As it’s the last day of the year we thought that this would be a good opportunity to have a look back at some of the great moments from the 2015 racing season and launch the inaugural Ride Velo Pro Peloton Awards. Who had the greatest stage victory from the Grand Tours, which commentator came up with most double entendres, and which rider relentlessly chased down the most lost causes in kamikaze attacks?
Sticky Bottle Award
While many riders have been known to take advantage of the proverbial sticky bottle from a team car to help them get back into a race after a crash or a mechanical problem, Nibali’s hilarious pull from his team car on Stage 2 of the Vuelta was so blatant it had us literally rolling on the floor in hysterics. With absolutely no attempt to disguise what he was doing as he shot away from the group he was riding with, and at such an accelerated pace, the race organisers had no option but to fine him and ban him from the race. Watch it all again:
Most spectacular crash: Geraint Thomas
The tricky technical descent of the Col de Manse has seen a few hairy moments in its time and this year’s edition of the Tour de France was no exception when Geraint Thomas was knocked off the road by Warren Barguil who slammed into the Welshman on a tight right hand corner, sending him flying through the spectator barriers. Our G let go of his bike and attempted to hug a telegraph pole to save him from the drop down the side, but his momentum sent him tumbling down the slope. He was able to clamber back up to the road with the help of some fans, retrieve his bike and rejoin the race, although he was unable to find his favourite pair of glasses! Thomas did brilliantly to only lose a minute off the leaders of the stage as well as keeping his sense of humour. “I feel alright now,” he said. “I guess my doctor will ask me my name now. I’ll say: Chris Froome.”
Worst Dressed Presenter
ITV’s coverage of the Tour and Vuelta has gone from strength to strength with Phil Ligget and Paul Sherwin’s excellent live commentary, complemented by a pithy and concise highlights package fronted by Gary Imlach with punditry from Chris Boardman and David Millar, not to mention contributions from Ned Boulting and Mat Rendell. Gary Imlach is known for his wry and sardonic links but is also becoming notorious across the cycling community for his vile choice of shirts and tops. Come on, Gary, I’m sure ITV will fork out a bit for a clothing allowance that will allow you to shop beyond BHS, George at ASDA or your local branch of Peacocks.
Double Entendre Award
While we’re on ITV’s Grand Tour commentary, Ride Velo would like to say how pleased we were to see David Millar popping up on this year’s coverage of the Tour and Vuelta. He’s developed a brilliant partnership with Ned Boulting and offers great insight into race tactics and life in the peloton. But it has to be said that he can get carried away with live commentary with phrases such as, “He’s coming up hard from behind,” “He’s managed to slide into a tight gap there,” and our favourite, “He’s riding hard and fast.” And that was just in one stage. Mrs Ride Velo was positively flushed and had to be taken for a lie down.
Talking of riding hard and fast, no-one embodies the spirit of the aggressive rider more than Dan Martin. So often the nearly man, Dan missed out on a couple of stage wins when he just didn’t have the legs in the final km of various stages largely as a result of working so hard on his own earlier in the race. Second on Stage 8 and again, a few days later on Stage 11 on that brute of a climb, the Tourmalet, his solo chase of the breakaway left him too shattered to clinch the elusive stage victory. We love that Shane Macgowan grimace as he takes in huge gulps of air and pushes himself to the limit in the belief that he can do the whole thing on his own.
What a delight to see MTN Qhubeka being given a wild card to race in this year’s Tour! Even better was seeing Daniel Teklehaimanot win the Polka Dot jersey on Stage 6, the first time by an African. Making history as the first African registered team to take part in the race their team bus was mobbed by Eritrean supporters. Then, our very own Steve Cummings from The Wirral, surprised everyone, including hot favourite of the day, Peter Sagan, when he stole a stage victory on stage 14 on Mandela Day to raucous applause and cheers from African supporters. The team were a fantastic credit to their continent, winning hearts and minds with dignity and sheer class. Great magpie jersey, too.
Best stage victory
Let’s face it: we all love it on those rare occasions when the peloton fails to reel in the breakaway. What a fantastic ride from the bearded German, Simon Geschke, when he went for it 50 km from the finish at Pra Loup on a massive solo effort. Better known as a domestique, Simon broke down in tears in his TV interview and, in his best German/English explained, “It was not the plan to cry on live TV but…I was dreaming since 15 years of this moment and…(bows head in sobs and can’t continue to speak)” Love him. See the interview here:
Best and Worst kits
How I wish we could go back to the understated retro kits of Bianchi, Peugeot and Molteni! These days teams want to be noticed and their need to plaster their jerseys with sponsors logos is not exactly aesthetically pleasing. Having said that, seeing the whole peloton in their brightly coloured jerseys is one of the great spectacles of the Grand Tours. Team Sky did a good job with their Rapha branding that was understated but cool at the same time, although it’s become so commonplace to see amateur riders in replicas I’m fed up of it now. Movistar kept theirs simple without too many sponsors names emblazoned across it, but the coolest design has to be MTN Qhubeka’s black and white stripes, but that could just be because I’m a Newcastle supporter.
But what were Ag2R thinking with their brown shorts? And Team LottoNL-Jumbo with their awful lottery balls? By far the worst has to be Tinkoff-Saxo’ flouroscent yellow with blue crotches that look like they’re wearing their underpants over their bib shorts. Yuck!
Best woman cyclist
Lizzie Armitstead has had a fantastic year. She won the British title 11 days after being taken to hospital following a crash in the women’s world tour, then won the UCI World Cup Series for the second successive year. The highlight was becoming the World Road Race Champion in Virginia. Plucky little Lizzie has, according to Mark Cavendish, “put women’s cycling on the map.” Nominated for Sports Personality of the year, she also got engaged to fellow pro cyclist, Phillip Deignan and posted some cute pics of the happy couple for us all to go, “Aaaah.” Good on you, Lizzie!
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Geraint Thomas is a double Olympic medal winner when he takes on his domestique duties for Team Sky. He was Chris Froome’s minder over the cobbles, along the wind blasted straights, not to mention leading him up the toughest climbs and down the hairiest descents the Alps and Pyrenees has to offer. Few riders have put their body on the line to such an extent. Exhausted and battered when it came to the final week of the tour, he eventually slid down the GC classification, but he’s done more than enough to prove himself as a future GC contender. Chapeau!