Having presumptuously picked a title before he’d penned a word (other than those in the title), Anthony Tan attempts to find his ten best moments of this calendar year.
By
7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:38 PM

On Monday, Cycling Central online editor Phil Gomes emailed his coterie of columnists and asked for an 'EOY blog' from each of us.

I didn't know what EOY stood for and was too afraid to ask, not wishing to come across as an ignoramus in front of my peers. Thankfully, in the body of the RFB (that being 'request for blog'), the man endowed with a fierce physiognomy (that being Phil) articulated his thoughts further, saying: "I'm looking for end of year blogs, your best moments or worst, could be a list or it could also be just one thing about the season past that you'd like to expand on. Anything which stood out for you."

Well, Phil, what stands out is that it's been a bloody long year. Twelve months musing over USADA's reasoned decision tome and its subsequent fallout will do that to you.

There was no real seminal moment for me this year; more a heterogeneity of unrelated happenings that provided pause for thought. Some, I paused for a minute or two, others a lot longer.

Before I'd even scribed a sentence, I came up with the hard-hitting header '10 Takeouts From 2013' – entirely unsure whether I had ten things that piqued my interest but absolutely assured it was a catchy header and that, if you've got to this point of reading what is very likely my final blogpost of the year, you were doing very well. Or were very bored at work. Or it's the weekend. Or you are on holidays and your dog ate your book, thus leaving you no option but to read pithy articles with pithier substance on your (insert brand name here) tablet/smartphone because the hotel you are paying $350 a night to stay at has free WiFi and because you are paying $350 a night you need to use said free WiFi so you don't feel so ripped off.

1. Lance comes clean on Oprah
If we're going to get into semantics maybe it's more a case of 'less dirty' than coming clean, because I don't believe Tex told Oprah the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

But at least he finally admitted to taking drugs to fuel his once-decorated-now-butchered cycling career, which included a heady cocktail of EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone, cortisone, human growth hormone… yeah, LA went large. Booyah!

What I found strange was that, for many, Oprah appeared to have more credibility than USADA, because even after eleven former US Postal team-mates said he bought it, took it, transfused it, and condoned it (one of his former sponsors' catchphrases was 'Just Do It', after all), his brainwashed army of acolytes refused to believe it was so until he said it was so. Incredulously, even after The Confession, some of them still said he rode clean; that his hand was forced into admitting something he never did. And then those same sad souls saw a drove of pigs do a reverse one-and-a-half somersault with two-and-a-half twists before landing on their collective hiney, just because they could.

2. Gerald Ciolek wins San Remo
Until March 17 this year you'd be forgiven for not knowing who this man was, because after his time at T-Mobile and Milram from 2007-10 he'd fallen into obscurity during the two years at Quick Step that followed. MTN Qhubeka was looked at as a place of last resort, before fading into the sunset of retirement. But Ciolek cleaned up La Classicissima, the victory providing a fillip to a solid rest of the season. Aged just 27, you'd have to say he's by no means finished just yet. And this could well be the team that grooms the first black African to stand atop a Grand Tour podium, which, looking at how things are progressing in that neck of the woods, may not be that far away.

3. Porte sits pretty at Paris-Nice
Given the depth of Australian cycling and the achievements of its brethren, there's fewer and fewer events where, if you win, you can say you're the first and people actually notice. Richie Porte's triumph at Paris-Nice was one of those.

The way he won wasn't that spectacular – it was textbook Team Sky – but a few years from now nobody will give a stuff about that, because he will always be the first Aussie to win the Race to the Sun, and, if he continues on his current trajectory, he will have a Grand Tour victory to his name.

However, principally for two reasons, I'm not sure if it will be next year or the year after.

For the foreseeable future, Sky will always send their strongest to the Tour, and Porte has never gone into a Grand Tour as a leader; he's got loads of Grand Tour experience, but zero Grand Tour leadership experience, or at least not first-hand knowledge. Having worked under the tutelage of Contador, Wiggins and now Froome will go some way to redressing that imbalance, come next year's Giro d'Italia. Regardless, Cadel Evans can expect a fight.

4. La Doyenne conquered – by an Irishman?!

http://media.sbs.com.au/cyclingcentral/upload_media/7464_martin-500-getty.jpg

Up against Joaquim Rodríguez, Alejandro Valverde, Philippe Gilbert et al. the odds that Daniel Martin would win the toughest Ardennes classic appeared as likely as 'stopping the boats', but a combination of smart strategy and excellent execution saw just that. Martin winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège, that is.

In a breakthrough season, the iconoclastic Irishman also won the Volta a Catalunya and, in probably my favourite moment of the year, the ninth stage of the Tour de France to Bagnères-de-Bigorre, consequently turning the race, and for an all-too-brief moment, the otherwise infallible Team Sky, on its head. I'm unsure if he's a Grand Tour contender but unquestionably he's a winner and loves a big stage to strut his stuff.

5. OGE smash the TdF TTT

If I were being a little coy, I'd say Orica-GreenEDGE always had it in them to win the most coveted teams' prize (and I'm not talking the teams' classification – forget about that) at the Tour. They're the best of mates, on and off the tarmac; they've got a chemistry like no other; Whitey was back, etc, etc.

However, if I were being honest, I'd tell you that I had already raced over to the Omega Pharma-Quick Step bus and started interviewing the crew as if they'd won that day in Nice – without knowing if they actually had… which they hadn't – Doh!

