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Letters to cyclingnews special edition
"Gobsmackingly Brilliant" rides of 2000
David Voller of Sweden started it with a short letter asking which 2000 performances people found most inspiring. It's been a hugely popular topic, so we're giving it its own section, and this is the third page. We have decided to close the nominations now, instead allowing readers to vote for the 15 most popular rides (and win a prize in doing so). The nominations/voting page can now be found here.
Although Museeuw, Tafi, Armstrong, Ullrich, Dekker and others all produced great memorable rides, there's no doubt in my mind, that Oscar Freire is the greatest sensation of this season.
He faced the toughest odds possible being a third year pro with no memorable results apart from the rainbow jersey. And as if that wasn't enough, he was injured most of the season and only managed to sit on the bike for 55 races.
And still he managed to win 10 victories. I mean; what rainbow jersey last managed to do that ?
Vote early, vote often
I specially remember these performances of 2000 :
Jose M Peña
Van Moorsel, Museeuw, Armstrong
1 Leontien van Moorsel in the Olympics. The best cycling performance in the modern history of the Olympics.
2 Johan Museeuw's win at Roubaix. From near death to total domination.
3 Lance Armstrong on Hautacam. The best ride by the best rider in the best race.
David R Wooten, Jr
1 Javier Otxoa Palacios. Whether Lance Armstrong 'gave' it to him or not, the way in which the young Spanish climber won one of the most challenging Tour de France stages was fabulous. Attacking almost the entire stage, with a lot of help by surprising Belgian Nico Mattan, and coming through first on the Marie-Blanque, Aubisque and Soulor and finally Hautacam is heroic! In general, the performances by the Kelme-team in Giro, Tour and Vuelta are remarkable. Santiago Botero Echeverry's Tour de France was quite impressive, and Sevilla in the Vuelta gave us a hindsight to what we can expect from him the coming years. And Heras, well, he was simply the best Grand Tour-rider this season.
2 Francesco Casagrande. He rode a superb season. His best day certainly was the Giro-stage to Abetone. Fantastic! Killing 'em all on the climb and then perhaps the best descent we have seen this season. Very spectacular.
3 Andrei Zintchenko. For as long as I can remember a Portuguese team is allowed to start in the Vuelta. A very nice habit of the organisers. I think (but am not sure) that in recent cycling history only once a member of a Portuguese team has won a stage. Until Russian phenomenon Andrei Zintchenko. And he didn't win just a stage, but Lagos de Covandonga. Great cycling.
4 Victor Hugo Peña Grisales. I think it is quite a historic achievement if a Colombian wins a time trial on a track that is as flat as a snooker table. The fact that Vitalicio seguros riders won all time trials in the Giro is also worth mentioning. What a shame that this always exciting team (in stage races) disappears.
5 How come nobody mentions Oscar Freire Gómez? He is probably the most succesful world champion since Greg Lemond. He is still very young, wins a lot and has showed in both the classics and the Vuelta that he is a rider from whom we can expect quite a lot the coming years. It's just that he should have chosen another team.
6 It wasn't very much in the classics this year. Only one World Cup comes to my mind, and that is the Tour of Flanders. In a typical Tchmil-way the Belgian-Russian-Ukrainian-Moldavian veteran rushed towards the finish. It reminded me of the way he once won the (I think) E-3 Prijs, when Ekimov simply couldn't keep his wheel.
7 Andreas Klöden. His wins in Paris-Nice and The Vuelta al País Vasco put him on the map as a tough competitor in the more demanding stage races. Unfortunately he wasn't able to show something in the Grand Tours.
8 Piot Wadecki. Being a member of a very small Polish second class team and becoming 42 on the World ranking is fantastic. Winning the Tour of Poland against all strong first class teams shows why. And the Olympic Games when we was one of the first attackers and still finished in front were also remarkable. In fact, how would the World's have ended without the Poles?
9 Last but certainly not least: Erik Zabel. He was simply the most consistent and thus best rider this season. A cycling season runs from January until November, and no one did as good as he did during that period. Wins in Milano-San Remo and the Amstel Gold, 4th in Vlaanderen and 3rd in Roubaix tells that he had a formidable early season. Winning his fifth consecutive (!!!) green jersey was perhaps even better, and yes, this time he did win a stage. By the way, Romans Vainsteins is a good second in this category and his world title a justified finish of a great and consistent season.
Museeuw & Merckx
A tie - just like Florida - between my main man Johan M's massive Paris-Roubaix and Axel M's stage win in the Giro. Since both chads have been punched I guess I'm disqualified!
Van Moorsel and Pezzo
Olympic Road Events: Van Moorsel. Simply a dominating performance.
Olympic Mountain Bike Events: Paola Pezzo. Maximum focus.
Henk Vogel's First Union USPRO championship ride, hands down. With
less than 3k left in the 250 k race, Vogel makes a couple aborted stabs
at getting away from a final group that includes America's two best
road sprinters, George Hincappie and Fred Rodriguez. Each time he is
quickly brought back.
