As 2015 draws to a close, Cyclingnews looks back on the 10 most-read news stories of the year. From controversy at the Vuelta a Espana to an ethical dilemma at the GIro d'Italia, there was plenty to discuss and debate this season.
It began with a vitriolic tweet from Trek's Eugenio Alfaci, complaining that a massive pile-up on stage 2 of the Giro d'Italia was caused by a spectator on a fixed gear bicycle jumping onto the road with around 10km to go. Then, footage taken by another spectator was sent to Cyclingnews which shows the crash (watch around 11 seconds in, the far left side of the boardwalk on the far side of the road), confirming Alfaci's account.
The crash involved some 30 riders, and cost Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale) 1:09 after he was unable to regain the peloton.
Stage 2 of the Vuelta a España was bad for Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) - he was involved in a crash with 30km to go and had to launch a furious chase to regain the peloton. But his miraculous return became better understood when astute viewers caught the Italian champion taking a tow from the Astana team car and shooting off the front of the chase group as a result. The furor raised on social media quickly reached the race jury, who had no choice but to disqualify Nibali from the race.
Bradley Wiggins historic UCI Hour Record attempt turned controversial after the coach of Alex Dowsett, Steve Collins, accused the Briton of flaunting the rules by using a non-production bike. The rules state that equipment "designed especially for the attainment of a particular performance (record or other) shall be not authorised". The UCI disagreed with Collins and allowed Wiggins' record to stand.
The internet also played a role in Richie Porte (Sky) being penalized two minutes in stage 10 of the Giro d'Italia after puncturing and then receiving a spare wheel from fellow Australian Simon Clarke. Porte thanked Clarke on Twitter after the stage, and even posted a photo of the exchange. The race jury deemed the action illegal under UCI rule 12.1.040, which prohibits assistance from another team. The penalty added to the 47 seconds that Porte lost because of the puncture with 7km to go, and effectively ended his GC hopes.
One side of the story was that Nibali took a tow from the Astana car and was ejected from the Vuelta a España. Once the debate about that incident had made the circuit through the social media networks, Nibali's equally inflammatory response got the internet humming again. The Italian champion said he was abandoned by Astana, who were only concerned about his teammate Fabio Aru. After Nibali was caught in the crash with 37km to go, he had to wait for Martinelli in the second car to get a bike change.
Nibali also accused Australian Caleb Ewan of causing the crash, and others of attacking during the crash. But he apologized for his tow and said he deserved to be punished.
Just before the Tour of Utah, after attending the pre-race press conference, Tom Danielson shocked the world and his Cannondale-Garmin team by announcing on Twitter that he had been informed of a positive dope test for testosterone. Coming from a team that has based its existence around its anti-doping image, and from a rider who acted as one of the whistleblowers in USADA's case against Lance Armstrong, the news sparked plenty of debate. Danielson insisted he did nothing wrong and took nothing intentionally, but his case is yet to be decided by the authorities.
A massive crash on stage 3 of the Tour de France left numerous riders on the ground seriously injured. William Bonnet was the worst off with a fractured neck, Dmitrii Kozonchuk (Katusha) broke his scapula and collarbone in a separate crash, and Fabian Cancellara (Trek) finished the stage in the maillot jaune, but abandoned after finding he'd fractured his vertebrae. There were so many hurt that the race had to be halted because all of the medical staff were occupied.
After signing Peter Sagan to a reported multi-million Euro contract, Tinkoff-Saxo team owner Oleg Tinkov was not amused when the Slovakian champion failed to deliver in the first half of the season. Even though Sagan turned his fortunes around by winning two stages and the overall at the Tour of California, Tinkov was not quite satisfied. Sagan later made up for his lack of victories by getting the only win that really matters - the world championship.
Ever since Fabian Cancellara's victories in the 2010 Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, and the fallout from Italian commentator Davide Cassani's video demonstrating "mechanical doping", there has been suspicion that riders are using motorised assistance in the pro peloton. The UCI even instituted checks for such a device but have not yet found any evidence of its use.
The UCI continued to check, however, taking apart the bikes of Chris Froome and Joaquim Rodriguez (pictured below) and three others at the Tour de France.
On stage 8 of the Vuelta a España, there was a typically chaotic build up to an expected sprint finish, and Peter Sagan was expected to feature prominently thanks to a couple selective climbs which had eliminated some potentially quicker riders. Sagan had avoided a nasty crash and was sitting well positioned when a race motorcycle clipped him and sent him tumbling to the tarmac. His shorts torn open, a furious Sagan kicked and punched and raged at the race vehicles. His team threatened to sue.