2012 review: Looking back on an historic and tumultuous year for cycling
It has been an historic 2012 for cycling that has seen the sport reveal both its best and worst sides. Matt Westby takes a look back at an amazing 12 months
By Matt Westby
Last Updated: 03/01/13 12:14pm
A tumultuous 12 months saw the sport taken from the highs of Bradley Wiggins becoming the Tour de France's first British winner and Sir Chris Hoy cementing his legacy as one of the greatest Olympians of all time, to the low of Lance Armstrong's exposure as cycling's ultimate drug cheat.
The ups and downs were also reflected in the season of Mark Cavendish, who appeared to have the dream year in prospect as he raced for his "home" team in the world champion's rainbow jersey.
But although he celebrated a fourth successive victory on the Champs-Elysees in Paris in July, the Manxman failed to achieve his two main targets for the season: retaining the Tour de France green jersey and clinching gold in the Olympic men's road race.
While Cavendish toiled on the road, Britain's track cyclists once again excelled at the London Games.
Hoy was predictably to the fore, taking his tally of gold medals to six with victories in the team sprint and keirin, surpassing Sir Steve Redgrave as Britain's most successful Olympian in the process.
The prodigiously talented Laura Trott was equally impressive as she followed up winning world titles in the team pursuit and omnium in the spring by claiming Olympic gold in the same two events in the London Velodrome.
The men's team pursuit squad, Jason Kenny and Sarah Storey continued the gold rush on the boards, but there was a tearful retirement for the queen of British track cycling, Victoria Pendleton.
While the multiple world champion claimed a second Olympic gold in the keirin, there was heartbreak in the team sprint, when she was disqualified alongside Jess Varnish, and in the individual sprint, when she was edged out into silver by her long-time rival Anna Meares.
Best moment of the year
Bradley Wiggins, in the yellow jersey, leading out Mark Cavendish, in the world champion's jersey, for victory on the Champs-Elysees before safely crossing the line himself to become Britain's first winner of the Tour de France. It was the ultimate symbol of Britain's rise to the summit of road cycling.
Riders of the year
The 32-year-old rewrote cycling history by becoming the first Briton to win the Tour de France with a dominant performance that saw him carry the yellow jersey for no fewer than 14 days, winning two stages along the way. He then went on to complete a dream summer by demolishing the field on the way to claiming gold in the Olympic time trial in front of his home fans in London.
However, there was more to his season than just those triumphs, with victories in Paris-Nice, the Tour of Romandie and the Criterium du Dauphine coming earlier in the campaign.
The Spaniard had such a successful year that he eclipsed even Wiggins to finish the season as the world's No 1-ranked rider. Marquee victories came after piercing lone attacks in Fleche Wallone and the Giro di Lombardia, while he also thrived at two of the year's Grand Tours. He vied for victory in both the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana, but had to settle for second and third respectively.
Rodriguez complemented those results with an attacking style that lit up races throughout the campaign and made for exhilarating racing across Europe.
The Belgian dominated the spring Classics in a manner reminiscent of compatriot Philippe Gilbert the year before. Boonen stormed to victories at Ghent-Wevelgem and the Tour of Flanders, but his crowning glory was a magnificent solo triumph at Paris-Roubaix.
The 32-year-old claimed a record-equalling fourth win in the race courtesy of a 50km lone attack over the cobbles of northern France, demolishing the opposition in the process and riding solo into the famous Roubaix velodrome.
The Kenyan-born rider played second fiddle to Wiggins for much of the year but nevertheless walked away from 2012 with enormous credit. Against expectation, Froome finished runner-up at the Tour de France and then proved himself to be a growing time-trial force by winning an Olympic bronze medal in the race against the clock at London 2012.
And while Wiggins was busy celebrating and winding down, his team-mate got back on the bike to register a creditable fourth place at a fiercely competitive Vuelta a Espana in which he kept pace with far fresher leaders for much of the race.
Race of the year
Thanks to an epic battle between Rodriguez, Alberto Contador and Alejandro Valverde over three pulsating weeks, the 2012 Vuelta a Espana was widely regarded to be the best Grand Tour in years.
All three fought tooth and nail up and down some of the most brutal climbs in Western Europe, thrilling onlookers with their piercing attacks and counter-attacks. Rodriguez had looked like he would take overall victory, but Contador stole it from his grasp with a sensational 50km lone attack on the 17th stage.
Most improved rider of the year
Laura Trott began the year as a relative unknown in the mainstream sporting world but ended it as the new queen of British track cycling after picking up two world titles and two Olympic titles in a sensational season on the boards. Still aged just 20, she appears to have the track cycling world at her feet.
Quotes of the year
"We're going to draw the raffle tickets now" - Bradley Wiggins's Tour de France victory speech.
"The evidence shows beyond any doubt that the US Postal Service Pro Cycling Team ran the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen" - Usada's Reasoned Decision document, which led to Lance Armstrong being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles.
"I say they're just f***ing w***ers, I cannot be doing [sic] with people like that. It justifies their own bone-idleness because they can't ever imagine applying themselves to do anything in their lives. It's easy for them to sit under a pseudonym on Twitter and write that sort of shit, rather than get off their arses in their own lives and apply themselves and work hard at something and achieve something. And that's ultimately it - c***s" - Bradley Wiggins's foul-mouthed tirade against those who suggested he might be doping on Twitter.
Biggest loser of the year
Lance Armstrong, once regarded as one of sport's greatest athletes, is now seen as its biggest fraud after being exposed as a serial doping cheat and having his seven Tour de France titles stripped. The Texan was described by a United States Anti-Doping Agency report as having been behind "the most sophisticated, professional and successful that sport has seen" between 1999 and 2005, yet he still refuses to admit his guilt and even tweeted of a picture of himself in front of his seven illegally won yellow jerseys.