Welcome to the Dog and Duck public house, the venue for this year’s Cycling Weekly reader poll awards. Sorry about the sticky floor and warm wine but the Dorchester was all booked up this year.
You voted in your hundreds and we managed to make sense of most of the answers. So, let’s get on with it shall we? We’ve put the names of all the winners into golden envelopes. The prize is the honour of knowing that the Great British public recognises your greatness.
Right, we’ll try and make this quick so you can all get back to the bar before the egg and cress sandwiches start to dry out.
Drum roll, please…
MOST EXCITING BRITISH RACE
1 Tour of Britain
2 British National Championships
3 Lincoln Grand Prix
For the third year in a row, the Tour of Britain wins it. This year’s race was a belter. The third stage to Swansea, over the mountains and up the cobbled Constitution Hill, almost won enough votes to make it into the top three on its own. HTC-Columbia may have rained on Team Sky’s homecoming parade a bit, by winning the overall and most of the stages, but that didn’t dampen the fans’ enthusiasm for the race. Or their support for Team Sky.
We’ve combined the votes for the men’s and women’s races at the National Championships because between them they made for an absolutely belting day’s racing. The women’s race may have been shortened to just 48 kilometres after a nasty crash on the big descent during the first lap but that didn’t lessen the drama. The Cervélo team of Emma Pooley (the eventual winner), Lizzie Armitstead and Sharon Laws worked ten-time champion Nicole Cooke over. That Cooke tried to claim afterwards the national championships should be an individual race and team co-operation should not be allowed was a clear winner in the Say It With A Straight Face award. The men’s race was also a beauty, and Geraint Thomas was a deserving winner.
The Lincoln Grand Prix (Britain’s answer to the Tour of Flanders, with that cobbled climb) pipped the East Midlands CICLE Classic (Britain’s answer to Paris-Roubaix) to third place.
Anything I Was In got one vote, as it does every year. And the Chester Tour Series “because I was there” also got a vote.
MOST EXCITING STAGE RACE
1 Giro d’Italia
2 Tour de France
3 Tour of Britain
A clear win for the Giro over the Tour. A result that will have Angelo Zomegnan reaching for the celebratory Chianti and Christian Prudhomme weeping into his bowl of onion soup. The Giro absolutely romped it this year, and no wonder. The prologue in Amsterdam was brilliant for the Brits (Bradley Wiggins became only the second British rider in history to wear the pink jersey). The chaos on the narrow roads of Holland was dramatic, like watching Wacky Races. Cadel Evans’s stage win at Montalcino was arguably the best day’s racing of the year. That was when the white roads of Tuscany were turned to a brown sludge by the rain. The mountain stages were epic and there was even something admirable about the way the Liquigas team controlled the race. The Tour, by contrast, was a bit too predictable. Mark Cavendish’s stage wins were great, of course. But Alberto Contador’s win was marred by Chaingate and then placed under a huge black cloud by the Clenbuterol positive.
A comedy entry – The Pilsbury Dough Boy Tour – deserves a name check (and makes us wish there actually was an event called the Pilsbury Dough Boy Tour). The Dundee Thistle Two-Day was a cracking race (remind us who won again?) but it narrowly missed out on a place in the top three by several hundred votes.
MOST EXCITING ONE-DAY RACE
2 Tour of Flanders
3 Men’s elite World Championship road race
Really? Was it really that exciting this year? Of course Paris-Roubaix is the one day when it’s worth sitting down in front of the telly and watching as much of the race as Eurosport is prepared to show. That, of course, usually depends on the motor racing and snooker schedules. But does this year’s race, defined by a thoroughly comprehensive attack from Fabian Cancellara a gazilion kilometres from the finishing line really count as exciting? The Tour of Flanders was more intriguing because Tom Boonen at least managed to stay with the Swiss machine for some of the way. Our vote would go to the Grand Prix E3 Harelbeke, where Cancellara outwitted Boonen and Juan Antonio Flecha near the finish. Now that was edge-of-the-seat stuff. The men’s road race at the Worlds was similarly gripping. There was the tension over whether the leading group would gain enough time to lap the field, which would have resulted in farce. Then there was the attack by Philippe Gilbert (Hugh Porter and Chris Boardman still don’t know he’s been caught!) and then there was the sprint for the line, won by Thor Hushovd. Admittedly, you had to stay up all night to appreciate it but it was worth it. Just about.
Our vote for the best race of the year has to go to the men’s road race at the Commonwealth Games. Okay, so the Queen’s sports day may not mean a great deal outside of a couple of dozen nations, but it was a proper race. It was every man for himself. The aggression started a long way out and the contenders were whittled down to less than a dozen. The way Cavendish fought to stay in contention proved to those who still doubt his credentials as a damn good bike racer. David Millar dug as deep as he’s even done for anything. And the last lap was pure drama. Likewise the Tour of Lombardy was a great race. Horrible weather, a super-motivated Gilbert and a shredded bunch.
