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Winners of the Year!!

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Thanks Mathias Brandle for screwing up our schedule. But we are ready now...

Doug Pensinger

Hello everyone, and welcome to the Podium Cafe Winners of the Year Award Ceremony! We are pleased to welcome you to the Felt Forem, sponsored by Felt Bicycles. Last year we were at the Felt Forum in New York City, a grand ballroom and a trademark of MSG Ballistics, Inc. This year, to avoid any confusion (coughlawsuitcough) we are at a room at the Ballard Boys and Girls Club in Seattle, Washington, and the "Forem" constructed here for our ceremony is not just a spelling change, it's a reflection of the need for cycling to move foreward. Lawyers and spelling experts can please take a seat in the sound-proof baby room in the back.

Our more modest setup this year is in tribute -- hey, could someone please ask Niki Terpstra to put that basketball down? Where was I? Oh, yes, our modest surroundings are a tribute to the roots of cycling. In this day and age, where BMC can build a bike shop and service course worth more than the GDP of several small nations, including Belgium, we like to think back to the days of leather saddles and hand-forged fork repairs. Cycling is not for the pampered, it's for the -- would the French riders please sit back down? I wasn't talking about you. Cycling is for the hard men of the sport. The heroes of three week races and seven hour slogs. Mark, put your hand down, I'll get to the sprinters eventually.

OK, this isn't going very well. Let's just skip ahead and honor the real heroes... The winners of the FSA Directeur Sportif Competition! And if we have time, the Men's Rider and Race Day of the Year awards! [Women's race and rider nominations and voting are still taking place.]

FSA Directeur Sportif: Men's Competition

This was, without question, our best competition of all time, at least as far as the top ten teams were concerned. Entering the quirky September-October post-Vuelta classics dash, there were theoretically a dozen teams with a shot, and four or five with a very real chance at a podium place. The final victory changed hands inside the last two weeks. It was so close in the end -- 328 points separating the entire podium -- that we actually had to check to see if Mathias Brandle's late-October Hour Record points reshuffling made any difference (it didn't, thankfully). Here's what the top ten looked like:

1. tour defiance OPQ 17268
2. tenbosse Tenbosse 17028
3. bvl Team Wafelijzer 16940
4. Ertzi TiHe 16930
5. rattmuff It's not about the bike 16884
6. johnnysteeler My name is Inigo Montoya! 16615
7. ther00kie16 w0nd3r5三 16467
8. Seabasstien Turbot The Mighty Jungels 16413
9. Tommy Ventoux The Knackers 16221
10. Jule Mamie Nova

16084

Let's look a bit at our podium...

Team OPQ, DS Tour Defiance

First time with a major result, Tour Defiance made his/her chops with a roster of resurgent stars like Contador, Valverde and Gerrans, as well as a sprinkling of rising talent in Kwiatkowski, Colbrelli, Van Asbroeck, Hofland, Arredondo, etc. My favorite aspect of this squad, by far, is that it included 14 points spent on Chris Horner, and still won the entire competition. That's how awesomely the other 136 points were doled out.

[Aside: If anyone knows Tour Defiance, please tell him/her to email me STAT to claim their prize. Otherwise I am submitting DS Little Bear's kit size to FSA.]

Team Tenbosse, DS: Tenbosse

A rising DS in our ranks, Tenbosse made the leap this year from 95th (and 142nd before that) to the podium. I like to think Tenbosse is a young FSA DSer, bringing loads of talent up through the junior fantasy DS ranks before turning pro and finally getting his/her chance at leadership. It's the feel-good story. Reality is probably more about blind luck.

Anyway, Tenbosse survived a couple bad bets in Roelandts and Pozzato (I admire the sentiment) by hitting on Contador, Aru, Swift, Demare, Kwiatkowski, Gerrans, Terpstra and Vanmarcke. Gerrans, Swift, Contador and Kwiatkowski are common threads, but the rest is just solid picking at the mid-value level. Tenbosse, unlike OPQ, had no donuts -- and yes, welcome to the one place where that's considered a good thing. Chapeau, particularly for a great battle to the end.

Team Wafelijzer, DS: bvl

If your urge to kill has just risen a bit, it might be because some part of you remembers that Team Wafelijzer was the overall winner a mere two years ago. Back for another helping, I see? Maybe so. Or maybe bvl just knows a hell of a lot about cycling.

The Wafels contained several of the usual suspects (Kwiatkowski, Contador, Gerrans) but check out some of these specials: Juan Jose Lobato, a two-pointer who scored 720 points. Jens Debusschere, 4 points, 775. Ramunas Navardauskas, 6 points, 1100. These weren't hot names; all had been around for a bit. Navadauskas was on a mere... 32 teams. OK but Debusschere was on only... 56 teams?! I guess I missed that memo. Still Lobato, nobody had him, just... 208 teams!!?? Screw it, I give up.

FSA Directeur Sportif: Women's Competition

The end of the women's season always sneaks up on me -- it's the World Championships, way back in September. So before I caught on to the brilliance of the competition, it was over. But brilliant it was. Unlike the Men's slate, the Women end with more than 8000 points being doled out over three competitions, and when your standings end up this close --

1. hairysemi ridingoutthestring 17115
2. ccip9 gazelles 17033
3. ConfusedSpider The Black Widow's Nest 16617
4. SophiesChoice I've Lost My Tambourine 16461
5. ANDYS2TYRED Whataloadacobbles 16217
6. sccycler Theshortsmakemybuttlookbig 15943
7. Bulldogpuncheur BDs 15927
8. PMNL freewheelers 15872
9. eddie_and_oz Granny Annie and all her Lassies 15394
10. RotRigo RotRigo Racing Team 15312

you can bet the results at Worlds made a difference. Let's meet the winners.

