With all the racing that’s been going on in what can only be described as the skankiest of weather, now seems a good time to give the riders a well deserved pat on the back in the form of the first of this year’s VeloVoices Rider of the Month Awards. As Stephen Fry is already busy, I’ve stepped in as host and compere. I’m sure that my smooth use of the English language is almost on a par – in the same way that my climbing prowess rivals that of Nairo Quintana. All the Voices are together – Sheree, Jack, Tim, Panache and of course Kitty – so without further ado, let’s have a look at our nominations!
Ant: At the risk of looking like I’ve been swayed by Sheree’s amazing cooking as demonstrated in The Musette, I’m going to give her the first shout. So, Sheree, who are you nominating?
Sheree: I’m going for The Shark of Messina. That’s right, step forward Vincenzo Nibali. He may have swapped the lime green of Liquigas for the turquoise of Astana, but nonetheless he ably defended his Tirreno-Adriatico title to hold onto the magnificent trident trophy. He remained ruler of the waves against arguably tougher competition this year than last, beating podium finishers Chris Froome (Sky) and Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff), as well as last year’s UCI world number one, Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha).
Ant: It was a great defence, and I am somewhat disinclined to argue with a three-pronged weapon. However, although my own choice may not have come out of March with a trophy that you would struggle to explain to customs officials, Taylor Phinney has displayed incredible courage and strength of character – not to mention a quiff that could probably do some damage! His legendary ride at Tirreno-Adriatico [stage six – Ed], along with his balls-to-the-wall ride from ‘abandoned’ to seventh in Milan-San Remo put a smile on my face and showed once again why he is one of modern cycling’s great new stars. [The greatest comeback since Lazarus? – Ed]
So how about you, Panache? I know you’ve been impressed by Taylor as well, so I hope I’ve not jumped in and stolen your choice?
Panache: Okay, well … It would be easy to say Fabs or Sagan because they are winning but I almost feel like I’m overexposed to those two in the cycling press, Twitter, et cetera. So I nominate Dan Martin.
Ant: Well we’ve certainly seen plenty of those two guys in the last week or so. Not all for good reasons in the case of Sagan – sometimes he’s wheelie good, sometimes he behaves like a number two! Dan Martin, however, has had a cracking month with a great victory on stage four of a star-studded Volta a Catalunya, and then holding on to the leader’s jersey all the way to Montjuic for the overall GC win.
But as Chris has mentioned the Swiss machine, I think Kitty has something to say…
Kitty: Unlike Panache, I don’t believe I am overexposed to Fabs [double entendre alert – Ed!], so of course my nominee is Spartacus himself, Fabian Cancellara.
Fourth in Strade Bianche, third in a torturous Milan-San Remo, and two audacious solo victories in E3 Harelbeke and the Ronde van Vlaanderen. Hey, he even got his team working for him – surely worth the award!
Ant: And how about you, Jack? Who’s your pick of the pack for the month of March?
Jack: Continuing to be my obscurist self, I nominate Andrey Amador. Spotting a Costa Rican at a Northern classic is almost as unusual as catching a Schleck at a finish line. [Uh oh. That’s fighting talk! – Ed]
But the Central American nation’s finest, Andrey Amador – winner of a stage in last year’s Giro – has bucked that trend. Not only can he be found in northern European bike races at this time of year, but he can be found at the front of them. Much like a few of his Movistar teammates, Amador is making his name as a freakishly versatile but enormously talented rider, and this month he excelled at two very different races. Coming off an eighth place GC finish at Tirreno-Adriatico, he bagged a top ten at Gent-Wevelgem. Not bad.
Ant: Not bad indeed, Jack. That just leaves you, Tim, to complete the nominations. Who’s your man?
Tim: It’s Richie Porte for me. He was given a rare chance to lead Sky at Paris-Nice, and the Tasmanian delivered two stage wins and a dominant overall victory. That makes it two GC victories from two opportunities as Sky’s protected rider (the other being the 2012 Volta ao Algarve).
He was then second overall in the Criterium International, where he rode away from all of his rivals with ease at the top of the Col de l’Ospedale after allowing team leader Chris Froome to disappear up the road for the victory.
What we have here is a rider who would be the main GC man and a genuine contender on many other teams, but is willing to be a team guy … for now.
Ant: I should at this point make it clear that despite the obvious racing prowess of Peter Sagan, I have requested that he is not nominated this month. He’s a prodigious talent, and I would expect him to be storming to a podium place in these awards, but in light of events at Flanders I’m afraid he might be tempted to pinch my arse when I hand out the awards! So please forgive any apparent injustice, it’s all down to me and my delicate sensitivities!
With that point explained, and now that everybody has returned from a darkened room in the attic of VeloVoices Towers, and white smoke is billowing from the chimney (don’t worry, that’s just me trying to cook something for The Musette), I can confirm that March’s Rider of the Month is … Fabian Cancellara.
Fabian had a mixed start to the month. Being heavily marked and lacking decent support from his RadioShack team in earlier races, he was forced to settle for fourth in Strade Bianche, and even came in for criticism for being a ‘one-trick pony’. That trick involves riding off the front with a brutal display of power, usually on a nice tough climb and then time-trialling to the finish, looking suave. (Kitty made me say the ‘suave’ bit). Despite what looked initially like an indifferent start, Cancellara obviously had the form but was being matched by strong work by rival teams to neutralise his threat. After a third in the brutal Milan-San Remo, it was only a matter of time before a breakthrough, and it came in E3 Harelbeke when he rode out a 35km solo break to take the win.
Cancellara rounded off the month by going to the Ronde von Vlaanderen and doing what everybody expected, but nobody could stop. With 20km to go, he attacked on the Kwaremont, with the ever-impressive Sagan on his tail (an omen for later) and Jurgen Roelandts. When the trio hit the Paterberg, Cancellara delivered his coup de grâce, riding away and powering to the finish. He was forced to adapt a little by the course and the strength of his rivals, making his attack later on in the race, and this astuteness, the timing of the attack and the way he buried himself for the win shows what a great performance it was.
Let’s be honest, if you only have one trick, you’d want it to be that trick.
As regards the Rider of the Month awards, It should be noted that Cancellara has been pushed all the way in this race by Richie Porte, who came a close second, with Vincenzo Nibali taking third. With some great rides this month, it’s not been an easy task to pick a winner, which says all you need to know about how great this sport is. So everybody give a big hand to Fabian Cancellara, VeloVoices Rider of the Month … no Peter, not that kind of hand!