In the second instalment of 2009 highlights Cyclingnews asks more industry insiders how they saw things this past year.
Part 1 | Part 2
Greg Johnson (Cyclingnews Australian Regional Editor)
Best performance: If we were talking theatre, I’d say ‘Harmonious team-work: The Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador story’. Since we’re talking on the bike, and I don’t want to be too predictable, Denis Menchov’s Giro d’Italia ride was impressive. His Rabobank team helped Menchov outlast some big names, in a race that had the added hype of Lance Armstrong’s first Giro outing and Danilo Di Luca’s return. And that final stage crash, talk about nail-biting.
Best Team: If you went off race victory statistics you'd have to say Columbia-HTC, but the beauty of opinion allows me to say Cervélo TestTeam. Gerard Vroomen touted a different approach to team building than what's perhaps considered traditional and executed his vision with commendable outcomes.
Biggest disappointment: You’d think Tom Boonen or Tyler Hamilton’s second positive would top my chart here, but instead I reserve it for Bradley Wiggins. He made such a big deal on Twitter about announcing that he wasn’t moving to Team Sky in July, that this should have been the final outcome. But alas, the British rider has moved on in a deal that involved so much speculation and financial forecasting that we’d forgive you for thinking it was a soccer (football) player transfer.
Rider to watch in 2010: Okay, I’m going to have to jump on a bandwagon
here: Edvald Boasson Hagen. The boy’s got bundles of talent and he’s laid largely dormant in 2009, so you’ve got to that volcano is ready to explode in 2010.
Most memorable race: Like the majority of people, I'm going to say International Cycling Union World Championships, but unlike the others, I'm referring to the mountain bike event. Nino Schurter’s ride to chase down – the out sprint – Julien Absalon was spectacular.
Biggest surprise: Cadel Evans winning the UCI Road World Championships.
What can I say, I really didn’t expect that.
Gary Imlach (ITV’s Tour de France presenter)
Best performance: For grace under pressure and for being clearly the strongest man in the biggest race of the year it has to be Alberto Contador's Tour de France ride.
Best team: Hard to look past Columbia - literally. Every time I looked up there seemed to be seven or eight of them filling the screen. Talking of which, the least they could do is offer us some visual relief next season by changing that insipid kit.
Biggest disappointment: ASO's sabotaging of their own chances of staging a truly epic Tour by including a team time trial.
Rider to watch in 2010: Same one we all watched in 2009 - Lance Armstrong. OK, staying closer to the spirit of the question, I was really looking forward to seeing Dan Martin ride the Tour this year, so in spite of a whole raft of interesting up-and-comers I'll carry him over as my man for 2010.
Most memorable race: Since I couldn't put him ahead of Contador for Best Performance, I'll go for Bradley Wiggins' race within the race at this year's Tour, especially his ride up Mont Ventoux on what looked like sheer strength of will.
Biggest Surprise: It's tempting to put Bradley in here too, but I'll go for Cath, his wife, instead. Mrs Wiggins emerged from nowhere this year as one of the few truly entertaining voices on Twitter. Ok, it's not all cycling, but neither's life. In a world with better taste she'd have more followers than Lance Armstrong and Stephen Fry put together
Daniel Friebe (Procycling features editor)
Best performance: I’ll nominate two sprinters for performances at the opposite end of the success spectrum – Mark Cavendish for winning Milan-San Remo and Kenny Van Hummel for defying time limits for fifteen and a half stages of the Tour de France. Van Hummel’s bloody-mindedness was a throwback to a more romantic age of Tour-riding.
Best team: Columbia-HTC, for their commitment to Cavendish, above all. Tony Martin deserves a special mention for his phenomenal contribution at the Tour. Valliant runners-up were Cervelo TestTeam, who overcame odds and teething problems to outperform most ProTour outfits.
Biggest disappointment: Another Giro d’Italia whose script required extensive re-editing, weeks after the event. Or was it eventual winner Denis Menchov saying in the autumn that he was “sad” about Danilo Di Luca’s positive test because Di Luca is a “great champion”? I’d also mention Frank Vandenbroucke’s death, although the overwhelming sentiment there was one of great sadness rather than disappointment.
Rider to watch in 2010: I’ll pick three, all of them young, gifted and French - Alexandre Geniez who’s turning pro with Skil Shimano, Thibault Pinot of La Francaise des Jeux, and world Under 23 champion Romain Sicard of Euskaltel. It’s unlikely that all three will flourish, but the one who does could well be among the best climbers of the next decade.
Most memorable race: The last 15 kilometres of Paris-Tours were terrific. Philippe Gilbert has single-handedly restored this historic race to its former glory over the past three years.
Biggest surprise: Cadel Evans winning the Worlds. Well, I suppose it qualifies by virtue of the fact that Cuddles never wins one-day races, but it’s also true to say that there’s no more a consistently stronger athlete in the peloton, and therefore no-one better suited to a course as tough as Mendrisio’s.
Andrew Messick (president of Tour of California organiser AEG)
Best Performance: Fabian Cancellara at the Worlds. He won a 31 mile race by three-quarters of a mile.
Best team: For me it was a tie between Columbia-HTC and Saxo Bank. Columbia won so much and had so many different athletes win; I don’t know when we’ll see that again. Saxo had such high quality performances – Tour de France, World Championships, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Tour de Suisse. Both teams showed real class and style.
Biggest disappointment: All of the athletes who continue to believe that they won’t get caught doping.
Rider to watch in 2010: Andy Schleck – Phenomenal now, poised to get better.
Most memorable race: Stage 8 of the Amgen Tour of California: The tifosi on Palomar – unreal.
Biggest surprise: The obvious answer is Lance Armstrong but since nothing that he accomplishes should ever come as a surprise, then Brad Wiggins who had a superb year.
Martin McCrossan (Agent and team manager)
Best performance: Luis Leon Sanchez on stage 7 of this year’s Paris Nice. It was just one of the best days racing I've seen in a long time. The first time anyone had really seen Contador in trouble.
Best team: Columbia – HTC
Biggest disappointment: Cadel Evans at the Tour (Loved his ride to take the Worlds Though!)
Rider to watch in 2010: Jacob Fuglsang
Most memorable race: Swinging from the 'Jesus' handles in the back of the team car as Maggy demonstrated his famous descending skills transfer perfectly to driving the team car, Col du Tourmalet - Tour of the Pyerenees. (I still wake up with cold sweats!)
Biggest Surprise: Vacansoleil at the Vuelta. It was great to see a smaller team go into a race and step up.