Then out of the blue the rest are coming back. Vogels glances over his shoulder and sees the jig is up. He sits up, looking fried. Flash forward to 1,500 meter to go. Rodriguez and Hincappie are watching each other as the line draw near. BANG, an attack from the rear. It's, it's, YIKES, it's Vogels back from the dead. The group hesitates. You know the rest.
No one seems to have mentioned Marty Nothstein's performance in the match sprint at Sydney. After a four year wait following his narrow defeat at the hands (or should I say legs?) of Fiedler, Marty came back to qualify first and dominate every opponent on his way to winning the gold medal, without losing a single ride. Deserves a vote at least, I'd say...
Christopher Moyer (0 and 1 in the match sprint against Marty in my
Virenque! Virenque! Virenque!
ALLEZ Richard! How could anyone forget Virenque's win in Morzine! That was pure class how he dropped everyone bar Heras on the Joux Plane, it was the only time in the entire Tour someone put Armstrong in difficulty.
There is only one who in my opinion showed strength and determination beyond most others that being the Johan 'The Lion of Flanders' coming back to lay his ghosts to rest in 2000!
Tchmil, Tafi, Ullrich, Zabel
Ken Muhindi of Kenya. For getting out there and riding, for attempting something that people said he couldn't do, and for giving another non-mountain biking country a taste of the good life!
Pantani - Saabsmackingly Brilliant
Marco Pantani showed a preview of things to come earlier this year with two different traffic accidents, but who would have guessed that he would reach such a level of driving ability as he showed in early November? To hit eight cars within one hour, avoid a breath test and walk away without any serious punishment or jail time is certainly unprecedented in the professional peloton. When you consider his level of distraction and the one-way street, it makes you wonder what he could achieve if he really put his whole effort into it.
For road performances on BICYCLES, my favorites include:
1 Armstrong's climb to Hautacam
Museeuw - Paris-Roubaix.
Vainsteins and Wesemann
Vainsteins for his glorious und invisible big "hit" at Plouay. Shaming all the other great favorites he was not seen for nearly the whole race, but when it comes to the line he was the man. The tears at the podium were so sympathetic. He deserves the win for being so often first loser as second man at the line. And my second favorite is Steffen Wesemann for climbing the Muur van Geraadsbergen shocking the big Museeuw at Flandern. Tchmil can't be stopped but this ride of Wesemann was so exciting. He can be the man for next years classics. Look at him.
1. McGrory and Aitken at the Sydney Olympics, winning Gold in their homeland in the inaugural Olympic Madison. It was an amazing display of courage, speed, strategy and good fortune (and a million other things) that propelled them atop the victors' podium. To have been witness to that performance left me without words. The way that those two guys executed their race tactics was textbook. To know what those guys went through this year and to then perform the way that they did in Sydney, WOW!
2. This one is somewhat self-serving, but none-the-less exciting. Gary Neiwand's campaign in the Keirin at those same Games. He was definitely the underdog going in (not even expected to compete until Hilly stepped aside - probably the greatest move Hilly has ever made, on or off the bike - good on ya', mate!), but his performance throughout the day served notice that he was going to be the man to beat. And, he didn't disappoint. He controlled the final like the true champion that he is, only to have the race not pan out in his favour as he had to take the lead too early for those 'old-timer' legs. As he rounded the final bend, still in the lead, all the determination and grit of his 25 year career was on display for everyone to see. He just didn't have enough 'Gaz' to make it across the line first - that elusive Olympic Gold still one step away on the podium. Three medals in three different Olympic Games - sounds familiar!!
3. The sub-four minute Team Pursuit in the Olympic Finals by the Germans.
Being track-side for these three events was an unbelievable experience. I have to imagine that TV did not do these events justice.
(Curt Harnett's medal tally includes 3 Olympic medals (2 bronze 1 silver), 2 world championship silvers 2 Commonwealth silver and the a still-unbeaten world record which, he says "still gets me on the start sheet!" h ereckons the Olympics included some of the best racing ever, and with those qualifications we believe him.)
Lister and Garzelli
Trevor Lister's ride at the Gateway Cup. Why? He's the man - what guts!!
Garzelli's Giro. What a young man with a lot of class. The way he rode in that final time trial to defeat Casagrande was unbelievable and so unexpected. I'll be watching him next year on Mapei.
Without a doubt, Tchmil at Flanders. Old Johan won Roubaix because he had the team, Tchmil had himself the previous week.
So many great races are worth noting: Of course Zabel's World Cup and Green jersey campaigns, Museeuw's awesome Roubaix and embarrasing motorcycle crash, McKenzie's & Merckx's Giro victories, Triple Dekker + San Sebastian, Armstrong (of course), the Olympics...er, Van Moorsel's Olympics...a few other notables were in Sydney, too, Tafi's "in your face" Paris-Tours, Petrov's absolute dominance at Worlds.... But, I'm shocked to see that I'm the only fanatic out there that thinks Stefano Garzelli's Giro victory is worthy of praise!! His ruthless time trial attack on Casagrande at Sestriere is great story material for years to come! I think next year's battle at the Giro will be much more exciting compared to who's going to win the Tour. After Armstrong & Ullrich get done with the Tour, everyone else will be fighting for the scraps. BUT, who will take the 2001 Giro? Casagrande, Pantani, Garzelli will definitely be ready for battle. Will there be a new comer? Garzelli gets my vote for ride of the year.
