The Secret Pro: the best and worst of season 2015
A few weeks back the UCI had a gala dinner to hand out awards to riders that had achieved great things throughout the season. That prompted us to present our own awards, feeling that the UCI awards didn’t really capture the essence of the season. Now, a day after his latest post, The Secret Pro is back with his take on the best and worst of the season, from fellow professionals to races and teams. As we’re sure you’ll understand, he won’t be able to hand these out in person …
Let’s start with what, in my humble opinion, was not just a stand-out result but a race that surprised me and many others in the peloton. The Worlds road race in Richmond, Virginia was a course that not just impressed but also made many suffer. Peter Sagan rode the race superbly — his attack was timed to perfection. I know how many watts people were putting down going up the climb and Sagan must have put down a whole power station’s worth to open the gap he did. The guy is just pure class.
TV coverage didn’t give viewers a good idea how difficult the cobbles and climbs were — the cobbles were pretty sharp and savage and the climb was up there with the Koppenberg. But it wasn’t just the circuit that made the race but the atmosphere. The crowds were 12 deep in places and the yanks sure know how to celebrate.
At the start of the year I know I wasn’t the only person thinking Sagan had made the wrong move switching to Tinkoff, but come the Tour and especially the Vuelta you could see he was going to be the man to beat at the Worlds. I think he’ll be a true world champion and do the jersey proud. He’s an original rock star cyclist — there’s not many of them about so let’s enjoy his antics.
The Worlds is a race that should have been won by one of the bigger nations. But Spain, Belgium and Italy, as usual, don’t know how to unite and ride as one team. The riders in those teams either lie about how their form is and what they are capable of, have inter-team rivalries going on, or just race against each other. This year with the Gerrans/Matthews situation we could throw Australia in the mix for once too.
Best Grand Tour
For me the Vuelta takes this award. The Giro was a bloody farce, what with Astana’s display of force (I won’t repeat myself on that story) and the Tour was well, the Tour. But the underdog of the three Grand Tours again showed that it’s an exciting event to watch.
Unfortunately I wasn’t on the startlist this year but I followed the action on TV and seeing Tom Dumoulin ride the race of his life was pretty special. For a guy that went to the Vuelta with a team that wasn’t built around him at all he rode a stellar race. Isolated and with no team support it’s a miracle he did what he did. This result just cemented the fact that the Giant-Alpecin team is definitely changing tracks next year, with a team more GC orientated. Dumoulin has a massive future.
Most impressive team
This one has to be handed to MTN-Qhubeka. The results they’ve managed to achieve this year with the riders they have? They’ve punched well above their weight. Secondly their fans, or more precisely the Eritrean fans, seem to be everywhere. There was even a posse of Eritrean fans at the Abu Dhabi Tour and at the Worlds.
After Worlds you would have thought Daniel Teklehaimanot had won the way the fans were carrying on, Daniel on their shoulders, bike held in the air. I hope I’m around to see the first Eritrean rider win a Worlds as it’ll be one hell of a party.
Then there was Steve Cumming’s Tour de France stage win. It’s always nice to see the French screw up badly in their home Grand Tour.
Worst race of the year
Easy. Any in France. No, I jest. Il Lombardia is up there along with the Giro, and especially this year’s edition.
But let’s give the award to the Tour of Oman. This year the peloton protested on stage five due to extreme heat. The great Eddy Merckx got grumpy with the riders and the stage was cancelled. It’s a race that just doesn’t add or bring anything to the calendar. Terrible hotels, terrible racing and it’s a place where us riders wouldn’t be too keen on leaving the hotel for a coffee down the street for fear of meeting the wrong type of character.
The whole globalisation of the sport is good in many ways, but at least make the races worth the huge amounts of travelling we have to do. Oman hasn’t got the UCI points up for grabs to make it worth our while attending. Also it’s at the start of the season where you want things to be going as smoothly as possible. One little hiccup at the start of the season at a race like Oman and it can ruin the rest of the season for you. I’d sooner stay in Europe and train in the cold.
The Tour Down Under is a prime example for a race that is worth travelling long-distance for. It’s occasionally run in some extreme heat (for me at least), but the whole atmosphere and organisation makes the long haul trip well worthwhile. The Aussies have great coffee, great food, nice hotels, friendly fans and a good race. More like this and we’d be happy to spend multiple hours on planes and in airports (well, maybe).
This one’s a close one but because I’ve already mentioned the Eritrean fans I thought I’d hand this one to the Sagan Fans. Peter’s obviously, not Juraj’s (I’m not sure he even has any of his own). No matter where you go, what race you attend there’ll be mad Sagan fans on the roadside. The Worlds were no different.
Sure it was held in the States and you’d think that the home fans would have been rooting for a homegrown winner but the sheer amount of Sagan love that day was something else. He put on a show for them though and in 2016 I’m sure the Sagan fan club will swell even more.
Biggest jerk in the peloton
This one is pretty difficult to decide upon. I had a long hard think and was originally going to share it between a few of the smaller ProContinental teams such as Bardiani-CSF or Southeast that race in the Grand Tours as they cause bloody havoc. But on further contemplation you can’t blame them for the manic way they ride at times. When smaller teams miss a break and their managers, director sportives and sponsors hound them to get in the limelight, it’s no wonder they do everything they can do get into a move or bring one back.
So when weighing all that up I thought I’d just hand the award to Alexey Tsatevich of Team Katusha, purely for the simple fact that he’s an absolute triple-X C-word. I’m not going to expand on that other than to say well done to Alexey for winning this — it’s the only thing he’s won all year.
Biggest practical joker in the peloton
Yet again this is an award that has to go to Peter Sagan. He’s one of the only riders in the peloton with enough talent to mess about on the bike mid-race and get away with it. People might not enjoy racing against him, but they sure do enjoy being part of the peloton with him. He brings something else to the race.
We’ve seen him go for intermediate sprint points in the middle of a race and then proceed to pretend to try and form a break — he’s a character that brings a lot to the sport. I can’t say I know him all that well but when I have spoken to him he seems a nice guy.
Best kit of the year
As someone that has to stare at other guys in lycra for huge chunks of the year it’s nice not to have to be looking at garish kit all the time. From the cut of the fabric to the design I’d say the Cannondale-Garmin kit looked the classiest of the peloton this year.
Worst Kit of the year
LottoNL-Jumbo. What were the sponsors thinking when they threw that together?! I bet they were hoping it would grow on people throughout the year. Well, no, it hasn’t. It looks as grim now as it did at the start of the season. Let’s hope the team hires a new designer this winter to sort that mess out.
There we go, a smattering of awards for the 2015 season. Not quite as extensive or as lavish as the UCI Gala awards but hopefully more interesting.
Previous instalments in 2015:
- The off-season, the Abu Dhabi Tour and the ‘bullsh*t’ Doha Worlds – October 29
- Post-Tour crits, Worlds and the farce that is the IAAF – August 14
- On the Giro: ‘There were days when you’d just despair’ – June 9
- Aru vs Henderson, the Giro and more – May 19
- Let the season begin! – February 23
Click here to see all previous instalments of The Secret Pro.