BEST TRACK RACE
1 Felix English beating Sir Chris Hoy at the Euros
2 Men’s individual pursuit at the Worlds
3 Commonwealth Games women’s sprint final
There were so many different nominations in this category that it was really close. However, the sad fact is that the most votes went to ‘None’, ‘Don’t know’, ‘Don’t watch track racing’ and variations on the same theme. The people who registered such votes are, of course, wrong.
The winner was a surprise. Always as much of a surprise as Sir Chris Hoy got when he finally saw a figure in green coast past his shoulder. The European Championships kicked-off Britain’s bid to qualify places for the Olympic Games. Hoy was left stunned when he thought he had an easy early round victory in the sprint competition in the bag. But the 18-year-old refused to give up. Hoy slowed down, trying to conserve energy for the later rounds and by the time he realised his mistake it was too late. There were echoes of a surprise defeat from earlier in the year too. At the Worlds, Hoy was caught napping by Germany’s Robert Forstemann, who was given a hefty push off.
The men’s individual pursuit has just hotted up. In fact, it’s white hot. Bradley Wiggins would find them queuing up to give him a run for his money in London. So it makes perfect sense that the UCI has culled the event from the Olympics. Dunces hats all round at Aigle, please. At the Worlds in Copenhagen, Taylor Phinney won gold but he was pushed hard by Jesse Sergeant and Jack Bobridge – a young generation of world class pursuiters has emerged, but thanks to the wisdom of the blazers, we won’t get to see it play out.
The final between Anna Meares and Welsh sensation Becky James took third place in our poll. James showed why people are tipping her for greatness.
The Ghent Six gets its usual nominations – and some of you are honest enough to admit it’s mostly about the beer. The Revolution meetings also did well. “They’re all so dull I really can’t decide” came in from someone who must be a barrel of laughs. On the other hand we must have missed the Slippery Curve Wall Omnium but it sounds absolutely brilliant.
FAVOURITE BRITISH SPORTIVE
1 Dragon Ride
2 Etape Caledonia
3 Tour Ride
It’s Wales 1, Scotland 0 in the sportive stakes. The Dragon Ride wins again but it was a lot closer this year as the Etape Caledonia gathers followers and momentum.
The Tour Ride events also did well, with the South West ride getting the better of the Stoke event.
The usual array of ‘It’s not a proper race so who cares’ still featured but they are becoming less with every passing year as people realise that organised cycling can be fun without having to be competitive. The Northern Rock Cyclone was bubbling under and it may well challenge strongly in 2011 as the course will also host the National Championships road race. We’re loving the made-up sportive names – particularly The Fat Sausage and The Hilly Lard Chase. These should be real events.
FAVOURITE FOREIGN SPORTIVE
1 Etape du Tour
2 La Marmotte
3 Ronde Van Vlaanderen
The Etape du Tour just about held off a spirited challenge from the Marmotte. We won’t be surprised if it’s toppled for the first time in 2011. After all, the list of grumbles about the most popular sportive of them all grows longer. And with them organising two separate events next year have they gone too far? It has to be said, the Etape has become too big so splitting into two might give it a new lease of life.
Surprisingly the Paris-Roubaix sportive didn’t figure very highly. Considering it’s held once every two years and is usually eagerly awaited it seems odd. ASO is organising its own version, the day before the pro race in 2011. The Crinkly Camembert sounds like a great day out.
MOST IMPRESSIVE BRITISH RIDER
1 Geraint Thomas
2 Russell Downing
3 Mark Cavendish
A big win for the reigning national champion Geraint Thomas, who had a very fine season indeed. After a solid spring supporting his team-mates, the Team Sky rider rode a superb Dauphine Libere, finishing 21st but impressing in the time trials and sprints and holding his own in the mountains. That was the springboard he needed to win the national title. At the Tour he was fifth in the prologue, second on the cobbles, behind Thor Hushovd, and came within an ace of getting the yellow jersey. Instead he was the best young rider for the first week.
Russell Downing was the first British rider to win a race for Team Sky when he took the flat stage of the Criterium International in March. Many fans feel he should have been given a crack in one of the grand tours.
Mark Cavendish took third place. Well, five Tour de France stage wins isn’t bad, is it.
Emma Pooley, the world time trial champion, and Chris Newton, Premier Calendar winner, also scored well. Adam Blythe got a few votes but fair play to whoever it was who voted for Germain Burton. We’re off down the bookies to place several bets on him being extremely good indeed. He’s only 15 so keep it under your hat for now but remember where you heard it first.
MOST IMPRESSIVE RIDER
1 Fabian Cancellara
2 Philippe Gilbert
3 Mark Cavendish
You have to hand it to the Swiss lad, he didn’t have a bad season did he. Cancellara won the big two – Flanders and Roubaix – then took the prologue at the Tour and led for most of the first week. He even had time to fall out with Bjarne Riis and quit the Vuelta a Espana without telling him before clinching his fourth world time trial crown, a record.
For us, though, Pip Gilbert should have got it. What an extraordinary season the Belgian has had. Top ten in just every classic from Milan-San Remo to Liuege-Bastogne-Liege, he skipped the Tour but led the Vuelta in style at the start and won two stages with real panache. Then he gave it a crack at the Worlds, being caught in the final kilometre, before producing a ride even Eddy Merckx would have been proud of at the Tour of Lombardy.
