Today’s 40.2km ITT from the Navarran race circuit to Logrono is where many speculated that Chris Froome would effectively wrap up his first overall victory in the Vuelta. It’s hard to argue otherwise as he took his second stage win to extend his GC lead by 29 secs on runner-up Wilco Kelderman (third overall) and almost a minute on Vincenzo Nibali, still second overall 1:58 back. Of course, there’s still four tough stages to negotiate but as Froome is about to spend his 15th day in red, emulating luminaries such as Bernard Hinault, Jacques Anquetil and Pedro Delgado, you wouldn’t bet against him. Continue reading →
For many cycling fans Eurosport is the cycling channel. This year the television company played a blinder – to use a technical football term – when it recruited Laura Meseguer to its ranks for the Vuelta. Fitting, really, given that the guy who hired her is responsible for both football and cycling coverage on Eurosport. [My dream job – Ed.] Laura and I first met at the Tour de France and then spent the rest of the season just missing one another at various events due to pressure of work. But I’ve finally tracked her down and we’re enjoying an espresso together on the VeloVoices sofa. Continue reading →
For the past couple of weeks hundreds and thousands of you have been voting across the ten categories in our inaugural VeloVoices Awards. The votes have now been counted and independently verified (okay, it was actually just Tim looking up the final scores on the doors) and we can now confirm that the winner of X-Factor 2012 is the final results.
Unlike other awards ceremonies, there are no tiresome speeches where the winner thanks their team, their coaches, their family and their pet goldfish Nemo. There’s also no swanky black-tie gala dinner – maybe next year? – but make no mistake that these are the awards that absolutely everyone in the cycling fraternity really wants to win. Honest, guv.
Anyhow, without further ado, here are this year’s winners …
Rider of the Year
Image courtesy of Wikipedia
Nominees: Bradley Wiggins, Joaquim Rodriguez, Peter Sagan, Tom Boonen, Vincenzo Nibali.
Were you impressed by the achievements of Joaquim Rodriguez, who finished second at the Giro, third at the Vuelta and won Flèche Wallonne and Il Lombardia? Apparently not, as the world number one could only finish a distant fourth in our poll. Instead you recognised the feat of Bradley Wiggins in becoming the first Brit to win the Tour de France as he swept to victory with 40% of the vote, a performance almost as dominant as Sky’s in July. Green jersey winner Peter Sagan was some way back in second, with Classics master Tom Boonen third.
Team of the Year
Nominees: Euskaltel-Euskadi, Sky, Argos-Shimano, Belgian World Championships road race team, Omega Pharma-Quick Step.
No surprise here that Sky, whose crushing superiority at the Tour was merely the pinnacle of a quite incredible 2012 season, dominated all before them with 44% of you voting them Team of the Year – more than the second and third-placed teams put together. But there was a distinctly Belgian theme to the rest of the podium, with the all-round performance of Omega Pharma-Quick Step winning over more than a quarter of you, and the Belgian national squad which propelled Philippe Gilbert into the rainbow jersey at the Worlds receiving the third-highest number of votes.
Breakthrough Rider of the Year
Image courtesy of BMC
Nominees: Marcel Kittel, Taylor Phinney, Nacer Bouhanni, Peter Sagan, Thibaut Pinot.
Nearly half of you plumped for the all-American hero with the megawatt smile as your Breakthrough Rider of 2012. Taylor Phinney wore the Giro’s maglia rosa for its opening phase, narrowly missed out on a medal in both road events at the Olympics and then pushed Tony Martin all the way in the time trial at the Worlds. Peter Sagan was second – a position he was not accustomed to in 2012 – with a whopping 36% of the vote, with FDJ’s Thibaut Pinot (tenth at the Tour) a mere speck on the horizon in third.
