Those in the know shouldn’t be surprised that Cadel Evans commandingly leads every media poll I’ve checked for “Australia’s sports performance of the year.”
In a year when Samantha Stosur was crowned US Open Champion at Flushing Meadows, Sally Pearson blitzed the field in the hurdles at the World Athletics Championships in Daegu and Casey Stoner blew away all-comers in the MotoGP, Cadel’s heroics in France in July are, fittingly, deemed as the best of the lot.
Even the exploits of unbeaten mare Black Caviar can’t get a look-in. (How a race horse can make a poll for such a category is beyond me – but let’s leave that argument for Twitter.)
If the polls were conducted 10 years ago, perhaps it would have been a different outcome.
In the days when Robbie McEwen was regularly cleaning up as a multiple stage winner in each of the Grand Tours, or when Stuart O’Grady would complement his Tour de France stage victories with the wearing of the maillot jaune (the second Australian to do so behind Phil Anderson) professional cyclists hardly rated a murmur, let alone a nomination in a reader polls.
Chances are the honour for best sports performance would have gone to a member of the AFL, NRL or cricket fraternity.
Now cycling’s profile has been respected. And if the growth and progression of the sport’s recent past has thrilled us, we can only brace ourselves for more of the same in the immediate future.
It all starts with the men’s road race at the National Championships in Buninyong where up to 30 riders of the 149 expected to start on the tough Buninyong circuit on January 8, are European-based riders plying their trade in big team on the big roads of the UCI WorldTour.
What an endorsement to Aussie cycling that is in itself!
The intricacies in the lead-up to the six-day festival around Ballarat will be scrutinised in the coming days on this forum, but for now it’s a wonderful opportunity to reflect on a memorable 2011.
From Cadel’s brave achievements on the Col du Galibier, Alp d’Huez and Grenoble to the sensational efforts of Matt Goss at Milan-San Remo and the World Championships, it’s been one incredible ride.
Let’s not forget the likes of Jack Bobridge whose solo win on Buninyong last January, I personally rate, was one of the best individual performances of the year.
Cameron Meyer was brilliant at last year’s Tour Down Under, as was Mark Renshaw at the Tour of Qatar and Chris Sutton, who bagged a stage win at the Vuelta a Espana.
And of course we must acknowledge the efforts or the elite national track riders who dominated the UCI World Championships in The Netherlands.
From a personal point of view, I’m proud that all of the above were screened (either live or delayed) on SBS.
The Cycling Central team has also grown as a result. It’s an enthusiastic unit that lives and breathes cycling 365 days of the year.
On behalf of every member involved in the production of the website, the weekly Sunday afternoon TV instalment and the live coverage of major races throughout the year, we’ve loved every minute of it.
With the arrival of GreenEDGE and Cadel’s expected Tour de France defence in six months, there’s no doubt the new year is filled with optimism and excitement.
While some may view cycling’s international rise as an “overnight success” through Cadel, I’d like to think it’s been some 100 years in the making which started with Snowy Baker and Hubert Opperman a long time ago.
Join us in 2012 – you’ll regret it if you miss it.