In the third installment of 2009 highlights, Cyclingnews asks more industry insiders how they saw things this past year.
Daniel Benson (Managing Editor, Cyclingnews)
Best performance: They say the sign of a champion is how they bounce back from adversity or defeat, and Cadel Evans’ ride in the Wolds proved exactly how big a champion he is.
The Australian had a disastrous Tour de France - from competitors sniggering at his attacks to being dropped as soon as the road went uphill. The final embarrassment must have been when his team began to talk up other riders' futures after he’s sacrificed so much and given the team two podium finishes.
However, fast forward to Mendrisio and Cadel put on a show that transformed not just his season but his entire career. It also threw up one of the most memorable images of the entire season as his wife let out her emotions when she saw Evans take the biggest win of his career. The image encapsulated all the passion within cycling in one unique instant. And of course, every time Evans is now questioned over his lack of aggression in races he need only point to his jersey and smile. Class.
Best Team: In terms of wins, it has to be Columbia-HTC's performances to the same level, Stapleton’s blitz on sprints and shorter time trials was clinical and impressive. A famous British football commentator once said you can’t win anything with kids. Tell that to Stapleton.
Biggest disappointment: A few cheats stick out of course but the biggest let down was the breakdown between the AFLD and UCI. The problem appears to be a blend of ego and power wrapped up in banner of legitimacy but what both parties is cooperation. They’re supposed to be cleaning up the sport. Aren’t they?
Rider to watch in 2010: 2009 was a breakthrough year for Ryder Hesjedal. The Canadian finished in the top ten in Tirreno - Adriatico and tenth Liege before working his socks off at the Tour de France – where he also managed to finish second on the stage to Montpellier. His Vuelta stage win came as a surprise to many but if he continues to progress he could have an ever better 2010. A strong climber and solid against the clock, Vaughters has already singled him out as the team’s joker card for the season ahead. Anyone who laughed when Vaughters claimed Wiggins could compete in Grand Tours should pay attention this time.
Most memorable race: Milan Sanremo for the precision and dedication exercised by Columbia-HTC but for pure surprise it has to be Paris-Nice. On the sixth stage to La Montagne de Lure Contador crushed the opposition with a devastating attack that had us all purring over his ability – the race seemingly wrapped up. However Luis Leon Sanchez had different ideas and his explosive efforts not only blew the race apart but ended being the only time in 2009 where Contador was seriously put on the back foot.
Biggest surprise: Heinrich Haussler was tipped for the top when he turned pro, but his career was beginning to stagnate at Gerlosteiner. The story goes that had it not been for one very determined voice at Cervelo, he may not have signed for them 2009. Yet Haussler was the revelation of the Spring, and his Tour stage win was one of the most iconic images of the entire year.
David Millar (Garmin-Transitions)
Best performance: Alberto Contador, he is a phenomenal athlete. The way he handled the exterior factors at the Tour de France this year showed that he isn't just a nice, talented, gentle boy who is in the right place at the right time. If anything, Lance [Armstrong]'s comeback and [Johan] Bruyneel’s disrespect made him better. That insolently precocious attack on the Andorra stage of the Tour was pure passion and a slap in the face to the people at Astana who forgot that he was the Number One. His kamikaze Paris-Nice final day attack was my personal favourite, a reminder of old times when riders would risk it all on the throw of a dice.
Best team: Team Garmin-Transitions. Our performance at the Tour was phenomenal, and I'm hugely proud of it. We are stronger as a team than any individual and that showed massively at the Tour. Proved by finishing second in the team classification. Add to that Brad [Wiggins] and Christian [Vande Velde] riding how they were, Tyler [Farrar] battling Mark [Cavendish] in the sprints and our special performance in the TTT and we can say with pride that we are almost unprecedented in our performance as a second-year pro cycling team. Obviously, I spent my year looking out from the inside of my team, so I'm going to be a little biased!
Biggest disappointment: Christian Vande Velde crashing hard in the Giro. Coming 'round the corner and seeing him laying on the floor clearing not getting back up was hugely disappointing. We were so looking forward to the next three months racing and training together. To have him fracturing numerous bones on only stage 3 of the Giro was gutting.
Rider to watch in 2010: Martyn Maaskant. He is a weapon on a bike, and has come of age this last year. He is one reason I am going to Flanders and Roubaix in 2010, I want to race with him when he's at his best on his roads.
Most memorable race: Doug Ellis (the owner of our team) and I took a trip up to Paris-Roubaix this year to watch it as fans and spectators. We got the full VIP treatment, starting in the team bus, then hopping between sections of pave before finishing in the velodrome. It was breathtaking, I couldn't believe the spectacle of it all, from the CRAZY Flemish fans to the battered riders coming in to the velodrome as if stumbling back from the battlefield. It is the other reason I am doing Paris-Roubaix in 2010.
Biggest Surprise: Bradley Wiggins fourth at the Tour, we thought he was climbing quite well...
Nicola Cranmer (General Manager PROMAN Professional Cycling Team)
Best performance: Kristin Armstrong winning World Time Trial Championship in dominating style. What a way to retire from racing! I am very honoured to be working with her next year. A phenomenal performer, a perfectionist and a dedicated coach and mentor.
Best Team: Cervelo TestTeam. A fantastic approach to product development and dedication to both a men's and women's program. The same can be said for Columbia-HTC, too, for its equal opportunity approach to both men's and women's programming.
Biggest disappointment: The general lack of support and press for women's racing. Its slowly changing. In particular, the women's racing and development of riders in the US is progressing at high speed. If you look at the accomplishments of female riders for Olympics, road, track, cross and mountain bike World Championships over the last three years, you can count on the US women being on the podium. It’s an exciting time for women. Races like the Amgen Tour of California should continue to support women, its an important part of our process to ensure growth of women's teams. The exposure we gain from participating in such races is invaluable.
Most memorable race: Nature Valley GP. We raced a small team with a lot of heart. Its an event that has supported women for many years.
Luc Claessen (Race photographer)
Best performance: Alberto Contador’s Tour win. Not only from a sportive perspective, but the way he handled the pressure that Lance and his team put on his shoulders showed just how much of champion he is.
Bonnie Ford (ESPN)
Best performance: Mark Cavendish's win at Milan-Sanremo
Best team: Columbia-HTC
Biggest disappointment: The continuing farce that is Operacion Puerto.
Rider to watch in 2010: Tyler Farrar.
Most memorable race: The Tour de France team time trial.
Biggest Surprise: Brad Wiggins' fourth place in the Tour.
Magnus Backstedt (Sprocketpromotions)
Best performance: Fabian Cancellara at the World Championship Time Trial
Best team: Columbia-HTC
Biggest disappointment: Cadel Evans' Tour de France. He made it up with the worlds though.
Rider to watch in 2010: Johnny Hoogeland.
Most memorable race: Paris-Nice
Biggest Surprise: Bradley Wiggins' Tour de France and subsequent move to Team Sky.