Ten riders and moments that defined the 2009 season

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1. Denis Menchov falling, getting up, and going on to win the the final time trial and the overall at the Giro. Every Italian watching him was willing him to hit the deck on the wet streets of Milan, and give Di Luca the only chance he had for victory. What was amazing was that while Menchov was sliding along the street he was still trying to grab his bike and get back up. He crossed the line with time to spare, and the Ice Man melted to reveal a fist-pumping crazy horse hero! Emotion rarely seen at the end of a bike race.

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2. The Milan San Remo finish. I was screaming at the TV and I didn’t know for which rider. Cav got himself over the Poggio with the help of  George, and into the final mix. Haussler came up the line so fast no one could take his wheel, and he went seven lengths clear. It wasn’t the final throw for the line, which is being called the sprint of the decade and a win that came down to millimeters, that was incredible, but the scenes after the riders crossed the line. We have access in our sport to the athletes in the moment of victory, or in this case crushing defeat, that no other sport can deliver. The shot above is Heinrich Haussler lying on the ground after finding out he has lost MSR by 1cm. Crushed.

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3. Ireland had waited 17 years for another Grand Tour stage win, and it came on a shitty Irish weather day. Philip Deignan refused Roman Kreuziger’s supposed offer of money in the last 2km to give up the win on stage 18 of the Vuelta. His response, “get stuffed”, and a killer sprint to take the win.

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4. Jens Voigt’s crash on the descent of the Petit-Saint-Bernard. I had tears in my eyes. It didn’t look good. I hate to see riders wipe out like that, but you know when Jens Voigt stays down it is going to be serious. We all know how hard a rider he is, so when he doesn’t get up……I will be looking forward to his comeback this year, because this is not how a rider of his caliber should leave the sport.

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5. Bradley Wiggins did what we all hoped he would do. Took that superior speed and engine from the track to the road, and turned himself into a serious GC rider. Watching him on The Ventoux bury himself to hold his position on the overall was what this sport is all about. Absolutely buried himself, one of the rides of the year. Now let’s go one better in 2010.

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6. Johnny Hoogerland of Vacansoleil. The beauty of a wildcard slot is that a team and its riders know that this might be the best and only chance for them to make a name for themselves. Get noticed in the public eye. Impress the sponsors and make them want to keep investing. Every break that went up the road in the Veulta seemed to have the name Johnny Hoogerland on the screen. It was amazing to see him hang on the back of the break on Stage 21 and just gut it out. This guy is value for money and never gives in. A Pro Tour team has to pick him up? A fans’ rider. The sort of guy you want to ride up to Nyack with on Sunday.

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7. Heinrich Haussler on Stage 13 of the Tour. The riders were greeted by a wet and miserable day, one made for Mr. Haussler, who openly admits to loving to race in these conditions. He went away early on the roads he trains on and eventually rode Sylvain Chavanel off his wheel (not an easy thing to do) on a descent to finish by himself with a 4-minute gap and a break that lasted for 197km. On crossing the line, it was obvious what the victory meant to him. The biggest win of his career, and a little bit of make-up for coming so close at MSR. A rider not afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve (well, arm warmers then). Love this rider.

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8. A sprinter steals the headlines on the Queen mountain stage of the Tour. Thor Hushovd, spurred on by the big-mouth comments of Mark Cavendish, went off the front on a very tricky descent, to show that it takes more than big thighs and an attitude to win the Green Jersey. It was strange to see the Green Jersey lead the field over two Cat 1 climbs and a Cat 2, holding time, then using his amazing bike handling skills to gain more time going downhill. Green Jersey in the bag, “unstained”, thank you very much. An amazing solo effort, a classy rider and a gent.

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9. Wait, Valverde is on the start list? Banned from the Giro. Banned from the Tour. Well, I guess you get to ride your home Tour, right? Valverde gets to ride the Vuelta and is gifted it by a messed-up wheel change for Cadel Evans. Now that is a tainted win. All but 23 seconds of his winning margin were gained on that wheel change. No gentleman’s rules here, Basso and Valverde go straight to the front and hammer it on the descent to gain as much time as possible on Evans. Well that is one way to kill off your biggest threat. That look that Cadel gave to the camera, “Man! Do you #@*%ing believe this shit”. No Cadel ,we don’t, but the World’s helped us get over it a little bit. Now just what was the nationality of that neutral service mechanic, and is he still employed?

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10. Russell Downing winning the Tour Of Ireland. A rider who I have watched for years and seen never really get the recognition or chances he deserves. Well this year sees the new British Sky Pro Tour team began, and if there was ever going to be a chance for him to move up, this was it. But to do that he had to earn it, he needed a big result against a quality field. Even a Saxo Bank or Columbia B-Team would be considered serious competition in most races, but there was no B-Team in the Tour Of Ireland. Downing didn’t really have a team of his own to protect him, which meant this win was that bit even more impressive. Using his head, legs and bike handling skills he killed them all off on St Patricks hill in Cork, in terrilble conditions. On a day when most of the “names” pulled out due to the weather, or partying too hard with U2 in Glasgow.

Categories: Classic / Riders

Comments
  1. Awesome complilation!!! Also awesome that the Cervelo Test Team got 4 of the 10 best moments!

    Brian
  2. How did David Millar’s ride into Barcelona in the TdF not make this list?! Sure, he came up short, but tell me you weren’t yelling at the TV as the field came up to him in the final km.

    Wai
  3. great read – well done! would like your predictions for 2010 – should be a good one!

    mwallace
  4. Yeah it was hard to hold out Dave. Especially reading the interview with him where he describes riding into Barca solo. Goosebumps. But man, who would I have left out!?! If he had got the win, it would have been number 1.

    cbrady
  5. Very good set, 2010 is going to be amazing.

    Paul
  6. Hoogerland and Vacansoleil were the highlight of 2009 for me, just went we think the season is over they came in just barging everything. I thought for sure he’d get picked up after the Worlds, but thankfully instead V-sol just deepened their roster. Personally, I can’t wait to see what they do in ’10.

    Also the Boom switch was a pretty big one for me as well.

    Thanks for putting this together, you make it look way easier than it really is.

    J$
  7. Vacansoleil were such a breath of fresh air. Getting on the podium at the Tour of Belgium and Paris Tours, and then their ride in the Vuelta. Pretty amazing. I am glad to hear the sponsor has stepped up for next year and they got their license again. Likewise, looking forward o seeing them mix it up again.

    cbrady
  8. Great list! Like Wai, I would have included Millar in Barcelona, but reading yours, you got it spot on. I didn’t know Deignan turned down cash for the win – chapeau to him.

    j maurice
  9. Valverde is a wheelsucker, remember the last km of the world champion ships.

    Stefan
  10. Good read. But Menchov crashed in Rome, not Milan.

    phil
  11. Number 7 is my favourite… it reflects that these guys, despite their preparation, despite the special paste they are made of… they are humans…

    I had some tears in my eyes when I saw Heinrich wining that stage… my favourite os 2009 season.

    Regards

    Sergio

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