Throughout December we will be revealing Cycling Weekly‘s top 50 British riders of the year.
We’re getting well into the list now – you can see who has made the list so far by clicking on the links below.
NO. 36: DAVID MILLAR
David Millar didn?t win a race in 2008, which must be a strange feeling. It was a steady season, though by no means unspectacular.
His new start with the Slipstream-Chipotle (later to become Garmin-Chipotle) team, got off on the right footing. He was second overall in the Tour of California, arguably the team?s second biggest objective.
Millar had targeted Paris-Nice but his challenge came undone in the cold after he succumbed to illness.
He reached the Giro d?Italia in great form. The way he rode in the opening team time trial in Palermo deserves great recognition. It showed he does not just talk the team spirit talk, he?s prepared to lay it on the line for others too. He emptied himself onto the roads with some monster turns in the final third of that stage knowing that he may blow before the finish, get dropped and sacrifice his own pink jersey dreams.
It paid off, though, as Slipstream won the stage and Christian Vande Velde took the lead. It is notable, too, that when it came to hoisting Vande Velde aloft on the podium that day, Millar was on hand to grab a leg and lift his team-mate into the air.
You had to feel for him a few days later when he made the break of the day and looked poised to challenge for the stage win only for his chain to snap as they approached the final kilometre.
Agonising stuff and you couldn?t blame Millar for hurling his Felt bike over the barriers.
He was tiring by the end of the Giro and was a disappointing 13th in the final time trial.
Seeing the way he defended his national championship title in Yorkshire showed that Millar was ready for a good Tour de France. That day he was one of the strongest and helped split the race to pieces.
The Tour was another bitter-sweet experience. If you had said to him ?You?ll beat Cancellara in the Cholet time trial? I bet he?d have counted on victory. Instead, he was third, slipping behind Kim Kirchen on fractions of a second. The winner? Stefan Schumacher.
I wonder if he believes in karma, because that was just cruel. At Saint-Amand-Montrond he was good, but not good enough. Fifth and he finished the Tour for the sixth time tired. A look at his results after July suggests he was cooked and next year, Jonathan Vaughters says, he will ride just one major tour, the Tour.
NO. 35: IAN STANNARD
So, you?re 20 years old (as Ian Stannard was at the start of the season) you?re a first-year pro and you?re off to Belgium. Perhaps you?ll get to ride one or two of the semi-Classics, get a taste of what the big-time might be like.
As Mark Cavendish says: ?For me, the biggest revelation of the season is Stannard. Landbouwkrediet is a hard team to ride for, renowned for being disorganised. Stannard went there and did every race. Every single Classic and every single stage race during the Classics. You don?t get many Belgians who do that, let alone a first-year pro.
?He made that break in Schedeprijs and the next day he does the GP Denain and finishes. That takes some doing full stop.?
The rider from Milton Keynes has got a big engine, there?s no doubt about it. He says he likes nothing more than just riding all day and getting up and doing it again. That is a trait that will come in very handy.
How many first-year pros complete the Tour of Flanders, Ghent-Wevelgem and Paris-Roubaix at the first attempt? Not many. Those races have a hidden code of their own that takes years to learn. He finished Criterium International, the Three Days of De Panne, the Four days of Dunkirk, the Tour of Belgium and the Tour of Luxembourg in the first half of the season.
His programme from July onwards was very light, but that?s due to Landbouwkrediet more than anything. Stannard finished third in the Tour of Britain, which again is a fine result for a 21-year-old.
It was looking like he?d be heading back to Landbouwkrediet until he signed with the Italian ISD squad for 2009. It?s a one-year deal. If the British pro team is up and running for 2010, I?d make a large bet that Stannard will be part of it.
RIDERS REVEALED SO FAR
December 7: No. 38 Daniel Fleeman and 37 Matt Crampton
December 6: No. 40 Jessica Allen and 39 Daniel Lloyd
December 5: No. 42 David Daniell and 41 Dean Downing
December 4: No. 44 Steve Peat and 43 Anna Blyth
December 3: No. 46 Jonny Bellis and 45 Jess Varnish
December 2: No. 48 Luke Rowe and 47 Michael Hutchinson
December 1: No. 50 Katie Colclough and 49 Chris Froome