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While there are a couple of smaller races still happening around the globe, the professional road season is largely finished for 2013. With that in mind, we decided to look back over the season and pick out some of our favourite moments. Some are obvious, some are not, but all are remarkable displays of athleticism.
1. Tiff Cromwell’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad victory
It was freezing back in February when Orica-AIS’s Tiff Cromwell took a great early-season victory in the cobbled one-day classic Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
Tiff was in a 16-rider lead group in the final 20km and attacked with 11km to go, just before the final cobbled sector.
She dragged Rabobank’s Megan Guarnier with her but in the final kick for the line, Tiff proved too strong, taking her first classics win and getting the season off to an ideal start for Orica AIS.
2. Richie Porte’s win at Paris-Nice
Back in March Richie Porte (Sky) showed why he’s considered Australia’s next Grand Tour contender when he won the eight-stage Paris-Nice off the back of two convincing stage victories.
On stage 5, Porte attacked with just 1.3km to go to the summit finish on the Montagne de Lure, winning the stage by 26 seconds over Denis Menchov and putting himself 32 seconds clear of overnight leader Andrew Talansky.
Porte held his lead through stage 6 and on the seventh and final stage, a 9.6km uphill ITT on the Col d’Eze, Porte put in a dominant performance, winning the stage by 23 seconds over Talansky and winning Paris-Nice overall by 55 seconds.
3. A truly epic Milan-San Remo
We won’t forget the 2013 edition of Milan-San Remo any time soon. Freezing temperatures had been forecast for the 298km-long Monument and conditions on the day of the race were even worse than that.
Riders had to contend with heavy snow throughout and the race was eventually shortened to remove the Passo del Turchino and Le Manie climbs due to fears the descents would prove too treacherous.
One of the most memorable visions from the race is that of the riders dismounting at their team busses halfway through the race, their helmets caked in ice, before being bussed to the restart of the race in Cogoleto a few hours later.
Down on the Mediterranean coast the weather improved ever so slightly (if you can call driving rain an improvement) and as the race hotted up the favourites, Fabian Cancellara and Peter Sagan came to the fore.
In the end it was the German Gerald Ciolek who took a thrilling victory for the fledgling MTN-Qhubeka team ahead of Sagan and Cancellara. It was the biggest win yet for the African ProContinental team and one of the most amazing races of the 2013 season.
Click here to see some of the stunning photos from the race.
4. Cancellara’s dominance at the Tour of Flanders
On paper this year’s Tour of Flanders was a race between Fabian Cancellara and Peter Sagan and while the results sheet reads 1. Cancellara 2. Sagan, it doesn’t capture the spectacle of the race and the brutal power Cancellara displayed to take the win.
Spartacus had pushed hard on the penultimate climb up the Oude Kwaremont, softening up the field and ensuring only Peter Sagan and Jurgen Roelandts would be with him when he hit the last climb, the Paterberg. And when they got there, Cancellara stayed seated but gradually increased the pace until Roelandts popped and then Sagan, looking dejected, had to concede defeat.
Cancellara crested that final climb a few metres ahead but in the remaining 14km he would average roughly 50km/h and put nearly 90 seconds into Sagan and Roelandts. An amazing win.
Click here for some photos and highlights from the race.
5. Cancellara’s third Paris-Roubaix title
With Tom Boonen injured and out of sorts, Fabian Cancellara went into Paris-Roubaix as the hot favourite to back up his victory at the Tour of Flanders a week earlier. Sure enough, the Swiss powerhouse won his third Paris-Roubaix, but it wasn’t a done deal until the final 20m of the race.
Cancellara had been in a leading group of four riders in the closing kilometres of the race but when Stijn Vandenbergh and Zdenek Stybar both collided with spectators and fell off the pace, it was left to Cancellara and Sep Vanmarcke to contest the win.
They shared the pacemaking for the final 5km into the Roubaix Velodrome, Vanmarcke launched his sprint but after 254km of racing Cancellara had more in the tank and pulled ahead for the second Flanders-Roubaix double in his glittering career.
Check out some photos from Paris-Roubaix here.
6. Natnael Berhane’s stage (and overall) win at the Tour of Turkey
When Natnael Berhane crossed the finish line to win stage 3 of this year’s Presidential Tour of Turkey he became the first black African ever to win a race at HC level.
