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Yearender cycling: Armstrong case sends shockwaves

Updated: 2012-12-24 17:18
( Agencies)

Solo efforts

The year 2012 was also special for Tom Boonen as the Belgian won a record-equalling fourth Paris-Roubaix title, snatched a unique second Roubaix-Tour of Flanders double and became the first rider to achieve the Flemish cobblestones quadruple of E3 Harelbeke, Gent-Wevelgem, Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

Alberto Contador made his much-awaited return from a doping ban just before the Tour of Spain (Vuelta), which he won after one of his trademark solo efforts that unsettled eventual world number one Joaquim Rodriguez.

The Spaniard, one of only five riders with titles in all three grand Tours (France, Italy, Spain), made his move when nobody expected it and then hung on for the red jersey to become the third grand tour winner of the year after Wiggins and Giro champion Ryder Hesjedal of Canada.

Spain's Rodriguez finished the year as world number one but there was nothing he could do to prevent Belgium's Philippe Gilbert becoming world champion thanks to a brutal attack in the final climb in Valkenburg, Netherlands.

Gilbert succeeded British sprinter Mark Cavendish, who had a rough year, being reduced to a domestique role on the Tour de France to help Wiggins claim the title although he still managed to win three stages to take his tally to 23.

Cavendish left Team Sky to join Omega Pharma-Quick Step as the Manxman bids to one day beat Eddy Merckx's stage-wins record of 34.

He suffered a further low as Britain failed in their bid to take him to a much-awaited victory in the road race at the Olympics. Britain were outfoxed by the Kazakh Alexandre Vinokourov, who prevailed thanks to a bold attack which saw the victory of old school cycling.

Britain bounced back from the early Games disappointment, reasserting their domination in Olympic cycling with another awe-inspiring medal haul on the track and Wiggins' terrific victory in the road time trial.

The squad took the velodrome by storm in a spine-chilling atmosphere with Jason Kenny and Chris Hoy leading the charge with two golds while the pursuit teams shattered world records as Britain equalled their Beijing record of seven titles.

Britain's rivals were generally left picking up the crumbs.

The team, led by British Cycling director of performance David Brailsford, grabbed a total of 12 medals across all disciplines, eight of them gold, while no other delegation managed more than one title.

Australia were spared total embarrassment when Anna Meares beat British media darling Victoria Pendleton 2-0 in the individual sprint final on the day Hoy prevailed in the keirin to become Britain's most successful Olympian.

Hoy has seven Games medals, six of them gold, which put him ahead of Wiggins on 'gold difference' and took him past rower Steve Redgrave's previous record British tally of five golds.

It was a year to forget, however, for the Schleck brothers, who were expected to give Wiggins a run for his money on the Tour de France.

Andy did not even take part after sustaining a hip injury in June that ruined most of his season while his older brother Frank was withdrawn form the race by his Radioshack-Nissan team after testing positive for a banned diuretic.

Doping was not the only issue cycling faced in 2012 as investors wanting to secure the sport, as well as several teams looking for a larger piece of the pie, opened talks to launch the World Series of Cycling, 10 four-day grands prix all around the world organised in a possible joint venture with the UCI.

How it can fit in a very busy calendar with cycling's historical races is an unanswered question.

In women's road cycling, Dutchwoman Marianne Vos confirmed she was the female version of the great Merckx, winning the world and Olympic titles.

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