There’s a sad sort of clanking from the clock in the hall at VeloVoices Towers, which regretfully tells us it’s time to bid farewell, so long and adieu to some peloton favourites. Here is our list of nominees for the lifetime achievement award and it’s chock-full of deserving candidates and persuasive arguments. And one very, very controversial outlier. Vote now – and if you think we’ve missed someone off, write them in!
Simon GerransEmbed from Getty Images
Luke: Simon Gerrans quietly retired earlier this year [apparently to go into banking! – ed]. During a 15-year career, Gerrans proved himself to be a rider who consistently posted results and is one who can be looked back upon as one of the greatest Australian cyclists of his generation. Looking at his palmares, I’m astonished: four stages of the Tour de France, two stages at the Giro d’Italia, one stage at Vuelta a Espana; Milan-SanRemo, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, twice Australian National Road Champion, and four overall victories at the Santos Tour Down Under. Add to that his never-ending smile and charming Australian accent, and I’m left with no doubt that fans and riders alike will miss him in 2019. The best way that we can send him into his next chapter is with this Lifetime Achievement Award!
Damiano CunegoEmbed from Getty Images
Sheree: I had an opportunity to chat to Damiano Cunego in early 2016 at The Herald Sun Tour. Like many riders, the former winner of Giro d’Italia (2004), nicknamed Il Piccolo Principe, had a humble demeanour. In November last year, he announced his plan to retire after the 2018 Giro but as his team didn’t score a wild card, the 37 year old retired without fanfare after the Italian national championships. He had spent 15 years as a professional amassing a total of 44 victories, including three Il Lombardia titles, three Giro del Trentino titles, one Amstel Gold, two Japan Cup victories, six Grand Tour stage wins and two victories in Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali, plus Best Young rider in Tour de France. Cunego won his Giro title in the red of Saeco moving the following year to Lampre’s famous blue and pink for whom he raced for 10 years riding to sixth overall in the 2011 Tour de France behind winner Cadel Evans. In what turned out to be his last Giro in 2016, he was second in the mountains classification. Since retirement, Cunego has been studying at home in Verona to become a cycling coach and inspire the next generation.
Sylvain ChavanelEmbed from Getty Images
Midge: “I’ve got no regrets because I always gave it my maximum and was always true to myself.” Isn’t this the best way to sum up any career, let alone one spanning 19 years in the professional peloton? Sylvain Chavanel‘s palmares shows 45 victories and a myriad of top placings from spring and autumn campaigns: three stages at Paris Nice, twice on the top step of the podium at Three Days of de Panne and Four Days of Dunkirk and a GP Plouay (now Bretagne Classic). Add to this, a summer filled with stage-racing exploits, specifically a record 18 starts at the Tour de France, which garnered three stage victories, two days in yellow and a brace of supercombativity prizes in Paris. Yet, it was never about the number of victories for Sylvain but the manner of their taking. The time-trialling ability that garnered him six national titles also saw him powering off the front of the race at regular intervals and heaven help the peloton if they let him get a gap. Un coureur de panache indeed. Losing this French stalwart will leave a hole in my French cycling world. I can’t believe I won’t be able to pronounce his name with loving sibilance during race days. Let me say it one more time on our awards night podcast – Sssylvain Chhhavanel. You know what to do!
Megan GuarnierEmbed from Getty Images
Lukas: Megan Guarnier – a stalwart of US cycling. To name just her biggest achievements, she won the Giro Rosa in 2016, as well as the stars-and-stripes jersey, the Tour of California and the Philly Classic. The year before, she stood on the podium in Richmond with a bronze medal in the Worlds road race to round off a year with victories at Strade Bianche and Ladies Tour of Norway. Her final year was raced as fiercely, that attacking instinct taking her to second at the US National Championship and top step of the overall podium at the Tour of Yorkshire.
Lance ArmstrongEmbed from Getty Images
Euan: We need to talk about Lance. He’s won seven Tours de France (if he didn’t, then who did?). Listen to his podcast and you’ll realise he still knows more about cycling than most and has a lot to offer fans of the sport. 2018 was also the year when he offered the most visible support to a very troubled Jan Ullrich. You might want to speculate as to why but his help seemed genuine and heartfelt. Lance didn’t offer up the easy solutions it’s all too easy to trot out.
Like all professional sportspeople, Armstrong took a lot from the sport when he was competing but, unlike many, he’s now trying to give something back. His ability to contribute is severely limited by his lifetime ban but while other ex-riders are happy to sit sniping at the current generation, Lance’s offerings are constructive, diplomatic and come from a position of knowledge.
Isn’t it time we got over what he once did and embrace what he’s now doing? [Please direct all outraged tweets to @journalvelo for this one – ed]
Poll is open until 11.59pm on 14 December – after which, stay alert for our Awards podcast!