I should have known, really, because the day before, on the final leg in Corsica, and like Garmin-Sharp did five days later en route Bagnères-de-Bigorre, they'd put all their eggs in one basket and used the entire team to successfully prosecute a victory for Simon Gerrans, who somehow beat Peter Sagan in a sprint finish. OGE was on a high, and with the maillot jaune in sight, the litter of larrikins rode a flawless twenty-five kilometres against the clock to quash the naysayers and give them a four-day spell in yellow.

Mission accomplished. They might as well have packed up after that and watched the rest of the Tour on the couch with a coldie in one hand and, er, well, another coldie in the other, laughing at the rest of the 200-odd mugs trying to do what they did, twice in two days.

6. Froome-dog howls home to Paris
All things being equal, Chris Froome can win the Tour for another five years. As Richie Porte bluntly said of his leader's adversaries late last month: "They're playing catch-up. They can't out-climb him, they can't out-time trial him."

I think Christian Prudhomme knows that, and has done what he can to give Froomey a fight (or should that be fright?) next July. Just one long ITT on the penultimate day so grimpeurs like Quintana are not demoralised, interspersed with short, sharp mountain stages like Stage 10 to La Planche des Belles Filles and Stages 17 and 18 to Pla d'Adet and Hautacam respectively – notwithstanding the cobbled fifth stage to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut, to precipitate more stages like the ninth leg of this year's Tour and put the F-Dawg and his litter on the ropes.

Problem is, the ruthless, calculating, marginal gains oriented odd couple of Dave Brailsford and Tim Kerrison have likely already developed an algorithm via the TSS (Team Sky Supercomputer) to deal with all that monsieur Prudhomme has dished out. So long as the man who Garmin-Sharp DS Charly Wegelius said has a pedalling panache so unsightly it is a "crime against cycling" stays healthy and upright, he'll be howling all the way to the bank. Not that you get much coin for winning arguably the hardest endurance race in the world.

7. #HowdidHornerdothat?
Vincenzo Nibali and Domenico Pozzovivo had ridden the Giro, Valverde, Rodríguez and Nicolas Roche the Tour. Aside from the Tour of Utah, Chris Horner hadn't raced since Tirreno-Adriatico in early March (his knees hurt or something). He was old (for a pro bike rider, anyway) but his legs and mind were fresh like the start of spring. Despite never having gone into a Grand Tour as a team leader, he would therefore win.

What the %^&!?

I still can't work out what floors me more – that in a highly competitive GC field, a 41, going on 42-year-old, won the third biggest stage race in the world. Or is it that the same old bald geezer they moniker 'The Redneck' still doh-nh-hav-no-jawb… Wat-de-hell-is-da-matta-wid-eew-God-damn-peoples?

Are you still wondering #HowdidHornerdidthat?

8. How to Lose the Worlds, an ongoing novel by A. Valverde

http://media.sbs.com.au/cyclingcentral/upload_media/1797_valverde-500-getty.jpg

He did it last year in Valkenburg when he told Oscar Freire that, if it looked like coming down to a sprint, he'd work for him. He didn't do that. But he finished third anyway.

This year, he told his team that he'd work for the best man on the day, whether it was he or not. He didn't do that, despite not being the best man. But he finished third anyway.

WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU, MAN?!

As far as I'm concerned, Alejandro 'I-had-nothing-to-do-with-Operación-Puerto-even-though-my-dog's-name-was-on-the-blood-bags' Valverde is lucky – very, very lucky – to be riding his pushy and getting paid for it. Post-suspension, one would think he should be doing everything he can to seek redemption. To prove he is a man of honour and integrity; that what he says is what he does – a man of his word.

Prediction: So long as Valverde is on the team, Spain will not win the world road championships.

9. Pat goes splat
I couldn't have handled another four years of the same. Well, I could have. But I would've needed to voluntarily suspend myself from working in cycling for a quadrennium and gone back to university to study psychology and anthropology, which I've been meaning to get around to sooner rather than later.

Yes, the electoral process and the way it was processed were utterly farcical and one day they might even make a movie out of it. Martin Sheen would play Hein Verbruggen, Philip Seymour Hoffman would be cast as Pat McQuaid, and Brian Cookson would be played by Gandalf, er, I mean Ian McKellen.

Seriously, I'm expecting big things from Cap'n Cookson, and so far, things look good. Investigating past practices at the UCI is important but I think we already know how that's going to turn out – same goes for an amnesty. Far more important is restoring cycling's credibility and helping to create a sustainable business model for teams, both men and women, so they can be viable concerns rather than ephemeral entities supported by billionaire businessmen.

10. Five years and counting at Cycling Central… Oh, Gawd!
Forgive the narcissism, but when I signed my first six-figure contract as a star columnist/analyst/antagonist for Cycling Central back in 2009, despite the lure of untold great wealth from the SBS coffers, I didn't expect to last very long.

I was certain that soon enough, my opinions would get me into trouble (they did, but not far enough to get me fired – yet); that the TMHC (TanMan Hate Club) would huff and puff and burn my house down (my peripatetic, bon vivant lifestyle means I'm always on the move and thus rarely locatable); and that Mike Tomalaris would tire of me and my antics, and, one day, at the height of his fever-pitched exasperation, would summon his not inconsiderable power to have me ousted from the building.

Yet, a lustrum on from my homey Gomey asking me to join the CC chain gang, I'm still here. Quite remarkable, really.

Monday, I'm off on my first holiday in five years to witness all the delights South America has to offer. The plan is to return, but the best laid plans of mice and men…

Have a splendid, safe Christmas and see y'all in the New Year. I have a feeling it'll be a good year in pro cycling, or at least better than the last twenty.