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 popular topic, so we're giving it its own section, and we'll continue to add to it as long as you continue to have opinions.
Regular letters are here.
Moorsel and others
My favorite performances, in order:
1 Moorsel's domination in the Olympics, road, track, and time trial.
2 Zabel's 6-day results. This is impressive because of the incredible season he had to date, from Tour Down Under stage win to World Cup with A Green Jersey in there for good luck. In a sense this is a vote for the whole package, of which the 6-day results are just to finishing touch.
3 Germany cracking the 60kph barrier in the Olympic Team Pursuit.
4 Armstrong's Tour. He did what he set out to do.
5 Evgeni Petrov dominating the U23 Worlds Time Trial, then winning the road race with a 3-second gap.
An honourable mention to David Kinja from Kenya finishing 8 minutes down in the World Championship elite time trial.
Ulrich, Tafi and Millar
1 Ulrich's Olympic Gold . This was the classic demonstration that road racing is a team game. An object lesson for all coaches to use - where can I buy the video?
2 Paris-Tours: Tafi's Revenge. Imagine having the world's top roleur and a proven team player at your disposal for your Worlds and Olympic teams and then ignore him. Tafi's win was the perfect.
3 Millar’s 3 Days in Yellow. The prologue win was great, but what followed was even better. It was a joy to see and hear his reactions to every bike rider's dream come true. The intelligent and articulate way he told the story was a breath of fresh air.
Zabel and Lieswyn
1 Zabel's April. The man's
incredible preparation was visible the entire month. His ability to
suffer over terrain that, in the past, has not suited him well was remarkable.
Particularly at Amstel Gold and the Ronde:
2 John Lieswyn's entire season here in the US. His team took it to Mercury whenever they had the chance, no matter the odds. JL was consistent (and consistently good) throughout the year. It was impressive.
John M. Foster
I think Stefano Zanini's sprint in the last stage of the Tour De France, was a great ride. I love big bunch sprints and he did a great job getting to where he needed to be to win. Zanini is the man. Keep up the great work on the site.
One of the most memorable performances of the year would have to br Axel Merckx’s brilliant stage win at the Giro. Not only did he suffer alone, get caught, and fight his way back to the lead break, he ended the stage with a solo win. This win characterizes the pain, suffering, motivation, determination, and ultimate triumph all cyclists have learned to love.
Museeuw, Boardman, Armstrong and Ekimov
1 Museeuw coming back from the brink - a rider with true class.
2 Boardman setting the hour record on the UCI's new (old) turf - he's a rider who never did all he was capable of on the road, but in this setting he's brilliant.
3 Armstrong - no explanation needed.
4 Ekimov - one of the Eastern 'grand old men'; he deserves the gold.
Super-domestiques: Vinokourov', Livingstone, Hamilton, Landis
All of the performances submitted here are exceptional, but I also appreciate the sport from a different angle. When a break of the sports cover models goes off the front, I move closer to the TV. But I'm looking for the poor SOB's who are going to have to drive the break so the Museeuws and Zabels can save themselves for the deciding kilometers still up the road. I'm looking for the expendables who will drive the chasing field at 60+km/hr for 60+km. I'm looking for guys like Aldag, Bolts, Stephens (now retired) and the others that make up the majority of the field.
In talking with many of my racing friends I realize that I am not alone in this appreciation for those who turn themselves inside out for their teams. Here are my nominations for the great domestique efforts:
1 While not the most courageous effort of the year, Alexandre Vinokourov's silver medal is a shining example of the domestique's sacrificial lifestyle/career.
2. Also, with ethnocentrism being what it is, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the efforts of Americans Kevin Livingston and Tyler Hamilton in The Tour (in most of the mountains).
3 Floyd Landis in the Tour of Langkawi. Clearly the strongest rider in the field, yet he pushed Mercury teammate Chris Horner to a GC victory.
First, the best ride of the year - Johan Museeuw at Roubaix. Just like his win in '98 Flanders, he went early when most others thought he would die. But this man does not make many mistakes in “his" events. George Hincapie should have known to go with Museeuw especially with Andreu up the road - free ride to the front and maybe win the sprint. But Johan gave everything. He could barely come up with a finish line celebration just like in '98 when he finished with spit and mud all over his face. This guy has grit.