Most Thrilling Moment of the Year
Image courtesy of Davide Calabresi
Nominees: Iljo Keisse wins at the Tour of Turkey despite dropping a chain, Philippe Gilbert wins at the Worlds, Thomas De Gendt’s solo win on the Stelvio, Alberto Contador’s race-winning attack at the Vuelta, Marc Madiot cheering Thibaut Pinot to victory at the Tour.
You soppy old softies, you. Philippe Gilbert outdistanced his rivals with a devastating early kick and easily held them off to the finish to earn the title of your Most Thrilling Moment of 2012. Pinot being cheered on to victory by his directeur sportif Marc Madiot was next up, with Iljo Keisse’s hold-off-the-peloton victory at the Tour of Turkey, when he had to refit his chain within sight of the line, third.
Flop of the Year
Image courtesy of Danielle Haex
Nominees: Tour de France, Johan Bruyneel, Frank and Andy Schleck, Juan Jose Cobo, Mark Renshaw.
A Schleck wins! Actually, make that a double Schleck victory! No, you’re not dreaming. They may not have won much – or indeed anything – else in 2012, but Frank and Andy were unassailable as 51% of you singled them out as your Flop of the Year. Johan Bruyneel was an (un)popular second, with the Tour de France itself being named as the third-biggest failure of the year.
Tim broke with tradition here by stepping outside our normal stomping ground of the men’s peloton by nominating back-to-back ITT world champion Judith Arndt, and she placed a creditable joint-second in the poll, with exactly the same number of votes as the also-retiring four-time Vuelta a Espana King of the Mountains David Moncoutie. But it was Arndt’s compatriot Jens Voigt who took the laurels here with 38% of you opting for the Jensie. Shut up, legs!
Sartorial Elegance Award
Nominees: Luis Leon Sanchez, Mark Cavendish, Taylor Phinney, Laurens ten Dam, Thomas Voeckler.
Kitty (who nominated Taylor Phinney) and Tim (Mark Cavendish) reckoned they would be the only people voting for their selections, but how wrong they were as the Sartorial Elegance Award became our most fiercely contested, with just 6% covering the top three when the poll closed. Having led for much of the voting period Cav, unusually for him, faded down the final stretch and was overtaken by first Phinney and then the eventual winner: housewives’ favourite Thomas Voeckler.
Least Likely to Happen in 2013 Award
Image courtesy of Wikipedia
Nominees: UCI to explain Katusha’s relegation, Jens Voigt giving up, Panache beating the lanterne rouge up Alpe d’Huez, Pat McQuaid and Hein Verbruggen to apologise for anything.
The only real surprise here in the most one-sided poll of all was that the ‘dream team’ [shouldn’t that be ‘nightmare team’, really? – Ed] of Pat McQuaid and Hein Verbruggen gained ‘only’ 60% of your votes on the assumption that they are unlikely to apologise for anything. It would probably have been more but for the 34% of you who deemed it even less likely that Jens Voigt would wuss out of anything at any point next year. Fair point. No one else even came close to rivalling these two.
Most Ridiculous Thing Said/Seen Award
Nominees: Bradley Wiggins claims to have never ridden against Lance Armstrong at the Tour, Tyler Farrar storms the Argos-Shimano bus, Miguel Indurain defends Armstrong, Wiggins draws the raffle tickets at the Tour, Sky’s team orders at the Tour.
It was a close-run thing between two Lance Armstrong-related nominations, but in the end Miguel Indurain‘s continued defence of Big Tex edged out Bradley Wiggins’ claim that he had never raced against Armstrong at the Tour. One in seven of you also found the storm in a teacup over Sky’s team orders at the Tour to be more than a little ridiculous.
Kit of the Year
Image courtesy of BMC
Nominees: Samuel Sanchez, Swiss national team, Belgian national team, Argos-Shimano, Farnese Vini-Selle Italia.
A triumph of nations over trade teams, as the simplicity of the Swiss national kit (37%) narrowly won out over their Belgian counterparts (35%). Samuel Sanchez’s gold-tinged customer Euskaltel-Euskadi kit trailed in third.