Friday Group Ride #137

Is it me, or does it seem like forever since Tom Boonen did the Roubaix/Flanders double back in April? At the time, I thought, “No one is going to top that this year.” And yet, as Ryder Hesjedal won the Giro d’Italia and Alberto Contador won the Vuelta, each time I was stunned by the beauty of the performance. Love him or hate him, Contador’s attacks on Stage 17 of his home Grand Tour to turn the GC on its head were the stuff of absolute legend.

In Italy, Hesjedal, the lanky Canadian, hung around and hung around and hung around the top of the standings until the closing time trial, in which he took back the 31 seconds Joaquim Rodriguez, held over him and became the first Canadian to win a Grand Tour. And as awesome as that time trial was for Hesjedal, the climbing he did in the final week, marking his rivals and responding to attacks, made the whole thing just that bit more special.

Some might even argue that Bradley Wiggins’ metronomic destruction of the field at the Tour was the ride of the season. Sure, his Sky team did everything just right, overwhelming the field with tempo riding in all terrains, but Wiggins had to close the deal with big climbs and winning time trials.

For me, Boonen’s April is the clear choice, but I have Classics biases. Roubaix and Flanders are both as much like wrestling matches as bike races, and in my mind, being able to dominate them as Tommeke did shows a strength unparalleled in the sport.

And still there were other big performances. This week’s Group Ride asks, what was the best pro ride of the season? Will anyone dare name Vinokourov’s gold medal? How about Philippe Gilbert’s world championship win? Name your winner and say why.


Image: Fotoreporter Sirotti

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  1. scaredskinnydog

    Jen’s solo attack on stage 4 of the USPRO cycling challenge gets my vote. The reason? He’s Jens! There’s no reason to explain.

  2. Adam

    Sagan’s debut Tour with three stages, three 2nds as well as the 2nd largest winning margin for Green was pretty impressive.
    But ultimately I think it has to be Boonen for me. He just manhandled the competition and was the strongest man in every race he won.

  3. Champs

    The Flanders-Roubaix double was something of a fait accompli without Cancellara.

    In that vein, Wiggins was boring to watch, and he did not have to race Contador.

    El Pistolero made plenty of moves, but only one stuck (even if it did win the Vuelta).

    How can you give it to anyone but Sagan? His season was electrifying, and came with results to match.

  4. bongo

    I have to agree with scaredskinnydog. And since I watched Jens from the slopes of Independence Pass the day before made it even better.

  5. Disch

    I’m with Vince and Scared – love me some Le Jens at Le Tour. The commentary her provided about the whole experience online and through social gave a lot of context to everything he did. Felt like you were along for the ride.

    On a more serious note, Wiggins is tough to beat because of the total domination, but it was almost too clinical to really root for. That was like watching a dad beat his kid in a 1:1 basketball game without even getting out of his lawn chair.

  6. Adam

    You can only race the competition that shows up and winning any Monument is never a done deal let alone fait acompli. For me it’s a toss up between Boonen and Wiggens on this one but I’m partial to the Classics. Even if you think that Wiggo was boring, his sheer margin of victory was astonishing.
    I like Sagan, and while ToC and Suisse domination and a brilliant Tour are impressive they’re not the stuff of legend. I think if we look at the season Sagan ALMOST had – he almost won: MSR, Amstel, Flanders, Quebec and Gent Wevelgem – as well as factor in that he fell short on a Worlds and Olmpic course that favored him we can say he’ll be rider of the year sooner than later, but not 2012.

  7. J-man's Dad

    Boonen…for me comes in 2nd. Watching my daughter dig deep at USA Junior National Championships in the RR tops all.

  8. Spencer

    As to a single ride, I think Tom Danielson’s win in Colorado deserves mention. Bold move, hard win, and by the slimmest of margins. I also appreciated his tongue-in-cheek pre-race comment regarding his strategy along the lines of “I’ll probably just sit in the pack. I’m tired, my legs are cooked, I’m mentally cracked, and Tejay is just too strong.”