One word: Tchmill. One race: Tour of Flanders. One man, all alone, so close, yet uncatchable. Don't we all wish we had his self belief, his physical abilities, and the mind to pull it off. And how tantalizingly close he came again at the World's. The man is a monster. I hope he never, ever retires.
Casagrande and Armstrong
Who had The Right Stuff in 2000? I agree with Mr. Lucke: Francesco Casagrande on San Pelegrino. The breakaway, the chase by DiLuca, the insanity of the fans. Armstrong certainly had it on Hautacam, not to mention Mt. Ventoux. On Hautacam he destroyed, on Ventoux he toyed.
My top five
I think it wasn't really a good year with few beautiful races, but there were some that I still remember very well:
Danilo Di Luca when he won the stage in the Vuelta a Pais Vasca. Andrei Tchmil in the Ronde van Vlaanderen. Johan Museeuw in Paris-Roubaix. Marco Pantani in the last mountain stage in the Giro and his second victory in the Tour. Lance Armstrong at Hautacam.
Dufaux, Garzelli and Pantani
Everyone will remember Armstrong, Ullrich and Museeuw winning their respective races this year and deservedly so, but some other outstanding performances should be highlighted:
Dufaux's win in Zurich from a group that included Armstong, Ullrich, Casagrande, Camenzind, Rebellin, and Freire. Maybe the most elite selection of any race in 2000.
Garzelli chasing back almost single-handedly on the run-in to Bormio to finish only fifteen seconds down on Simoni/Casagrande when he could easily have lost the Giro.
Pantani winning at Mont Ventoux , whether or not it was 'gifted' to him. Will you have a section for the most foolish rides of 2000? Cue another Pantani/Armstong duel. Marco was dropped and came back to the Armstrong group. He then tried repeatedly and, at last, successfully to break away - what Lance would have done had this not happened is pure speculation, despite his being the strongest rider in the race. The fact that Pantani was still there at the finish, let alone as the winner, would be enough to qualify for a mention in the 'rides of 2000'.
Axel Merckx, Giro d'Italia, Stage 8: I watched my tape of this stage over and over. Axel powers through the final kilometers in an incredible show of determination.
Dropping off the back of the breakaway group not once, but twice, he finally hooks back up with only 5 km left. Don't forget, this is after the riders have just gone over the first major climb in the race. The others in the breakaway pay no attention to Axel, they assume he has nothing left to give. This is the advantage he needs and grinds away from the rest. It's a nail-biter finish as Axel hangs on by 6 seconds. In the post-race emotion he shows, you can really see how much this race meant to him and his father.
Thanks to Paul Sherwin and Phil Ligget, I think their coverage on this one really made a great cycling moment.
Museeuw and Kelme
For me two things from 2000 really stand out. Firstly the frequently mentioned ride of Johan Museeuw in the Paris-Roubaix. It was a gutsy ride from a great competitor and you had the satisfying feeling of having willed him on and then seeing him get his reward.
Secondly the performances of Kelme in the Tours of France and Spain. It is great to hear they have survived into the 2001 season because they bring a great amount of excitement to the peloton. From Javier Otxoa's epic stage victory to Botero, Heras and the rest's climbing they stopped the TdF from just being the Lance Armstrong show.
In the Tour of Spain came Heras's great overall victory and the prominent showing of Rubiera/Escartin/Sevilla both on GC and in those characteristic mountain attacks. The fact they won the team competition in both tours shows what a great performance they put in.
Tchmil, Simoni and Casagrande
The one race that impressed me the most was the Tour of Flanders. I had good money on that race, which made the last 6 or 7 miles all the more heart-stopping, but apart from that, what a day Tchmil had! 37 years old, never had more than an 18 second gap at the most, and a field of 30 riders chasing him. Incredible! Sure, it may not have been right up there with Koblet's legendary solo raid in the Tour back in 1951, but nothing is anymore, is it?
So Andreï Tchmil gets my vote. I saw Armstrong climb the Montée de Hautacam, too, but he was just too strong - there was no competition, and thus no excitement. That's not really a fair argument, I know, but (and I'm aware that the entire English-speaking world will hate me for saying this) it just wasn't normal. He was climbing faster in the last kilometer of the ascent than in the first, for God's sake!
