How much time have we got? It’s always hard to compress a season into a handful of highlights so rather than pressing on with daily look back at the best parts of the year, here are some other moments of the year reunited.
Tirreno-Adriatico provided plenty of excitement, none more so that the stage which featured a finishing circuit with laps through the village of Sant’Elpidio al Mare. Al Mare means by the sea but of course many religious icons are placed on top of hills. Worse for the riders, they reached this place via a devilish climb. It had a modest average that hid some sections at 27%.
The day did have a “lowlight” element to it with riders complaining and race boss Michele Acquarone saying “it was too much. We lost the right balance“. It certainly was hard and perhaps those who could not ride up the steep section felt like they were getting perp-walked in front of the amused crowd. But the race has long featured steep climbs and it wasn’t as if this climb was a secret, the Marche region in Italy is infamous for short, sharp climbs. Hopefully RCS continue to use these types of climbs although in moderation and with advance warning.
Suspense can involve lesser riders winning and Oscar Gatto’s success in the Dwars door Vlaanderen race came at the expense of Thomas Voeckler. The Frenchman’s a divisive figure at times – love or hate him – but surely all his facial gestures are trivial compared to his permanent racing? You’ll find him in the mix in the early season races, in the classics, in the Tour de France and in Lombardia too. But if he’s not popular with some fans, a fair few riders don’t like “Signor Hollywood” either. Watch the long pulls from several riders as he’s chased down in the final.
Gent-Wevelgem was the Peter Sagan show. Watch as he races away with 4km to go when he need not have done so given he’s a fast sprinter. But when others are worried about the sprint it pays to invent a different scenario. The race didn’t just impress for Sagan’s audacity, it was lively for some time and Sagan only attacked out of a select group.
Stage 9 of the Tour de France should merit its own special mention, a Part V, but the ending was a bit of an anticlimax, it was better to experience on the day than to read about. We saw Sky fall apart and Chris Froome isolated as even Richie Porte couldn’t hack the pace at the start of the stage. But the yellow jersey was never in danger and the more the stage went on, the more the big names marked each other. Dan Martin’s win was impressive, a ice-cool sprint. As Daniel Friebe noted the other day on the Humans Invent podcast this stage could prove instructive for team hoping to dismantle Sky’s superiority in a stage race. With Froome and Porte aching from the previous day’s efforts hitting them right from the start was one way to make them hurt.
Paris-Tours had a great finish. Suspense all the way including a late attack featuring John Degenkolb Michael Mørkøv and Arnaud Démare amongst others. Their move was reeled in but they still went 1-2-3 in the bunch sprint. Paris-Tours might have lost some of its glory but the clever additions to the finish make it worth watching and a case study in how to take an old race and give it something special for the TV age.
There will always be excitement you forget, 2013 felt like great year for racing and here are some other memories:
- The Tour of the Basque country with Sergio Henao and Carlos Betancur scrapping it out like punch-drunk boxers on Stage 3
- Taylor Phinney’s Pole position ride to win a stage of the Tour of Poland and if that worked, the same suspense for Tony Martin’s Vuelta stage where he was caught on the line
- Blel Kadri’s deserved win of Roma Maxima and Pippo Pozzato’s “victory” celebration as the Italian thought he’d won
- Enrico Battaglin winning the Giro stage, good to see a young rider on a wildcard invite win in the Giro. Even better because I tipped him to win that day in my stage preview. And because the “Di Luca caught” tweet didn’t just mean he was reeled in with 600m to go
- Warren Barguil’s second stage win in the Vuelta, aggressive riding got him up the road but when he was caught by Rigoberto Uran he played it cool
- Adam Hansen’s Giro stage win, enjoyable on the day but even better when seen in the light of finishing all three grand tours in the year
- Tom-Jelte Slagter’s stage win on Willunga Hill in the Tour Down Under. Huge crowds, a bunch lined out and the best riders on the limit. Meanwhile it was 5am, dark and cold in my kitchen as I watched a video stream. Sometimes cycling makes itself hard to watch, even World Tour races can require hacks, tunnels and other trickery to watch but seeing the sunshine and sport helps make the Euro January a lot brighter. 33 days to go