On the climb to the summit finish in Elmali Berhane was in a select group of riders but in the closing stages of the race he left Kevin Seeldraeyers (Astana) and Mustafa Sayar (Torku Sekerspor) behind to win the stage.
It was a great moment for Berhane and for African cycling generally and it would only improve a few months later. With the overall winner of the Tour of Turkey, Mustafa Sayar testing positive to EPO (to the surprise of no-one) Berhane, who finished second overall, was elevated to the top step as the winner of the Tour of Turkey.
7. Jens Voigt’s stage win at the Tour of California and his post-race interview
There aren’t too many cycling fans that don’t like Jens Voigt. After all, it’s pretty hard not to like a bloke that buries himself day after day for his teammates and goes off on ambitious solo breaks just because he can. But it’s probably Jens Voigt’s sense of humour that’s most endearing.
After winning stage 5 of this year’s Tour of California after one of his trademark solo expeditions, Voigt gave arguably the best post-race interview of the entire year. When asked about his mindset and his confidence in attacking the German replied:
“Once I go I’m committed. Sometimes I have confidence beyond reason and I go ‘I’m motherf***king Jens Voigt so you’re not going to catch me, alright!'”
We’re very excited to hear that Jens will be back in 2014 for one final hurrah. We can only hope he wins another race or two so we get the chance to hear him speak like this again.
8. Cadel Evans’ Giro d’Italia performance
Australia’s only Tour de France winner went into this year’s Giro d’Italia mainly to try and build some form ahead of the Tour de France. In the end he walked away with third place overall in what was a terrific display from the Aussie veteran.
He was never going to win the race — Vincenzo Nibali was clearly the strongest climber, time-trialist and rider overall — but it was inspiring to watch the typically-gutsy Evans fight his way onto the podium in the horrendous conditions that defined the race (and were arguably a season highlight on their own).
Of course Evans paid for his exertions at the Giro, fading badly at the Tour. But given Cadel won’t be riding the Tour next year in order to throw everything at the Giro, it will be more than worth staying up to watch how he goes come next May.
9. Orica-GreenEDGE’s four days in yellow at Le Tour de France
When the Orica-GreenEDGE bus got stuck under the finish gantry on stage 1 of the 2013 Tour de France it looked like it was going to be a memorable race for the Aussie squad for the all the wrong reasons. On stage 3 Simon Gerrans turned the team’s fortunes around.
Orica-GreenEDGE had targeted the stage as one for Gerro and reversed their lead-out, with Daryl Impey leading Gerrans out in the finish in the Corsican town of Calvi. So powerful was Gerrans’ kick that he outsprinted the fast-finishing Peter Sagan.
When Orica-GreenEDGE won the team time trial in Nice on stage 4 Gerrans took the yellow jersey which he would wear for two days. On stage 6, Gerrans sat up in the closing stages of the race, ensuring his teammate Daryl Impey would become the first South African ever to lead the Tour de France.
Impey wore the maillot jaune on stage 7 and stage 8, before Chris Froome took charge of the race and never lost the lead. It was an inspiring example of the closeness of the Orica-GreenEDGE squad and a memorable few days for Aussie fans.
Click here to see photos of Simon Gerrans’ win.
10. The crosswinds on stage 13 of the Tour de France
It was supposed to be a boring flat stage that wouldn’t affect anything overall. And while Chris Froome didn’t lose the leader’s jersey, this stage did thwart Alejandro Valverde’s chances of a top-five finish overall.
It was a stage that saw echelons form and split apart all day and riders had to be both strong and strategic throughout to ensure they wouldn’t lose huge chunks of time.
Omega Pharma-QuickStep did the early damage, splitting the field to pieces before Saxo Tinkoff did the same with 30km to go. Mick Rogers came to the front and threw everyone in the gutter in what turned out to be a brilliant tactical move.
Race leader Chris Froome missed the decisive split and lost more than a minute to rival Alberto Contador. It didn’t turn out to be too much of a problem for Froome in the grand scheme of things, but it was arguably the most entertaining stage of this year’s Tour de France.
Check out some photos from and analysis of the stage here.