Also, I'd like to mention Gilberto Simoni in the Giro d'Italia, but not the stage to Bormio, which he won. No, the stage which impressed me the most was the one to Briançon over the Agnello pass. Simoni attacked again, and again, and then some more. If Pantani hadn't been there to throw a spanner in his works, I think he might've cracked Casagrande and Garzelli on the Col de l'Izoard.
I agree that Francesco Casagrande's win in Abetone was spectacular, too, though. His attack on the 20 per cent gradients of the Valico di San Pellegrino was really impressive. In fact, lots of guys deserve to be mentioned : Viatcheslav Ekimov and Jan Ullrich at the Olympics (go Eki!); Johan Museeuw in Roubaix; Roberto Heras on the Joux-Plane and the Alto de el Anglirú; Santiago Botero's win in Briançon; Chris Boardman's tremendous hour record (he beat Merckx' record, people! [and at sea level too! Letters Ed] ); and Dimitrij Konychev's stage win in the Giro when he out-sprinted Jeroen Blijlevens.
But still,Tchmil is my pick, and, right after him, Simoni and Casagrande.
Anders P. Jensen
Ullrich and Museeuw
Two images sum up the best rides of 2000. One is a still photo and the other is a video clip.
Look at the photo of the break in the Olympic men's race. Ulrich is composed and focused. His compatriots appear on the verge of popping the proverbial blood vessel, straining with bug eyes to stay on the wheel! Say what you will about the three Telekom riders in the break, it was only a matter of time before he rode them off his wheel.
In the film of Paris-Roubaix, at one point Museeuw rides past a duo of fans holding a flag. The flag is horizontal, with the edges snapping in that quick, short way that indicates a howling wind. He is alone, turning an enormous gear at over 50 kph. Tchmil at Flanders and Lance at Hautacam lack that one poetic moment that the above performances hold for me but are equally awesome. Thanks boys!
Sunderland, Tchmil and Millar
1 Biased I may be, but Scott Sunderland's World's ride (7th) was a remarkable feat - a triumph over adversity where courageousness, tenacity and resilience all combined to leave him but a few metres short of a well-deserved medal. Throughout the race, his sheer quality and undeniable class shone like a beacon. A master craftsman at work, it was a joy to watch and a personal highlight of my year. Scotty's a marvellous example to those seeking to follow in his footsteps.
2 Tchmil for his extraordinary win in the Ronde, a phenomenal throw of the dice, and without question the most exciting finale to any race this year
3 Millar for his unexpected yet entirely anticipated victory in the Tour prologue - the class of the future!
And for TV coverage, long live Eurosport and the ever magnificent Duffo!
Museeuw, Sunderland and Ekimov
For me there are three, and for slightly different reasons:
1. Museeuw. Let's face it at the age he was when he had his second serious accident retirment would have been sensible, to come back at all was amazing, to win in Roubaix, inspiring.
2. Scott Sunderland. seventh at the worlds, with not much team support, after once again a serious accident and long comeback. Also, at an age where many healthy riders retire. Also, I am an Aussie originally so... go Scottie!
3. Ekimov. A tireless and selfless rider, gives his all for the team day in day out all year. From what I hear a genuine nice guy. At the end of the year to turn out such a ride and beat Armstrong and Ulrich at something they both wanted badly and worked for specifically, what a ride.
Casagrande's Day Out
Big House left everything on the road that day on the road to Abetone. Watching him climb up to San Pelegrino in Alpe was unbelievable. The best of the best, les meilleurs grimpeurs, le piu brave scalatore, gradually fell to pieces trying to stay on his wheel. On the last, final cruel pitches of that climb, only Danilo Di Luca remained, his eyes popping, teeth clenched, pushing with all his might. And House just stepped it up again, and he was alone.
There is nothing, and I mean nothing, in the Tour to compare to the difficulty of that one, tortured narrow stretch of road high in the Apuan Alps. What House did on that road, though it ultimately meant that he was left without the reserves to fight till the end of the Giro, forever endeared the great Tuscan to my heart.
And yes, under Ferretti, he will bloom, and will rise to fulfil the destiny he mapped that one day in June.
