2011 - A Year In Review

News & Results

12/26/2011| 0 comments
by Neil Browne
Philippe Gilbert. Photo Fotoreporter Sirotti.
Philippe Gilbert. Photo Fotoreporter Sirotti.

2011 - A Year In Review

Great races, stupid quotes, best rider of the year and more.

Great races, stupid quotes, best rider of the year and more.

It's the time of year when journalists turn the past year into a list of highlights - here's mine for 2011.

Toughest Grand Tour
There are three Grand Tours: Giro d' Italia, Tour de France, and the Vuelta a España. Of the three the Giro d' Italia is the most beautiful, the Tour de France the most important and the Vuelta, well at least it's in Spain ...

Beneath the beauty the 2011 Giro route was widely considered the toughest in this generation of riders. The last week saw more peaks and valleys than an active cardiogram.

In years past the Giro d'Italia was considered a warm-up to the Tour de France. Not the case in 2011. In an effort to step out of its French cousin's shadow the 2011 Giro's course was brutal with seven mountain top finishes. The person who could win would undoubtedly be a climber. And in the end it was - Spaniard Alberto Contador.

It was expected that he would take the overall victory in the following Tour de France as well. However, the Giro (and perhaps the Damascus Sword of the ongoing clenbuterol scandal from the 2010 edition) weighed too much on him and the best he could do was finish fifth in France. Now wrap your head around this: in fourth place on GC was Thomas Voeckler! Be honest - did you ever think in your wildest dreams that Tommy V would finish a Grand Tour in front of Contador?

As mentioned, the fall out from the 2011 edition was the sacking of Zomegnan, but a more humane Giro for 2012. New race director Michele Acquarone has promised fewer transfers and that riders will be at their hotels by 8:00 PM after each stage. Also, the Giro has embraced social media and actively tweets in both English and Italian.

Best Stage Race
I know what you're going to say - I picked the Tour of Switzerland because American Levi Leipheimer of RadioShack won the overall. Believe me that's not the case. Each day was action packed. Maybe that was because the stages were shorter and there were only nine stages so everyone was fresher. But what I really loved was the nail biter of stage 9's individual time trial. Damiano Cunego held the leader's jersey. The tiny Italian had a one minute and 59 second advantage over Leipheimer going into the final stage's 32 kilometer time trial. Fabian Cancellara, to no one's surprise, took the stage win, but Leipheimer bested Cunego by four seconds taking the overall victory. That was the RadioShack rider's highlight of the season. He's moved on from the RadioShack merger/take over, which in my opinion was a wise decision as things started to get a bit frosty between him and Lance Armstrong. It was time to distance himself from the management behind it.

Best American Race
America has its own "Grand Tours" - Amgen Tour of California, Tour of Utah and the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.

The Tour of Utah

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