2006 - was it the beginning of a new era, or more of the same?

First off, to all of our readers and sponsors, the staff of Cyclingnews.com wishes everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. We have enjoyed your support for another year and benefited from your insights, observations and comments.

And this year, there has been much to comment on. Many in the bike industry entered 2006 not really knowing what to expect; they all knew that road cycling was becoming increasingly popular - 'cycling is the new golf' became the catchphrase - but did this growth come from idolisation of one influential figure and would it last, or were these people genuinely in love with the sport; would they continue to be interested in the sport?

Well, after a tumultuous 2006, it would have to be the latter, even if the performance of Lance Armstrong may have put cycling on many a 'options-for-improving-my-fitness' radar. I think we've all seen enough this year to challenge even the most committed partner, if you get my drift.

But platitudes about the selfless nature of love aside, the sport still did deliver in 2006. There were many great performances, exciting races, records broken but still too many headlines we didn't want to report on. And it is this latter point that has to be mentioned - if the authorities who are responsible for managing this sport don't do more work to clean it up, this new-found growth may not last. It is also an issue that the pro riders themselves have to address, too.

It's not just the doping headlines that can make us stop and think, it's also the cyclists who continue to die while out doing what they love to do - whether they are commuting or training, whether they are elite-level or weekend-warriors; there are just too many riders being struck down by careless motorists. What can we do to stop that? It may seem helpless and inevitable, that as more people cycle on roads, then the statistics are against us. I have no magic cure, that's for sure; I can only try to show respect to other road users, and accept that carelessness may not be driven by intent; will abusing a motorist change his or her mind? Probably not. But above all, we should all continue to support efforts to improve the rights and conditions for road cyclists.

So what do our readers think? Well, at this time of year we will also be announcing the results of our global Reader Poll, and it' still not too late to cast your vote. Already the entries this year are huge, and thanks to all of you who've voted, so there may be some surprises in store.

Last year, I closed off our Christmas 'thank you' to our readers and sponsors with a mention of the events of July 18, 2005, in Germany. Well, I'll head into 2007 thinking of a very happy rider who'd just won a criterium this month in pure attacking style. The rider, AIS cyclist Kate Nichols, still showed the scars of that horrid accident in Germany that took the life of her team-mate Amy Gillett, but the spirit and heart were strong. The courage to attack was there - she displayed everything that can be so inspiring about cycling.

A big thank you as well to our diarists and the numerous contributors from around the world who help extend the reach of our staff, already spread across three continents. This year we saw some changes on Cyclingnews and the addition of some great new reporters and editors, who are doing excellent work and making the site even more inclusive and comprehensive. I'd also like to thank and acknowledge the staff who've moved on to new ventures for their great contributions over the years, too.

Cyclingnews was also proud to support four teams racing on three continents this year - a big congratulations to the riders and staff on the Tasmanian Institute of Sport (TIS/Cyclingnews) team in Australia, to Jonathan Vaughters' TIAA-CREF squad in the USA, to Kevin Tabotta and Shayne Bannan and the South Australia.com - AIS squad, and of course, Team DFL-Cyclingnews.com, based in Belgium and preparing to take on the big guns in Europe.

Safe riding, and best wishes for a healthy and happy 2007.

Gerard Knapp, Publisher

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