I am sorry, too that he could not ride the Tour, but as has been noted countless times, racing is different these days. He gave everything to win the Giro, and I can imagine that he was simply unable to pull it all back together in time for Le Grande Boucle. He is Italian, he rides for a purely Italian team, forgive him this trespass. House raced at the front all year, and in my mind that more than makes up for one three week transgression.)
Armstrong and Ullrich
I think that the 2000 season had two performances that stand as the best:
1) Lance Armstrong on the Hautecam Stage of the Tour.
2) Jan Ullrich winning the Olympic road race.
Both performances share a common characteristic that makes them outstanding: A heavily marked favourite bests a very strong field and wins the day.
Lance gets the nod as best of the best, however because:
1) Lance destroyed the opposition basically single-handed, as he was alone for 20K prior to his big move on Hautecam, whereas Ullrich had help from a team-mate (Kloden) and a pseudo-team-mate (Vinokurov).
2) Race tactics played less of a part in Lance's win. He started thefinal climb with all of the favourites for the Tour and the best climbers either with him or ahead of him (by over TWO minutes) and he simply rode away from all of them. Consider the carnage. Here are the times the best Tour riders and climbers in the world lost to Armstrong on that climb:
José Maria Jimenez 3.28 Alex Zulle 3.47 Jan Ullrich 4.01 Richard Virenque 4.12 Manuel Beltran 4.12 Fernando Escartin 4.17 Roberto Heras 4.17 Michele Bartoli 4.18 Peter Luttenberger 5.14 Christophe Moreau 5.20 Joseba Beloki 5.50 Marco Pantani 5.52 Abraham Olano 7.26 Laurent Jalabert 8.45 Pascal Herve 10.55 Javier Otxoa 11.18
These figures are the approximate times lost to Armstrong on the 13K of Hautecam based upon the relative starting positions and the finish data.
Jerome Chiotti gets my vote for his acknowledgement of past EPO use and handing over his rainbow jersey to Thomas Frischkneckt.
I know this wasn't actually a great ride, but I was very impressed by the honesty and behaviour of Chiotti in regard to his past use of EPO.
By handing over his Rainbow Jersey and acknowledging Thomas Frischkneckt as the best man on the day, I think Chiotti did more for the fight against doping, than any of the health checks and blood tests carried out by the UCI could ever hope for.
I wish more cyclists were as honest as Chiotti and were more willing to admit their mistakes.
I admire and enjoy watching riders such as Virenque, and others, as much as any other cycling fan, but it upsets me that riders can be so dishonest with themselves, their sponsors and their fans in regards to drug use. When riders aren't actually convicted but claim their positive tests or dodgy haematocrit levels are due to testing protocols and natural fluctuations it doesn't inspire much confidence.
I agree with others who have suggested a period of amnesty in cycling where drug cheats (and there must be so many of them) could come forward without fear of prosecution, to admit their past mistakes and swear to fight against doping, thereby raising the possibility of wiping the slate clean in the future (particularly in regards to establishing normal values for EPO and other such parameters in elite athletes).
Perhaps this way cycling could be freed of its demons and cycling fans would not have to be so suspicious of their heroes.
For actual rides, I go for Marcel Wust in the Tour De France. Time spent in the Mountains and Green Jerseys. Several top 10 finishes and a sprint win in the polka-dot jersey (a fine touch of irony!). Marcel is one of the most talented and non-egotistical men in the peloton.
Armstrong, Ullrich and Ekimov
Two separate events that rung the bell for me this year.
Tour de France: Of course, Lance's win is the first, but not for the feat itself, but rather for the reason that he is truly a leader now, and is fulfilling his lifelong purpose in other areas as well. His team-mates speak of him with reverence for a reason. Myself, I appreciate the effort given by his team-mates for Lance that goes beyond mere professionalism. That he did that, and came up with the goods another year in the hardest event on the calendar, says it all.
Intertwined with that, the Olympics. Jan Ullrich's performances at the Olympics. We can complain how very Teutonic the whole orchestration of the finale seemed, but then again, he (and his team) ARE German and either everyone else was not be riding the same race or it was a perfectly timed manoeuvre with plenty of luck to have team-mates with him. In spite of his over-publicized weight problems, and his rather bland persona, he is a perfect adversary for the many hard men in this sport.
