6: Johan Museeuw
Photo: © Sirotti
Two World Cups, second in Flanders and second in the World Cup overall
from a rider who annually seems to have to struggle back from disastrous
setbacks and who is retiring at the end of the Spring of 2003 - though
we've heard that before from the Lion of Flanders...
Paris-Roubaix was in the words of the CN team's most fervent Museeuw
fan - "just sheer ass-kicking." Museeuw's third victory in the
Queen of the Classics was perhaps his best, although 2000 was also a pretty
gutsy performance. This year, Museeuw let the others eat mud as he accelerated
away on the pavé with 41 km to go until the Roubaix velodrome.
He won by an impressive 3'04, which is a dominating ride in anyone's books.
He then defended his World Cup lead in true style, picking up a surprisingly
canny win in the HEW Cyclassics in August. He couldn't hold off Paolo
Bettini in the late season classics though, and ended up second in the
World Cup overall.
If Museeuw does retire next year the peloton will lose one of its grittiest
riders, a man who never seems to complain, however hard conditions get.
5: Cadel Evans
In the pink
Photo: © Sirotti
At the end of last year Cyclingnews writer and MTB fan John Stevenson
applauded Cadel Evans' move from the minor leagues of mountain biking
to The Show of the road, saying it was clear that Evans has the potential
to be a world-class talent in stage racing.
Riding in the Giro d'Italia this year, Evans found himself handed the
chance to demonstrate that potential when his Mapei team leader Stefano
Garzelli was expelled from the race after a positive test for probenecid
and Paolo Bettini abandoned with a muscle sprain. Demonstrating a canniness
beyond the expectations of a rider in his first Grand tour, Evans rode
a tactically perfect stage 16 to take the maglia rosa.
The next day, the dream was shattered as Evans discovered that riding
into the leader jersey is one thing but staying in it is quite another.
On the brutal ascent to Folgaria, Evans cracked, losing 15 minutes and
the leader jersey to eventual winner Paolo Savoldelli.
For a rider in his first Grand Tour to wear the leader jersey is not
especially unusual, but to take it in the mountains, when the race's serious
contenders are queuing up to make their moves, was a remarkable achievement
for the young Australian. His reward was a contract with Telekom for 2003
as likely GC contender for the 2003 Tour de France. Look out, Lance!
Stage 16 of the giro