Ed Looks Back: As we step into 2020, Ed Hood takes a look back at the last decade of cycling and his top memory and thoughts on each year – From Lance Armstrong to Remco Evenepoel and the other ‘headline’ makers in-between. The ‘who’s who’ of the past decade.
Out with the old and in with the new
We’ve already had a look at the year 2019 but of course, it’s also the end of the decade. Here’s my highly personal look back on a decade which began with the end of one era but ended with the birth of a much healthier one for our sport. . .
Van der Poel – The best of the new breed? There are a few in that line
‘Schadenfreude’ is made up of the words Schaden, which in German means ‘harm’ or ‘damage,’ and Freude, which means ‘joy’. By definition, ‘schadenfreude’ means finding joy in someone else’s misfortune. It’s not a philosophy I endorse but there was a lot of it about at the end of the 2010 Tour de France.
The end of the road for Lance – Tour’10
The previous year Lance Armstrong had finished third behind Contador and Schleck in the race and many expected him to step up and regain what he believed was rightfully his – his eighth Tour de France title. A fact which many forget is that he was in excellent shape coming in to the 2010 race; he’d recently finished second in the Tour de Suisse, a scant 12 seconds down on winner, Frank Schleck. But Floyd Landis had removed his finger from the hole in the ‘Omerta’ dam and the breach was getting bigger by the moment. Things which never normally happened to ‘Teflon Don’ Lance began to occur; crashes, ‘jours sans’ and if that wasn’t bad enough, the cupboard [read fridge] was bare. He finished 23rd but the team rode like hell to take the team award so as Lance could at least make the podium. But it was over. . .
I remember distinctly saying to Kris; ‘surely it’s way too early to take it up?’ But relentlessly, lap after lap the GB team of Messrs. Cummings, Froome, Hunt, Millar, Stannard, Thomas and Wiggins laid down a pace that meant the break of the day was always doomed and any late flurries were just for the cameras. But in the chaos going into the 90 degree right turn which preceded the drag to the finish line Stannard and Thomas – the only two with any legs left after an epic day’s work – lost their man.
2010 Worlds finalé
Unperturbed he rode his own finalé, working off the Australian train who were, ‘all for Gossie’ – Primavera winner, Matt Goss – he launched early. He was fading at the line with the Aussie fast man coming back at him rapidly but Mark Cavendish, Great Britain was Champion of the World.
It was beautiful to watch. Last word to Steve Cummings – Me; ‘how was the after-race party, Steve?’ Steve; ‘it must have been good but I can’t remember much about it!’
Mark Cavendish – 2011 World champion
When David Brailsford announced that he was going to give us Brits a Tour winner within five years of his Sky team’s launch in 2010 I can remember thinking; ‘Sure Dave!’ I honestly believed that I would never see a British Tour de France winner in my lifetime. And when Wiggo crashed out in 2011 after a mediocre 2010 Tour we couldn’t help but think his 2009 fourth place – later upgraded to third when ‘The Man from Plano’ was declassed – was a flash in the pan.
But season 2012 saw a different, very skinny and focused Wiggins and when Paris-Nice, the Tour of Romandie then the Dauphine all fell to the man who used to have a season ticket to the gruppetto it seemed inevitable that the ‘Big Loop’ would go his way too. ‘Congratulations, Mr. Brailsford’, I said to him when I met him as he strode across the Place de La Concorde, Paris not quite taking in what I was witnessing. He smiled graciously and thanked me. History made.
The best of the 2012 Tour de France
Recently I wrote an article about the best ‘cross men of all time; those with three or more wins in the world professional/elite title race. A name missing was that of Sven Nys, who was ‘only’ Elite champion twice – he was, of course also u23 champion on two occasions. However, there’s also the matter of National ‘cross Championship: 10 wins. Superprestige ‘cross races: 62 wins. World Cup ‘cross races: 52 wins. Other ‘cross Races: 172 wins. Between seasons 2005/6/7 he won 99 times – remarkable.
Sven Nys – Cross hero
So how come just those two titles at elite level? Whilst his rivals planned their seasons around the Worlds, aiming to peak at the end of January, take the jersey and grab the big start money, Nys was ‘full gas’ from the first flag dropping. ‘Just’ two titles but a marvellous legacy and those who were privileged to see him in full flight remember his unrivalled mixture of power and grace.
PS: Nys junior, 17 year-old Thibau by name is already European Junior Champion and winning just about every time he starts; like father. . .
