The official ‘Spokies’ return belatedly this week to announce the winners of 2016’s awards, as well as the results of our debut inclusion of the public voting polls, discovering who your champions were last season. From the thunderous classics which raised the curtain in 2015 to one of the most exciting World Championships in recent years, the season offered drama in spades from start to finish; while controversy never seemed far away either. Our usual choice of Spokenforks favourite moments and riders from 2015 are also in the mix as ever, offering insight as to who or what caught the public’s imagination the greatest during the year.
Best Grand Tour of 2015 – Giro d’Italia
It was the battle for the maglia rosa which inspired you the most in 2015, the Giro d’Italia dominating the voting to be crowned the best grand tour of the year. The race itself was an unpredictable affair for the most part, demonstrated by the fact we did not see a repeat stage winner in the opening two weeks of the race. This fact was turned on its head during the final week however, as all but the final stage’s unexpected winner was a rider who had already taken victory earlier in the race. Despite Astana’s stranglehold upon the mountains, Alberto Contador’s bad luck and mid-race injury, the Spaniard still emerged champion with a convincing winning margin atop the general classification. Other notable performers during the race were Iljo Keisse, Davide Formolo and Nicola Boem; all of whom took impressive and unexpected victories.
Best Team Kit – MTN-Qhubeka
Indulging your love for style and aesthetics, we asked you to pick the winner of the best kit for 2015 and the Notts County style stripes of MTN-Qhubeka proved to be the most popular. Though the choice of black within kit designs has become the norm recently, the African squad incorporated bold monochrome stripes and the golden yellow of their charity’s design to produce a unique kit which caught the eye with ease. Their colours were flown by grand tour stage winners Stephen Cummings (TdF Stage 14) and Kristian Sbaragli (Vuelta Stage 10); eventually closing their account of wins with an overall victory at the Tour of Britain courtesy of Edvald Boasson Hagen.
Best One Day Race – Paris-Roubaix
No other classic seems to capture people’s imagination quite like ‘The Hell of The North’, with 2015’s edition proving to be another full-throttle affair from start to finish. Much was made of Bradley Wiggins’ participation as a contender for the win, but despite his efforts to show his talents, John Degenkolb utilised a potent combination of tactical nous and strength to outmanoeuvre his rivals and lift the cobbled trophy. You could almost justify a noteworthy mention for any rider who successfully finished this brutal race, but to narrow it down some what, Luke Rowe, Martin Elmiger and Florian Senechal were three who impressed on the day in particular.
Hot Prospect 2016 – Caleb Ewan
It was always going to prove to be an interesting affair learning who you deemed to be the most exciting talent heading into the 2016 season. Perhaps serendipitously, our belated announcements have demonstrated that you know exactly what you are talking about; Caleb Ewan is red hot. Having won all of the Bay Crits, Caleb Ewan started the Tour Down Under with the pressure to seize the crown as the race’s man to beat in the sprints and he did not falter. The young Australian showcased his incredible turn of pace and unique low slung sprinting position in style, securing Ewan two wins which bookended his time at the race and sent out a warning to the old guards of the WorldTour’s sprint finishes.
Official Spokies Awards
Domestic Rider of the Year – Peter Williams
The biggest stage for the British domestic teams on home soil each year is The Tour of Britain, a week long race which tasks the plucky upstarts of the nation’s scene to cause a stir and perhaps catch the WorldTour professionals napping. During 2015, ONE Pro Cycling did nothing to hide their ambitions of climbing towards the very top of the sport, with their showing at The Tour of Britain a definite springboard towards their confirmation as a ProContinental team for 2016. It was Peter Williams who served up the greatest glory for the British team in the face of tough competition however, walking away as King of The Mountains once the week was over; bettering his domestic rival Thomas Stewart by just two points.
Domestic Race – British National Road Race Championship
No race came close to matching the atmosphere and drama of the British title race upon Lincoln’s famous Grand Prix course; including the legendary Michaelgate. For those who had already seen Peter Kennaugh win upon the GP course a couple of years previous, it seemed certain throughout the day that he would be walking away once again in the red, white and blue bands. It was the performance of Mark Cavendish though which really impressed many stood on the cobbled hill, only just being edged out by his fellow Manxman on a course which many presumed unlikely to feature Cavendish towards the final stages. The women’s race was no different either, leading us neatly on to the next award…
Rider of The Year – Lizzie Armitstead
Of all the riders who tackled the Michaelgate during the British championship, nobody soared up the cobbled climb with such effortless ease and fluidity as Lizzie Armitstead did. The British title was accompanied by an overall World Cup win and ended the year with her hands upon the rainbow jersey as well. Armitstead’s ride at Richmond blended tactical nous and her imperious form to potent effect, adapting throughout the race as breakaways came and went, before then keeping a cool head late on when inadvertently sitting at the front of affairs as the sprint began to wind up and taking the win.
Controversial Moment – Motorbikes
A freak anomaly or a sign of the times, at one point in 2015 it felt like a race could not pass without some incident involving motorbikes and riders. From inadvertently aiding Adam Yates en route to winning San Sebastian to hitting Peter Sagan to the ground only a couple of weeks before the World Championships; much was made of bike vs moto etiquette during the season. There is no doubt that 2016 will serve to demonstrate lessons learned hopefully and highlight the previous year as the anomaly it surely was.
Surprise Winner – Ilnur Zakarin at Tour de Romandie
Ilnur Zakarin schooled plenty of big name riders as to why you simply cannot underestimate a man in top form as they sat and watched him defend his lead at the Tour de Romandie convincingly. A huge ride to Champex-Lac delivered him the lead, but few expected him to maintain it during the final day’s time trial; Simon Spilak, Chris Froome and Thibaut Pinot all falling short despite their best efforts to reel him back. Zakarin would go on to catch the peloton napping once again at the Giro d’Italia, taking the honours on Stage 11’s ride into Imola.
– Thank you to everyone who voted in the first ever Spokies public polls, keep in touch here or via @spokenforks during this year and we will be back in the blink of an eye for Spokies 2016.