Polls and pollsters from around the world have made their decisions about the best riders and rides of 2008, but Cyclingnews asked the peloton's insiders for their opinions about the year in cycling. What we received was an interesting collection of views (albeit a touch biased) on the best performance, biggest disappointment, rider to watch, memorable race and biggest surprise.
Kristin Armstrong (Olympic TT gold medallist)
Best performance: Olympic GOLD - Beijing Olympics
Biggest disappointment: The continued drug use in the pro peloton – when are these riders going to get it?
Rider to watch in 2009: Coryn Rivera, what she can do on junior gears boggles my mind.
Most memorable race: Beijing Olympics
Biggest surprise: Lance's comeback!
Hugo Coorevits, (Sportwereld journalist)
Best performance: In the Classics, Fabian Cancellara's performance in the finale of Milano-Sanremo. In the stage races, Alberto Contador for winning three Grand Tours in just fourteen months.
Biggest disappointment: The CERA cases. The damage of Schumacher and Kohl is even bigger than the Festina Affair and it takes away yet more credibility from our sport.
Rider to watch in 2009: Greg Van Avermaet. He has showed incredible improvement in the last four years. He worked hard for Hoste in Flanders and finished eighth – all without proper preparation. Then at the Vuelta stage to Sabinanigo he showed that he is big player. Plus he won the points jersey in his first Grand Tour.
Most memorable race: Tour of Flanders. You had the attack of Stijn Devolder on the Mur de Grammont and then an hour of suspense – you did not know if it would all come back together in the final kilometer or not.
Biggest surprise: The biggest surprise for me was Carlos Sastre. He raced for 10 years against "doping machines" and finally was able to win, even this year against heavy favorite Cadel Evans.
Roberto Amadio, (Liquigas Team Manager)
Best performance: Alessandro Ballan at the Worlds. He won solo with a grand attack. It has been a long time since we have seen a rider finish solo at the Worlds like that.
Biggest disappointment: All the doping cases.
Rider to watch in 2009: Roman Kreuziger. He has already done important things this year and demonstrated maturity beyond his years. Next year he can definitely make another step up in quality.
Most memorable race: There are so many and it is difficult to say one. The Giro d'Italia was very beautiful for its climbs and stages and overall it was a great race.
Biggest surprise: Greg Van Avermaet of Lotto. This year he’s been up at the front so many times. He won a stage at the Vuelta and did well in the Classics, too.
Daniel Freibe (Features editor, Procycling Magazine)
Best performance: Philippe Gilbert’s awesome solo win in Het Volk way back on the first of March.
Biggest disappointment: Off the bike, ASO sacking Patrice Clerc. On it, Paolo Bettini in the spring Classics.
Rider to watch in 2009: Brice Feillu.
Most memorable race: The scintillating stage 19 of the Giro to Monte Pora. Danilo di Luca nearly turned the race on its head, Riccardo Riccò dropped Alberto Contador then spat his dummy, and a bloke we’d never heard of, Vasil Kiryienka, stayed away for an unlikely win. Pure, Italian melodrama.
Biggest surprise: Chris Froome, the Kenyan-raised Briton with no big-race experience, not only finishing the Tour but doing it with aplomb.
Phil Liggett (cycling commentator)
Best performance: The development of Mark Cavendish into the world’s fastest sprinter. Britain has never had such a rider.
Biggest disappointment: Those who still believe they can cheat their way to a few minutes of glory before they are caught and ostracized from our sport.
Rider to watch in 2009: Edwald Boason Hagen.
Most memorable race: Tour de France, spoiled afterwards by the CERA cheats.
Biggest surprise: South African John Lee Augustyn who rode an excellent first Tour and may have even won a stage if he had not crashed on the Bonnet/Restafond.
Luigi Perna (La Gazzetta dello Sport)
Most memorable race: The World Championships, it was similar to 2002 in the way Italy came together for the cause.
Biggest disappointment: Riccardo Riccò's positive at the Tour de France. He impressed everyone at the Giro but he will never be the same, even if he comes back in two years.
Rider to watch in 2009: Rigoberto Uran. He had a great race in the Deutschland Tour and then finished third in Lombardia. At home, in Italy, there is Francesco Ginanni. He is a class act.
Most memorable race: Again the World Championships. It is always the most interesting race on the calendar due to its national tactics, and this year Italy really came together.
Biggest surprise: Mario Cipollini finishing third in a Tour of California stage. To come back at the age of 40, that was a surprise.
See yesterday's news for part one of "The peloton's best of 2008".