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BotA: Best Season

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BotA= Best of the Aughts. I got a little tired writing that out again.

What's the best season of the Aughts? Who rode it? And if you are screaming Boonen 05! Boonen 05! BOONEN 05!!!, perhaps you should cool your jets a bit and weigh all the evidence before voting at the bottom of this entry. It's not clear at all which season is #1.

What I have below are nine campaigns, nine different seasons where riders did two numerical-type things:

1) The scored over 2000 points in the Cycling Quotient rankings and,

2) They scored 10 or more Virtual Musette points.

Why these two filters? Simple. Without going into detail (and you can ask in the comments if you dare), CQ scores over 2000 means the riders were awesomely productive. They won or podiumed in a lot of races. There were only 17 such seasons in the Aughts turned in by only 10 riders.

Virtual Musette scores over 10 points in a year define dominance. To do that a rider needs to win a lot. There are only 16 such seasons in the Aughts and only nine riders who rode them.

Together only seven riders did the Double of both CQ 2000+ and VM 10+ doing it a total of 9 times. I took out one season-Valverde's 2006-because I felt his other two seasons in which he passed my filters were better. (Al is the only rider to have three such 200+/10+ seasons.)

Then I added one more rider who had a high VM score (the highest of the decade) but not a 2000 CQ score. You'll see why I added this rider in my description of that season. So that makes 9 seasons.

But why nine? Because in Chinese numerology nine is most auspicious, the number of the Emperor. Nine is for longevity. It is also the number of the chapter in the Yellow Emperor's Book of Medicine, the Spiritual Axis, translated usually as "The Beginning and the End" that has guided my acupunk career from day one. And since China is deciding to resume its place as the center of our world after a short 400 year hiatus, we might as well bow down to our Middle Kingdom overlords...

All righty then! The seasons are described on the flip. Go read them then vote and in the comments place your ranking of all nine.

1. Lance Armstrong's 2002 season. CQ score-2110 (2nd best that year), VM score-13 (2nd best that year)

Why? Seriously? Is the fact that he almost went wire to wire in the Tour that year while winning four stages along the way not good enough for you? Okay, how about adding in a Dauphine win. Wait! There's more! He had another win in the smaller GP du Midi Libre but was also competitive in several other races: 2nd at the Criterium International, 4th at Amstel Gold, and he also raced in the such races as LBL, San Seb, and Flanders (though without results in those three). Lance scored a Pete Rose-ian 10 or more VM points four years in a row (01-04); this might be Lance's best season ever.

2. Mario Cipollini's 2002 season. CQ score-1749 (4th best), VM score-15.5 (best not only that year but for the decade)

Why? Yep, this is the one season that didn't make it through by CQ/VM filters but I took anyway because he was so freakin' dominant. So what did he do? Win. Win. Win. 14 times did he win including the Worlds, MSR, Gent Wevelgem, three Vuelta stages, and six Giro stages and the points jersey there. This is Cipo in his final hurrah and it was awesome. The rider was a god.

(As an aside, Cipo does not have the record for wins in a season this decade. Ale-Jet has 25 wins in 05, 21 times in 04, 24 times in 03; Mark Cavendish had 23 wins in 09; Greipel had 20 wins last year, etc. But The Lion King's wins in 2002 had more impact overall.

3. Damiano Cunego's 2004 season. CQ score-2260 (best that year). VM score-11 (also best that year)

Why? The Little Prince came out of nowhere that year to score wins at the Giro (with four stage wins), Lombardia, Trentino, and four smaller one-day races: dell'Appennino, Toscana, Mengioni, and Rubinetterie-Borgomanero. The Kid was a winning machine that year and if hasn't been able to duplicate that success then we should cherish how awesome a season he did have in 04.

4. Tom Boonen's 2005 season. CQ score-2073 (best that year). VCM score 15 (best that year and 2nd best for the decade)

Why? Soul crushing wins against any and all competitors. After warming up with a couple stage wins at Qatar and Paris-Nice, and an inexplicable 2nd at Het Volk and 8th at MSR, Beans went on a rampage that a T-rex would be proud of: wins at E3, The Ronde, and Paris-Roubaix. Historic. But he wasn't done yet, not by a long shot. First he wins the Tour of Belgium (ho hum) and two stages at the Tour before crashing out. Then he gets back in shape at the Vuelta and wins the Worlds RR. 13 wins all told. The sprinting and cobbles riders were dismayed by how easily Boonen posterized them

