Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the historic Moore Theater in downtown Seattle, and to the 2013 Podium Cafe Awards for the Achievement of Excellence in the Field of Professional Road Cycling! This year's show features an unprecedented lineup of stars and legends, so without further ado, here's your host for the 2013 Podium Cafe Awards for Achievement of Excellence in the Field of Professional Road Cycling...
... your host for the 2013 Podium Cafe Awards for Achievement of Excellence in the Field of Professional Road Cycling...
OK, Bernard Hinault promised he'd be here, but apparently there's been a slight snafu. So we'll call upon one of our standby hosts... Miss Brooke Shields!
Shields: Cycling can lift us up from the doldrums of our miserable lives, by showing us that if you put your mind to something and work hard, you can achieve your dreams.
OK, forget it, I'll do this myself.
Me: Look, it's been another tough year for the world's toughest sport. I could go on and on about who ruined my FSA DS team (coughBreschelcough) and who, um, accidentally strayed outside the bounds of ethical conduct at the Giro d'Italia, to the surprise of all of Abruzzo. These things happen. You can't make omelettes without breaking a few eggs. And if those eggs give you a boost in performance, is that so wrong?
Well, is it?
[distant cough in the back]
Me: OK fine, let's start with the awards.
The award for most improved rider in the Men's Elite Peloton will be presented by Zombie Maurice Garin and Specialized-LuLuLemon star Evelyn Stevens.
Stevens: Thank you.
Garin: Grrrnnn. Laaaaaa.
Stevens: As a professional cyclist I can tell you that getting to the top is a long and lonely climb. Today's award for Most Improved Rider has undoubtedly suffered long hours on the bike, with teammates and on his own, as well as hours spent chasing down all the details of attaining a world class performance. There are flights to distant cities to sit in a wind tunnel. There are team events, media events, dietary consultations, equipment testing, and the long, ever-evolving process of setting out a plan for the entire year.
Stevens: That's right Maurice -- even when it looks like you've made it, there are greater goals, and greater sacrifices required to attain them.
Garin: nnnnnnduuurrr... First ...cgcg.. finalist... Nairo Quintanarrrrrrggg
[Announcer: And Nairo Quintana has just won the Tour of the Basque Country!]
[Announcer: Even though we know brown people can't time trial.]
Stevens: Sorry bout that little bit of picture breakup. Can we go to the next clip?
[Announcer: And Quintana is all alone! Froome can't respond! There is nothing this kid can't do!]
Stevens: Our next finalist is a German sprinter who made the fastest men in the world stand up and salute his performance at the Tour de France.
[Announcer: Cavendish is headed up the middle, it looks like he's headed to victory, but Kittel is on his wheel! Can he catch Cavendish on the line?! He can! And it's three wins for Marcel Kittel!!]
Stevens: Yes, Marcel Kittel was one of the revelations of cycling this year, and he's just getting started. Maurice?
Garin: Lllllaaaa... Third... nggg ... finalist... Zdenek... Stybaraaaains!!!
Stevens: Sorry about that. Maurice couldn't stay with us for the entire presentation, but hey, I know, I get pretty excited about these things too.
[Announcer: Zdenek Stybar, nearly five hours in the saddle, and he takes one final look back at Stannard. Stybar is going to win his second stage of the ENECO Tour on the cobblestones, and he will move into the overall lead!]
Stevens: And the winner for Most Improved Performance by an Elite Male Cyclist for 2013 is...
[PA: Nairo Quintana becomes the second Colombian rider to win the award, after Luis Herrera in 1985.]
Stevens: Nairo is joined today on the podium by his parents, his brother and Movistar teammate Dayer, Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos, actress Sofia Vergara, and half of the nation of Colombia.
Quintana: Thank you all. I am very honored to be receiving this award. I look forward to more battles in France with Chris Froome and the other great cyclists here tonight.
[Cut to Froome]
Me: Thank you Evie and Zombie Maurice. Next up, we turn to the Women's peloton for our first of two awards, the award for best race day of the year. And to present the award, here are Erik Dekker and Marianne Vos's Mom's Cat!
Dekker: Dank u wel, thank you everyone. It's an honor to be here and to help recognize the great achievements in women's cycling this season.
Cat: [twitches nose]
Dekker: That's right Sjekkie, it was a very good year for women's racing. Let's look at the three days which made it most exciting. The first is the Trofeo Binda, starring Elisa Longo Borghini.
[Announcer: Grandissima per Elisa Longo Borghini!]
