VeloVoices Awards 2019: Lifetime achievement award

This particular award is always hotly contested. This year we have an interesting list – big name retirees, a couple of cycling legends, a super domestique and a race itself. To be honest, they all deserve this award …

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! 

Marcel Kittel

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Kathi: While we all knew that Marcel Kittel was not having a great time at Katusha over the past year, it still came as a surprise when he announced his retirement at the age of 31. A sprinter of extraordinary ability with the charm and charisma of a natural star, Kittel blazed through the peloton and into fans’ hearts when he began his winning ways in 2011. In his heyday, he wore the maglia rosa and the maillot jaune, won stages in each of the Grand Tours and raised his arms in victory on the Champs Elysees (two of his 14 Tour de France stage wins), to name just a few of his accomplishments. But what makes him a legend in my book is the way he retired – with honesty, grace and the belief that his best days are still to come.

Philippe Gilbert

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Euan: I know PhilGil hasn’t retired but this year… what more could he do? His 2018 season ended in an ambulance – he’s 2019 ended with my undying admiration. He took his fourth out of the five Monuments with his win in the Roubaix Velodrome (Milan-SanRemo is the only one left to win …) After the disappointment of being left out of the Tour de France team, he had a stormer of a Vuelta, winning two stages but was also the beating heart of the QuickStep team – always vigilant in the bunch and consoling James Knox on the day his GC dreams went south. You get the impression he’s been as important off road as on it. A team player with a huge will to win.

I know he’s not retired but I think he’s in for a very different time at Lotto Soudal – we should take this time to admire the Classics and Monuments in his back pocket, his stage-grabbing prowess but ultimately the way he’s made himself a man to be looked up to. He’s earned that the hard way, the only way he knows how.

Amgen Tour of California

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Luke: Where does one even start? Prior to becoming America’s sole WorldTour-level race, this west coast race breathed life into the American cycling scene, giving US riders – both domestic and WorldTour – a place to showcase their skills to European team managers. The Tour of California gifted us the early years of Peter Sagan, Julian Alaphilippe and Egan Bernal, as well as the revival of other fan favourites such as Bradley Wiggins. Late last month, race organisers announced a “hiatus” for 2020, shocking fans and riders alike, and leaving a gaping hole in American cycling in terms of top level racing and opportunities from domestic teams and riders alike. While it’s unlikely ATOC will return, this nomination is a homage both to the race and American cycling as a whole.

Raymond Poulidor

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Lukas: A few days ago, Pou-Pou forever closed his eyes. His career happened long before I was born, but it is part of the history of cycling. Eighteen seasons on the same team, unusual even in the 60s and 70s, 14 Tours de France, 8 overall podium finishes, but not one day in the maillot jaune, earning him the nickname of “eternal second”, but also the adoration of the French public. And while Poulidor never won that biggest of races, he wasn’t always second. On his palmarès are also the 1964 Vuelta a Espana, Milano-Sanremo (1961), Flèche Wallonne (1963), two editions each of Paris-Nice and the Dauphiné Libéré, five editions of the Critérium International, the Grand Prix des Nations (1963) … and seven stages in the Tour de France. So he did stand on the top step of the Tour podium after all. After his active career, Poulidor also worked as an ambassador for the maillot jaune sponsor Crédit Lyonnais. His daughter Corinne married Adri van der Poel, and his grandsons are called David and Mathieu. You may have heard of them.
Adieu, Pou-Pou. Repose en paix.

Matti Breschel 

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Midge: Two WorldTour Danes retired from the peloton at the end of this year. I have the greatest of respect for the selfless career of Lars Bak, and in any other year he would have got my nod. But the other Dane is a certain Matti Breschel and he is not only a Midge favourite, he is THE Midge favourite. Statistics show a tally of 22 victories in a professional career spanning 14 years. I could add to that a string of oh-so-close racing including 2nd, 3rd and 4th at various World Championships, the heartbreak of various crashes and the sheer volume of shouting at the TV.

But that’s nowhere near the whole story – you see, my cycling education arrived at his wheels. He brought me to the Tour of Qatar where I learnt the art of gutter racing and echelons. My first Milan-SanRemo (2013) was brought vividly to life with images of him covered in ice trying to get his gloves off his frozen fingers. I’m pretty sure I only know about the incredibly short prologue at the Tour of Luxembourg because I followed the race the year he won the title in 2014 – by live updates in Luxembourgish! I’m absolutely certain my enduring love of Post Danmark Rundt springs from his unprecedented 9 stage victories – he will always be the King of Kiddesvej (the leg-breaking finish of the Queen stage). Most precious of all, I came to understand the tactics and toughness required to race in the springtime by watching his progress over cobbles and pavé. I will never be able to thank him enough.

Markel Irizar

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Sheree: At VeloVoices, we love the unsung heroes of the peloton, particularly riders like Markel Irizar. The 39-year-old Basque rider spent nine of his 16-year professional cycling career with Trek, retiring this year after the Clasica San Sebastian. Irizar dedicated the majority of his career to being a domestique, dedicating himself to putting his teammates, rather than himself, on the podium. One of Irizar’s greatest successes was helping one of the team’s strongest leaders, Fabian Cancellara, win at both the Tour of Flanders and Paris–Roubaix in 2013, and then achieve victory again at Flanders the following year. Irizar was also critical in teammate Chris Horner’s overall victory in the 2013 Vuelta a Espana. Even though he’s typically a helper, he won the 2011 Vuelta a Andalucía and has a handful of top-five finishes. In retirement, he’ll keep busy running his own bistro, dubbed Bizipoz Kafe, a Basque word that roughly translates to “live life to the fullest”. I’m sure Irizar will continue to live his life in this vein.

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