A to Z of Men’s Cycling 2019 : From Alaphilippe to Monuments (part 1)

It’s the traditional end of year round-up of the cycling season – yes, it’s the VeloVoices A to Z of Men’s Cycling 2019. As seems to be the tradition, it starts with LouLou and ends with a tenuous Z …

A is for Alaphilippe

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It was indeed a golden year for Julian Alaphilippe. Starting the season in South America, he won two stages (confetti cannons!) and finished second overall in Vuelta a San Juan, then took a stage and the points classification in the Tour of Colombia. Italy was good to him in March, with his first Strade Bianche title, two stages in Tirreno-Adriatico and his first Monument with Milan-SanRemo. April was busy: he took a stage in Tour of the Basque Country, his second consecutive Fleche Wallonne title, took second in Brabantse Pijl (behind Mathieu van der Poel) but made a rare judgment error by faffing about with Jakob Fuglsang near the finish of Amstel Gold, finishing fourth after van der Poel stole up behind them, making it the most exciting race finish of the year. A well-deserved rest in May brought him out of the blocks in June with a stage win and the overall KOM title at Criterium du Dauphine. 

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But it was July where LouLou shone brightest, with a Tour de France most riders don’t dare dream of. Starting as he meant to go on, he took a win on stage 3 that put him into the yellow jersey, losing it on stage 6, taking it back stage 8, rode the time trial of his life to win stage 13 and keep the  jersey until stage 19, where a mudslide put paid to any final swashbuckling ride that might have kept him on top until Paris. Finishing 5th overall, he was awarded the overall Combativity Award. Post-season, he won the prestigious Velo d’Or for rider of the year – the first Frenchman to win it since Laurent Jalabert in 1995. He also finished second in the end of season UCI rankings.

B is for Bora-hansgrohe

The 2019 Bora-hansgrohe team was chock-full of national champions: Maciej Bodnar (Polish TT), Max Schachmann (German RR), Davide Formolo (Italian RR), Sam Bennett (Irish RR), Juraj Sagan (Slovakian RR) and Patrick Konrad (Austrian RR). The team racked up 47 wins – behind only Jumbo-Visma and Deceuninck-QuickStep in the most wins for the season.

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Both Sam Bennett and Pascal Ackermann took 13 wins a piece this season (only Jumbo’s Dylan Groenewegen won more this season with 15). Ackermann won two Giro stages and was the first German to win the Giro points jersey, while Bennett won two Vuelta stages. There had been rumblings throughout the season that Bennett wasn’t happy at Bora – he was passed over for the Giro in favour of Ackermann. Confusion reigned with Bennett saying he hadn’t signed a contract for 2020, while Bora saying they wouldn’t release him to go elsewhere (something to do with a letter of intent that Bennett supposedly signed earlier in the season). The resolution? Bennett is going to Deceuninck-QuickStep as their top sprinter with Elia Viviani moving to Cofidis.

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But how did the one of the biggest names in cycling do? Peter Sagan had four wins this year – one of which was a Tour de France stage and won his 7th green jersey in Paris, setting the record for most green jerseys won by a rider. His hold on the green jersey seemed as tight as ever so we can only expect him to add to that record in 2020.

C is for conspiracy theories

Holy moly, but this has been a season for conspiracy theories. First, there was the lack of gory pictures from Chris Froome‘s crash on a recon ride at the Dauphine – why can’t we see it! why can’t we check that he isn’t lying?! – and then the lack of bruises and scars in the photos he posted from his hospital bed – this proves he is fine!. Hard to really decipher that one, considering he hasn’t been back to racing all year

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Then it was the reasons behind Rohan Dennis leaving the Tour de France right before stage 13’s ITT – a stage he was the favourite to win. No comment from Dennis – cryptic tweets from Bahrain-Merida about not knowing where he was … In a post-season interview with CyclingWeekly, Dennis said that he left the Tour de France because he was struggling mentally and it was affecting his home life. Obviously, the relationship between rider and team had broken down, and Bahrain-Merida announcing the termination of his contract at the finish of the World Championships in September. He has since signed with Ineos and is planning Tokyo Olympics and a tilt at the Hour Record in 2020.

D is for Danes

We couldn’t do a final round-up of the season without a big shoutout to some of Midge‘s beloved Danes.

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First up, Jakob Fuglsang. This was a stellar year for the Astana rider – he took the overall in the Vuelta a Andalucia and his second title at the Criterium du Dauphine. He won his first Monument with Liege-Bastogne-Liege and took his first ever individual Grand Tour stage in the Vuelta. He had one of the best rivalries of the year with Julian Alaphilippe, finishing on the second step of Strade Bianche and Fleche Wallonne to the Frenchman – a rivalry that lost both of them them Amstel Gold this year [see O for Outrageous Finish]. And in the end of season UCI rankings, Fuglsang has placed third.

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Of course, we can’t have a Dane entry without mentioning Mads Pedersen’s winning of the rainbow jersey on a rain-drenched September day in Yorkshire [see W for World Champion].

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And especially for Midge, a shoutout to Matti Breschel, who retired this year. His pro career began in 2005 with CSC, before going to Rabobank, Saxo-Tinkoff, Cannondale, Astana, ending with EF-All the Words. His palmares show a Vuelta stage win (2008); National RR champion (2009), Dwars door Vlaanderen (2010) and Tour of Luxembourg (2014), but perhaps his most important contribution was the fact that it was her love of Breschel that brought Midge back to following cycling, which led to her becoming an integral part of VeloVoices. Matti, we can’t thank you enough!

