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2012 Year End Awards, Part One

Bros– History will likely be unkind to 2012. For fans of pro cycling, ’twas the year of perps, snitches, schadenfreude, and nauseating self-righteousness. We all came out as losers. It’s nice to hope that the revelations of the year will cleanse the sport of 15 years of foulness. But optimism is hard to come by when the biggest races — Paris-Roubaix, the Tour de France, the Olympics — were all won by old guard stalwarts. Some have lobbied for Truth And Reconciliation. Maybe instead we should just force retirement on all pros older than 29.

With the sunset of this forgettable season upon us, we offer our annual year end awards. If nothing else, they’re a statement of hope that stories of needles and the icy chill of blood bags didn’t completely overshadow the past year in bikes —

Quote of the year:

“Some will say that winning here is not a big fish, but to me it’s a nice greasy fish.’ – Niki Terpstra, after his victory at the Belgian semi-classic Dwars door Vlaanderen.

Photo of the year:

Honorable mention goes to Godfather of the Modern Handbuilt Frame phenomenon, Richard Sachs. It’s as though E-Richie is asking a question with his photo of old-school Campagnolo rim cutouts: You salivate over my frames, but where’s the fascination around handbuilt wheelsets? Except for Justin Spinelli’s fabulous Luxe Wheelworks, it’s a figment of a market begging for market-makers.

Picture 008

Another honorable mention goes to a random photo I tripped across on Tumblr. It had no caption, no description. My best guess is that this is Paris-Roubaix 2012, but I’m not certain. Anyway, this gets the nod for the best race photo of the year, not a shabby designation.

Paris-Roubaix, presumably

The winning photo, though, was sent to me in response to a challenge I recently posed to the world. Somewhere out there exists a photo of PRO Leif Hoste. His hair is slicked back, and he’s exiting a Chrysler 300 with record-breaking nonchalance. Two words, if you can really apply them to a Belgian: Gangsta lean. I’ll still give a $100 Competitive Cyclist gift card to anyone who can track that photo down.

A friend of mine tried to track down Hoste, but was among the many who failed. Yet in something faintly resembling one-upmanship, he offered this photo of an unidentifiable Sky pro loading his cleaned-up Dogma after an unknown race. How can something so wrong seem so right? It’s in the unanswerability of that that I deem this the photo of the year. Or, if nothing else, it’s the most enigmatic.

Dogma in Porsche

While it may seem awkward to squeeze a bike into the back of a 911, the alternatives are so much worse.

Porsche with Rocketbox

Porsche with ski rack

And while we’re featuring Awkward Moments With 911s, let’s point out A Color Called Blasphemy–

A color called blasphemy

Sprint finish of the year:

Year of the year:

1998. Sure, the bad shit was well underway. But Ullrich was slaying all while wearing a chronograph. So much pure, unadulterated PROness. What’s left to do except to quote Cleopatra?

‘My salad days,
When I was green in judgment: cold in blood,
To say as I said then!’

Ullrich and the amazing wristwatch choice

Mapei glamour

Salad Days

Apparel of the year:

The winner is Craft squared. If your preference is vintage, then the nod goes to this Craft Full Zip Hoodie. Craft is good for a new team-oriented hoodie every year. From CSC it went to Saxo. From Saxo to Leopard-Trek. From there it went to Radioshack-Nissan. And it’s good for a Swedish X-Country skiing version every year as well. Some get freaky for each year’s new edition of the Air Jordan. Others hold out for the Craft hoodie.

And if your apparel preference is utilitarian, then the nod goes to the Craft Active Extreme Crew Base Layer. This might be the best winter baselayer ever. It relies purely on insulation and not on windblock. But when combined with a nice jacket (such as the Craft Storm) it provides plenty of warmth. The crew neck is just right, stopping just below your Adam’s Apple. If you’re stuck between sizes, choose the smaller one. It’s thin, light, and super-warm. April wins are earned in January, so skimping on your winter wear is never an option.

Interview of the year:

Once upon a time the story of an American bike racer making the mettle-testing pilgrimage to Europe was spellbinding. The successes of Greg LeMond and the 7-Eleven team — not to mention less celebrated trailblazers, such as Joe ‘Dog In A Hat’ Parkin — is the stuff of legend not just for the palmares they earned, but because of their battles to overcome monumental naïveté.

NateBut it’s now a story that’s gone stale. It seems like every Cat 2 I know has made it over to Belgium for a week or two of kermesse punishment. Europe is no longer exotic. It’s no longer possible to be naïve about the journey. Getting pummeled over there has been emptied of all its romantic potential.

Coming to the rescue is second-year domestic pro Nate King. He’s prepping for next season in a manner totally unorthodox for an American: He’s spending three months in the mountains of Colombia. In reading a recent interview with him by Klaus at Cycling Inquisition, I remembered the terrifying foreignness of Europe during the late 80’s, when Americans first became cannon fodder there. Regardless of Nate’s results in 2013, nothing will be more memorable in his life than his time in Colombia. The interview reminded me of the importance of living life well. Chapeau Nate, and chapeau Klaus for revealing the tale.

Food of the year:

Part of a lifelong romance with road cycling is plucking out bits of Euroness, then trying to make them part of this American life. My search for a wagon earlier this year was part of that. Another, less costly, attempt at the same has been the Quirk household Nutella consumption in the last five years.

January 31, 2012 - Obsession du jour.I first chose to go all-in on Nutella after being a guest at a pre-Tour of California training camp in Agoura Hills, California with Team CSC several years ago. It feels like ancient history now, being surrounded by Riis and his band of rogues. The riding was amazing, but the biggest impact was what I saw at breakfast. The riders shoveled Nutella on every last thing they ate. For them, perhaps, it was a comforting bit of home. For me, it was Euro inspiration ripe for the emulation.

Team CSC, like any pro team in the mid-2000’s, had a litany of forbidden habits. So if we’re hoping to clean up the sport, perhaps we should start with a purification of the habits inspired by them. Between that, and the fact that my kids can’t bring Nutella sandwiches to school due to nut allergy regulations, 2012 was a year for a new culinary direction.

Just as pros have purported said goodbye to EPO and hello to multivitamins, we’re now saying goodbye to Nutella and hello to Biscoff Spread. It has all the creamy sweetness of Nutella. But instead of the heavy-handed chocolate in Nutella, Biscoff has pure honeyed sugariness. For what it symbolizes — not just for how it tastes — Biscoff is our food of the year.

– Stay tuned for Part Two of our year end awards next week.