Mark Cavendish’s 2010 didn’t quite match the incredibly high standards of 2009 but considering the succession of problems he had at the start it was remarkable he got himself back on track.
Pooley was again just outside the top three. She was, without doubt, the best rider in women’s cycling this season. Andy Schleck and Vincenzo Nibali were well in contention too. Reg Stirrup got a vote. Well done Reg. He actaully got as many votes as Alberto Contador, who seems about as popular as a pin tack on a velodrome at the moment.
TEAM OF THE YEAR
2 Saxo Bank
If you win six races a week (it was something like that, wasn’t it?) you will do well when it comes to votes for team of the year. They absolutely steam-rollered this category thanks not just to Cavendish and Andre Greipel winning stages left, right and centre, but also the Tour of California win for Michael Rogers and the emergence of the Velits twins (although they do give us the spooks a bit). HTC-Columbia won more than 60 races in 2010, more than 20 clear of the next most prolific (Liquigas, by the way).
Saxo Bank’s success was mostly down to riders who are leaving the team (Cancellara and Andy Schleck) but they have managed to keep hold of Richie Porte. As big fans of karma here at CW Towers, seeing Riis finally get his come-uppance following the signing of Contador has made cold, murky Monday mornings feel a little bit brighter.
Liquigas were third but perhaps should have been higher. They did win two of the three grand tours, after all – and with two different riders, Basso at the Giro and Nibali at the Vuelta).
Team Sky were just one voted behind Liquigas in fourth place. Not bad for a debut season, particularly considering the Tour de France turned out pretty poorly. No votes for the Wobbly Wheelers this year? What’s going on?
MOST IMPRESSIVE YOUNG RIDER
1 Geraint Thomas
2 Richie Porte
3 Andy Schleck
Big win for Geraint Thomas in the whippersnappers category, although you could argue that Porte’s Giro performance eclipsed anything the Welshman did this year. Andy Schleck bows out of this category as he reaches the grand old age of 26 in June.
It’s only when you see the names listed that you realise what a superb crop of young riders there is – and how many of them are British (or in the case of Daniel Martin and Felix English, almost British). Adam Blyth, Alex Dowsett, Ben Swift, Becky James, Laura Trott and Lizzie Armitstead were all well supported. From further afield there were plenty of votes for Taylor Phinney, Peter Sagan, Tejay Van Garderen and Leigh Howard. Malcolm Elliott got a vote too. As did Sue Perb. A very promising young woman, it says here.
HERO OF THE YEAR
1 Cadel Evans
2 Mark Cavendish
3 David Millar
Evans did more to restore the shine to the rainbow jersey than most of the world champions over the past couple of decades. He won a Classic, Fleche Wallonne and wore the pink jersey at the Giro and yellow jersey at the Tour. His spell in the maillot jaune came to a painful end, thanks to a cracked bone in his arm. Mark Cavendish was just squeezed into second place. He became only the second British rider to have won stages in all three grand tours when he finally opened his account at the Vuelta a Espana. David Millar has done a lot of work to alter the press and public perception and it is paying off. These days you can find few more level-headed people in the peloton.
Emma Pooley for being simply the nicest person in the world as well as a superb bike rider. Graham Jones, for designing a brilliant Tour of Britain route (even the lengthy transfers didn’t seem that bad). Laurent Fignon, rest in peace, monsieur. Jonny Bellis, for getting back on a race bike after that horrific injury. And WADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency.
VILLAIN OF THE YEAR
1 Alberto Contador
2 Floyd Landis
3 Lance Armstrong
A comfortable winner here. And one title that’s unlikely to be taken away – unlike his 2010 Tour de France victory. Alberto Contador. Or Alpuerto Clentador as one wit named him. The Spaniard’s excuse that the clenbuterol came from eating some dodgy meat has been treated by the public with the same contempt a secondary school teacher shows for the pupil who fails to hand in his homework yet again.
Floyd Landis was a distant second, presumably for daring to share with the authorities and the press what he knows about doping. Lance Armstrong was a predictable third – which is a lot better than anything he achieved on the bike. (Yes, yes, pipe down, we know he did okay at the Tour of Switzerland).
Anyone involved in drugs. Anyone who tested positive. Cav’s dentist. Danilo Di Luca. John Gadret (for refusing to give his wheel to team-mate Nicolas Roche when he punctured during the Tour). Pat McQuaid. Riccardo Ricco. The guys who kicked Mark Renshaw off the Tour. Wiggo for his sulk on the podium at the national TT. Vino. Valverde. The UCI. The Spanish Caisse d’Epargne guy who held onto the Astana car on the Tourmalet. Mosquera. Rasmussen. Surprisingly – and for the first time ever – there was no vote for Robert Garbutt, our esteemed editor. Although there was one for Keith Bingham, our legendary reporter, but we’ve got a pretty good idea who cast that one…