Saturday 3 December 2016

The 2016 'Subiendo como una moto' Awards


          Welcome to the third edition of the 'Subiendo como una moto' Awards! The best 10 climbing performances of the season are:

10th. Lachlan Morton on Empire Pass, stage 7 Tour of Utah
9th. Gustavo Cesar Veloso on Senhora da Graca, stage 4 of Volta a Portugal
8th. Vincenzo Nibali up Col de la Lombarde, stage 20 of Giro d'Italia
7th. Mollema, Porte and Froome on Mont Ventoux, stage 12 of Tour de France
6th. Porte and Froome on Finhaut-Emosson, stage 17 of Tour de France
5th. Richie Porte up Willunga Hill, stage 5 of Tour Down Under
4th. Alberto Contador's raid on Peille and Col d'Eze, stage 7 of Paris-Nice
3rd. Chaves and Kruijswijk on Passo Valparola, stage 14 of Giro d'Italia
2nd. Alberto Contador on Arrate, stage 6 of Vuelta al Pais Vasco
1st. Nairo Quintana on Lagos de Covadonga, stage 10 of Vuelta a Espana

         The 2016 season started with the exhibition of Richie Porte on Willunga Hill. Ferociously fast, he proved there and then that he didn't lose any watts after leaving Team Sky. However, during the spring, it was Alberto Contador who held the climbing speed supremacy. His performances on Malhao, Cote de Peille, Col d'Eze and Arrate were at the same level he displayed during the springs of 2007 and 2009. For his biggest goals of the year, he failed to reach a similar level, his wattages being close to those he reached in 2013. While there is no certitude, the injuries sustained in Le Tour might have been the cause.
        The hotly anticipated duel between Vincenzo Nibali and Mikel Landa vanished quickly after the first Giro mountains. Steven Kruijswijk found the form of his life and dominated the Dolomites. His biggest rival appeared to be Esteban Chaves, who just like Kruijswijk, climbed better than ever. Their performance on Passo Valparola was the heighest recorded in this Giro. Only a race incident could have changed the winner of the race and so it happened on the descent of Agnello. While Nibali definitely improved his form in the last mountain block, it wasn't that what won him the Giro. Other notable things from La Corsa Rosa: Zakarin-the future Grand Tour threat, Valverde-forever young and Gazprom's insane peak for the mountain time trial.
         Le Tour was once again a procession for Team Sky. The super strong mountain train had no difficulties in controlling the race with Froome satisfied to defend his advantage won in time trials. Unlike back in 2013 and 2015, Froome didn't deliver any annihilating uphill performance in this edition. Nairo Quintana, his expected-to-be fierce rival, was at least 10 watts far away from his best shape. On the other hand, Bardet, Adam Yates, Meintjes, Mollema and Dan Martin set their best ever climbing performances this July. Since 1999, this was probably the Tour with the highest overall level uphill. No less than 10 riders (!) with quite high wattages. But will someone remember it because of this?...
         Freshness. That's what it takes to win La Vuelta. Almost all the winners since 1995 started the race after skipping Le Tour or at least after not playing a major role in France. Everything changed this year. Chris Froome didn't show any fatigue, remaining at the same insane level since the Dauphine-via Rio. Displaying his tremendous recovery skills, only a tactical failure stopped him from managing to win the Tour-Vuelta double. The victory went to Nairo Quintana, who had the watts which he lacked one month earlier. The Vuelta's climbing speeds were pretty much at the same level observed since 2007. With one exception: Lagos de Covadonga, the performance of the year and one of the best of the last decade. 26 years old and already 2 'Subiendo como una moto' Awards under his belt. Not exaggerated to say that Nairo Quintana already is one of the best climbers in cycling's history.
        The climbing level of the 2016 season, while high, is one step lower than that of 2015, the number of top performances being significantly smaller. Two major events shook the statistics, this year: the huge number of very fast guys in Le Tour and the amazing recovery of Froome and Quintana for La Vuelta. Since Marco Pantani's 1998 double, they are the first riders (especially Froome) to be so close to win back-to-back Grand Tours. Even though Giro-Tour is more difficult, they have the physical abilities to make it. Hopefully, they will give it a shot. The sooner, the better.