  9. Sam

    Voeckler’s stage 16 at the Tour. It was probably the grittiest ride I have ever seen from him. Breaking so early and staying away for the entire stage- it was a truly hardman performance. He earned every single polka dot on that jersey.

  10. SusanJane

    I’m sure people are going to laugh, but what about Rodriguez in the Velta? O.k. he didn’t win and he wasn’t the strongest rider of the year, but the Velta was the best grand tour and he was the biggest part of making it that way. The TdF was almost boring in the last weeks. Wiggins and Froome was not an interesting rivalry as far as grand tours go. Only the last few stages of the Giro were exciting. I guess it depends on what you follow and why, but I like my races contested and the outcome uncertain.

    All that said I think riders like Jens and the others who attack, attack, attack make for wild fun even when they do not succeed. Poo on those who think the expected breakaway-only-to-get-caught is entertaining. Jens shows the world that attacking is not about camera time but about winning! Boonen takes the prize because he knows how to win and it’s not a bunch sprint. When he wins a monument there is no doubt that it’s only for camera time.

  11. michaelk

    my head tells me wiggins. his metronomic consistency in tt`s all year and his stunning destruction of all comers in not one, not two, not three but four of the most prestigious stage races on the calender makes him the mortal lock.

    my heart tells me Hesjedal. brilliant ride in the Giro, watching him grow into leader status was amazing.

    my guts tell me Boonen, but with a big old asterix as Cancellara was unavailable to say “hey wait a minute fella. there’s a new sherriff in town”.

    in the end i say “screw you establishment and easy choices”, and I am going to vote for Simon Gerrans. I don’t much like his attitude nor do i like him much as a rider, but winning MSR and Quebec City gets him my tip of the hat for raw opportunism and best tactics/legs on two brutal days.

    honorable mention – EuropCar’s David Veilleux, who’s win in the Tre Valle Varesine via solo attack was a joy to behold and one of my favourite rides of the year. he made a big announcement with that win, I just hope that he can use it as a launchpad to bigger and better things in 2013.

  12. DJ

    This is a stretch but it still happened in 2012. Jeremy Powers in the 2012 U.S. cyclocross nationals was the best win I saw in 2012.

  13. jonathan

    I gotta give it to Marianne Vos Olympic/World’s double. The women’s road race was the race of the Olympics – far more exciting than the men’s. And she just crushed it.

  14. Vince

    Jonathan hits it on the nose: Vos’s season has been dominant on a level only matched by the GOAT. Tommeke’s wins will be remembered in 20 years. The rest, probably not. Well, maybe Sagan’s, but not so much for the specifics as for being The Beginning of an Era.

  15. Michael

    Tommeke and Marianne for me. Marianne simply dominated all the big races, but she had great competition so the result was not a given. I love watching women’s racing, and this year was particularly good. Tommeke sort of did the same as Marianne. The Classics are great and very difficult crap shoots, with teams being valuable but they cannot control the race completely like Sky or USPS, and a bad moment (self-inflicted or otherwise) can make all the difference. He managed to avoid those, and won in some very stylish ways. Tell me who would have thought, say six or eight years ago, that he was capable of riding away from the others with 50 k to go and win going away?

  16. Souleur

    DeGendt’s Giro stage 20 victory as he killed the Stelvio, that spring-loaded him into the podium and darn near placed him in the Maglia rosa, was IMHO the most beautiful day all year.

    It was ballsy, belgian and a sufferfest that no other PRO wanted any part of, and he was rewarded justly

    just beautiful

  17. rashadabd

    Like Spencer, my wife and I loved Danielson’s win in Colorado with the peleton breathing down his neck, it was one of my favorite finishes to a stage all season. As a Garmin fan, I want to say that race or Ryder’s Giro win so bad, because it was such a huge win for him, the team and North American cycling. But if we are talking performance(s) of the season, It has to come down to Wiggins and Boonen for me since they simply dominated major races. If I have to choose one then I gotta say Boonen because he did more of the work on his own. As a classics fan, that’s what I love about those races, your team can certainly help you, but in the end, it is all on your legs, determination and grit. Team Sky did more of the work to help Wiggo win the TdF and the other races he won leading up to it in my opinion.

