The 2014 UCI WorldTour kicks off tomorrow (Tuesday) with the 16th edition of the Tour Down Under, the traditional curtain-raiser which sees the peloton rise from its winter slumber. Here’s a quick preview of what to expect.
Here’s our idiosyncratic, often tongue-in-cheek look back at the 2013 season. It was so massive, we had to split it in two. Today, A to M. #IDidThat!
A is for Angliru
Stage 20 of this year’s Vuelta will, quite rightly, go down in the history of cycling as one of the most exciting stages ever ridden in any grand tour. With a young Kenny Elissonde winning the queen stage in a breakaway and an epic battle between Vincenzo Nibali and Chris Horner lower down the slopes, fans were kept on the edge of their seats. Nibali left everything out on the steep, misty road yet still came up short.
B is for Breakthrough
It really was a bumper year for young riders making a name for themselves – especially in the grand tours. From Jan Bakelants holding off a rampant peloton to don the yellow jersey in the first week of the Tour de France to Warren Barguil’s double stage win at a gruelling Vuelta, new names and faces were appearing every race. Check out our ‘Who Is …’ posts from the season.
C is for Curse
There is no curse of the rainbow jersey – that’s just superstition. But in a sport where superstition plays a huge part of the everyday preparation around races, Philippe Gilbert started to wonder.
After a while, I said to myself that there was something about this jersey, as though it blocked me in my quest for more success.
After a magnificent 2012 season, Gilbert donned the rainbow jersey to win a grand total of one race in 2013 – stage 12 of the Vuelta.
D is for Doing the double
Fabian Cancellara‘s Ronde/Roubaix victories. Joaquim Rodriguez’s second consecutive year as world number one. The double ascent of Alpe d’Huez in the Tour. Marianne Vos‘s second consecutive rainbow jersey (no curse there – she wins everything going!) Bradley Wiggins‘
Giro/Tour wins – oh … But Tony Martin trumped them all by doing the triple – three time trial world championships in a row.
E is for Euskaltel
Carrots down! For good this time …
F is for Fashion
Cyclists aren’t particularly known for their sartorial elegance – God bless ’em but sometimes at those grand tour presentations, the guys on the podium look as if they doused themselves in glue and ran screaming through their dad’s wardrobe. However, a couple of our peloton pets made the swellegant Mr Porter website, including That Boy Phinney and the Sacred Haunches himself. (Okay, technically, Taylor’s interview was November 2012 but why quibble with dates when I can put two of my favourites in?)
G is for Go faster
Cav used to be the fastest sprinter in the West. After his storming performance in the Tour de France – winning four stages, including the Champs – we think that ArgoGod Marcel Kittel might just go into the new season with The Fastest Sprinter in the World™ title. Expect one hell of a fight from Cav to regain the title in 2014.
H is for Heartbreak
There were certainly a few dramatic heartbreaks this season. Tony Martin‘s 175km breakaway in stage six of the Vuelta, only to be scooped up by the peloton 20 metres from the finish line. Purito’s agonising defeat to Rui Costa to fail in his rainbow jersey campaign by a whisker and his tears on the podium.
But perhaps the most heartbreaking was Sep Vanmarcke‘s defeat by a foxy Fabian in the velodrome at Roubaix. Employing all his wiles, Spartacus used the track stand method to force Vanmarcke to lead out the sprint for the line. The sprint that would break Sep’s heart as Cancellara swept past him.
I is for #IDidThat
Chris Horner did some strange things this year (like win the Vuelta …) but perhaps the strangest was his Twitter rant in October as he struggled to get a contract for 2014 (which at the time of writing he still does not have). With the hashtag #IDidThat, he detailed his career-long struggles. It was a bit ‘the call is coming from inside the house’ …
J is for Jagger
The Colombians were out in force in 2013. From Rigoberto ‘Mick Jagger’ Uran‘s second step of the podium in the Giro – a race he wasn’t even targetting – to Nairo Quintana‘s wins at the Tour of the Basque Country and Vuelta a Burgos and his stunning performance in the Tour de France that earned him runner-up position as well as winning best young rider and the mountains classification, it really has been the Year of the Colombians. Keep an eye out for Carlos Betancur next year as well – especially in the Ardennes classics where he was third in Fleche Wallonne and fourth in Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
K is for Kit
There oughta be a law – I mean seriously. The law would read: ‘only Argonauts and TT world champs get to wear all-white kits’. (Road race world champs – stop it. Put on black bibs NOW.). It would also read: ‘The polka dots for the Tour de France’s mountain jersey will stop at the waist. If they stray further down, the Fashion Police will put out a warrant for your arrest.’ Oi! Pierre Rolland, we’d be looking at you when we say that except we can’t bear the pox!
And finally: ‘All-mesh kits – especially black – are forbidden.’ (See also X is for X-rated for another mesh-mash of kits.)
L is for Love lost (none)
Oh deary me. There were some epic battles this year – and we’re not talking on the road. First we had the cat-and-mouse game between Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome over who would be the protected rider for the Tour de France.
Not as much cat and mouse as Wiggins talking up his chances of doing the double while Froomey repeated like a mantra: “I am the team’s leader for the Tour, I am the team’s leader for the Tour.” That and the non-existent congratulations from Wiggo on Froome’s win and Brailsford having to strong-arm the 2012 champ into giving the 2013 champ his bonus share (14 months after the event) – well, it epitomises the phrase ‘No Love Lost’. Froome has just said that they had a full and frank conversation at training camp the other week and all hatchets are buried. We believe you, thousands wouldn’t. [It all depends exactly where the hatchets have been buried … – Ed.]
We even had a No Love Lost triangle with Bjarne Riis and Alberto Contador getting regular tongue-lashings in the press and on Twitter by billionaire sponsor Oleg Tinkov. Then Tinkov took his millions and left, shopping around for another pro team to tweet into submission. Rumours had Cannondale in the crosshairs, until Peter Sagan said he’d break his contract if that happened. Then it was buying the Euskatel licence – nothing there. Then, shock, in a press conference in December, it was announced Tinkov had bought Riis Cycling, lock, stock and oval rings, and takes control of the now-named Tinkoff-Saxo Bank team. Poor Alberto.
M is for Married
This year had a couple of riders sprinting to the altar – Mark Cavendish and John Degenkolb are two who had big weddings this year (um, not to each other). But nothing caused as much consternation among female fans as the wedding of Ladies’ Favourite™ Bernie Eisel in July. If you listened closely, you could hear the screams of “Noooooooooo!” echoing throughout the Veloshire.
You know, it’s difficult in the off-season to get some good stories going on as the boys are on holiday. They hardly tweet. So there’s not really any coherent strands to this week’s column, but there are some fun things! So here they are, in no particular order. Continue reading