I promise you that this list is entirely my own, and I promise that you will disagree with me on some of these. I am perfectly ok with that. Really, what prompted me to write this is a love for the sport. Cycling is an absolutely beautiful sport, and I’m happy to relive some of the beautiful moments of the 2009 season.
The list in no real order…
Best Male Road Cyclist of 2009: Heinrich Haussler
The setting is early March at the Paris-Nice stage race, Cervelo has already put Thor Hushovd over the line first at one of the first semi-big early races at Het Nieuwsblad. To follow that up, Haussler wins stage 2 at Paris-Nice and people really begin to take notice of both him and his new team. Anyone who hadn’t noticed was about to get a facefull of this guy when he jumped out of the group at Milan San Remo. This is the first big race of the year and one of cycling’s “Monuments”. In what seemed like an attack from 2 lifetimes away from the line he drilled himself hoping to pull Hushovd to the line. Hushovd didn’t grab the wheel and we watched and waited while Heinrich looked back to see a hard charging Mark Cavendish. Cav would take the win ever so slightly, but Heinrich showed flashes of his future self. He would take second to win the bunch sprint at the Tour of Flanders by attacking from a long way out and wrapped up the Spring Classics with a 7th at Paris-Roubaix.
His crowning glory of 2009 came during Stage 13 of the Tour de France when he went with an early breakaway (5km into 200km) and stayed away, riding to the line solo with 4 minutes over the 2nd place finisher.
The only flaw I can see is his habit of looking behind when he attacks at the end of a race. If he hadn’t looked back I think he might have held off Cav at San Remo. I have money on Heinrich winning a major Classic next spring!
Best Stage Race of 2009: Giro d’Italia
It would have to be a Grand Tour, and it would have to be dramatic. I want the drama on the road, and not in the press, that is why I had to go with the Giro. It was a great tour, it had a beautiful route and an insane Time Trial that we could only expect from those crazy Italian race organizers. The racing was tight, but Menchov defended his jersey from every attack DiLuca could throw at him. His ability to save the Giro after falling in the final Time Trial could not be applauded more. Other memorable parts of the Giro were the return of Lance to grand tour racing and watching Chris Horner climb with a smile on his face and more speed than he’s ever shown before, at age 38!
Female Track Cyclist of the Year: Sarah Hammer
I was ever so close to selecting Paralympic Cyclist Sarah Storey after she rode a 3:34 3km Pursuit at Para-Worlds after only being a cyclist since 2005. However, Sarah Hammer has had 2 rides in the 2009-2010 season that point to her returning to the absolute pinnacle of female pursuiting. The first was a track record 3:31 to win USAC Elite Track Nationals. 3:31 isn’t anything special when compared to the elite of elite times, but at the track in LA, 3:31 is blazing. Sarah also won the Points race at Nats by taking a lap, no big deal.
Her performance that has the rest of the track world talking is the 3:27.5 she rode at the Cali, Colombia World Cup. It’s the 3rd fastest Pursuit ever, and the best performance since the 2004 Olympics. My bet is on her to win another World Championship and attempt to build a Pursuit Team for the Olympics.
Gutsiest Ride of 2009: Thor Hushovd
Stage 17 of the Tour de France, in the mountains, solo attack to take Sprint points to legitimize his green jersey after a dispute with Cavendish. It really needs no explanation. A sprinter attacked in the mountains to get his sprint points, freaking gutsy.
Female Road Racer of the Year: Kristin Armstrong
I know it’s another Cervelo rider, but she was a one woman wrecking machine. She won stage races at will and without teammates. She capped off her career by winning another World Championship Time Trial in dominant style, nearly a minute up on the next best woman.
Male Track Cyclist of the Year: Cameron Meyer
The Aussie is aggressive and likes to take laps or take Points out of breakaways, not unlike a certain Spaniard that won a pair of Gold medals in the Points Races at the Athens and Beijing Olympics. While Meyer isn’t quite as strong in his attacks as Llaneras was, he is only 21 and won the Points World Championship this year. He has a recent World Cup victory to his name and is looking prime for another shot at Worlds in March. Don’t look now, but he also a promising roadie.
Time Trialist of the Year:
I almost did not include this category because it should be obvious. Then I was reminded of the Anency Time Trial in the Tour de France, you remember that one where Contador beat Fabian Cancellara. Well, Cancellara went to the Time Trial World Championships and rode with a vengeance to crush all challengers, he was fastest through every time split and finished the race so far ahead of second place that calling it a “race” is almost unfair, he had enough time to raise his arms coming into the finish.
Pickup of the Year: Coryn Rivera to Proman
Who and what team? Rivera is 17, has won 25 Junior National Championships, has won an NRC race on Jr gears, and qualified and raced in the Scratch Race final at her first Elite Track Cycling World Cup. Proman Women’s Cycling Team is the only UCI registered women’s track team, they also have an elite women’s road team. The story goes like this: Sometime in April the Metro VW Team went down the gutter leaving a lot of riders stranded. Proman swooped in and snatched up Coryn. It’s the best pickup any team made all year.
Young Rider of the Year: Andy Schleck
First at Liege, solo. Second at the Tour. A whole slew of other wins and Podiums. Andy can ride a bike for one day and he can ride a bike for 21 days. This is a new skill not recently seen. The Radio Shack/Astana/Discovery/Postal team model was and is to prepare one rider to win in July at the Tour. The classics were never of importance, but Andy has proven he can do both. Look for him to win a tour in the near future. I’m keen to see a 4 way battle between the top 4 next year at the Tour. The only question about Andy is if he can learn to Time Trial, but if he can attack solo I think he should be able to develop his skills against the clock.
Breakout of the Year: Brad Wiggins
This guy has 3 Olympic Gold Medals and 6 World Championships, but all on the track. The modern cycling community does not care about this, does not care about the track, and has considered Wiggins a has-been. They did until he went to the Tour de France and finished 4th. I have to admit that I did not expect him to do that well in a grand tour. I thought he’d make a good Time Trialist and Classics racer if he focused on the road, but he lost 20 pounds and learned how to climb. Brad will be riding with Team Sky next year which is structured similar to the Great Britain Track program which turned him into a track monster. It will be interesting if they can do the same with him on the road.