E is for eh?

Who would have predicted this at the beginning of 2019?

F is for Firsts

The big prizes this year were all won by riders who have never won those particular races before [see also M for Monuments; W for World Champion]. But one of the most interesting firsts were those of the Grand Tours. Each Grand Tour had a first-time winner and they went one further by being the first riders from their respective countries to ever win a Grand Tour: Richard Carapaz, Giro d’Italia, Ecuador; Egan Bernal, Tour de France, Colombia; Primoz Roglic, Vuelta a Espana, Slovenia.

G is for Gilbert

His palmares for the 2019 season show a tremendous Paris-Roubaix win and two nail-biting stages in the Vuelta. Other riders have won more, but Philippe Gilbert has always been a cut above for his talismanic qualities riding for QuickStep. When he wasn’t riding for the win, he was a road captain extraordinaire, reading the race like a book and sniffing out every opportunity to get his teammates in the right place so they could win. Missing out on the final selection for the Tour, he used his disappointment to light up the Vuelta (including an echelon attack) and winning everyone’s hearts with his gentle mentoring of young James Knox, who took his share of knocks in the last week of the Grand Tour.

Gilbert goes back to Lotto-Soudal in 2020 with a three-year contract and he will surely be missed at QuickStep. He has one more Monument to win – Milan-SanRemo – to accomplish the grand slam. Only three riders have won all five – Rik Van Looy, Eddy Merckx and Roger De Vlaeminck, all Belgians … Here’s hoping there will be a fourth Belgian rider in that group at the end of March 2020.

H is for Heartbreaking

There are really no words for this.

I is for Israel Cycling Academy

Jumping into the World Tour for 2020 (under Katusha’s licence), ICA will be now called Israel Start-up Nation. A mix of ICA and Katusha riders, they also bagged Andre Greipel, Dan Martin, Daniel Navarro, and Roubaix runner-up Nils Politt, It will be interesting to see what they concentrate on – one day races? stage races? grand tours? all of the above? – when they line up for the 2020 season.

J is for Jerseys

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Grand Tour podiums: Giro d’ItaliaRichard Carapaz (Movistar), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma). [see A to Z of Giro d’Italia 2019, Part 1 and Part 2Tour de FranceEgan Bernal (Ineos), Geraint Thomas (Ineos), Steven Kruijswick (Jumbo-Visma). [see A to Z of Tour de France 2019, Part 1 and Part 2Vuelta a Espana: Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Tadej Pogacar (UAE Emirates). [see A to Z of Vuelta a Espana 2019, Part 1 and Part 2]

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Points classification: Giro d’ItaliaPascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe); Tour de FrancePeter Sagan (his 7th jersey); Vuelta a EspanaPrimoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma)

KOM classification: Giro d’ItaliaGiulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo); Tour de FranceRomain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale); Vuelta a EspanaGeoffrey Bouchard (Ag2r-La Mondiale)

Young Rider classification: Giro d’ItaliaMiguel Angel Lopez (Astana); Tour de FranceEgan Bernal (Ineos); Vuelta a Espana Tadej Pogacar (UAE Emirates)

Combativity award: Giro d’ItaliaFausto Masnada (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec); Tour de FranceJulian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep); Vuelta a EspanaMiguel Angel Lopez (Astana)

Team classification: Giro d’ItaliaMovistar; Tour de FranceMovistar; Vuelta a EspanaMovistar

K is for Kittel

Marcel Kittel – the ArgoSunGod – hung up his wheels this year. His move from QuickStep to Katusha never seemed to suit him and he took only three wins in the one and a bit years he was there. Considering that three wins would constitute a mediocre Tour de France in his pomp, that’s quite a shocker. In the middle of the season, he announced that Katusha had released him from his contract, giving him some time to think about his future. Then came his statement that he was retiring from professional racing as he no longer wanted to make the sacrifices that were needed to be a top sprinter. [see A to Z of Marcel Kittel]

But the story ends happily. He and his partner Tess became parents in December to little Lex.

L is for Lopez is no angel

Fans getting in the way, causing riders to crash – it’s hard to not lose your rag if you find yourself with road rash (or worse) after an encounter like that. Especially if you’ve got great legs and are going for a much desired stage win. However, Astana’s Miguel Angel Lopez should have been penalised for what looks like kicking and punching the fan that knocked him off his bike in the Giro d’Italia. But yet again, the UCI and the commissaires of the Giro didn’t apply the rules when it clearly states that he should have been disqualified.

M is for Monuments

Five Monuments, five first-time winners in their respective races.

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Milan-San Remo: Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Oliver Naesen (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Michal Kwiatkowski (Ineos)

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Ronde van Vlaanderen: Alberto Bettiol (EF Education First), Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Alexander Kristoff (UAE Emirates)

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Paris-Roubaix: Philippe Gilbert (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Nils Politt (Katusha Alpecin), Yves Lampaert (Deceuninck-QuickStep)

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Liege-Bastogne-Liege: Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), Davide Formolo (Bora-hansgrohe), Max Schachmann (Bora-hansgrohe)

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Il Lombardia: Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Egan Bernal (Ineos)

Part II: A to Z of 2019 season – from N to Z is here.

 

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