Few years have been so significant for cycling as 2012.
More significantly for British fans, the coronation of Bradley Wiggins as Tour de France champion, and the domination of Team GB’s cyclists at the Olympic Games in London confirmed Great Britain as a cycling super power.
In March, the Londoner scored his first significant success of the season, and arguably the biggest of his road career at that point, by winning the prestigious Paris-Nice stage race. Wiggins assumed the overall lead on its second stage, and held the yellow jersey for the remainder of the race, and sealing his victory by winning the final stage time trial.
A similarly strong performance in the Volta a Catalunya, just one week later, was curtailed by heavy snow. By then, however, close observers would perhaps have seen enough to realise that Team Sky’s new strategy of racing for fitness and attempting victory at every outing, would pay dividends.
March’s third significant stage race victory was claimed by Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale), who won Tirreno-Adriatico. The Italian all-rounder would prove to be Wiggins’ most determined rival at the Tour de France.
More significantly at this early stage of the season, March heralded the arrival of the Spring Classics.
Milan-San Remo, one of the five ‘Monuments’ of professional cycling, delivered a thrilling finish, with Nibali, Fabian Cancellara (Radioshack-Nissan-Trek) and Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE), winner in January of the Tour Down Under, descending the Poggio together.
Gerrans ignored Cancellara’s exhortations to pass him and take his share of the pace making on the run in to San Remo, and sprinted past the Swiss for victory.
Mark Cavendish (Team Sky) a rider with a second victory at La Primavera at the top of his early-season ‘To Do’ list, suffered a disappointing day after being distanced on the climb of La Manie and later abandoned the race.
Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) made further entries in the record books with victories at E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke, Gent Wevelgem, and the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders), the last (and most significant) victory achieved after the loss of his chief rival, Fabian Cancellara, who crashed in the feed zone, and turned his attention to the Olympic Games.
It’s difficult to overestimate the level of Boonen’s success and the consistency of his performances in 2012, and if Tornado Tom is your international rider of the year, you can vote for him in the RCUK Survey.
His victory at E3 Prijs Vlaanderen was his second in a row and fifth in total: a record. His victories at Gent-Wevelgem and the Ronde van Vlaanderen were his third: record-equaling. There would be more victories and records to come from Tornado Tom before the Classics season finished.
Away from the racing, Bespoked Bristol, the UK’s handmade bike show, offered an opportunity to meet some of the best frame builders in the country, and to examine their wares.
The show met our expectations, with some beautiful exhibits, including those of Donhou and Feather for the Rapha Continental project, and a chance to chat with some of the most exciting new talents, including Daniel Merényi, a frame builder who abandoned a career in advertising to learn his trade from legendary Italian craftsman, Dario Pegoretti.