What a year 2012 was in cycling. For a start, it’s not every year that nine editions of the Tour de France get decided, but away from Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong being stripped of eight titles between them, there were plenty of, er, positives to focus on too. Here’s our video round-up of what we see as some of the biggest moments of 2012.
As ever when it comes to lists – and this is by no means an exhaustive one – feel free to disagree with our selection… one race that certainly merited inclusion but the video has proved elusive was Lucy Garner’s successful defence of her junior road world title, in which she got a leadout from GB team mate Elinor Barker, who had won the junior time trial a couple of days earlier.
You’ll notice there’s no London 2012 action here – but don’t worry, that’s coming in a separate round-up. In the meantime, here's our big moments of 2012 in chronological order.
Jonathan Tiernan-Locke hits the big time
Great things were expected of British riders in 2012, but the early season headlines came from an unlikely source – Endura Racing’s Jonathan Tiernan-Locke, whose exploits in winning the Tour Mediterranéen and Tour du Haut Var in successive weekends in February attracted interest from several of the sport’s biggest teams.
To his credit, the 28-year-old Devonian, who had spent three years out of the sport due to a virus and also put his studies ahead of cycling for a while, decided to stick with Endura, although no-one was surprised when, in October, Team Sky confirmed that he would be joining them for 2013.
Despite breaking his collarbone in the Lincoln GP, Tiernan Locke had bounced back to take the overall at the Tour d’Alsace in July, and in September not only won the Tour of Britain but also rode in the World Championships, featuring strongly in the break and claiming a top 20 finish despite the distance being way beyond any he had previously ridden.
Cancellara crashes in Flanders
Here’s a bit of trivia about Tom Boonen. If he wins the overall in the Tour of Qatar – something he’s now done four times – he’ll go on and win either the Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix a couple of months later. This year, he won all three. If only we'd stuck a bet on...
The question that will forever remain unanswered though, is whether the Belgian would have pulled off that monumental double in Europe had Fabian Cancellara not crashed out in the feed zone at Flanders when a stray bidon resulted in his collarbone being shattered.
That’s taking nothing away from Tommeke – his solo ride to victory in the Roubaix velodrome was as storming a performance as we can remember seeing seen in the Queen of the Classics – but when Spartacus hit the deck in Belgium, it took out perhaps the one man who could have challenged his supremacy in the two biggest cobbled Classics.
Boonen makes history
There were still 55 kilometres left to ride in Paris-Roubaix when Boonen and Omega Pharma-Quick Step team mate Niki Terpstra jumped off the front of the leading bunch. The next time any of his rivals would see Boonen would be in the Roubaix velodrome’s famous showers.
It’s perhaps not the ride of 2012 – Thomas De Gendt’s solo conquest of the Stelvio on the penultimate stage of the Giro d’Italia, or the day Alberto Contador wrested the leader’s jersey in the Vuelta are also up there.
But it was history in the making as Boonen equalled Roger De Vlaeminck’s record of four victories in Paris-Roubaix, became the first man to do the Flanders-Roubaix double twice, as well as the only cyclist to win all four of the E3 Harelbeke, Gent Wevelgem, Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix in the same season. What’s more, he – and team manager Patrick Lefevere - had plenty of time to celebrate.
Cav comes a cropper thanks to a Ferrari
Team Sky’s leadout train had already been disrupted as the peloton rounded the final bend with a straight 1.5 kilometre run to the line in the last of the Giro d’Italia’s three stages that opened May’s race in Denmark.
Despite that, Mark Cavendish – here in the red jersey of points leader, rather than the rainbow bands of world champion - was well placed to challenge former HTC team mate Matt Goss for the win when Androni Giocattoli’s Roberto Ferrari suddenly veered across his path, sending the Manxman crashing to the ground.
The incident left Cavendish battered and bruised, but it could have been much, much worse – FDJ’s Arnaud Demare, immediately behind him, employed some fantastic bike handling skills to avoid riding straight into his head, while Andrea Guardini bunnyhopped over the prostrate Team Sky rider. Race leader Taylor Phinney was also brought down.
Cavendish, winner of the previous day’s Stage 2, would recover to win two more stages but missed out on completing the set of Grand Tour points jerseys by just a single point – to rub salt into his wounds, Ferrari would also win the world champion’s ‘home’ stage at Montecatini Terme, close to Quarrata, Cavendish’s Italian base.
De Gendt conquers the Stelvio
The first Giro d’Italia under new race director Michele Acquarone saw plenty of thrilling racing, but perhaps none more than the penultimate day’s queen stage over the Tonale and Mortirolo ahead of a summit finish on the Stelvio – the protagonist being Vacansoleil’s Thomas De Gendt, who attacked his fellow members of a breakaway group again and again until he was the last man standing.
Incredibly, it seemed for a while as fans and commentators made frenzied calculations that with just the final day’s time trial to come – a discipline the Belgian is strong in – De Gendt, who had begun the day eighth on GC, might even end up winning the Giro.
Somehow, maglia rosa Joaquim Rodriguez managed to find the strength on the final part of the Mortirolo to limit his losses to De Gendt as well as putting time into his chief rivals. By finishing ahead of Scarponi and Hesjedal, he would also overtake Mark Cavendish in the points classification, although that would have been the furthest thing from his mind at the time.
