How do you follow perfection? It was the question on every cyclist’s lips (British, at least) as 2012 drew to a close.
Looking beyond the hyperbole, last year had some flaws – the fall from grace of an American Tour de France ‘champion’, for one – but certainly set an impressive benchmark.
As we awoke to 2013 – hangovers and New Year’s Resolutions in tow – 12 months which had brought us a first British Tour de France winner and phenomenal Olympic success were fading into the archives, however.
So how has this year measured up to the so-called ‘Year of the Bike’? With a second consecutive victory for a British rider at the Tour de France, the long-anticipated appearance of hydraulic disc brakes for road bikes from Shimano and SRAM, and a RideLondon event that inspired tens of thousands of cyclists to ride the route of the Olympic road race, and tens of thousands more to cheer them on, it’s possible to argue that cycling on these shores entered still ruder health in 2013.
We’ll be reviewing the ups and downs of another incredible year for the sport in the weeks ahead, starting with January.
If any evidence was needed of how big an impact the previous year had on cycling at all levels in Britain, we were reminded at January’s London Bike Show.
Occupying some 14,000 square metres of the ExCel Arena, industry insiders predicted the record 90,000 visitors to the four-day show would provide further evidence of the boom in cycling’s popularity.
Visitors flocked to see a host of new machines and innovative designs, while the steed on which Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) became world number one took pride of place.
We were to hear plenty more of Rodriguez throughout the year too, as the decision to deny Katusha a WorldTour license was overturned and Purito took full advantage to highlight his credentials as the world’s most consistent rider.
Podium finishes at Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the Volta a Catalunya, Tour de France and World Road Race Championship were all to follow for the diminutive Spaniard.
A little closer to home, the London Bike show also gave us a new British team to welcome, as former national road race champion Roger Hammond launched his Madison-Genesis outfit.
And the team, which also contains British track star Andy Tennant, announced themselves in perfect fashion – Ian Bibby storming to victory on the indoor circuit at the Bike Show in the Norglide Elite Criterium.
The WorldTour teams were also kicking off their new campaigns, giving us a first opportunity to see Sky in their new Rapha kit and get used to watching the stars who had switched teams racing in their new colours.
It was not just new kit which saw Sky hit the headlines however, as we also got our first taste of a saga that was to run for months with Chris Froome and Sir Bradley Wiggins’ pre-Tour de France programmes being revealed.
On the road, Simon Gerrans ensured he and his Orica-GreenEDGE team had an Australia Day to remember with victory on Old Willunga Hill at the Tour Down Under – a race eventually won by Tom Jelte Slagter of Blanco Procycling – a team that would change name later in the year and enjoy its most successful season for years.
The Tour Down Under also gave Lotto-Belisol the opportunity to prove that their hard winter work on the sprint train would bear fruit as Andre Greipel snatched victory in the final stage.
The opening race of the World Tour calendar also saw another of Britain’s 2012 stars – team pursuit gold medallist Geraint Thomas – kick off his year with an encouraging display.
Sky’s Welshman – who was later to battle a fractured pelvis to perform an outstanding role as a key domestique at the Tour de France – won the second stage, wore the ochre jersey of race leader for three days and topped the sprints classification on an impressive return to the road.
In all, both at home and 12,000 miles away in Australia, there was reason to be optimistic as 2013 swung into action.