I'm pondering my 2005 Best Of stuff. Can't make up my mind which way I should go- totally sarcastic/ funny or try to be serious. This is a tough decision and one I am taking seriously (or am I?).
Best Pro Race; Giro d'Italia
Danilo DiLuca nearly steals the win and certainly steals the show in this first major test of the new Pro Tour. Paolo Savoldelli takes his second win in the event and gives Discovery somebody else to talk about for a change. Even Gilberto Simoni looks good in this year's event and rides bravely. The first critics of the new Pro Tour format are pretty much given a resounding "we told you" by the UCI as the race turns out to be one of the most exciting races in recent memory.
2005 You're Kidding Me Award; Amgen Tour of California
Amgen, the developer of EPO and many other fantastic drugs for patients suffering from many diseases like cancer, signs on as the title sponsor of the new Tour of California. Many people, including myself, have already mentioned the awkwardness of this partnership. I applaud Amgen for getting involved with the event, honestly I do, but this is going to become the biggest nightmare imaginable if a rider tests positive for EPO during the event. Heck, even if a rider tests positive at another event somewhere else in the world during the Tour of California, people are really going to be questioning this relationship. Amgen is already a sponsor of a wonderfully successful club and team here in Southern California. They put their money where their syringe is... I mean mouth. Amgen claims this is to put a spotlight on all the other different therapeutic drugs they develop and produce and I hope that turns out to be true. I'm hopeful, really, but my cycnical side is really having a hard time digesting this.
Coolest New Crap Award; SRAM road group
Yeah, yeah, yeah... shut up! It's my blog so I can keep talking about SRAM. Seriously, this new product isn't even available in 05 and won't be in 06 either. It won't be until 07 before we start seeing these sparkly new goodies in people's hands as honest-to-Budha working products. (Yeah, I already know that Kodak Gallery/Sierra Nevada will be racing on the parts in '06.) Still, the industry is buzzing about this stuff. For good reason too. Like I have said before, it works great and looks great, so it should hopefully be a real contender in the marketplace. Shimano and Campagnolo need to stop chasing each other and start chasing somebody else- themselves. Hopefully this will result in a bit of a shake-up that yields more innovation and better products for all consumers. Cosmetically, no parts are as pretty as Campy. Functionally- Shimano has always been reliable and the products relatively hassle-free. Now SRAM comes to the party with both of those characteristics- pretty and reliable. Shimano has continued to innovate for years since "inventing" indexed shifting- STI shifters, splined and now external BB's, cassette freewheels, SPD/SPD-R/SPD-SL (very similar to LOOK- I know) pedals, etc. Campy has done things with carbon in components that are just breathtaking and has been playing with electronic shifting for a few years now. However... a new kid on the block rattling cages can only be a good thing in my opinion.
I Didn't Do It Award; Roberto Heras (and by extension all dopers who got caught)
I want the guy to be innocent, I swear I do, but it doesn't look good. After winning his fourth Vuelta a Espana, Roberto's blood was a tad too rich in oxygen- in two tests. It's hard to say if he is or isn't innocent without knowing every single piece of the evidence, but it does not look good. Roberto is still a good person in my opinion and I'd like to believe he is innocent. But good people make bad choices just like the rest of us. He's human, just like the rest of us. Why we should hold athletes to a higher standard of conduct is beyond me. Yes, dopers suck. They shouldn't get to compete again either. David Millar- I'm talking about you. I really like Millar, but after admitting to doping, after first denying it, he is now poised to return to racing at the Tour de France in 06. I'm sorry, live and let live is a great belief, but it sends the wrong message to athletes and those considering the sport. Doping is wrong... period.
More Best Of crap as the year winds down.