Blazin' Saddles

Cycling review of the year 2013: Part One

As 2013 draws to a close, our cycling blogger takes a look back at all the main stories from the past 12 months.

In part one, Blazin' Saddles looks at January through to June.

January: "Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes!"

No, 2013 didn't begin with a screening of When Harry Met Sally. Instead, we had the belated confessions of the biggest fraud on the planet, who admitted to the world that he was a liar, cheat and bully.

Kicking off with five basic questions to which the (former) seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong answered with five affirmatives, When Lance Met Oprah was viewed on back-to-back nights in the early hours in the UK, leaving us all tired and wholly unsatisfied the following morning.

We learnt nothing new and Armstrong had complete control of proceedings, even managing to cry in the right places. It was as if he had a producer barking instructions down an earpiece.

February: The dastardly revelations continued with pasty Danish washing board Michael Rasmussen blowing the whistle on a decade of dope.

'The Chicken' admitted to using "EPO, growth hormone, testosterone, DHEA, insulin, IGF-1 and cortisone, and did blood transfusions" throughout his career - from his time at Bjarne Riis' CSC team right through to his modest comeback with Miche and Christina Watches.

Fabian Cancellara found himself inadvertently implicated in the on-going Operacion Puerto trial after a flippant comment made by Tyler Hamilton set the online message boards ablaze with speculation that Spartacus could be 'No.24 - Clasicomano Luigi' on Dr Fuentes' infamous client list.

Meanwhile, the Katushambles™ came to an end with the UCI reinstating the Russian-based team into the WorldTour.

March: With temperatures so cold icicles formed on helmets and top tubes, a weather-shortened Milan-San Remo was, funnily enough, won by a rider from a South African-based Pro-Continental team.

Former great German hope Gerald Ciolek of MTN-Qhubeka beat Peter Sagan and Cancellara - and around 10 other riders not to have thrown in the towel - to take the first Monument of the season.

In what was unfortunately their last match-up in the 2013 season, Vincenzo Nibali got the better of Chris Froome in Tirreno-Adriatico, while Filippo Pozzato celebrated winning Roma Maxima, despite finishing a minute behind victor Blel Kadri.

Although, given that it was the closest Pozzato would get to a win all season, perhaps the curly-haired Italian should have celebrated with more gusto.

In doping news, the Operacion Puerto trial revealed that Ivan Basso's favourite snack was sandwiches with "sausage, chorizo and cheese" - although he never actually took a bite.

Meanwhile, a French politician took it upon himself to update his Facebook status with news of the moment he shared a lift with a "great cycling champion" who had "lost control" and was "drunk and alone in a hotel airport".

After leaving his 400-odd followers on tenterhooks overnight, the bizarrely apostrophe'd Pierre-Yves Le Borgn' later revealed that the rider in question was none other than Andy Schleck, which was fairly preposterous. After all, hadn't Le Borgn' spok'n of a "great cycling champion"?

April: Weathering the storm (and despite claiming in an interview that he "hates cobbles"), Cancellara did his best Super Mario impression by completing his second Flanders-Roubaix double after riding clear of the entire Omega Pharma-Quick Step team in the Hell of the North.

Slovakia's answer to Raymond Poulidor, Peter Sagan, was forced to make a grovelling video apology - not for finishing a twentieth consecutive race as runner-up, but for pinching a podium girl called Maya's pert posterior after the Ronde.

What Sagan did was clearly an error of judgement (to put it mildly), but to claim - as one respected female cycling writer did - that his actions were tantamount to the wholesale promotion of the abuse of women was, perhaps, a slight over-exaggeration.

There were Ardennes wins for Roman Kreuziger lookalike Christian Bale and Daniels Moreno and Martin, before Chris Froome, with victory in the Tour de Romandie, rubbed more salt into Sky team-mate Bradley Wiggins' shaving cuts after the British knight had binned the only reminder of happier times - those trademark bushy sideburns.

May: Sir Wiggo's big target of the season was washed down the plughole after a series of sodden performances in virtually every downhill segment of the Giro d'Italia.

Wiggins quit the race with a chest infection shortly after the first week, with reigning champion Ryder Hesjedal also calling it a day after struggling as badly as an Englishman with a cricket bat in the Southern hemisphere.

Something was clearly on the Canadian's mind - although we wouldn't find out for a few months (once the statute of limitations had safely passed).

Nibali won his home Tour, leaving just a Tour de France-shaped hole on his palmares. Rigoberto Uran and Cadel Evans completed the podium, respectively opening a can of worms at Sky and giving Australians false hope ahead of the Grande Boucle (to think that some critics actually predicted a battling Evans to turn back time - and form - to make a top ten on the Tour...).

Battling over the climbs, Mark Cavendish secured the points jersey in what will be the zenith of the Manxman's stuttering season. Riding for the yellow fluorescent army of Vini Fantini, Italian livewires Mauro Santambrogio and Danilo Di Luca got their glow times in a bit of a muddle and tested positive for EPO, casting a nevertheless bright shadow over what was otherwise a brilliantly unpredictable Giro.

June: Dump-taking-praying-mantis-on-a-coat-hanger Chris Froome elbowed and kneed his way to the Criterium du Dauphine title to complete his near-perfect preparations for the Tour, which also included victories in Romandie, Oman and the Criterium International.

During the pre-Tour warm-up jolly, German giraffe Tony Martin complained about the "dangerous" descent of the Col de Sarenne, claiming it was "irresponsible" for race organisers to include it in the Tour de France (before voicing his view that there should be seven individual time trials during the race).

Meanwhile, Portuguese all-rounder Rui Costa underlines his big-race credentials with an overall win in the Tour de Suisse - but still Movistar, his team, won't take his form or pedigree seriously.

Ahead of the season's main event, Irish legends Stephen Roche and Sean Kelly both back Alberto Contador for the Tour crown during separate informal interviews with Blazin' Saddles. The Spaniard promptly crashes heavily in Corsica in the opening stage of the race, after unprecedented scenes saw Orica-GreenEdge put in their most worthy performance over a Tour finish line to date, their team bus getting wedged under the gantry and causing utter chaos.

Marcel Kittel romped home against no-one to take the opening stage and yellow jersey of the race. It won't be the last time viewers saw the smiling Argos-Shimano sprinter on the podium over the next few weeks - and it made a big difference to the German's diarrhoea-dogged debut Tour one year previously...

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