VeloVoices Awards 2019: Surprise of the Year

Last year, it was Mads Pedersen‘s second place in the Ronde van Vlaanderen … will he get it again this year, but this time for the rainbow jersey? Or will Alberto Bettiol win for his surprise Ronde win? There was a mystifying transfer, a big race disappearing and a lot of conflicting testimony … It’s time to vote for your Surprise of the Year …

Voting ends on 14 December 2019 at 11.59PM, GMT. If you think there’s someone who should be on the list, there’s a write-in option on the poll at the bottom of the post! 

Andre Greipel signing for Israel Cycling Academy

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Luke: The head-scratching team changes of Andre Greipel began late last year when the Gorilla announced he’d be departing Lotto-Soudal, where he’s found much of his career success, to join pro-continental team Arkea-Samsic. Hardly a year went by when, in early October, the German announced he had terminated that contract a year early, after taking just one victory in the season way back in January – stage 6 of La Tropicale Amissa Bongo. A month after his contract annulment, Israel Cycling Academy announced Greipel’s signing, bringing him back to the WorldTour as ICA takes control of Katusha-Alpecin’s licence. From a practically winless 2019 to joining a team lacking in sprint train support for 2020, this fan awaits the conclusion of Greipel’s mystifying team movements.

Romain Bardet, King of the Mountains

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Midge: So many surprises about this. That he turned a disappointing Tour around in the last week. That he managed to wrestle the jersey from the shoulders of long time holder Tim Wellens (I’m still not sure how). For the audacity to parade around Paris in FULL POX!

Dr Freeman lied!!! 

Euan: The surprise for me isn’t really that Sky and British Cycling are caught up in a “dodgy substances in the medical room” controversy. It’s more the story that has come out since. Bullying, fallings out, dysfunction (erectile or otherwise), feuds and threats. The biggest surprise is that with all this going on in the background, how the hell did Sky and British Cycling also find time to win a few bike races?

Amgen Tour of California hitting the buffers

Kathi: They’re calling it a ‘hiatus’ for 2020 but cycling fans know that that can often be code for ‘you’re never going to see this race again’. Citing the fact that there needed to be a re-evaluation of the business fundamentals, it feels like the only UCI World Tour race held in the United States has shot off its last confetti cannon. The race started in 2006 but was only upgraded to World Tour status in 2016. In the past few years, it has attracted some of the best riders in the peloton, with wins from Bradley Wiggins, Julian AlaphilippeEgan Bernal and in 2019, Tadej Pogacar.  However, the race has really been owned by Peter Sagan who won the GC only once (2015), but holds the records for most stage wins (17), most green jersey wins (7) and a whopping 42 days in green. It does mean, however, that the Giro d’Italia might see a few new faces in the peloton.

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Alberto Bettiol winning Ronde van Vlaanderen

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Sheree: What a turn up for the books?! I love it when an unfancied rider wins and that’s what happened when Italy’s Alberto Bettiol (EF Education First) pulled off a shock solo win in the men’s Tour of Flanders to claim his first ever professional victory. The 25-year-old rider attacked with 18km of the 267km one-day cobbled classic remaining, to go clear on the penultimate climb of the Oude Kwaremont, he then held his advantage over the Paterberg and rode solo to the line as the chasing bunch containing many of the pre-race favourites marked each other behind. Afterwards, the jubilant winner explained:

I was feeling really good, my team said, ‘If you can, just go,’ so I closed my eyes and I just went. I looked round at the top and I had a really good gap so the team told me to just keep pushing – the last 14km was the longest of my life.

It was Bettiol’s first individual victory since turning professional in 2014, having previously only won a team time-trial stage at Tirreno-Adriatico though, to be fair, his palmares is peppered with a number of top-five placings.

Mads Pedersen winning the rainbow jersey

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Lukas: When I started watching the men’s Worlds road race that September Sunday morning, I had no idea that the day would end with Mads P in the rainbow jersey – and neither did he. The team leaders for the Danish selection were Jakob Fuglsang and Michael Valgren, Mads’ job was to go in a move in the ‘pre-final’ and help his leaders when they bridged across.

As it happened, a gruesome rainy day in Yorkshire sapped everybody of their strength, and the race took shape very differently to how a Worlds normally would. The Danish team as a whole worked very well together, and Mads did his job to perfection, getting into a break and reaching the front group. When Van der Poel and Trentin, but no fellow Dane, came across, Mads took up the baton and fought with everything he had. He looked close to cracking a few times, but he always held on and was still in the lead trio as they entered the final kilometre. With the biggest prize in road cycling up for grabs, he showed remarkable ‘ice in the stomach’, leading that final kilometre all by himself. Trentin started the sprint, and Mads fought back, passing the Italian and becoming the first-ever Dane to win a men’s elite road race. He had left everything on the road that day – as he raised his arms in triumph, his legs started cramping.

What a ride.

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