The eight best moments of the 2015 cycling season
Loads of entertaining cycling took place in 2015. Here’s some of the stuff that I can actually remember.
Well it was a highlight for me.
It was three v one at the end of the Omloop. Etixx-Quick Step’s three were soundly beaten. I still think Stannard might do some stuff in the classics.
This race gave rise to one of the more entertaining instalments in the long-running saga entitled ‘Geraint Thomas falling off his bike’.
The moment when Thomas was shoved across the road by some invisible ne’er-do-well was symptomatic of a race when only 39 riders finished. Falling somewhere between comical and brutal, it was what the cobbled classics are all about.
38-year-old Luca Paolini – who fell twice and at one point had to change his bike – beat the other riders and to a greater extent the inclement weather to emerge with the win. Later in the year, he would be kicked off the Tour de France after testing positive for cocaine of all substances.
The Giro was largely about Astana attempting to knock seven shades of shite out of Alberto Contador. This practice reached its nadir on stage 16 when those naughty Kazakhs and their Italian leader, Fabio Aru, pressed on forcefully when the Spaniard sustained a puncture.
A rage-fuelled Contador rode right back to them, closing a minute’s gap on the lower slopes of the really-rather-nasty Mortirolo climb. By the time he hit the summit, he was two minutes ahead.
Almost as entertaining was Astana’s stage 20 riposte. Like a mediocre builder laying a patio, Contador was flagging on the gravel when Aru and team-mate Mikel Landa raced off. Could they snatch the Giro at the death? No. But the stopwatches were out as we watched them try.
Day after day, Tony Martin missed out on the yellow jersey in the Tour de France. I was going to say that on each occasion it was by a matter of seconds, but actually it was usually just by one of them. A number of riders pipped him to the race lead and it was hard to avoid the feeling that he was somehow cursed.
By the closing kilometres of the cobbled stage, all hope was basically lost. At this point Tony thought ‘fuck it’ and rode his way into new attire.
The end of a tough stage can become very tactical with riders fannying about, watching each other, feinting and bluffing. Romain Bardet and Thibaut Pinot were following this script when Steve Cummings reminded them – and everyone else – that at its heart cycling is really just about riding your bike faster than the other guy.
There was no slowing or drafting, no watchfulness or gamesmanship. There was just a bloke from Merseyside blowing straight past and going hell for leather to the line.
In the sense that we found out that he’s really rather good at climbing and could potentially win a Grand Tour one day.
Cycling’s not about being the best. It’s about minimising the damage when you’re not the best. As such, Dumoulin’s Vuelta, in which climbers repeatedly attacked him and he tried to match them, was among the most intriguing racing of the year. That he ultimately fell short on the penultimate climb of a three-week race almost didn’t matter.
By that point Dumoulin was already the people’s champion – including a good number of Dutch people who were technically riding for other teams and who then had to retract statements saying they would be assisting their countryman during the race. ‘No, no, no, we won’t be doing that,’ they said. ‘That would be against the rules. But if by chance he happens to be riding immediately behind one of us at some point, who’s to say we won’t let him stay there, conserving energy.’
It was worth the wait. Maybe he was just toying with us all along. World champion and to put the icing on the zemlovka, he made a garbled humanitarian plea in his post-race interview.