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Tales from the peloton, 2008
The biggest moments of 2008: Ten-to-six
With the podiums stashed away and the riders enjoying their holidays, as
the season finally comes to a close, Cyclingnews' Greg Johnson and Les
Clarke look back on season 2008 with fond memories and light hearts. Here's
their top 10 biggest moments from the year that was 2008.
Viva Italia, Viva Italia
Alessandro Ballan wins at home!
Photo ©: AFP
Italy's record at the World Championships has hardly been disappointing
of late, but it wanted redemption after losing on home soil in Verona
four years ago. So to ensure another Spaniard, or anyone else for that
matter, didn't shame them when the World Championships returned to Italy
- this time in Varese - this year, they decided to dominate the race.
Enter Alessandro Ballan, Damiano Cunego and Davide Rebellin. Ballan left
nothing to chance after falling short in the sprint to Paris-Roubaix glory
earlier in the year, gapping his rivals to take a comfortable three-second
advantage. Cunego's second place only added to the euphoria amongst the
home crowd, while Rebellin narrowly missed out on third place to take
fourth. Not bad for a 37-year-old.
Ballan's was the second win for Italy that week, after Adriano Malori
took out the Under 23 time trial title.
The outcome was of little surprise to many. With the reigning two-time
World Champion in Paolo Bettini in its ranks plus flowing on from Rebellin's
second place in the Olympic Games road race, all the indicators were there
for a win at home.
Hoy, Hoy, Hoy's triple treat in Beijing
Chris Hoy flies the flag
Photo ©: Rob Jones
One of the most affable guys in track cycling, Chris Hoy was undoubtedly
the star of this year's Olympic Games. Hoy confirmed his place amongst
the greats of the sport - if not the best ever.
The Scottish speedster was forced to change his program following the
exit of his 'pet' event, the 1000m time trial, for the Games. Who would
have known it though, with dominant displays in the individual
and team sprint, and
the keirin, to take
three of Great Britain's eight cycling gold medals.
Hoy was a focal point of events in the Laoshan Velodrome, and the emotion
of taking a triple at the highest level wasn't hidden by this giant of
If he wasn't one of Scotland's favourite sons before the Olympics, Hoy
was certainly welcomed home with open arms and a host of plaudits. The
number of public appearances he made post-Beijing rivaled that of another
famous Scotsman, Sean Connery!
Hoy was involved in a presentation at Scotland's rugby union test against
the New Zealand All Blacks, and will compete
in a ride-off against Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton at the
Race of Champions before headlining the Revolution
Sprint to the line, Roubaix is mine
Tom Boonen blasts away
Photo ©: AFP
He had done it all before, but for Tom Boonen the dusty old cobble stone
that comes with Paris-Roubaix glory was one of two highs (and certainly
the less controversial) in his 2008 season.
With defending champion Stuart O'Grady floating near the front as the
race passed the half way mark, a second tilt looked possible from the
Australian. But as Boonen swung off the front with just over 30 kilometres
to go the writing was on the wall for anyone who couldn't follow.
After 259 kilometres of racing, fans world wide were salivating as Boonen
entered the Roubaix velodrome with break-away partners Swiss Fabian Cancellara
and Italian Alessandro Ballan. Ballan led the trio as they lapped the
velodrome, while Boonen hid at the rear.
The Belgian's tactic of staying behind afforded him a head-start as he
wound up the sprint with two corners remaining. There was little Cancellara
could do as he attempted to catch Boonen, forcing him to settle for second
Unfortunately for Boonen he was persona non-grata come July's Tour de
France, after a news of a positive out of competition control for cocaine
came in early June. So no more Tour stage wins this season.
Differences settled at the top?
Former ASO president Patrice Clerc
Photo ©: AFP
As the old Neil Sedaka song goes, "Breaking up is hard to do". In the
case of the Union Cyclist International (UCI) and Amaury Sport Organisation
(ASO) however making up is even harder.
After three years of quarreling, threats and counter-threats, it seemed
that 2008 might be the year that cycling's governing body and the Tour
de France organiser finally call a truce. Since the inception of the ProTour
in 2005, the two groups have been at each other's throats, with the low
point coming after Michael Rasmussen's dismissal from Rabobank while leading
the 2007 Tour.
The organisers of the three Grand Tours combined forces and agreed not
to become part of the ProTour; this move forged the divide between the
regulators of the sport and those who run its biggest events. The flames
of the dispute were fanned by strong words from both sides, and some observers
believed the dispute would signal the end of the sport's professional
It only took two strategic moves - the stepping down of Hein Verbruggen,
architect of the ProTour, and the removal of Patrice Clerc as ASO's Chief - to bring each
body closer with an optimistic view to the future. Despite ASO choosing
to run this year's Tour under the auspices of the French Cycling Federation
(FFC) rather than the UCI, both sides have agreed that things might be
different next year. This came after a meeting between the UCI and Grand
Tour organisers at the World Championships in Varese, Italy. Watch this
The Giro circus rolls into town
Alberto Contador (Astana)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
Don't you hate it when someone interrupts your holiday? In Alberto Contador's
case however, a break from the beaches and babes in the south of Spain
resulted in a second Grand Tour crown, less than a year after taking his
Astana was granted a
late invitation to the Giro d'Italia and so the young 2007 Tour de
France champion arrived in Italy for the year's first Grand Tour undercooked,
Claims of poor form and a wrist injury suffered in a Stage
8 fall meant Contador and Astana management could keep their cards
close to their chest.
That's exactly what they did, letting Riccardo Riccò make the early running
and give the Spaniard something to aim at. When he fired with amazing
consistency in the Dolomites, he hit the target perfectly. It fuelled
Riccò's furnace; the Italian began an open, verbal attack on his Spanish
rival, updated daily, aimed at unsettling Contador's nerve.
It did the opposite, and as the race progressed fans found it harder
to believe that Astana's Spanish prodigy was still suffering the effects
of his earlier crash. His prospects grew brighter by the day, just as
Riccò's frustration mounted.
Contador finished the Giro 1.57 minutes ahead of the Saunier Duval-Scott
captain, establishing a rivalry that's sure to continue once Riccò serves
his suspension for doping at the Tour de France…in 2010.
Stay tuned as we finish off the top 10 moments of 2008. Lance
Armstrong's return was big, as was Team CSC's effort at the Tour de France
but the year has also seen some big doping positives. What will take out
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