Well, gang, that was some May, eh? We had it all, didn’t we? Riders risking frostbite in Italy and sunstroke in California. Scandal, glorious performances and dismal failures. With that in mind, it’s time to decide our Rider of the Month. There have been so many outstanding performances, so let’s start off by naming some of this month’s stand-out stars.
Kitty: I’m nominating Cadel Evans (BMC) because, after all the questions around his form this spring, he answered all his doubters in May. He certainly answered his team’s questions, with BMC announcing that he will be the protected rider and leader of the Tour de France team (a position Tejay van Garderen was vying for). There are only two downsides to Cadel’s third place: one, it should have been second place – he lost it on the last mountain stage (possibly due to a mechanical) and that must have been galling, and two, he didn’t actually win a stage, unlike both Nibali and Uran who both took rather beautiful wins in the mountains.
Chris: I love riders that display panache and Carlos Betancur (Ag2r La Mondiale) has been exceptional at displaying that kind of audacity and courage. His early season started out rough as he was dealing with illness, but once he recovered he came third at Fleche Wallonne, fourth at Liege-Bastogne-Liege, and seventh at the Tour of the Basque Country. Many would consider those results enough to declare it a successful season. May arrived and the young Colombian came to the Giro and ripped off three second-places and a third-place stage finish while capturing the young riders jersey, fifth on GC overall, fourth in the points competition and fifth in the mountains classification – and he’s only 23 years old. Not to mention he arrived at each snowy mountain top finish with no arm warmers or leg warmers … Come on – that is bad ass! Tim has said that he believes Betancur will win a grand tour before Rigoberto Uran and I wouldn’t bet against him. The kid is #panachetastic.
Sheree: I’m nominating Astana’s Giro champion Vincenzo Nibali. I’m delighted that he’s finally with a team that is giving him the support he needed to win the Giro. Those boys in turquoise laid it on the line for him every day and he didn’t disappoint, not even for a moment. He didn’t just defend his lead once he took the jersey on stage eight, he attacked to consolidate his lead and distance the opposition. He won two stages – including, crucially, the mountain time trial, reaping the rewards of the specific training he’s done in this discipline. He is the first southern Italian – and Sicilian – to win the Giro and you could see how much the win meant to him by how emotional he was on the final podium.
Tim: It has to be Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) for me. (Awaits cries of “Man-crush!”) The Giro awards equal points for flat and mountain stages, and with this year’s parcours favouring the climbers it was always going to be a big ask for a sprinter to win. While others abandoned, Cav kept going through rain and snow all the way to Brescia, dominating the sprints, winning five stages and becoming only the fifth rider ever to win the points jersey at all three grand tours. He is phenomenal, and if you want to know how much better he was than the other sprinters just look down the points classification for the second-placed sprinter – Elia Viviani, a lowly eighth. Also, bonus points for the way he recognised Wouter Weylandt on the podium on the second anniversary of his death.
Ant: As Jack is currently embroiled in exams, our fifth nominee is also our final one and I’m going for a guy who exceeded expectations and rose out of the turmoil chez Sky to steady the ship and rescue their Giro. Rigoberto Uran rode a great race to take second overall and you only have to look at the calibre of the podium, not to mention the calibre of the guys who fell by the wayside, to understand the magnitude of his achievement. He turned up at the Giro in the guise of a mountain chaperone, but left as a team leader. He was only bested by an in-form Nibali and the assured riding from Astana. He may not have taken the overall win, but I think it’s fair to say that this Mick Jagger lookalike can take ‘satisfaction’ from his Giro ride. [Groan – Ed.]
Now I won’t bore you by trying to describe the voting process at VeloVoices Towers, but basically we all feed our input into a massive 1980s style supercomputer and it prints out a name. The name it’s just printed out is …
A worthy winner, and it’s really hard to imagine this prestigious accolade going anywhere else. Let’s face it, he still has that fearsome trident thing from Tirreno-Adriatico knocking around, so I wouldn’t argue anyway! Nibbles’ year has been incredible and he was a popular winner of the Giro. His determination to take the penultimate stage, and the way his teammates buried themselves in support, was a massive show of respect for the race, and we all just loved it. Chapeau!