After a year dominated by issues of governance and the related legacy of Lance Armstrong I’m looking forward to a 2013 road season that will hopefully be focused on racing.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:37 PM

Of course we'll still be hearing about these long-running issues because there has been no closure. The International Cycling Union (UCI) remains the subject of an independent investigation into its conduct during the Armstrong years, and the man himself still faces a reckoning of sorts.

Unfortunately, real closure may not come until there is a change in the conduct and transparency of the UCI and a mea culpa by Armstrong.

But cycling is not alone in its dysfunction. As the great American sportswriter, Dave Zirin, pointed out in a recent blog post, "The sports page has now become an unsettling funhouse mirror reflection of the chaos and heartbreak that now appears regularly on the front page".

However, judging by the number of riders who won 2012 awards as the best sportsmen in their respective countries, cycling does retain a measure of respect.

Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins won the BBC's coveted Sports Personality Of The Year award, Tom Boonen was voted Belgian Sportsman Of The Year for the third time and incredibly, Ryder Hesjedal became the first cyclist to be named Canadian Press male athlete of the year, winning the Lionel Conacher Award for his Giro d'Italia exploits. All of this in an Olympic year.

So despite the pressing issues dogging cycling there is reason for optimism heading into 2013.

Traditionally a new year brings a resolve to do better, and the oft-maligned UCI did announce prize-money parity for women's races at close of 2012 business.

Women's road cycling remains many years behind in achieving true equality with the men, but this single step sets the tone for a new era. Now all that's necessary is for race directors to follow the UCI's lead and implement similar signs of progress.

What follows will be a greater degree of competitive balance and depth. Right now Marianne Vos is head-and-shoulders above the rest, but her excellence is a pull factor for the rest of the women's peloton. Improved financial prospects will also be the competitive driver for many to make a full-time job at professional cycling a real choice. Here, the UCI is on the right side of history.

Of course it's hard to see progress when the weight of history is so present, and though omertà still exists in men's professional road cycling there is increasing peer pressure on the doping front as some riders (new and old) commit to a better way of doing business. The first step was to break the corrosive solidarity that existed; with the combined efforts of several investigations appearing to have done just that. If 2012 was arguably the cleanest season in decades then it should follow that 2013 will be better still.

On the road we are looking at an embarrassment of riches in both the Grand Tour and sprint disciplines.

The Giro d'Italia, Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana will have a full complement of contenders racing next season, which promises some mouth-watering battles, particularly at the Tour.

Barring injury, Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff), Bradley Wiggins (Sky), Chris Froome (Sky), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol), Cadel Evans (BMC), Tejay Van Garderen (BMC), Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp), Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Trek) and Robert Gesink (Blanco) form a strong cohort of riders who can win at least one of the three-week events.

Similarly I don't think there has been a better crop of sprinters in the peloton in a long time, most at their peak or reaching it.

Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) leads the pack along with Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol). Orica-GreenEDGE's Matt Goss will be looking to regain his 2011 form and fight for the green jersey at the Tour de France. The deadly duo at Argos-Shimano, Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb, will compete in the full complement of WorldTour events for the first time, regularly going head-to-head with the best.

Elia Viviani (Cannondale), Francisco Ventoso (Movistar), JJ Rojas (Movistar), Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Mark Renshaw (Blanco) will all be in the mix as the season progresses.

Then there is also the younger crop of sprinters ready to make its mark, among the group Australia's Steele Von Hoff (Garmin-Sharp) and Italian Andrea Guardini (Astana), both exciting talents.

And of course there is the one rider who stands out as a force of nature in professional cycling, Peter Sagan. His 2012 season palmares is one any rider would love to have at the end of a long career.

Debate has raged about Sagan's potential and his 2012 season did nothing to hose down the expectation. Can he win a Grand Tour? How many classics? Will he win everything? Is he the best since Eddy Merckx?

With his versatility Sagan's career remains an unfinished work. The irrepressible 22-year-old Slovakian did more than could have been expected for a rider of his tender years and for me he remains the single best reason to follow professional cycling in 2013.

Let's sit back and enjoy.