My highlights of the 2013 pro cycling season
The 2014 season starts on Sunday with the Tour Down Under, so here’s a somewhat overdue list of my highlights from 2013. It absolutely isn’t that I saved this as a draft months ago and kind of thought that I’d published it, but hadn’t.
In no particular order…
I’m a big of the break. It’s an endlessly repeated but timeless story of the plucky unregarded everyman attempting to defy logic. This was the most heart-warming example in 2013. Adam Hansen’s palmares features high profile wins such as the Crocodile Trophy, Lavanttaler Radsporttage and Wien-Lassnitzhöhe and his best placing in a Grand Tour is 60th in last year’s Vuelta. In short, he’s not drowning in glory, but it’s not for lack of effort. Hansen’s completed the last six Grand Tours – no mean feat in itself – and few begrudged him this moment on the top step of the podium.
Paris-Roubaix sort of stands alone, so it kind of felt like the cobbled classics built to a climax at Ronde van Vlaanderen. The early season narrative was of Fabian Cancellara and Peter Sagan going head-to-head. Who would prevail? In the closing kilometres of the race, we were given an answer of brutal clarity.
Another successful break, but primarily memorable for the drama, rather than for who was involved. The man who later dubbed himself ‘Sir Jan Bakelants’ is pleasingly unhinged, but few of us knew that in the closing moments of stage two of the Tour de France. All we knew was that there was one bloke desperately hammering his way towards the finishing line while the peloton rapidly closed the gap. They say he won by a second, but it was probably less than that.
I’ve written about this several times, so I’ll try not to repeat myself. Stage 13 of the Tour de France was an amorphous race where, even as a viewer, your brain was constantly in operation. What were people trying to do, why were they trying to do it and what would be the consequences. Oh, wait, what’s happening now?
He won plenty of time trials, but there was one ride more impressive than any win – the moment of the season if I were ranking these, which I’m not. Tony Martin’s 175km solo break in the Vuelta was a thing of rare, red-raw-barsed beauty. It had everything: loneliness, superhuman levels of endurance and heart-breaking last-gasp defeat. 10 out of 10 for effort but nothing to show for it – that’s what cycling’s truly all about. That’s what we really respect. There’s no prize greater than a heartfelt ‘chapeau!’.