|© Yuzuru Sunada|
The second edition of the "Subiendo como una moto" Awards is here. The 10 most impressive climbing performances of the 2015 season are:
10th. Rafal Valls on Jabal Al Akhdar (Green Mountain), stage 4 of Tour of Oman
9th. Aru, Contador & Porte up the Abetone, stage 5 of Giro d'Italia
8th. Christopher Froome on Col du Soudet (Pierre-Saint-Martin), stage 10 of Tour de France
7th. Christopher Froome on Le Bettex, stage 7 of Criterium Dauphine
6th. Diego Rosa on Superga, Milano-Torino
5th.Victor de la Parte on Kitzbuheler Horn, stage 6 of Tour of Austria
4th. Vincenzo Nibali's raid towards La Toussuire, stage 19 of Tour de France
3rd. Richie Porte on Willunga Hill, stage 5 of Tour Down Under
2nd. Rodriguez and Aru on Ermita de Alba, stage 16 of Vuelta a Espana
1st. Nairo Quintana on Alpe d'Huez, stage 20 of Tour de France
The overall climbing level of the whole 2015 season is without a doubt, one of the highest witnessed since 2006. From January (Willunga Hill) to October (Superga), the uphill speeds were constantly reaching amazing values. During this period of time, no less than 10 (!) new record ascents were set. A rich harvest, for sure.
The most striking (and fascinating) event of the season was the huge rise in performance seen in the smaller races, especially those outside of World Tour. If overall, there wasn't a return to the pre-2007 climbing speeds, that's not the case for these races. There was a major boost in performance, no matter the country of the race, or even the continent. While in last year's "Subiendo como una moto' Awards, there was only a single performance realized in a smaller race (Tom Danielson in Tour of Utah), this year there are four! It shall be very interesting to see if this frightening, upward trend will continue next year or not.
The other six performances of the Top 10 were realized, as it was expected, in the world's biggest races by the world's best climbers. The first Grand Tour of the year, Il Giro d'Italia delivered just one award-winning performance but that doesn't tell the whole story. It probably was one of the hardest ridden Grand Tours of the modern era. And different things affected badly the performances of all the three best climbers in the race: illness for Aru, saving energy-mode for Contador and defensive team tactics for Landa. The Basque was not only the climbing revelation of the Giro, but of the whole season.
La Vuelta a Espana was as always, a very open race, full of surprises. With the exception of Ermita de Alba stage, the reached climbing speeds were at the same level seen after 2006. Esteban Chaves and Tom Dumoulin emerged as fresh Grand Tour contenders while Purito Rodriguez, Majka, Quintana and Aru proved their climbing class once again. The race was won not necessarily by the strongest rider but by the strongest team. Astana from the 2015 Giro and Vuelta was in my opinion, one the most dominating and powerful teams in the mountains of the last 20 years.
Nonetheless, it was the cycling's biggest race, the Tour de France, which delivered no less than three of the ten greatest climbing performances of the season. As in 2013, Froome dominated the first block of mountains, out-classing all his rivals but just like two years ago, he got slower in the mountains of the last week. Still fast enough to win his second Tour, though. His biggest rival, Nairo Quintana on the other hand, showed again his extraordinary recovery skills, getting better as the race progressed. The definitive proof came on stage 20, when Nairo set the fastest Alpe d'Huez ascent since 2006 and the 23rd of all-time. On the route, he also crushed the Croix de Fer record with a blistering time. While it was hard to rank them, I consider this to be the most impressive climbing performance of 2015. Enhorabuena, Nairo!