  18. Author

    Not mentioning Vos just demonstrates what a dullard I am. Sorry.

    I also ought to have included Sagan, who really blew my mind with some of those rides.

    Keep ’em coming!

  19. thom barry

    What a great recap of the year! Some of these mentioned above had slipped from my mind…

    Moments that stick for me: Powers crying after the win at nationals, Boonen raising four fingers for the camera, Vos soaking wet at the line, and those few moments in the tour when Froomy surged or seemed to lose the tempo at the tour – when the ‘metronome’ seemed to tick a little out of time and we glimpsed the turbulence under the seemingly placid waters at sky.

  20. Davy

    Vos and Boonen, for sure, but an honorable mention should go to the British Men’s Pursuit Team: their performance at the Olympics was simply amazing!

  21. grolby

    Yes, I think Vos needs to be mentioned. What a season. And off the back of once again dominating cyclocross as well. She’s possibly the most dominant cyclist in history.

    On the men’s side, I don’t really think there’s much competition with Boonen. Keep in mind that he did not win just the Flanders-Roubaix double but EVERY major cobbled race of the year. He was historically dominant on the pavé. And while Champs above suggests that his double, without Cancellara, was a “fait accompli,” I must beg to differ. One races against those who show up, and Boonen’s opposition were not pikers and these races are incredibly hard. It may have seemed otherwise after such a dominant spring, but Boonen had to deliver. After two and half seasons in the wilderness, too, it was a very impressive return to form.

    Another rider worth mentioning is Joaquin Rodriguez. I’m glad he was able to cap his season wth a big win in Lombardia, otherwise he would run the risk of having this season remembered, not for a run of extremely impressive, consistent results, but for having lost two different Grand Tours to two different riders.

  22. kevin

    Boonen at Paris Roubaix was by far the best ride. My daughter and I watched on Easter morning him ride 50k in the last hour by himself which was amazing!

  23. Dustin Judice

    For me, it is without a doubt Ryder Hesjedal and the Giro Vicotry. While Voeckler holds a place in my heart for showing such courage and bravery yet again the way Ryder rode and stuck it out was mesmerizing.

  24. Braze-on Dropout

    My favorite was Samu Sanchez winning Tour of the Basque country for home team Euskatel in the final stage time trial. He beat Tony Martin and Bauke Mollema in the TT, and Purito and Old Man Horner in the queen stage to Eibar-Arrate. There will be more non-Basques on Euskatel in the future, so maybe Samu’s win will help fans like me get used to the idea. The ProTour points system is tearing down borders. Bringing some outside talent in to fly the Basque colors might not be such a bad thing. I would have loved to see Friere in orange.

  25. Jesse

    Laura Trott. Two World Championships, two golds and a WR in the team pursuit. Watching her in the elimination race is as good as cycling ever gets.

  26. noel

    clearly Wiggo – all those days across the year under the pressure of being a race leader without losing his cool (well, ok…), leading out Cav on the Champs in yellow, and then nailing the Olympic gold in London…

  27. Paul

    Best single day has to be Boonen at Roubaix. A truly dominating performance. Second place to Contador for the way he turned the Vuelta upside down.

    Best overall season has to go to Wiggins for his utter dominance in major stage races, plus his Olympic gold medal.

  28. Tom in Albany

    Ryder’s is my #1. Tommeke rocked but, Cancellara down lessens it for me. Wiggo’s win with no Contador in the TdF also lessens that one for me. Contador’s Vuelta win was a great ride for sure. If he’d been racing all year and saved himself for the Vuelta, would it even have been close? Who knows.

    Ryder’s is #1 because we kept waiting for him to fall off in the climbs, he hung on – sometimes scratching and clawing while, at other times, surprising the supposed ‘real’ climbers. It was great strategy combined with great gut-check riding.

    My close 2nd is Tony Martin finally coming all the way back and winning the world TT championship after a horrible car-induced crash early in the year.

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