Dekker: This was a special win for Longo Borghini and her country, as she became the first Italian rider since 2003 to win the race.
Dekker: Right, 2000. Sorry. Anyway, the win propelled Longo Borghini up the World Cup standings, where she finished sixth with 531 points.
Dekker. Correct, 531.58.
Dekker: The second entry in our field for best day of women's cycling is Stage 2 of the Giro Rosa, won by Italian sprinter Giorgia Bronzini in a mad dash to the line.
[Announcer: Vos on the left side, Bronzini is closing fast, and ... OH! Vos almost goes down! What happened there? Bronzini takes the stage win!]
Dekker: Yes, that was a crazy finish, and we are all grateful Marianne did not go down. For Bronzini it was another big moment in Italian cycling, the first Giro Rosa stage since 2009...
Dekker: That's right Sjekkie, since Noemi Cantele's win. And the first for Bronzini in the same part of Italy in 2008.
Dekker: Correct, in Pontecchio Polesini.
Sjekkie: [flexes claw]
Dekker: Polesine. OK, for our third and final entry, it's the UCI World Championships Road Race.
[Announcer: Johansson goes on the attack, Marianne Vos goes with her! Johansson is shutting the door on Vos. Marianne Vos now makes the move!! Here she goes!]
Sjekkie: Mrrrowww!!! Pfft! Pfft! Rrrooowww!!
Dekker: It's a replay, Sjekkie, we already know what happened!
[Announcer: Vos is giving everything she has! You can hear the Dutch fans, they've gone absolutely mad!]
Sjekkie: Pfft!! Pfffffttt!!
Dekker: OK, well as you know it was a great day for Vos and for Dutch cycling. For Vos it was her third rainbow jersey...
Sjekkie: Mrrow, pfft, pfft, mrrrrr, prrrr, rrooooww...
Dekker: Sjekkie, I don't think we have time to name them all here. But you're right, it was her third road world championship, in addition to her cyclocross and track titles.
And the winner is...
Marianne Vos and the UCI World Championships Road Race!!
Me: Thank you Erik, and thank you Sjekkie. We look forward to more of your insights and information on the Sjekkie Show podcast, available on iTunes. OK, our next category is Men's Elite Road Racing Day of the Year. Let's bring up our presenters, Kevin Pauwels and Alessandra De Stefano!
De Stefano: Grazie a tutti! Thank you all. I am very happy to be here and to talk about the most beautiful sport in tutto il mondo, il bello Ciclismo!
De Stefano: It is our pleasure to talk to you today about the most beautiful days of the year in cycling. Our first contestant is Milano-Sanremo, la Classicissima, la Primavera. Except this year it was l'Inverno instead. Snow shortened parts of the race, and many riders did not continue after a bus transfer was necessary for the Passo del Turchino. Still, it was a beautiful race for those who remain, who showed courage and cleverness required to win in Sanremo.
[Announcer: Peter Sagan goes up the right hand side, and here comes Gerard Ciolek of the MTN Qubekha Team! Who's gonna get it? And it looks like Ciolek has won!!]
Pauwels: It was very hard.
De Stefano: Certo. OK for our second entry, we go to another classic, Parigi Roubaix, the hell of the north. Always this is a great race under very hard conditions, and this year was no exception, right Kevin?
[Announcer: Vanmarcke looks over his shoulder, Cancellara's in the best position at the moment. Vanmarcke's gonna have to lead this sprint out. Vanmarcke goes for it! He's out of the saddle but Cancellara's there as he's coming around the outside!! And Vanmarcke is... beaten to the line as Cancellara takes his third win!]
De Stefano: Certo. A lot of drama on that day and a great campionissimo for the cobbles in Cancellara. Now, our third and final entry is Stage 13 of the Tour de France, a day that many riders will not forget.
[Announcer: Now Valverde comes in across the line. He's lost over twelve minutes today, but he's not the only rider to suffer here in the crosswinds of northern France.]
De Stefano: And the winner for best day of men's elite cycling in 2013 is...
Me: Thank you Alessandra and Kevin!
Pauwels: Yoah. It was my pleasure and I would like to add that it is an honor to be here paying tribute to all these wonderful, dedicated athletes. I hope I can be a part of future celebrations for my discipline of cyclocross. Thank you to the Podium Cafe for supporting cycling and cyclocross over the years. I love you all!
Me: ooohkaaay. Next, we turn to the moment where we name our Women's Elite Cyclist of the Year for 2013. To present the award, here are Emma Johansson, Ellen van Dijk, and Marianne Vos!