Some of the best of Sven Nys
It had been a long time since Marco Pantani gave Italy her last Tour winner, 16 years to be exact. Vincenzo Nibali had already won the Vuelta a España and the Giro d’Italia – pundits wondered if he could join the exclusive club who have won all three Grand Tours?
The 2014 Tour was for ‘The Shark of Messina’
The way he won Stage Two of the Tour de France over the Yorkshire hills then handled the cobbles of Stage Five with aplomb suggested he was flying. He took another three stages before Paris to confirm. Bella!
Watts Zap 2014 Tour de France
Sure, he’d won A LOT of races but never ‘big’ – there were Grand Tour stage wins and points classements but could Peter Sagan confirm? The critics said he didn’t have a long race in his legs? Many of us thought that the urban circuit in Richmond Virginia wasn’t a good one, but like the old adage goes; ‘the riders make the race,’ with this one over 261 kilometres.
World Champion from Attack to Finish by CNBC
As the sprinters eyed each other, it was the flamboyant Slovak who made his move with three kilometres to go – holding off a frantic chase and cruising across the line arms wide as if to say; ‘this is how it’s done!’ Ever the showman, the helmet, glasses and mitts went into the crowd in celebration. And he’d defend his jersey not once but twice – remarkable. I love the man.
2015 Worlds – The first of three
Big Aussie, Matt Hayman isn’t a man to rush things, whilst he goes about his business as a ‘super domestique’ and highly respected team captain, once in a decade is the frequency of his ‘big ones’. In 1996 he took silver in the World Junior Time Trial Championships; in 2006 he won the Commonwealth Games Road Race in Melbourne – but waited until 2016 to grab his finest win.
A stunning Roubaix win for Matt Hayman
Coming onto the velodrome in Roubaix was a group of four; Hayman had been away all day and the race had come up to him, after all those kilometres in the wind he should have been finished; also there were big strong men Ian Stannard and Sep Vanmarcke – neither renowned as fast finishers. Then there was Tom Boonen, joint ‘recordman’ for Paris-Roubaix on four victories – the race was his to lose. And he did. The remarkable Hayman still had the strength to win the sprint, deny Boonen and record his greatest victory. What the big Aussie will get up to in 2026 is anyone’s guess.
Behind the scenes at Paris-Roubaix with ORICA-GreenEDGE
The English ‘Cycling Weekly’ magazine in their review of 2017 explained that ‘tarnished’ Alberto Contador’s career had petered out. ‘That’s funny’, I thought to myself – and there was me thinking that the second last race he rode in his career was Stage 20 of the Vuelta a España, Corvera de Asturias to Alto de l’Angliru, the most feared climb in European professional cycling?
The final climb for Contador
Which he won in the grand style – solo with the field shattered behind him. As the man himself said; ‘I couldn’t think of a better way to end my career’. ‘Amen’ to that Amigo.
L’Angliru – Contador’s last stand
‘He’s a doper!’ That’s what ‘they’ say about Spaniard Alejandro Valverde. I say, ‘sure!’ ‘But you know he was Spanish U23 Road Race Champion in 2001; turned pro the next year and in 2003 scored his first pro wins and was second in The Worlds; since then he’s won 127 races including the Vuelta, five Flèche Wallonne, four Liège-Bastogne-Liège and two Classica San Sebastián, just to name a few of those 127 victories?’ Jeez! That must be good gear he’s on. . .
Valverde – He’s no devil!
And he won The 2018 Worlds on a super tough parcours battling it out with two of the world’s best climbers. The man made mistakes in the past – many did – but his consistency isn’t down to kit, it’s down to class, love of the sport and dedication. At 39 years-of-age he was on the Vuelta podium again, this year. Respect.
Alejandro Valverde – World champion
And we’re up to date. The ride of the year for me? Mathieu Van Der Poel in the Amstel Gold; the way he lead the chase up to the escapees then went from the front from way out to win was pure class.
Is there anything Mathieu can’t win?
Season 2020 looks safe in the hands of the likes of this young man, Wout Van Aert, Egan Bernal, Ivan Sosa, Fabio Jakobsen, Remco Evenepoel and all those other young guns on the way up. I told you that the decade ended better than it started.
The future looks good
It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he’s covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,800 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself – many years and kilograms ago – and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site www.veloveritas.co.uk where more of his musings on our sport can be found.