Once again, CiclaValley’s Tour of California Award show took place in an undisclosed location as I was watching the season premiere of, “The Bachelorette”.
There were no repeat winners this year, as I forgot what categories I created from the year before. That also makes it kind of difficult to create hardware to reward these athletes, so you’re welcome to accept it on their behalf.
Riders give their last push to make my award show on time.
This year’s race had it’s ups and downs. Now that it’s done with, I’m a bit sour things weren’t as dramatic as the year before, but we still have our memories.
Without further ado, here are CiclaValley’s 2016 Tour of California Award Winners:
Frequent Flyer Milage Award: None other than Sir Bradley Wiggins. It was pretty clear on Stage 2 that the UK’s torch barer had little aspirations on competing for the GC, let alone stage victories. Still, he’s always welcome to come to Disneyland and help our tax base.
Oh Snap Award: Lachlan Morton was set to have the best showing from any rider on a Continental team. Sitting 7th after the Gibraltar climb, the moustached Aussie took a spill in the final climb of Stage 4. He not only finished ten minutes behind the leaders, but also suffered a concussion taking him out of the race. Still, he turned eyes again that he can compete at the top level.
Throw it Down Big Man Award: Damn I wish I had my camera rolling going down Little Tujunga. About a half hour after the last racer had passed I saw NBA Legend Bill Walton start this epic climb, all 6’11 of him with a big smile on his face. Did you even have to guess if he was wearing a Grateful Dead Jersey?
Big Walton is easy to spot(photo by: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images North America)
At least he didn’t fall award: Goes to the young Tom Skujins for winning stages in back to back years. Some might have called last year’s win a fluke, since this unknown was able to solo his way to a win despite semi-crashing a couple of times on his own.. This year’s win was just as hard fought, joining an eighteen man breakaway group with 18 miles left before forming a well working triad with Adam de Vos and Xabier Zandio. By the time it came down to a sprint, we kinda knew it was a done deal.
Most Likely to Succeed Award: Ahead of the race, the favorite to win best young rider was Tao Geoghegan-Hart for Team Axeon Hagens Berman. Right team, wrong guy. Neilson Prowless entered the race as the youngest participant at 19 years old. His move of Stage 3 with 6.5 miles held a lot longer than anyone thought and even after he got passed with just under three miles left, he never relented and still finished fifth. On Stage 4, he was one of the dozen to receive a same time as winner Peter Sagan and then finished 10th in the time trial. He was all lined up to finish fifth in the GC, but a crash with two laps left in the final stage dropped him to ninth. Yes, I’m going to be keeping an eye on this young American from this point on.
Best Stage of the Year Award: Of course it was the queen stage! As the lead group whittled itself down up Gibraltar, the two teams with the most firepower(BMC and Cannondale) were doing all the work to keep the unshakable Powless in tow. Then everyone started making their move. Lachlan Morton and Peter Stetina launched an attack with 2.8 miles left that looked promising. With 1.4 miles left, Stetina pulled away for what appeared to be the winning move. What we didn’t see coming was youngsters George Bennett and Julian Alaphilippe teaming up to help bridge a large portion gap with a half mile left. Then, Alaphilippe shot out like a cannon, briefly pulling up next to leader Stetina with a tenth of a mile left as if to say this is the last you’ll see from me. Even in that short span, Alaphilippe finished with a fifteen second gap over Stetina.
Pick a Better Training Partner Award: Mark Cavendish is second all time for Tour of California wins, but gave little indication of that feat in most of 2016. Hobnobbing around in the mountains with Bradley Wiggins sounds like fun, but up until the final stage the Manxman wasn’t even in the top 40 for the points competition. He did salvage the race by winning on network television, but maybe a week of hard racing is what he needed.
Glass Half Full Award: I always root for Team Cannondale because they’re a USA registered team and have a good deal of ‘mericans on the team. You could say that no riders finished on the GC podium, but Andrew Talansky and Lawson Craddock did finish 4th and 5th respectively. Ben King did get to wear the yellow jersey after his Stage Two victory and Skujins got the repeat. Overall, they performed a lot better than some other teams. Plus, they provided the best photo of the race too:
I can’t imagine Ben King being any happier,(Photo by: Casey B. Gibson)
Maybe I am that Good Award: If there’s something we’ve learned this past year, it’s that Peter Sagan has learned how to master the mental game. He took the first stage by properly navigating his way through the pack while on the Laguna Speedway, he conserved energy not chasing down every attack. Call it tactics or bad luck, but it seemed like he wasn’t getting those types of victories for the early part of last year. On Stage 7, it looked Sagan unintentionally separated from the breakaway group with 30 miles left. He did a decent job keeping a gap until his team car told him to dial it back a little bit and still he came within a photo finish to get second place.
Pink Panther Award: Julian Alaphilippe returned to the ATOC to make sure victory wouldn’t escape him like it did on the final stage last year. His patience and timing to hit the gas on the Gibraltar climb was perfect and gave him enough of a time gap that he still had a sizable buffer after losing seconds on the time trial. You also have to give him credit for earning bonus seconds on Stage and staying towards the front to avoid any crashes. It’ll be interesting to see what he’ll do in a Grand Tour.
Simple Minds Award: If you remember their 80’s hit, “Don’t you forget about me“, then maybe you’d remember that Lauren Ten Dam was in the race and did quite well. Sure, he may be in the twilight of his career and now has settled into the crunchy town of Santa Cruz, but he performed well in all stages finishing tenth. Another storyline that wasn’t adequately covered was ground breaking rider Daniel Teklehaimanot finishing 16th overall.
Nostradamus Award: I correctly picked Team Sky’s vague showing, Bradley Wiggins non-compete clause, Stages 3 through 6 being the most critical, Rohan Dennis being a lead contender from his TT skills, Axeon Hagens Berman making their mark and tons of fans lining the streets. What did I get wrong? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.