5. Paolo Bettini's 2006 season. CQ score-2102 (3rd that year). VM score-11 (best that year)

Why? First let me note that Boonen won the CQ race that year with 2559 points but only rung up 4 VM points as he wasn't nearly as dominant as the year before. When speaking of dominance, Bettini was The Man in 2006. Nine wins spread through the season. He warmed up with wins at the Trofeo Soller and the GP di Lugano before claiming two stage wins at Tirreno-Adriatico. He settled into good-but-not-great form with a 7th at the Ronde, 8th at Amstel, 12th at La Fleche, and a 2nd at LBL before claiming one stage at the Giro and winning the Points jersey. Winning the Italian National title during a lazy July, before winning a stage at the Vuelta to tune up for his grand finale: duel wins at the Worlds and Lombardia. Suck it Phil Gil! 2006 witnessed The Little Cricket's best season in a decade full of good seasons from the best all-rounder of the decade.

6. Alejandro Valverde's 2008 season. CQ score-2659 (best of the year and best of the decade). VM score-10.5 (2nd best of the year)

Why? He was more prolific than a room full of rabbits eyeing an Aussie farmer's cabbage patch. Starts off by winning his home Murcia stage race and one stage, holding off Contador to do so. (More on Bert in a mo.) Next he has a series of good results with a win at Paris-Camembert Lepetit and a 3rd at Amstel before a smashing win at LBL. takes May off and comes back with a win at the Dauphine and a National Championship thrown in for good measure. Scored just a 8th at the Tour but it included two dynamic wins that showed off his closing speed. Wins San Seb. Finally wins a stage at the Vuelta en route to a 5th place finish.

7. Alberto Contador's 2008 season. CQ score-2520 (2nd best of the year; 3rd best of the decade). VM score-14 (best of the year; 3rd best of the decade)

Why? Bert's ASO Revenge Tour 2008. Only rider this decade to win two grand Tours in a year (Giro and Vuelta for those of you under the age of 1). Wins two stages at the Vuelta including that 2 on 1 battle with C d'E riders Valverde and J-rod up the Angliru. (Tell us again Lance how you want to gang up on Bert in the 10 Tour?) Wins the Giro while having a week's notice that he's riding it while beating Italy's best doped up mountain goats. (Again, that ganging up strategy thingy-not so good vs Bert.) Oh-wins Castilla y Leon and Pais Vasco too going wire-to-wire in both. This is the year he became the best rider of the peloton.

8. Alberto Contador's 2009 season. CQ score-2271 (2nd best that year). VM score-131/2 (best that year)

Why? How to top 2008? Starts by winning Algarve then has the famous bonk in Paris-Nice to finish 4th. Finished 2nd at Castilla y Leon to teammate, the Bald Dwarf. Shreds the field again at Pais Vasco. Takes on the role of Valverde's domestique in helping Valverde stay ahead of a determined Cadel Evans in the Dauphine. (Its fun to look back at the race threads there and read how some folks didn't think Contador could match Evans.) That's it. Oh wait-there's that Tour win with two stages in dominating fashion while having polemics with Lance and Johan.

9. Alejandro Valverde's 2009 year. CQ score-2487 (best that year). VM score-10 (2nd best of the year)

Why? Al finally nails his first Grand Tour win (Vuelta). He also bags catalunya and the Dauphine. Throw in wins at Burgos and Klasika Primavera, a couple stage wins at Castilla y Leon and the magnanimous 2nd place to Sly Szmyd up Ventoux and you got yourself a satisfactory season even if CONI made him miss the Tour.

Seasons that just missed the cut:

- Valverde's 2006, CQ-2469, VM-10.5

- Petacchi's 2003. CQ-1989, VM-9.5

- Petacchi's 2005. CQ-1986, VM-9.5

- Di Luca's 2007. CQ-1959, VM-11

- Contador's 2007. CQ-1632, VM-11.5

- Armstrong's 2004. CQ-1726, VM-10.5

- Zabel's 2001. CQ-2177, VM-8

- Cavendish's 2009. CQ-1733, VM-8

- Bettini's 2003. CQ-2231, VM-8

- Simoni's 2003. CQ-1715, VM-10

- McEwen's 2002. CQ-1947, VM-9

- Armstrong's 2003. CQ-1471, VM-13

- Zabel's 2000. CQ-1931, VM-9.5

- Cancellara's 2008. CQ-1820, CQ-9.5