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2014 and all that...

Bit of a strange year really - when it was good it was very good, and when it was bad it was quite rotten.  The Northern Classics stood out, and the hilly ones didn’t.  The Giro had a totally unnecessary detour to these parts, and was a predictable enough affair that left a bit of a taste behind after Stelvio.  The Tour was mouthwatering, Yorkshire and the first week was stunning, but ultimately we were denied the confrontation we hoped for.  The Vuelta was as much a foregone conclusion after the first week as the Giro was after it’s mid point.  In no real particular order, well kind of, the races that floated my boat were:

Fabian Cancellara - Tour of Flanders

This race needed a kick up the arse after a couple of drab editions and a change to the parcours duly obliged.  There is an hour or so on youtube of the last 35k and it is well worth watching again if you have time.  The early parts of the race saw some horrible crashes, most notably to Popovych, Devolder, Gallopin, Roelandts - and a real nasty one with Vansummeren and a spectator.  Most of the usual suspects were there or thereabouts as they closed on the last 50k and we waited to see if Sagan could finally impose on a monument, but he looked uncomfortable and indecisive when Van Avermaet made his decisive move with 35k to go, and when Cancellara and Vanmarcke went on the final ascent of the Kwaremont he (like the rest of the group) had no answer.  Van Avermaet can consider himself very unlucky as he gave the limpet Vandenburgh a free ride for 30k, but when Cancellara and Vanmarcke got across Big Swiss showed all the experience and nous to take his third Flanders title.  It even looked for a while like Kristoff might have got across to the leaders in the finale, which would have put the cat among the pigeons, but he sat up to wait for a hand from Terpstra and blew any chance he had.  An epic edition of the most epic race of all.

Lars Boom - Stage 5 Tour de France

So cobbles have no place in a Grand Tour, eh?  This was as decisive a GT stage as you could get, even with two sectors removed.  With April wind and driving rain in July, Northern classic specialists Nibali and Astana took chunks out of their GC rivals and Froome crashed out altogether.  Vanmarcke was desperately unlucky to puncture when he did, and Boom deserved a good win, but it was all about Nibali who rode the sectors like an Easter Belgian, dropping Cancellara and Sagan ftw.  

Tony Martin - Stage 9 Tour de France

TT specialist, train driver, leadout man and epic solo rider Tony Martin basically went for a 90k two-up with De Marchi and then left him to complete a 60k solo effort for the win.  Over 6 climbs. At an average of 40.1kph.  Great day’s racing in more ways than one as Gallopin took the race lead in the group behind, which was led in by Cancellara.  Big Swiss might have spitefully spoiled Martin’s similar epic escape in the 2013 Vuelta, but there was nothing he or anyone else could do to stop Der Panzerwagon this time.  Some man for one man…

Alberto Contador - Stage 5 Tirreno Adriatico

2013 had witnessed the demise of the best GT rider of his generation, his bee sting attacks were no match for Froome’s devastation at the TDF and the writing looked on the wall for El Pistolero.  

Some wall, some writing.

The 2014 Alberto Contador roared out of the blocks like a man reinvented - more later.  He was dominant from the start, and his performances at TA and the Basque Country (and the Dauphine, and later at the Vuelta) were, at times. jaw-dropping. On Passo Lanciano he countered Quintana’s attack without seemingly drawing breath, and then went off on a 35k chase of the escape group, who he blew away on the steepest sections (22-30%) of the final climb.  Apart from having a broken knee, Contador then spent the rest of the summer setting about Froome, his 2013 tormenter, beating him up at the Dauphine and La Vuelta.  

Finally, it was difficult to shake off the feeling that the arms race was back on.  There was plenty to be concerned about - Contador’s resurgence, Valverde’s early season reinvention, Aru taking third at the Giro and fifth at the Vuelta, Uran’s Giro TT, Majka’s mountain wink-fest at the Tour, and of course the Astana positives.  Now any of those anomalies might be explained by Contador having enough talent and ability to work on his 2013 failings over the winter, Aru’s lack of racetime up to the Giro being fruitfully spent at altitude in Sestriere, Uran training with OPQS crack TT’ers, and Majka (and Rodgers) free of team duties following Contador’s crash - but as plausible as all that might sound it doesn’t quite wash clean, does it?  It’s hardly reinventing the wheel suggesting that professional cyclists dope (although don’t tell the fuckwits in the Clinic, they would have nothing left to do), and only a fool might think that leopards of the calibre of Riis and Vino would change their spots, but IMO there has been a shift for the worse in recent times, and I can’t see it improving…

Still, Happy New Year and let’s hope we get some good, less ridiculous, racing.

Flanders was crazy as usual.. but i have to go for Stage 5 of the Tour - carnage.
Mrs John Murphy

Stage 5, but I don't think the arms race ever went away. I think it was similar to c1999 where some teams dialled it back thinking that others would do the same, while other teams went full bore.

Sky are getting a taste of their own medicine from Astana and Saxo when it comes to super-doping

Stage 5 for me, too, although Flanders a close second.
Left me feeling even more desperate for a spot of Roubaix rain.

Went with Flanders since everybody else was picking Stage 5. Wink (Both were great)

i think mr. martin is great.
mr shifter

You all know my choice which was most enjoyable. Brilliant riding and a flat stage too.
2014 Cyclingnews Reader Poll:- Cobbled stage voted moment of the year

I don't like this new Flanders finish and feel that something is missing because they now go round a circuit before the final dash.
The Flanders that I have been familiar with for many years has had an end to end type finish and the uncertainty of what's around the next section of road.
That is like the Roubaix course that most riders know but by putting a circuit in the final Km's means the peloton know exactly what lies ahead and brace themselves and save something for the final effort.  
I would like to see this Flanders take a variation perhaps up the road to Anzegem and back through the lanes to this present finish line.

I'm having difficulty expressing my dislike as there seems nothing wrong with the present finish but to me there seems to be something lacking. Forum Index -> Cycling Forum
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