As the dust settles on an action packed season, we’re going to wrap up with one final Rider of the Month to cover September and October’s races.
Ant: Tim, would you like to kick off proceedings?
Tim: How can we not nominate the new world champion? Kathi and I have been championing Michal Kwiatkowski since his emergence early in 2013. This year he’s been even better. Remember him taking on Peter Sagan mano a mano and beating him at Strade Bianche?
He closed the season with a flourish. A stage win, second overall and the points jersey at the Tour of Britain demonstrated he was back in top form, and then at the Worlds in Ponferrada he launched an audacious solo attack in the closing kilometres of the road race and was able to start celebrating 100 metres from the line as some of the world’s finest classics riders chased in vain.
He’s already an incredible and smart racer. And, much though we like to remind people that Sagan is still a youngster at 24, Kwiatkowski is even younger – by four months. This may have been his first rainbow jersey but it may not be his last.
Ant: That’s a strong contender to start with! Kathi, who are you going for since Tim has stolen your #Kwiatkrush?
Kathi: I have to go with John Degenkolb. We don’t call him the #MightyDegs at VeloVoices Towers for nothing! This Giant of a rider won four Vuelta stages (beating Nacer Bouhanni, Tom Boonen and Michael Matthews) and was able to tough it out over some brutal climbs to make it to the finish in Santiago. While in Santiago, he was on the podium as winner of the points jersey – a jersey that more often than not goes to a GC climber, such is the way the Vuelta route usually pans out. He then went on to place in the top ten of the Worlds road race (9th to be exact) even though he’d been hospitalised for a lymphatic infection after the Vuelta.
To end his season in style, he won Paris-Bourges for the second year running. These performances came from a man who shares a team with Marcel Kittel – yet even though they’re both sprinters, there’s nothing but mutual respect and support between them, no toys out of the pram in this team.
Ant: Great choice! I have a huge amount of respect for Degs. Sheree, over to you…
Sheree: Dan Martin rides for Ireland but doesn’t always seem to enjoy the luck of the Irish. Maybe, just maybe, it’s because he hails from Birmingham. But Dan shrugged off his early season bad luck to come roaring back at the tail-end of this season. After breaking his collarbone on the opening stage in the Giro d’Italia, falling in the final 200 metres and failing to defend his Liege-Bastogne-Liege title, and taking yet another tumble at the Worlds in Ponferrada, Martin has since notched up some impressive results.
He won his second Monument (Il Lombardia), the queen stage at the Tour of Beijing, finishing runner-up yet again, and let’s not forget his seventh place overall in La Vuelta, despite falling into a ravine on one stage! He ended the season 9th in the WorldTour rankings. This should set the 28-year old up for a run of much better luck next season.
Ant: I was so happy to see Dan Martin win Il Lombardia. The poor guy has had some terrible luck, but seems to be indefatigable! Midge, would you like to nominate?
Midge: My rider nomination for this month? Hmm… Let me take you back in time. Not to a galaxy far, far away, but to the finish line of stage three of the Tour of Beijing on the 12th October. A day when something extraordinary happened and my twitter line exploded in a welter of happiness. Yep, we are talking about the day Tyler Farrar took his first win of the season, in his last ever race for Garmin-Sharp.
What was even more extraordinary was the manner in which he won. This was not a flat sprinters stage at all – this was the longest stage of the race at 176km, and included seven categorised climbs! As I watched Orica Green-EDGE position young Caleb Ewan perfectly for the finish, I was sure he would win. But then out of nowhere and from at least 13 spaces back, Tyler timed his finishing burst to perfection and I nearly fell out of bed I was cheering so loud.
This win rounds off a successful couple of months for the soon-to-be MTN Qhuebeka rider: a brace of fourth places in the Tour of Britain, a third, fourth and fifth at the Tour de l’Eurometropole, and his win plus two top five places gave him the points jersey in China.
I have never really understood why Tyler takes a lot of flak for his performances. Okay, he may not have the top-end speed of the very best sprinters, but he is a consistent top 10 on his day, and that’s not bad at all in my book. I can’t wait to see him ride with MTN-Qhuebeka next year, I think it ‘s going to be exciting. May the fourth be with you Tyler – and all the podium places too.
Ant: And now I feel bad for letting three people nominate before you! Last but not least, here is my choice for the month.
Ant: As season-salvaging performances go, Alberto Contador’s Vuelta ride was pretty much perfect. After his Tour was cut short by a broken leg, Baby Blackbird took to the start in Spain, surrounded by doubt as to whether or not he was likely to be a serious contender. Those doubts were proved to be misplaced however, and Bert got stronger and stronger as the race went on, taking the leader’s jersey on stage ten and rounding off with two stage wins in the final week to wrap up overall victory. Not bad for a guy with supposedly one good leg.
And the winner is…
After a few minutes locked in a darkened room, which may or may not have contained a now vastly depleted VeloVoices Drinks Trolley, we’ve reached our decision. As you might expect, it was a tough choice, and despite a late intervention from Chris, making a plea for Andre Greipel all the way from Utah, we settled on World Champion Michal Kwiatkowski. Ever popular, ever exciting, and now sporting the wonderful rainbow stripes, the young OPQS starlet edged out Bertie Contador and Panda dodger Dan Martin to close out another exceptional season in his short but already impressive career.