In the fifth and final part of the highlights of the year I’ve realised one thing. 2011 has been such a good year that you cannot take five highlights of the year because there have been so many more. So I’m going to cheat in this final look at the best moments of the year with five more moments from the year.
- Tirreno-Adriatico is always a good race but watch Cadel Evans in Stage 6 as it’s quite special. The cold conditions and long shadows suggest the Tour de France is far away but the future winner of the race covers all the moves in the finish to take the stage win in Macerata. The roads twist and turn, the gradient changes but Evans is consistently near the front and times his final effort perfectly. He went on to win the overall and his consistency in stage races is impressive.
- Where to start with the spring classics? Milan-Sanremo was thrilling all the way from the descent of the Turchino when the race split. The lead group stayed clear and if Goss’s sprinting abilities were well known the result was not predictable until the final seconds of the 300km race. Paris-Roubaix saw Van Summeren take a great win, a surprise and if some felt let down by the lack of a battle between the main favourites, there was again suspense all the way. Finally, Philippe Gilbert went on the rampage in the Ardennes and Amstel and if his wins were predictable, watching him to it was impressive.
- Mark Cavendish hit peak form in the Tour de France and added win after win and then claimed the green jersey. He is not a sprinter in the mould of, say, Freddy Maertens who wins classics as well but nevertheless his tally of wins in the Tour de France alone puts him amongst the greats. And if people say he wins thanks to teamwork and an express train of a leadout, he can cope by himself as he showed at the Worlds. At times he always won but in the Giro and Tour we saw Petacchi, Greipel and Farrar prove capable of rivalling him so the contest is often exciting.
- The Giro was mixed for me. There was Wouter Weylandt’s death of course (I’ll mention this in another post soon). Contador controlled his overall lead with ease, he even started handing out stage wins to José Rujano and Paolo Tiralongo. But the individual stages were often great with the constantly changing scenery and the variety of finishes. I don’t compare the Giro to the Tour because you don’t have to chose, both are excellent races with their own character and identity. By any measure, a grand tour is great for the way it is more than a race but a collection of stories with battles for the jerseys and even the tales of those struggling to stay in the race.
- A final highlight was the video clip below. It was a popular item on the blog and I was impressed by the dedication of the riders involved. It is blowing a gale but these Dutch riders decide it is a fine day to practice riding in echelon formation, to film the riding and then to dub the video with some manic Euro techno. At one point a rider struggles to hold on to his bike. Madness.
Overall 2011 has been a great year. So many more races provided excitement and thanks to the internet it is possible to watch more races than ever.