VeloVoices Awards 2012: Team of the Year

VVAwardYou’ve read the five of us discussing our thoughts on the 2012 season throughout the year. Now it’s time to make your voices heard as we open the voting for the inaugural VeloVoices Awards. Over ten days in ten categories – some serious, others less so – we’re asking you to select your choices of 2012. We’ll publish the final results in the run-up to Christmas. (Hopefully next year we’ll have a grand gala dinner in central London …)

Yesterday we revealed our shortlist for Rider of the Year. Today it’s the turn of our nominations for Team of the Year:

sdw-livestrong-photo_edited shereeSheree: I’ve loved the fact that Euskaltel-Euskadi has nurtured Basque (or Basque-trained) riders from cradle to grave and has given the sport’s most passionate fans something to rally behind. What would the Pyrenees be like without the hordes of Basque fans? Cycling fans around the world affectionately call them ‘The Carrots’ and should any of them fall [which happens rather a lot – Ed] the cry of “Carrot down!” goes out on Twitter. Surely, there’s not a more loved team than the boys in orange? That’s why they’re my team of the year. Sadly, they’re abandoning their all-Basque stance in 2013 for riders who can score points in a wider range of races than the all-Basque mountain goats.

Tim avatarTim: They’re not the most popular choice, I know, but Sky finished 2012 as the WorldTour’s top-ranked team by a margin. Of course, there was Wiggo and Chris Froome. But Mark Cavendish’s ‘unsuccessful’ season saw him win three stages at both the Giro and Tour. Edvald Boasson Hagen took a clutch of victories including the GP Ouest France and a silver at the Worlds. Richie Porte won the Volta ao Algarve. Colombians Rigoberto Uran and Sergio Henao were seventh and ninth at the Giro, and Uran won silver in the Olympic road race. There’s no denying either the results or the depth of talent here. In this case, the stats don’t lie.

kitty-fondueKitty: It should be Argos-Shimano. They were a notable presence in the majority of races this year, working hard to get that train on the tracks for both Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb and even when they misfired, they misfired with all their hearts. They worked seamlessly as a team and had a joie de vivre that many of the bigger teams lacked. Their snowy white Argonaut suits were brilliant shafts of light cutting through the peloton, particularly in the Vuelta, where Degenkolb really came into his own as a sprinting force to be reckoned with. Great attitude, great guys, amazing results.

avatar jackJack: For me it’s the Belgian World Championships road race team. Over the past few years all of the pressure has been on Belgium’s team to deliver race favourite Philippe Gilbert to the rainbow jersey. Unfortunately it had never quite come together – until this year, that is. On the familiar Classics roads around Valkenburg they knew that this year would be as good a chance as they would get. And they certainly did not disappoint. As soon as Jurgen Roelandts, Bjorn Leukemans and company hit the front on the final ramp up to the finish line, there was only one winner. World Championships are notoriously difficult to control, but the Belgians did an outstanding job of dominating the race and sealing the victory.

Panache avatarPanache: The men of Omega Pharma-Quick Step had 54 road victories in 2012 by a variety of riders. What impresses me most is the number and variety of races they won, including the Tours of Qatar, Oman, Belgium and Beijing, Dwars door Vlaanderen, E3 Harelbeke, Gent-Wevelgem, Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix and the World Championships team time trial. They also seemed to spread the victories throughout the team. They won with Boonen, Terpsta, Chavanel, Leipheimer, Velits, Chicchi, Martin – it just goes on and on. The only thing OPQS didn’t win was a three-week Grand Tour.

Tomorrow we’ll unveil our shortlist for Breakthrough Rider of the Year.

VeloVoices Awards 2012

Rider of the Year

Happy birthday Alberto Contador

Alberto keeping a watchful eye on a potential future contender

Alberto keeping a watchful eye on a potential future contender

Feliz 30 cumpleaños! As he reaches the ripe old age of 30, Alberto has been musing a bit about retirement, possibly after his current contract with Saxo-Tinkoff expires in three years. You might find this surprising but probably not when I show you the demands placed on a multiple Grand Tour winner in the ‘quiet’ season.

After trips to the presentations of both Grand Tours, Alberto was back on his bike and training with gusto for the forthcoming season despite not knowing whether or not his team were going to stay in cycling’s elite. Here’s a look at just some of the things he’s been doing:

But as his charitable commitments show, he’s not too busy to spare a thought for those less fortunate:

Better stick to the cycling, Alberto, leave the tennis to Rafael Nadal [isn’t that yet another of Kitty’s faves? – Ed]

Alberto’s not one to forget either his friends or his supporters:

Time for some more training, this time in mountainous and verdant Asturias, home of Samu Sanchez (Euskaltel).

Like me Alberto shares a fondness for MotoGP and its latest young star, the MotoGP2 World Champion, Marc Marquez, who’s moving up to MotoGP. Remember that name, Marc’s a MotoGP World Champion in waiting.

Then it’s off to Gran Canaria and the first get-together of the new Saxo-Tinkoff team which has been strengthened to better help Alberto win Grand Tour titles.

All abord for Saxo-Tinkoff

All abord for Saxo-Tinkoff

Alberto and team mates visit a children's hospital

Alberto and team mates visit a children’s hospital

Apart from all the usual things one does at team camps, there was time for a bit of all-important team bonding with messing about on the beach and in the water. The team also undertook a ride for charity on the island and visited a children’s hospital.

All too soon the fun and games were over and it was back down to training and commitments with sponsors. Although there was still time to cheer on fellow Spaniard Fernando Alonso in the race to the F1 title.

Alberto was awarded the ‘Quadrifolgio d’Oro’ (four-leaf clover) at a dinner in the company of who’s who in Italian cycling in recognition of his Grand Tour successes. It was made by Elvio Chiatellino, a businessman  – and fan of Alberto – from Cuneo which has hosted stages of the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France. Chiatellino is helping the town bid for the 2017 Road World Championships which might offer Alberto the chance of a rainbow jersey before he retires.

Alberto’s also been freezing his butt off in Russia with Bjarne Riis undertaking a few commitments on behalf of the team’s sponsors:

Alberto braving the cold in Moscow (image courtesy of Alberto Contador)

Alberto braving the cold in Moscow (image courtesy of Alberto Contador)

Fortunately after braving the cold and Oleg Tinkoff, Alberto’s back among friends ready to celebrate his birthday:

But there’s no peace as no sooner than he’s back, he’s off signing autographs …