The Story – Chris Froome scrutiny
British Tour de France champion Chris Froome (Sky) has been the subject of ceaseless innuendo and questioning over the legitimacy of his performances. After the Tour, it led to him releasing comparative physiological data to Esquire magazine for publication.
The data was from 2007, when he rode at the UCI’s World Cycling Centre, and independent tests taken in the GSK Human Performance Lab in London in August.
Froome also released data from two unannounced blood tests for his athlete biological passport – one taken during the Tour on July 13, the day before his stage-10 win to La Pierre Saint-Martin; the other on August 20, the day after his independent tests in London. The move was praised by some, but met with scepticism from others.
The Issue – Rider safety
Cycling is dangerous enough without vehicles heightening the risks. A neutral service car at the Tour of Flanders took out New Zealand’s Jesse Sergent (Trek), while another forced Frenchman Sebastien Chavanel (FDJ) to crash after it collided with his team car.
At the Tour de France, Dane Jacob Fuglsang (Astana) was struck by a motorbike while in the winning break. Then at the Clasica San Sebastian the hopes of Belgian Greg van Avermaet (BMC) were dashed by a motorbike on the last climb.
At the Vuelta a Espana, and in separate incidents, motorbikes sidelined Slovakian Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Portugal’s Sergio Paulinho (Tinkoff-Saxo). Riders didn’t always help their cause though; well, at least those 30 or so who illegally ducked a barrier as a TGV neared with 90 kilometres left in April’s Paris-Roubaix.
The Stars – Peter Sagan and Lizzie Armitstead
The flamboyant Slovakian Peter Sagan claimed overall victory and two stage wins in the Tour of California, then two stages in the Tour de Suisse and the Slovakian road title and in September won the world road race title at Richmond in the US.
His aggressive racing in the Tour de France led to him winning the green points jersey and claim five of his 18 second places for the year.
Meanwhile, Great Britain’s Lizzie Armitstead made the podium 15 times and for nine wins, including the world road title. She also won the World Cup series for a second year in a row (winning three races) and the British road title.
The Controversy – Gerrans v Matthews
The straining of relations between Orica-GreenEDGE teammates Simon Gerrans and Michael Matthews was exposed in the world road race championships when riding for the Australian team.
After Matthews placed second and lamented that he had only three riders from nine helping him, sixth-placed Gerrans said it was agreed before the race that both riders would chance their arm for the win. Rights and wrongs aside, the issue confirmed that while they may be teammates, they are hardly the best of mates.
“I don’t think I deserve to be punched just for doing my job.”
– Australian Richie Porte (then Sky) after placing second on stage 10 of the Tour de France, 167km from Tarbes to La Pierre-Saint Martin in the Pyrenees. He was punched by a spectator with three kilometres left on the 15km climb to the finish.
The Social Media Storm – Lance Armstrong’s Tour de France return
Armstrong bombing the Tour de France as part of a charity ride led and organised by former England footballer Geoff Thomas. Armstrong, who is serving a life ban for doping, joined it to ride over two of Tour de France stage routes 24 hours ahead of the race with them. Armstrong’s participation sparked much debate – most of it in protest, including from Union Cycliste Internationale president Brian Cookson. As with most things Armstrong, social media reaction was huge.
The Ride – Fabio Aru at the Vuelta a Espana
The stage-20 ride in the Vuelta a Espana by Italian Fabio Aru (Astana) to drop and overhaul Dutchman Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) and take the overall lead set him up for overall victory. He didn’t win the stage but his move to gain time smacked of the assuredness he lacked at the Giro d’Italia until responding to a smack down from Spanish winner Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) with back-to-back wins in the mountains on stages 19 and 20 to secure second place overall. Big tilt of the lid to Drew Ginn, for his Australian 24-hour record ride of 836.36km on Melbourne’s Brunswick velodrome in November.
The Race – Ghent-Wevelgem
Many cite the Belgian Ghent-Wevelgem one-day classic on March 31 that was held in brutal conditions – rain and wind that blew many off their bikes and into ditches. It still ended with a gripping battle involving a decisive seven-rider break that saw Italian Luca Paolini (Katusha) win by 11 seconds. That nine months later it is still so fresh in so many minds says something about its impact.
The Flop – Marcel Kittel
The German sprinter began the year at the Tour Down Under as the sprinter to beat, but by the end of the season he had barely raced. His best result was a stage win in the Tour of Poland. The heart of the problem, it was said, was a mystery virus. But when he said he was well and ready for the Tour de France, his Giant-Alpecin team felt otherwise. Next year, Kittel will race with the Belgian Etixx-QuickStep team.
A prediction for 2016 – Chris Froome not to win Tour de France
Colombian Nairo Quintana (Movistar) will show he has learnt from waiting too long to play a winning hand against Chris Froome in the Tour de France and claim his first title. Peter Sagan will win Milan-San Remo for the first time. Thinking of Rio Olympics … for Australia, 11 times world track champion Anna Meares to win gold in the sprint or keirin (or even both) in her fourth Games; as too will Caroline Buchanan in BMX.
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