Looking back on Britain's bumper cycling year
on January 5, 2009 by Administrator
What a year 2008 was for the British cycling team! Whether it was the World Track Championships in Manchester, the Tour De France or the Olympic Games in Beijing, Britain’s cyclists swept all before them.
Looking back, it is hard to believe that Chris Hoy’s golden year began with disappointment. In the World Track Championships in March, Hoy lost out in his first event, the Team Sprint. However, the Scotsman prevailed in his solo events, the Sprint and the Keirin, and came away from the event as a mere double World Champion!
It was Bradley Wiggins and not Hoy who picked up three gold medals in Manchester, triumphing in the Individual Pursuit, the Team Pursuit and the Madison. The Madison was Wiggins’ partner Mark Cavendish’s first major success of the year and kick-started an outstanding season for the rider from the Isle of Man.
Victoria Pendleton shone in the women’s events claiming world titles in the Sprint and Team Sprint and a silver medal in the Keirin. Unfortunately for her, only one of these events, the Sprint, appears on the Olympic schedule so she would only be in with a chance of a single gold medal in Beijing.
The World Championships was also the stage on which Rebecca Romero burst onto the international scene by winning the Individual Pursuit. A year previously Romero was a World silver medallist in the event. Her victory in Manchester set the Athens Olympic rowing medallist up nicely in her quest for gold in Beijing.
June 2008 saw British cycling fans’ attention turn to Italy and the Giro D’Italia, one of the three ‘Grand Tours’. Mark Cavendish didn’t wait long before making his mark on the event with victory on the 4th stage of the event. He followed this success with another victory on stage 13. Cavendish became only the third Brit to take a stage win in the Giro and is the first since 1987.
July in the cycling world means only one thing: the Tour De France. Cavendish was hoping to repeat his Giro D’Italia success in the world’s most famous race. Not only did he match his Giro success – he doubled it. The Manxman sprinted his way to a remarkable 4 stage wins. This was an absolutely phenomenal return in such a competitive bike race. In 2008 Mark Cavendish announced himself as one of the world’s fastest men on two wheels and, at the age of only 23, looks set to spend many years at the top of the sport.
And so to the Olympics in Beijing in August where coach David Brailsford assembled a cycling team which amassed 14 medals including 8 gold medals. Nicole Cooke continued her magnificent career by winning Britain’s first gold medal of the games in the Women’s Road Race. Then attention turned to the velodrome.
Chris Hoy made the headlines by becoming the first Briton in a century to win 3 gold medals at the same games. Victorious in the Team Sprint and the Keirin, Hoy also won the Sprint event ahead of team-mate Jason Kenny in 2nd place.
Another British one-two occurred in the Women’s Individual Pursuit event where Rebecca Romero overcame Wendy Houvenaghel in the final. Bradley Wiggins took home a pair of gold medals, winning the Team Pursuit and Individual Pursuit events. Fellow Brit, Steven Burke, picked up a surprise bronze medal in the Individual Pursuit. Victoria Pendleton picked up Britain’s 8th and final cycling gold medal in the Women’s Sprint.
Britain’s Paralympians followed these achievements by picking up a staggering 19 gold medals. Darren Kenny was the pick of the team with 5 medals including 4 golds. Mark Bristow, Jody Cundy, Anthony Kappes, Aileen McGlynn, Simon Richardson, David Stone and Sarah Storey each won two gold medals.
Yet more British success was to come at the Road World Championships held in Italy in September. Nicole Cooke followed her Olympic success with a superb victory on the road and in so doing became the first cyclist ever to win the Olympic road race and Road World Championship in the same season.
At the end of 2008 Chris Hoy (or should I say Sir Chris Hoy?) is picking up all the plaudits but who has had the best year in British cycling? Without belittling Hoy’s achievements, the exploits of Mark Cavendish and Nicole Cooke are surely more impressive within their sport. Cooke has accomplished something that the male or female cycling world has never seen before and Cavendish won 17 major road races, more than any other rider in 2008, and has become one of the world’s most exciting road race sprinters. But people like to be able to quantify success easily and in 2008, to those outside the cycling community, Hoy’s 3 gold medals beat Cooke’s 1 and Cavendish’s zero.
So it’s honours all round for Britain’s cyclists and coach David Brailsford as we enter 2009. Track cycling will take a back seat with no Olympic Games to keep it in the public eye. Next year looks set to be the year of road racing. In Mark Cavendish, Britain has a real talent who can dominate the flat stages in the Grand Tours and better his 2008 results. In a year in which the Tour De France will be big news with the return of Lance Armstrong, Cavendish could be propelled to superstardom.