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The peloton's best of 2008

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.

Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes)

Best performance: I would have to say the way Alessandro Ballan performed at the Worlds Championships.
Biggest disappointment: It's normal to say 'doping.' There is no rider in particular, but doping in general in 2008.
Rider to watch in 2009: I am from Italy, so I will say an Italian. Vincenzo Nibali is a young and prominent rider, not just in stage races, but he is also a complete rider.
Most memorable race: The World Championships. I watched it on television at my home in Pescara, but some day I would like to win that race.
Biggest Surprise: Again, Ballan at the World Championships. He is a good rider, but at the Worlds he confirmed it. He was not one of the favourites going into the race but he had to be the surprise of the season.

Jonathan Vaughters (Team Manager Garmin)

Best performance: Carlos Sastre winning the Tour on Alpe d'Huez.
Biggest disappointment: The loss of Crédit Agricole and Roger Legeay from cycling. They'll be sadly missed.
Rider to watch in 2009: Can I pick one of my guys? Okay, Dan Martin.
Most memorable race: The crazy uphill TT in the Giro.
Biggest Surprise: It's got to be Christian Vande Velde getting 4th at the Tour.

Bob Stapleton (Team Manager Columbia)

Best performance: I have to throw this one to our Grand Tour teams. We won ten stages in the Giro and the Tour combined and had six second place finishes, including three one/twos.
Biggest disappointment: Doping at the Tour. Kudos to AFLD for an impressive and diligent job, but the July to October saga of painful news was personally discouraging. The UCI passport needs to be fully in place and taking disciplinary actions in January to prevent this in 2009.
Rider to watch in 2009: Armstrong? No, look to the young guns. They are the future of the sport and deserve attention. Take your pick, we have Tony Martin, Edvald Hagen, Maxime Monfort, Cavendish, the list goes on.
Most memorable race in 2008: There have been lots of great performances. I would have to go with the wire to wire domination of the Tour of Germany. Stage wins by four different riders. Yellow, Points and best young riders jerseys, 1 and 2 in GC. Exceptional teamwork. For our German riders, staff and managers this was a clear and dramatic statement of the quality of the team.
Biggest Surprise in 2008: André Greipel. He always had the sheer power and endurance, but now he has the confidence. He won something like 14 races and has risen to a new level. Strong, tough, durable and did well in a team full of young sprint talent.

Karen Brems (DS Webcor Builders)

Best Performance: Kristin Armstrong's TT Olympic Gold medal. She had all the pressure of going in as the favourite and came through and delivered. Nicole Cooke's double Olympic and Worlds road race wins were very impressive too.
Biggest disappointment: Gina [Grain] pulling her foot out of her shoe with 1.5km to go at the Liberty Classic.
Rider to watch in 2009: Nikki Egyed - a new face in the US peloton who has not yet reached her potential.
Most memorable race: Katheryn Curi Mattis winning the World Cup in Geelong. Webcor was a first year UCI team, unknown outside the US and only got an invitation two weeks before the race!
Biggest Surprise: Big surprise was Emma Pooley's silver in the Olympic TT. She had never made the podium in an international TT before and was really struggling in Tour de l'Aude this year when I saw her.

Christine Thorburn (Webcor rider, Olympian)

Best performance: Susanne Ljungskog stage four performance at Tour de l'Aude, when she rode away from an excellent peloton for a solo victory by a stage-race winning margin.
Biggest disappointment: US team's bad luck at the Olympic RR with Kristin Armstrong crashing and Amber Neben dropping her chain at "crunch time".
Rider to watch in 2009: Nikki Egyed
Most memorable race: Frankly, the Olympic RR was memorable for the sheer quantity of rain we faced!
Biggest Surprise: Sharon Laws improvement from 2007 (especially before her fibula fracture)

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