Emma, Ellen and Marianne: Thank you all!
Ellen: I am very honored to introduce the greatest cyclist, man or woman, ever to come from Sweden. This brilliant lady was the #1 rider in the world this year, with wins in Thuringen Rundfahrt, Pays de la Loire and the Swedish Championships. She is a competitor for all of the hardest races, a very strong and also very smart rider. Emma Johansson!
Emma: Thank you Ellen! And it is my pleasure to introduce our next nominee, who needs no introduction. You saw her earlier beating me at the world championships. I felt bad afterward but you know, you aren't a women's cyclist if you haven't lost to this fantastic competitor and person. The reigning world champion, Marianne Vos!
Marianne: Thank you Emma, your support and friendship means a lot to me, even when we are competing. And now it is my pleasure to introduce our third nominee. A great friend and countrywoman, a great all around athlete from cycling to speed-skating, a roadie, a trackie and a time trialist par excellence. She is just getting started on her career as a road champion, and I know we will be friends and neighbors and competitors and occasionally teammates for a long time to come. Ellen van Dijk, dames en heren!
Marianne, Emma and Ellen: And the winner is...
Emma and Ellen: Marianne Vos!
Marianne: Thank you guys! [hugs all around]
Me: Thank you all. It's too bad you couldn't show a little more sportsmanship there.
Ellen: You mean sportswomanship?
Me (looking at feet): I'll be good.
OK, for our last award, the Elite Men's Rider of the Year, let's bring out Mark Cavendish and Henri Desgrange!
Cavendish: Thank you! Thank you all! This is such an honor! I want to thank my teammates...
Desgrange: No Mark, we are here to present the best rider award.
Cavendish: It's OK, I don't mind being the presenter. I'm not shy. Thank you guys!
Desgrange: Mark, I mean we are presenting it to someone else.
Cavendish: Oh. Shit.
Desgrange: In my time the Tour de France was a test of incredible endurance. Our goal was to make the race harder every year, and I always thought that the best outcome would be for only one rider to survive to the finish in Paris.
Desgrange: How you say? HTFU. OK, still today I think the Tour de France is a great challenge, as well as a great spectacle. All of cycling comes to France to honor the sport for twenty-three days. All of the world media is there as well.
Audience: Wankers! [inaudible]!
Desgrange: Thank you Sir Bradley. Anyway, let us now turn to all of 2013 and the riders who made it special.
Cavendish: The first honoree is a friend and former teammate of mine. A rider whose presence on the Team Sky squad made mine expendable. He's an OK bloke and I don't hate him for what he did to me, let's cheer for Chris Froome!
[Announcer: And Chris Froome has won the time trial and now surely he will become the second British winner of the Tour de France!]
Desgrange: Yes, that was a great win in the Tour this year, although he only won three stages and at times he was not the strongest rider. But your modern cycling honors him anyway. Now for our second contestant, he is the man who has shown the greatest fortitude in the hardest races, a three-time winner of Paris-Roubaix and two-time winner of the Tour of Flanders. He is often the strongest rider in cycling and he has said he will challenge the Hour Record on a regular bike, something that has always defined true men. Mesdames et messieurs, Fabian Cancellara!
[Announcer: There is nothing Sagan can do now, as Cancellara will win the Tour of Flanders for the second time.]
Cavendish: Lastly, we honor one more rider, a man who is sometimes fast enough to beat me. Usually he isn't, but people call him the best sprinter because he can climb well enough to finish fourth on a bunch of intermediate sprints that don't interest the real sprinters. He also wins a lot of races in America, Land of the free and home of the shit-small stage race. And I guess he can ride up the side of a car, so that's something. I don't like him, I don't respect him, and I plan to beat him a lot next year. Peter Sagan!
[Announcer: And Sagan has pulled away, he will win the Grand Prix here in Montreal in dominant fashion!]
Desgrange: And the winner is...
Cavendish: Fuck this. [Exits]
Sagan: Thank you, it is a great honor and I hope to see more of Mark behind me next year. Also, I want to send a special shout-out to my team and my sponsors. And to the ladies. Our team party starts at the Showbox in 20 minutes, and it's Ladies Night! See you then.
Me: Thank you all for coming out, drive carefully. Ciao for now!
Sjekkie the Cat photo by Jen See, used with permission. Pauwels by Patrick Verhoest. Vos and Johansson by Sarah Connolly. Stevens by Team LuLuLemon. De Stefano and Desgrange as indicated. Not sure about van Dijk. All the rest are from Getty Images Sport.