The UCI celebrated the winners and protagonists of the 2015 road season at the inaugural Cycling Gala and dinner in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, a few hours after the conclusion of the Abu Dhabi Tour race, as the curtain fell on the long professional road season in northern Europe.
Riders, team representatives, members of the UCI Management Committee, local officials, sponsors and guests gathered in the du Forum near Yas Marina. The event was organised by the Abu Dhabi Sports Council.
All three Grand Tour winners were present at the event, with Alberto Contador and Chris Froome flying in to collect their awards, as did Nairo Quintana, who travelled from his home in Colombia to celebrate his third place in the final WorldTour ranking and Movistar's prize for topping the WorldTour team ranking for another year. Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge) was also congratulated for winning the Abu Dhabi Tour.
Peter Sagan stole the show by ignoring requests to wear a suit. He turned up in a red T-shirt, leather jacket and boots and punched the air as he collected a framed rainbow jersey from UCI President Brian Cookson. He later broke the glass to pull on the rainbow jersey for some final photographs but also wished Tom Boonen a rapid recovery after his nasty crash during stage 2 of the Abu Dhabi Tour.
"I'm very proud of the rainbow jersey and I hope I can be a good world champion. This jersey is maybe a bit heavy but I will try to do my best," Sagan said sincerely.
Seventeen athletes were given awards for success on the road and in time trials during the evening, while Bradley Wiggins and Molly Shaffer Van Houweling were awarded special prizes for setting new men's and women's Hour Record. Surprisingly, Van Houweling was the only woman to collect an award. World champion Lizzie Armitstead was unable to attend and the Velocio-SRAM team was not given an award for its Team Time Trial victory in Richmond, even though the BMC men's team was.
Two awards were also made to the media, with French historian and television commentator Jean-Paul Ollivier given the Outstanding Journalism Award after retiring following this year's Tour de France. The International Association of Cycling Journalists (AIJC) gave the Giant-Alpecin team the most media friendly award. Notable by their absence were representatives of Tour de France organiser ASO and French UCI Vice President David Lappartient, who was reported to be ill.
ASO has only recently agreed to include it's the Tour de France and its other races in the 2016 WorldTour calendar after a bitter dispute with the UCI regarding future reforms of the sport.
Bradley Wiggins was unable to attend the event as he is about to compete in the European track championships in Switzerland. However, he sent a video message, jokingly saying he was proud to accept the award for being "God's gift to cycling."
Contador, Froome and Fabio Aru were given awards for their Grand Tour victories together on stage.
"I think it's great that at the end of the season we come together and celebrate and be proud of the achievements we've had this year," Froome said after arriving in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
"The Tour has got to be the highlight for me. The build-up, the hype, the pressure, everything that goes into being ready for the Tour, it's the enormity and intensity of it all. It's one thing planning for it all, it's another actually pulling it and wearing the yellow jersey all the way to Paris."
The end of the Cycling Gala marked the end of the professional road season in the northern hemisphere. A few races remain but now most riders are thinking about their holidays, time at home off the bike and some well-deserved rest. It is just 97 days until the start of the 2016 Tour Down Under in Australia.
2015 UCI Cycling Gala award recipients:
1st, UCI WorldTour Individual Classification:
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team)
2nd, UCI WorldTour Individual Classification:
Joaquim Rodriguez (Team Katusha)
3rd, UCI WorldTour Individual Classification:
Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team)
1st, UCI WorldTour Team Classification:
1st, UCI WorldTour Nation Classification: Spain
Men's Elite UCI Road Race World Champion:
Peter Sagan (Slovakia)
Men's Elite UCI Individual Time Trial World Champion:
Vasil Kiryienka (Belarus)
Men's Elite UCI Team Time Trial Champions:
BMC Racing Team
Men's UCI Hour Record Holder:
Bradley Wiggins (Great Britain)
Women's UCI Hour Record Holder:
Molly Shaffer Van Houweling (USA)
Fair Play (awarded by the Abu Dhabi Sports Council):
Tom Dumoulin (Team Giant-Alpecin)
Outstanding cycling journalism:
Jean-Paul Ollivier (France)
Most friendly media team (awarded by the International Association of Cycling Journalists):
Giro d'Italia winner:
Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo)
Tour de France winner:
Christopher Froome (Team Sky)
Vuelta a España winner:
Fabio Aru (Astana Pro Team)
Abu Dhabi Tour Winner:
Johan Esteban Chaves (Orica GreenEdge)