Team Ridingoutthestring, DS: hairysemi

A classic case of winning at the bottom half of the roster. Anna van der Breggen delivered her big points haul, Pauline Ferrand-Prevot and Lisa Brennauer both made the leap, and even the underperforming Rosella Ratto, Lucinda Brand and Chloe Hosking weren't too bad. But Elena Cecchini (she of over 100 teams) was a must-have at two points, scoring 1030. Jolien D'Hoore (6, 1470) kicked ass. And one-pointer Thalita de Jongh (792) was essential as well.

Team Gazelles, DS: ccip9

I wanted to find a way in which the Gazelles were usurped in the final race, but really they matched Ridingoutthestring point-for-point at Worlds, and their 82 point deficit from the top step was just little things along the way. Still, a brilliant season from Cecchini, de Jongh, D'Hoore, Amy Peters and Audrey Cordon made up for the inefficiency of hiring 50-pointer Ellen van Dijk. Well, them and Brennauer and PVP.

The Black Widow's Nest, DS: confused spider

Here I think we can say it was the victory that got away, right? The Nests were the only squad on the podium not thanking PVP for her win... but that's 350 points, and the final deficit was 498. So again, it was the tight competition that didn't change much in the avalanche of points from the final week.

This team is marked more by consistency and improvement than any great coup. Almost nobody slipped backward, certainly among the big ticket items, as confused spider hit on one pick after another. But to use a baseball analogy, this team was loaded with singles, and a couple big hits in de Jongh and Cecchini, but not enough home runs to get to the top step. Great job regardless.

OK, back to the real world... of website-designated best so-and-sos. But first, let's invite our musical guests on stage for a brief interlude. Please welcome... Seattle's own homegrown legends... PEARL JAM!!

[crickets]

PEARL JAM!!

[more crickets]

Huh, I thought we had this nailed down? Doesn't Eddie bike around West Seattle with his kids these days? Didn't Mike give us his personal guarantee that he'd "be there if nothing else came up"?? Dammit. Well, I do have a laptop, so let's just watch a video instead.

Huh. I can honestly say I have no idea what the hell just happened. Let's keep going.

2014 Podium Cafe Race Day of the Year: Tour de France Stage 5, starring Lars Boom and Vincenzo Nibali!

Even when it's not about the cobbles, it's really about the cobbles.

This was the Tour de France stage to Hell, or as the locals call it, "home" or "Department du Nord-Pas de Calais". Paris-Roubaix country, and unlike Paris-Roubaix, it had the gruesome weather to match. Oddly enough, it seemed like the nastiest crashes, including that which eliminated Chris Froome, happened on smooth tarmac. At the time I'm sure we attributed them to the riders' fear of the impending cobbles. Something like that.

But crashes didn't say as much about the day as brilliant riding did, as those who mustered the courage to take on the infernal stones won big gaps over those who did not. Lars Boom's eventual victory was no big surprise, since this is his sort of terrain (and a mere 155km, for those who think he can't win after 200k). But you only had to look three places deep on the result sheet before jumping out of your seat and shouting "sacre bleu!!" Vincenzo Nibali (+ 0.17) had defied not only the other contenders, the DNF'd Froome, the presumed cobble-competent Contador (at + 2.54), and even Fabian Cancellara and Peter Sagan (+ 1.01). I'm still shaking my head. Don't believe me? Watch:

Nibali went on to win the Tour by 7.37 over JC Peraud, whom we were not even watching back on stage 5, as well as Thibaut Pinot and Alejandro Valverde, who finished 2.28 back on the stage. But it wasn't about the numbers, it was about what we saw with our own eyes -- a grand tour contender who had the confidence to ride the sport's nastiest roads with the requisite skill and disregard for his own safety that such a course demands. Chapeau!

Final vote:

  1. Tour stage 5, 31%
  2. Final Dauphine stage, 14%
  3. Ronde van Vlaanderen, 8%

2014 Podium Cafe Rider of the Year: Alberto Contador!

Um, did we just vote for a guy based on the results of the Vuelta? Well, there was this:

Or maybe we voted for the guy even more improbably, based on the climbing festivities at ... Tirreno-Adriatico:

Well, whatever it was, let's face it -- we like a fighter and a winner, and Contador is both. He electrifies the stages he's fit for, no less than Nibali did on the cobbles, and in Contador's case he fought throughout the year, with his only major setback his crashing out of the Tour. Bert is back, up to second in the overall rankings behind Alejandro Valverde, Mr. Consistency but also Mr. I Didn't Win Anything Really Big. Valverde was punished by voters for his lack of memorable moments, falling off the podium entirely. Michal Kwiatkowski, the new World Champion, gave Bert a slight scare, but in the end we had a clear winnar.

  1. Alberto Contador, 29%
  2. Michal Kwiatkowski, 24%
  3. Vincenzo Nibali, 11%

That's all folks! Thanks for coming. If you could please fold up your chair and bring it to the back, our maintenance man Johan Bruyneel will help you stack them back up so we can make room for the U12 basketball practice that starts in 10 minutes. Thanks, and see you next year!