It wouldn’t be enough, of course, for the Spaniard – Hesjedal would overhaul him in that closing time trial to become Canada’s first Grand Tour winner – but De Gendt, whose exploits had seen him jump to fourth overall, put in the fifth quickest time in Milan to leapfrog Scarponi to the third step of the podium.
Team Sky take control at the Tour de France
In a three-week Grand Tour, it’s often difficult to point at one moment, one stage, that influenced the result. Bradley Wiggins became the first British winner of the Tour de France when he crossed the line safely in Paris on the final day, but his victory was built on other stages – notably, of course, the two individual time trials he won.
If we had to single out just one moment, though, it would be the day he took the maillot jaune from Fabian Cancellara on Stage 7, the first summit finish of the 2012 race on the Planche des Belles Filles, making its debut in the Tour. The 2012 Tour, by the way, would be the first since 1977, and only the third in the post-war period, that only two men wore the maillot jaune.
It was the day Sky took the race by the scruff of the neck, shedding GC hopefuls one by one until only Vincenzo Nibali and defending champion Cadel Evans were able to stay with Wiggins and Stage winner – and eventual runner-up – Chris Froome.
No commentary on this clip, instead you get Eminem’s Lose Yourself, from the soundtrack to the movie 8 Mile… although the ascent to the Planche des Belles Filles is somewhat shorter, at a little over 8 kilometres.
Wiggo leads out Cav to victory on the Champs-Elysées
History, it’s said, repeats itself. But Sunday 22 July 2012 never will. A first-ever British Tour de France winner parading through Paris in yellow, and another British rider winning the most prestigious sprint stage in the Tour de France while wearing the world champion’s rainbow jersey.
Usually, the final day of the Tour is one for the maillot jaune to hide safely in the bunch after his team has led him onto the closing circuit – although this year, in a break with tradition, it was George Hincapie, riding his 17th and final Tour de France, who was awarded that honour, Team Sky nudging the American to the front.
Turning onto the Rue de Rivoli under the watchful gaze of the gilded statue of Joan of Arc, Wiggins came to the front to do his turn on the front for Cavendish, peeling off as the peloton entered the Place de la Concorde with the Manxman on his way to his fourth victory in a row on the most famous finish line in cycling, where he has still never been beaten.
An army of British fans had made the trip across the Channel, and Cavendish’s victory was the perfect preface to Wiggins taking to the podium in the maillot jaune ahead of a party that lasted long in the Parisian night.
Contador takes command at the Vuelta
Alberto Contador spent six months out of the sport from February until August after receiving that mostly backdated two-year ban from the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Making his comeback in the Eneco Tour, Contador had his sights set on the Vuelta, but many believed the race came too soon into his comeback for him to be riding at his best.
Certainly, with Joaquim Rodriguez continuing the form that had taken him so close to overall victory in the Giro, and holding a lead of nearly half a minute ahead of the penultimate mountain stage from Santander to Fuente Dé having seen off earlier challenges from his compatriot, he was looking increasingly like the winner.
Contador, however, had other ideas. Some Grand Tours are won in the time trial. Some are won by the victor’s chief rival having one bad day. And sometimes, they’re won by a rider throwing caution to the wind and taking the race to his rivals. Stage 17 of the 2012 Vuelta was one of those rare days that the latter happened and it came off. Love or loathe Contador, it was thrilling stuff.
Vos breaks her run of Worlds silver
Since becoming World Champion on the road at the age of 19 in 2006, Marianne Vos had the unenviable record of finishing runner-up in each of the five editions since then. If that sequence were to come to an end, this year’s edition in her home country, coming on the back of her Olympic success in London, was the place to do it.
The race was shaping up to be a three-way battle between Vos, Australia’s Rachel Neylan and Elisa Longo Borghini of Italy – American rider Amber Neben was also in the mix – as it headed up the Cauberg for the final time, but when the Dutch woman launched her attack, she left her rivals standing, to the delight of her compatriots lining the road.
A multiple world champion in three disciplines – road, track and cyclo-cross – and with a long list of victories in some of the biggest races in women’s cycling, Vos is arguably the greatest cyclist, male or female, currently riding, some would say ever. And she’s still only 25.
Purito ends season as world number one
Despite spending 10 days in the maglia rosa at the Giro, and 13 in the leader’s jersey at the Vuelta, Joaquim Rodriguez finished off the top step of the podium in both races.
Those near-misses made it easy to forget that he’d already won his first Classic during April with a stunning attack in the finale of the Flèche Wallonne, but he arguably left the best till last as he won the season’s closing Monument, the Giro di Lombardia, in filthy conditions in October.
The parcours included the brutal Muro di Sormano, which put paid to the ambitions of many hopefuls such as newly crowned world champion Philippe Gilbert, twice a Lombardia winner.
Rodriguez, also aiming to leapfrog Bradley Wiggins at the top of the UCI WorldTour standings, did that in style as an attack on the final climb, the Villa Vergano, gave him his second major one-day win of the season.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.