner who is having a charmed season meant his defence was in vain. However, the respect he earned from the London crowd and from cycling fans everywhere for a ride that was fuelled by heart and honour was immeasurable and his seventh place doesn’t begin to tell the story of the day.
World Tour ranking: 107th, 16 points.
If Cancellara was the vanquished king of the time trial in the 2012 Olympics and Bradley Wiggins is the present king of the TT, it is widely believed that the future star of the race against the clock will be Taylor Phinney. Phinney was quiet during June and most of July, electing to skip competitive racing and the Tour de France in order to train hard in Colorado for the Olympics. As opposed to Beijing, where he perhaps spent more time having fun than working, he announced when he came over to London that he was all business.
His vow of no #Olympiclovestory was met with disappointment by his Twitter fans and, no doubt, many young women in London.
Phinney started the Olympic road race as support for Tyler Farrar but he was the one with the legs to go with the strong Swiss and Spanish breakaway on the last lap of Box Hill. Spurred on by his team’s confidence in him, Phinney came within a bike length of a surprise bronze medal, only to be edged out by Norway’s Alexander Kristoff as they scrambled for third. His reaction on the result:
I just felt good at that time. I saw the kind of guys that were going. The guys in the group were all huge names. I was a little surprised myself that I could even follow them.
I’ve never beaten [Kristoff] in a sprint before. He’s a true sprinter. I wouldn’t necessarily call myself that. So I was definitely beaten by a better man.
Hoping for a better result in the men’s time trial, Phinney put in a solid performance but with Wiggins and Chris Froome still in golden form from the Tour and world time trial champion Tony Martin not taking the challenge lying down, it was not to be. Phinney finished in fourth, more than 50 seconds behind Froome. His comments after the race:
The main positive is that I’m up there with the best guys in the world in the length of a time trial I’m not comfortable with. That’s huge for me.
A lot of people have been saying I’m the next this, the next that, I’m going to win this or that. Getting fourth is a great confidence booster, especially in the time trial, but I’d like to be the guy who steps on the podium.
His next stop? He’s riding the Eneco Tour as BMC’s GC contender.
Results: Gold medal, Olympic team pursuit.
World Tour ranking: 88th, 22 points.
Like Phinney, Geraint Thomas was quiet in June and July, leaving the road for the track after he finished the Giro d’Italia. However, unlike Phinney, Thomas did achieve his medal: gold in the team pursuit. Not only was it gold, but it was a world record, replicating the result he achieved in the World Championships earlier in the year.
So with four years until the Rio Olympics and the possibility of becoming a gold medal winner in three consecutive Games, Geraint will be going to go back to the pro peloton for now at least.
I’ll concentrate on the road for the next few years. I want to take that as far as I can.
That would be good, it would certainly give me more to talk about in these rider updates! However, one story that did catch my attention was the fact that Geraint had some problems getting into the Velodrome to watch his teammates win more gold. Apparently, he wasn’t recognised as the Golden Boy of Track Cycling and he didn’t have a pass so he was almost unceremoniously frogmarched out of the place. I leave you with his tweets.