Tuesday 1 January 2013

Muse-ette Review of the Cycling Year 2012

It seems every year I end up apologising for how quiet the muse-ette has been of late but I can't duck the annual, but not at all coveted, Muse-ette Awards.

As far as I'm concerned there're a handful of people who should be the only recipients of any cycling related awards this year. They're the people who have endured vilification, lawsuits, abuse and intimidation but who stuck to the truth and who eventually slayed the dragon, consigning Lance, Johan, Michele et al to the ignominy they deserve. So stand up David Walsh, Paul Kimmage, Emma O'Reilly, Betsy Andreu, Pierre Ballester, Stephen Swart, Christophe Bassons, Gilles Dellion, Greg and Kathy Lemond

But just one award would be boring so, in no particular order, here are the rest of this years winners (and losers):

Best Stage Race:Despite my misgivings (see below) I'm giving this to La Vuelta. If you take out the inevitable questions, this years was an epic battle between three local riders (when did the French or Italians last get to boast that?) over some beautiful terrain. My own enjoyment was helped by playing "Spot the Stephen" every day, a game where we tried to spy my mates Irish tricolour at the roadside.

Best One Day Race: There really is no contest for this one. After a collective groan from the entire cycling world following Vino's gold heist the day before, race of the year was the Women's Road Race at the Olympics. Crap weather, a tough course, small teams and great tactical riding made this a seat-of-the-pants thrill ride. To cap it all there was a worthy, and believable, winner. Marianne Vos is probably the best female rider we've ever seen. No-one else could have claimed to be the champion while she was on that kind of form.

Best Finish: For the second year in a row this goes to Gilbert. This year he gets it for blowing the field away at the Worlds. His blistering attack on the Cauberg and dominant run-in left the rest of the field floundering. A worthy rainbow jersey wearer.

Best Irish Rider: After an honourable mention last year the award this year goes to Mark Rohan for bringing home gold from London and managing to inspire the nation in the process. Honourable Mention for Ronan McLaughlin for his epic escape into his home county during the Rás. Pity he got caught almost on the line but chappeau none the less.

Team performance of the Year: It sickens me to have to give this to Team Sky after they killed the Tour so Sir Brad could win on a route seemingly custom made for him, but even I have to admit they were very effective. Honourable mentions: Belgium for putting regional differences behind them so Philippe could take Gold in Holland. UCD for putting in some creditable rides in India towards the end of the year.

The Jurgen Klinsmann Award for Theatrical But Deniable Diving: Anglo-German lead rider of the GB Olympic Team Sprint trio, Philip Hindes, has to be rewarded for his dive, sorry "crash", in the opening heat of the Olympic final, followed by his on-air admission of their dodgy start plan, followed by his on-air denial of any such plan.Of course, Philip. It was an accident, Philip. Wink, wink....

The Thierry Henry Cheat of the Year Award: The run (or should that be ride) away winner this year is the formerly suspended Bulgarian Ivailo Gabrovski for allowing himself to "dominate" the Presidential Tour of Turkey before the inevitable EPO positive was announced. Dis-Honourable Mentions: ACBB's Alexandre Dougnier for having no less than 12 illegal substances in is system, Denis Galimzyanov, Remy di Gregorio, Fränk Schleck, Rasa Leleivytė, 47 year old Danish Cycling Union board member Soren Svenningsen, Steve Houanard.

The Good Wife Award For Extracting The Truth From The Witness In The End: Travis Tygart for finally getting Frankie Andreu, Michael Barry, Tom Danielson, Tyler Hamilton, George Hincapie, Floyd Landis, Levi Leipheimer, Stephen Swart, Christian Vande Velde, Jonathan Vaughters and David Zabriskie to cough.

The Derren Brown How Did He Do That Award for Mysterious Performances: There were a few performances this year that I was really impressed by but, given recent events, anything that makes you shout "unbelievable" just might have been. So take a step forward party animal Tom Boonen for leaving the field standing at Paris-Roubaix and the all Spanish, all suspicious, Vuelta top three Alberto Contador (he of the spicy steak), Alejandro Valverde (owner of blood doping dog Piti) and Joaquim Rodriguez (employed by various less than white teams Once, Saunier-Duval and Katusha).

The My Best Day on a Bike This Year Award: I'm afraid these were few and far between (see the Worst Day award below) so I'm holding this one back. Of course, every day on the bike is a great one ....

The My Worst Day on a Bike This Year Award: I usually hope not to have one of these but there definitely was one this year. That date was 19th May, the day I tried, thankfully unsuccessfully, to cut my finger off in my front wheel while riding along at nearly 20mph. One re-attachment operation, lots of hospital visits and four months later I finally got back out on the bike again, albeit with limited use of my left ring finger.

Finally, as ever, 2012 has seen the passing of many members of the cycling family:

Seamus Kennedy, 65, winner of the Rás in 1978 and a true gentleman of the road.
Fiorenzi Magni, 91, alternately known as the Lion Of Flanders for his hat trick in the Ronde, or the Colussus of Monza for his three Giro wins, Magni was one of the last surviving links with the age of Coppi and Bartali. He is also credited for being one of the pioneers of bringing outside sponsorship into the sport the fifties
Billy Kerr, 67, A relative latecomer to the sport, Billy still had a glittering international career including wins in the Tour of the North, the Sealink International Stage Race in England, Rás Tailteann, Tour of Ireland, The Shay Elliott and numerous Northern Ireland and All Ireland championships. He rode the Olympic Games in Moscow for Ireland and two Commonwealth Games for Northern Ireland.
Kyle Bennett, 33, three time World BMX Champion, killed in a car crash in Texas.
Ian Gallagher, a useful amateur rider in his day, Ian is best remembered as a race official and one of Ireland's most respected UCI Commissaires. A fixture in his blue or red blazer Ian was a popular commissaire, seen by all as highly knowledgeable yet fair and objective.
Sylvain Mollier, 45, the unfortunate cyclist gunned down near Lake Annecy after he apparently rode into the scene of the murder of the British Al-Hilli family.
Paud O'Leary, 42, sportive rider from Kerry, killed in a hit and run while training for his local event, The Ring of Kerry Cycle.
Ray Booty, 79, legendary British time triallist, most famous for being the first to ride a 100 mile event in under four hours, achieved in 1956.
Sam Darcy, 75, known locally as Gorey's "Mr Cycling", Sam was best known as the organiser of the Gorey 3-Day race for 46 years. There is hardly a rider in or from Ireland, including all of our best known professionals, who didn't ride Sams beloved Easter weekend race at some stage of their career.
Morgan Sparrow, 39, a promising Commandant in the Irish Air Corp, Morgan tragically died days after sustaining serious head injuries in a freak crash during an inter-club race in Co. Meath. He never regained consciousness.
Tommy Godwin, 91, Double bronze medallist for Great Britain at the 1948 Olympics, Godwin acted as an ambassador for the sport at this years event in London.
Victor Cabedo, 23, young Euskatel pro killed while training near his home in Spain.

May they, and all other cyclists lost or killed this year, rest in peace.

Finally, thank you all for wading through the sparse mutterings of the muse-ette in 2012. I wish you all a very Happy New Year and many fabulous hours of cycling in 2013.

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