11. Marcel Kittel’s four stage wins at Le Tour
Going into the Tour de France the biggest question when it came to the sprinters was “how many stages will Mark Cavendish win?” In the end the Manx Missile claimed two wins, but it was Marcel Kittel that took out the honours as the best pure sprinter with four wins beside his name.
His win into Bastia on stage 1 came from a reduced bunch that didn’t include Cavendish, Peter Sagan or Andre Greipel, leading some to suggest he could only beat the smaller-name sprinters. When Kittel won on stage 10 Cavendish was slightly out of position due to an ugly incident involving Kittel’s teammate Tom Veelers. Two days later Kittel took his most impressive victory of the race thus far, outsprinting Cavendish fair and square.
And then, in the twilight finish on the fabled Champs Elysees, Kittel snatched his fourth victory, taking the final stage of the Tour de France in a compelling display of pure strength. If it wasn’t clear how good Kittel was before this year’s Tour, it certainly was afterwards.
12. Chris Froome’s climbing dominance and occasional vulnerability
When Chris Froome attacked on stage 8 of this year’s Tour and went on to win the stage my nearly a minute (over his teammate Richie Porte, no less), many people sighed and said “right, that’s the Tour won”. And in effect it was.
Froome confirmed he was the strongest climber in the race a week later, winning stage 15 on Mont Ventoux with a scary attack that only Nairo Quintana could respond to. Even the dimuitive Colombian finished nearly 30 seconds back in the end.
But despite Froome’s dominance on those two stages, it was reassuring to see him struggle at other times. On stage 9 Froome was left isolated when his teammates, exhausted from the previous day’s exertions, couldn’t match the high pace set by Movistar. Froome later described it as “one of the hardest days I’ve ever had on a bike”.
And on the final climb on stage 20, Froome looked to attack like he’d done earlier in the race but he didn’t have the legs to get away. In the end he would fall off the wheels of Nairo Quintana and Joaquim Rodriguez to come third, unable to handle the pace of the pure climbers. But the damage had been done — Froome would win the 2013 Tour de France.
13. Giorgia Bronzini’s six consecutive stage wins at the Route de France
The eight-stage Route de France was held in early August and featured a prologue ITT, six flat stages and then a hillier seventh stage to finish. After Orica-AIS’s Swedish leader Emma Johannsson won the prologue, Wiggle Honda’s former world champion Giorgia Bronzini got to work and won six stages on the trot.
Granted, other big-name sprinters like Kirsten Wild weren’t racing, and neither was Marianne Vos who has a powerful sprint as well, but to win six stages in a row shows more than strength. Bronzini demonstrated remarkable consistency in keeping herself out of trouble every day until making one decisive move.
What’s even more remarkable is that Bronzini spent some of those days working on the front for her GC-contender teammate Linda Villumsen or even riding off the front solo for 10-15km. An incredible effort.
14. Taylor Phinney’s win on stage 4 of the Tour of Poland
This might seem like a strange addition to the list — it’s a single stage in a small race, but if you watch the final kilometres of the race you’ll see why we included it:
Phinney attacked solo with 7.7km remaining in the 232km stage and quickly opened up a 10-second lead over the surging peloton. With 4km left, Phinney had a 15 second advantage and his team director screaming in his ear to “go full gas and don’t look back”.
Phinney obliged and buried himself as the sprint trains formed behind him on the final run in to the finish. In a desparately close finish, Phinney just managed to stay away, winning the stage by about 50m. Great to watch.
15. Tony Martin’s 175km ITT at the Vuelta
Michael Morkov might have won stage 6 of this year’s Vuelta a Espana but the hero of the day was undoubtedly Tony Martin.
The German time-trial specialist attacked from the opening kilometre of the race and with no-one able to match his pace, Martin set off alone. It was a move that was supposed to be reeled back in at some point but over the course of the 175km stage Martin opened up a gap of as much as six minutes. But with 40km left to go the gap started to come down.
With 10km remaining Martin only had a 20-second advantage, and it seemed as if he would be caught at any moment. But the ITT world champion rallied and with a kilometre left, Martin still had an advantage over the panicked peloton.
It was only in the final five metres that Martin was overtaken and it was so close that he eventually finished seventh on the stage. What a remarkable performance and a heartbreaking finish.
16. Chris Horner’s Vuelta a Espana victory
Much has already been written about Chris Horner’s performance at the Vuelta and whether or not we should be sceptical of a 41-year-old winning a Grand Tour.