Museeuw and Tchmil and more
a Museeuw, Paris-Roubaix. Impossible. Not.
The best cyclist of 2000 has been Oscar Freire! Nine wins (two stages in Vuelta); bronze in Plouay (great race of Spanish team!) ;third In San Remo... and many injuries in this year. So VIVA OSCAR FREIRE
Nacho del Piñal
The man of the year is Erik Zabel. He booked 19 (in words: nineteen!) UCI wins, including 2 WC races, the overall World Cup, and a stage of the TdF. Don't forget the green jersey for the fifth time in a row. Winning races from January (Tour Down Under stage) to November (Six Days in Dortmund) is absolutely gobsmackingly brilliant !
Best rider of 2000? That could only be Francesco Casagrande, being the only rider excellent in grand tours and the classics.
E H Elzinga
I really tried to pick one, but it is absolutely impossible! My personal favorites: Lance at The Tour overall, especially Hautacam. Millar's prologue. The Spanish climbers. Tyler and Kevin's commitment to Lance.
Marty Nothstein, winning the only gold for the USA in the Olympics, qualifying first, then beating all comers on his way, undefeated to the gold medal, an incredible display or will, power, and determination to come back from the silver medal in 1996, even the class of the worlds best sprinters said he was untouchable. Thank you
Leontien Zijlaard (Van Moorsel)
Who else has achieved more than her?
But the best was the toughest: Tchmil - now that's how to ride a bike.
I agree with most everything written so far so I decided to include one not mentioned yet. I was a big fan of David McKenzie's stage win in the Giro this year. The typical laughed-at "suicide break", a la Jacky Durand. But he pulled it off, got the publicity for his team, and lots of well deserved praise. And all without meat! Even better!
Another pack of faves
But the Best Ride is:
I think the mountain guys of the Kelme team made the season for me. Threatening everybody with their attacking on all the major climbs in France and Spain they turned the races into an action sport where you hardly had the time to take a nap on the long days. I'm sorry to hear that the team are falling apart but I'm sure they will find some new ones to replace the guys going for the money.
Bo Fibæk Sørensen
Tchmil at Flanders - simply classic !
When he won the Worlds, everybody said "Who?" and wondered what this nobody was doing there on the highest spot of the stage. Well, he really showed us this year what he was made of. And I truly hope he will continue to do so! I have followed him from the moment he finished second at the under 23 in San Sebastian and I sure he is capable of a lot more.
Marieke van Steijn
I know he didn't win anything that day, but to see Stu O'Grady get back on his bike and ride 80km+ on a broken collarbone (breaking it in two more places in the process) in the TdF shows some serious determination. Watch out for him next year.
David Millar surely has to get the gutsiest rider award. Anyone who has ever raced will know how mentally and physically hard a solo break is, and to hold one for 164km - his mental attitude is an inspiration to anyone.
And Leontien (sp?) Van Moorsel/Zijlaard at the Olympics - to pull off gold in two separate disciplines has not been widely enough recognised. It's a pity she didn't have a crack at the mountain bikes too!
Simon van der Aa
Casagrande, period. Unlike the rest of the rides listed here, Casagrande's ride started in March with the KOM at Paris-Nice and went all the way to the final sprint for victory at Lombardia.... and he performed throughout. In this day and age of keying on one or two races a year who else has had a ride like that recently?
For me the best cyclist the Belgian Nico Mattan of the French Team Cofidis. He was good on the one day races and rode a great Tour. When he didn't have to help his captain and friend Frank Vandenbroucke he showed what a good rider he is.
Without any doubt, Lance at Hautacam!
Armstrong at Hautacam; Museeuw at Roubaix; Tchmil at Flanders; all incredible, but all more or less the kind of excitement we expect from these champions. Most gobsmackingly brilliant ride of 2000? Leontien at Sydney was good, but it was a series of rides, not one ride in particular. My choice is Dufaux at Zurich. World Cup race, possibly the highest calibre breakaway in the history of the sport (a virtual rainbow jersey winners' reunion with the world number one and the TdF first and second place holders thrown in for good measure), and the man who has been down and out since the scandals of '98 wins it all in a brilliant tactical sprint! How does it get any better than that?
Casagrande was the rider of the year. From Fleche all the way into late September, which is the mark of a true champion. Think how much more respect he would have if all those world cup second places and the Giro had been wins! He could have reasonably won the world cup if things had been different earlier in the season. It's been a long time since someone has had a palmares like that. And now under Ferretti's wing he will do even better next year, but will probably be overshadowed by Bartoli.