Ekimov's performance at the Olympics. I have always felt him to be a legendary rider, and he is tough as nails. Year in and year out, he is always there, in every one day race, and in turn for his team. He SO deserves the title Olympic champion. For me, even more than the great team leaders of today.
The best result of 2000 has to be that of New Zealand school boy Jeremy Yates winning the world junior road race, riding alone without any team mates, seeded 170th, on a very ordinary bike, the campaign financed almost entirely by his family.
Admittedly I am just a wee bit biased in my opinion, but Jeremy's achievement has made his fellow club members and kiwi cyclists immensely proud and should be the spring board for a long and successful career.
Museeuw, Boardman and Millar
Johan Museeuw - I fell out with this guy because he took the yellow jersey from Boardman in the '94 Tour when Chris had the chance to wear it in the UK and give cycling the coverage that it never gets there!! Since then Johan's life has been far from a bed of roses. He won my heart back MANY times over since. He has shown all of us quite simply that you should never give up - just keep trying!!
2. Chris Boardman - The Hour. The last three laps. The velodrome must have been an electrifying place as Chris set the new record. My hat is thoroughly off to Chris for his achievement. I wanted to be there but work commitment (I now live in the USA and was in the middle of relocating during the ride) stopped me. However I am going to be there for Graeme Obree on the 23rd along with a bunch of mates and I am going to cheer 'n' beer the flying Scot on!! Roll on Crimbo!
3. David Millar - Prologue Time Trial of Le Tour. What a ride and who could have predicted it? I had him down to do well but not great. He has a lot of inner drive - which comes across as arrogance at times! I look forward to the future with him as he has been groomed from a young age in our sport. I hope he never has any problems with drugs in a world where it is becoming increasingly difficult not to be in trouble with drugs.
For me it is not the records they break, the speed, or the times they post. It's more of an overall picture I go for. Someone who has had to endure hardship and suffering only to come back better than they were before to my mind is the superior athlete and human being!
The Saturn team
How about the Saturn women's team lapping the field at the HP Statehouse Criterium to snatch the race from Diana Ziliute? A great tactical move supported with some strong riding by Dede Demet Barry and Anna Wilson.
Best Classic win of 2000?? Ronde van Vlanderen - Tchmil. The man was incredible, staying out in front where everybody could see him, for so long...... Self belief, tenacious, audacious, call it what you will. It has to be the best win of the year for me, much as I am a great admirer of Johan Meseeuw, as a rider, a supreme example to everybody, and Roubaix, a pure anachronism, but isn't that what makes a classic?
For me, the performance of 2000 had nothing to do with the stature of the race, (whilst Paris-Tours is a classic, I realise it is not of the importance of P-R, L-B-L, etc) but with the attitude of the winner. What really gave me a buzz was the message sent to the Italian national team selectors when Andrea Tafi rode the field off his wheel in an allegedly sprinterfest event, having been snubbed as not good enough for their Worlds team. This guy oozes class, but doesn't, perhaps to his disadvantage, go around shouting about it a la Bartoli or Pantani.
One word - Tyler.... Dauphine-libre victory went to a young American by the name of Tyler Hamilton. A native of Brookline Massachusetts. I have watched Tyler at local club races in New England and he is absolutely unbelievable. 13th in the tour in 99 and victory in the 2000 Dauphine with Armstrong working hard for him. Keep a close eye on Tyler he may be on the verge of a break through season. Aside from race accomplishments he is the most well mannered, sincere, modest and humble, insanely talented professional cyclist, you may ever have the pleasure of meeting and Talking with. Best of luck in 2001 Tyler.
Damon Eik Kirkley
I thought that it might be fun to hear from all the other cycling fans out there regarding their favourite win of the 2000 season, and specifically the one day races, that is the World Cup. My number one for the 2000 season has to be the Paris-Roubaix, which as you all know was won by Johan Museeuw.
With such a strong headwind, Johan had to dig into the depths of his soul to find the will just to keep going, let alone win. It was fantastic, especially when you consider that he nearly lost his leg the year before. The man is a tank! Gobsmackingly Brilliant! And what about Frank Vandenbrouke's Liege-Baston-Liege win in 1999 so, so classy! Personally I find the Classics much more exhilarating than the Big Tours, But that's me, What do you think?