Such questions aside, there’s no doubt it was an impressive performance from Horner who took the overall lead after winning stage 3, lost it the next day to Vincenzo Nibali, won it back on stage 10 after winning that stage, lost it for eight stages to Nibali again, and then took it back for the final three days.
Horner’s most impressive effort probably came on the monstrous L’Angliru climb on the penultimate stage when we withstood half a dozen attacks from Nibali, before attacking once and winning the Vuelta overall. Great to watch.
17. The rise of Jan Bakelants and Michal Kwiatkowski
What do Jan Bakelants and Michal Kwiatkowski have in common? Not much, other than the fact they were both relatively unknown riders coming into the 2013 season and they both finish the season as arguably the most improved riders in the peloton.
Kwiatkowski seemed to be everywhere during the Spring Classics, getting in the right moves, pulling for his teammates and even picking up fourth place in the Amstel Gold Race and fifth in Fleche Wallonne.
In the Tour de France the Polish national road race champion was equally impressive, forming a vital part of the Omega Pharma-QuickStep train and picking up seven top-10 results in the 21-stage race.
Jan Bakelants, meanwhile, forced us to pay attention when he took a stunning victory on stage 2 of the Tour de France. He wore the yellow jersey for two stages as a reward and was seemingly in a breakaway everyday for the rest of the race. He finished third on the mountainous stage 19.
For the rest of the year Bakelants continued to animate races and he won the Grand Prix de Wallonie after outfoxing Thomas Voeckler in the closing kilometre.
18. The resurgance of Colombian cycling
It’s hard not to enjoy watching the likes of Nairo Quintana, Carlos Betancur and Rigoberto Uran at full flight when the road goes up.
Quintana finished second overall in the Tour de France after being active on virtually every major climb throughout the race, and after winning stage 20 on the tough climb to the Semnoz ski resort. He also won the Tour of the Basque Country and the Vuelta a Burgos in 2013 and is confident of winning the Tour de France at some point in the years to come. We wouldn’t bet against him.
Carlos Betancur was a fixture at the head of affairs in the hilly Classics, finishing third in Fleche Wallonne and fourth in Liege-Bastogne-Liege. In May he won the youth classification in the Giro d’Italia and came fifth overall after seven top-10 performance in the 20-stage race.
And Rigoberto Uran, who leaves Sky in 2014 to join Omega Pharma-QuickStep as a GC contender, was brilliant in the Giro, finishing second overall.
With these riders (and the likes of Sergio Henao who was second in Fleche Wallonne) the future of Colombian cycling is very bright indeed.
19. Peter Sagan’s victory celebrations and other antics
There’s no doubt Peter Sagan is a polarising figure. Some people love his showmanship, his wheelies and the fact he’s just so damn good to watch. Others are put off by his apparent arrogance.
Here at CyclingTips we’re big fans, and we love nothing more than a video of Peter Sagan showing off, whether that’s with an outrageous victory salute, a video of him jumping his bike onto the team car (we don’t mind if it’s a fake), or riding up some stairs (see video above).
Perhaps our favourite was Sagan’s wheelie and camera salute while climbing Mont Ventoux in the Tour de France, just as his breakaway was caught by the main field. Brilliant.
20. Marianne Vos’ continued domination and her worlds wins
There’s little doubt Marianne Vos is the most complete female cyclist in the world (if not of either gender) and in 2013 she proved that with another truly dominant display.
Of the seven races in the UCI Women’s World Cup that she could win (the eighth race was a TTT), Vos won five, taking out the overall title comfortably. She won three stages at the Giro Rosa (the biggest women’s stage race of the year) and a shedload of other big races as well.
Early in the season she won the UCI World Cyclocross Championship for the fifth consecutive year and the sixth time overall, and she also won a handful of MTB races.
And just the other week, in the women’s World Championship road race (see video above) Vos put in a performance that was as perfect as you’re likely to see in a bike race. She stayed out of trouble all day, following the right moves, and then on the final climb of the day, she put in one attack, left the field behind and soloed to victory. Brilliant stuff, and a great way to cap off another exceptional year for the Dutch worldbeater.
What were your favourite moments from the 2013 season? What did we miss?