Summer is coming to an end, and the 2013 season is in its final quarter, but the racing hasn’t let up just yet. Since our last Rider of the Month, we’ve had a week of the Vuelta, we’ve had the Eneco Tour, we’ve had the USA Pro Challenge, and we’ve had the Tour of Utah. That’s a lot of racing, a lot of stories, and a lot of heroes, and once again, we are here to pick out our standout performer.
Kathi: After his commanding performance in the Tour de France, SuperSagan took a little time off before heading to Colorado to ride in the USA Pro Challenge. Once in the Rockies, there was no stopping him. He won four out of the seven stages, doing what he does best – riding with power and enthusiasm. His next race is the Tour of Alberta in Canada – a parcours that looks just perfect for a strong classics rider. He won the prologue and stage 1 already and I suspect he’ll win the whole thing.
Ant It really is the Season of Sagan that Chris predicted, isn’t it? Tim, who’s your shout going to?
Tim: It should be no surprise that Zdenek Stybar is a natural winner – after all, he is already a two-time cyclo-cross world champion. This year, however, the 27-year-old Czech has developed into a formidable one-day and stage racer – powerful and with a useful sprint. Remember his ride at Paris-Roubaix? He was in the leading group late on but collided with a spectator, with only his cyclo-cross skills keeping him upright as he skidded across the cobbles – a case of what might have been.
August saw his luck change at first the Eneco Tour and then the Vuelta. Only there was no luck involved. At Eneco, he won twice – including the concluding stage’s triple ascent of the fabled Muur – and stormed to the first overall victory of his road career. And then on stage seven in Spain he slipped away in the closing kilometres with Philippe Gilbert and possessed the killer instinct to hold off the world champion by a tyre’s width. Stybar fully deserves his new-found status as one of the rising stars in an OPQS team packed with big names. Pencil him in as a dark horse for the Worlds.
Ant: I wouldn’t bet against you being right, Tim. Believe it or not, I picked Stybar for my Fantasy Classics Team specifically with Roubaix in mind, so I guess that collision was my fault! Anyway, moving on, Sheree, your turn…
Tejay Van Garderen
Sheree: Tejay van Garderen gets my vote as he’s bounced back from his Tour de France disappointment (45th overall). The recent birthday boy (12 August), runner-up in the Tour de San Luis and winner of the Tour of California, took the overall in August’s USA Pro Challenge, his home-town race. He took the leader’s “Smashburger” jersey by a slim margin on the mountainous fourth stage and consolidated it by winning the following day’s individual time trial. Tejay had previously finished third in 2011 – the inaugural event – and was runner-up last year in what is one of the highest World Tour races. He obviously has a head for heights and is hoping to turn that to his advantage in next year’s Tour de France as wearing the maillot jaune in a definite goal for the American. And I’m sure he will wear it one day soon.
Ant: I have to put Tony Martin forward. He may have picked up a string of time trial victories this year, but it was a near miss in La Vuelta that stole hearts this season. His performance on stage 6 was a solo escape from the days of old, and kept everybody on the edge of their seats until the very, very end. It was a measured effort that kept the peloton at bay, and although a more sprinter focused peloton may have reeled him in sooner, physics are physics, and it’s still a serious feat for one lone rider to (almost) stay away from a chasing peloton. Even though I was watching highlights, and already knew the result, I was still screaming at the TV in the finale, and that is why I’m putting Der Panzerwagen forward.
Now that I feel suitably stupid for not grasping how highlights work, let’s have a word from Jack.
Jack: ‘So near yet so far’ had been the story of Nicolas Roche’s career prior to this Vuelta. The Irishman had inconspicuously crossed the line between ‘hopeful young talent’ and ‘solid veteran’ prior to his move to Saxo-Tinkoff this season, and looked at risk of slipping towards the anonymity of retirement without ever having made so much as an indentation on the pro cycling scene in which he once promised so much. However that changed on stage two of this month’s Vuelta, when Roche emphatically extracted the giant monkey from his back and lobbed it off the summit of the Alto Do Monte Da Groba, after delivering on his talent and taking his first ever grand tour stage victory. No longer was he cycling’s nearly man or bridesmaid; he was finally a winner.
Ant: I’ve got to say, I was really pleased to see Roche take that stage! Such a nice guy too. And that brings us to Panache for the final nomination…
Panache: I nominate young Aussie, Lachlan Morton for his hair alone! I mean come on, this kid has locks! He should change the spelling of his name to Locklan! Anyway, besides his great hair, he’s also been showing some great legs of late, winning the Mt. Nebo stage of the Tour of Utah with a brilliant attack. Then he went to the USA Pro Challenge and won the leader’s jersey before surrendering it to eventual winner Tejay van Garderen. Plus you have to respect a kid who is crazy enough to put vanity plates on his race bike!
Ant: It’s definitely an interesting selection this month, and in the absence of a Grand Tour winner, you’d have expected something of an open field. However, this month we have a resounding winner in Zdenek Stybar. Yes, they’ll be celebrating in Pension Stybar, as Zdenek has recovered from that early season setback (being picked for my Fantasy Classics Team), to hit top form in the tail end of the season. He’s proved a popular winner at VeloVoices Towers this month, and with the form he’s in, you wouldn’t put it past him showing up in our monthly run-down again before the year is out.