With the Giro di Lombardia (Il Lombardia) wrapped on Saturday, the curtains have fallen on the current road racing season. It’s now time to keep track of the ins and outs from the current peloton and anxiously wait for the verdict of the Contador’s case . But before we engross ourselves in the speculations let’s take a step back to reminisce the memorable moments of 2011 season. It was my first year of following professional cycling and the sleepless nights spent watching YouTube videos already had me hooked to the sport. I followed Tour Down Under on audio, watched Middle East Tours and changed my daily schedule to catch the finish of almost every race whose streaming was available online. There were many great moments to celebrate and people will differ in their choice of the high points of the season but for me the following achievements were outstanding.
1. Paris-Roubaix: Before heading home to watch the race, I had met a Belgian girl in a cafe and we ended up chatting up about cycling. We discussed the movie, A Sunday in Hell and the conversation whipped up a perfect appetite for the race. This year, the most nerve-jangling of all Classics, was won by Johan Vansummeren of Garmin-Cervelo. The team started out with an aim to put Thor in a good position for the win but given the very nature of the race, the situation didn’t turn out to be favorable for the World Champion. Vaughters then played his final card and asked Johan, who was ahead in the leading bunch, to go all out for the victory. With a hungry Spartacus on his trail, Johan rode out of his skin on a slowly leaking rear tyre to win the race in the Roubaix velodrome. For me the race was a perfect example of teamwork and astute strategy. The finish left an indelible impression on me and since then I’ve started to follow every single cycle race and spend numerous hours watching live streaming of the unknown races and analysing their highlights available on YouTube.
2. Ardennes Classics: Well what can you say about Philippe, the man likes to win and to win in style. PhilGil completed a grand sweep of all the Ardennes races in 2011. He fired up his engine with a win at Montepaschi Strade Bianche where I thought Cancellara will vanquish his ghosts. I was again proved wrong by Philippe when I thought he will take it easy at Brabantse Pijl instead he displayed his typical panache and grabbed the win. After that it all became a Philippe Gilbert show. Even with teams closely marking him, he won three big Classics in the span of a week to complete the slam. One could argue that Liege-Bastogne-Liege was gifted to him by some dodgy decision making from FrAndy but on close observation we can find that they were intimated by Philippe’s aura. It was a phenomenal performance from a single rider and every race was won in style.
(to be continued…)