We take a look back at some of the racing highlights of 2016, including Chris Froome's improbable win and the rainbow day at the Tour of Flanders
1. Tyler Farrar uses a fan’s bike and shoes at Tour Down Under
What do you do if you have a crash with no team mates or team cars around you? Well, you wait and hope you don’t lose too much time…unless you’ve had your mechanical next to the friendliest cycling fan in Australia.
New Zealander Anthony Tooman had gone to Australia specifically for the Tour Down Under and kindly offered his bike to the American sprinter after he was unable to continue following his crash.
But that’s not all. Farrar had different cleats to the ones needed for Tooman’s De Rosa – so he took his shoes as well! Tooman was given a lift in the broom wagon to the collect his bike and shoes at the end of the stage and was even given a full Dimension Data kit for his trouble. Chapeau!
2. Geraint Thomas takes biggest win of career at Paris-Nice
Geraint Thomas did his GC credentials no end of good with a commanding performance in the first big stage race of the year at Paris-Nice in March, becoming only the third Briton to win the race after Tommy Simpson and Sir Bradley Wiggins.
Thomas won by just four seconds from seven-time Grand Tour winner Alberto Contador, after the Spaniard came second on the final stage to take six bonus seconds, but a gutsy ride from the Team Sky man saw him take the biggest win of his career.
3. Mathew Hayman finally triumphs in his 15th Paris-Roubaix
Despite the overwhelming support for Classics kings Fabian Cancellara and Tom Boonen in what could have been their final Paris-Roubaix, you would be hard pressed to find a more popular winner than Mathew Hayman.
The Australian managed to win one of the toughest bike races on the calendar at the 15th attempt less than two weeks before his 38th birthday – and denied Boonen a record fifth victory in the process.
4. Fabian Cancellara hits the deck at Paris-Roubaix
Fabian Cancellara was chasing a record-equalling fourth Paris-Roubaix win, which would have tied him with Tom Boonen and Roger de Vlaeminck for most wins in the Hell of the North.
Alas, it was not to be. Spartacus went down hard on one of the merciless stretches of pave (possibly due to an oil spill) along the route and eventually finished down in 40th position, the first time he had finished off the podium since his 49th place in 2009.
World champion Peter Sagan somehow bunny hopped over the sprawled Cancellara and carried on riding – it didn’t help him much though, as he only managed to finish in 11th.
5. Peter Sagan’s Belgian double
It seems ridiculous in hindsight, but in the third week in March it seemed like the curse of the rainbow jersey had skipped a year and saved up all its bad luck for Peter Sagan.
Second in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad was followed by seventh at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, fourth in Strade Bianche, second in two stages and on GC at Tirreno-Adriatico and another runner-up finish at E3 Harelbeke.
6. Double world champion success in Flanders
Peter Sagan wasn’t the only one in rainbow stripes to win the Tour of Flanders this year, with Lizzie Armitstead taking the women’s race to create a lovely scene on the podium.
Armitstead beat Emma Johansson (Wiggle-High5) in the sprint for the line having broken away from the rest of the peloton, which was bearing down on them in the final kilometres.
The Brit was then joined by Sagan on the podium to celebrate the dominance of the world champions on one of the toughest races of the season.
7. Alberto Contador wins the Tour of the Basque Country
Alberto Contador laid down a significant Grand Tour marker with overall victory at the Tour of the Basque Country in April, beating Sergio Henao and Nairo Quintana into second and third place.
Contador trailed Henao by six seconds going into the sixth and final stage, a 16.5km time trial around Eibar, but the Tinkoff rider put in a masterful display to take the stage win and the general classification, beating Quintana by five seconds and Henao by 18 seconds on the day, prompting El Pistolero to rethink his retirement plans.
8. Sky win first Monument at rain-soaked Liège-Bastogne-Liège
It was by no means the most exciting edition of La Doyenne, but the 102nd edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège marked Team Sky’s first-ever Monument victory after six years of trying.
Dutchman Wout Poels outsprinted Michael Albasini and Rui Costa to give Sir Dave Brailsford’s team their first Monument after Ian Stannard’s impressive third-placed finish at Paris-Roubaix earlier in April.
But one of the biggest stories of the day was the awful weather that afflicted the race from the first kilometres, leading to race being redirected between kilometre 45 and 75 of the original route which saw several riders sacrifice aerodynamics for warmth.
9. Chris Froome takes a stage from the breakaway
Well, here’s something you don’t see every day – the two-time Tour de France champion winning a stage from the breakaway (just don’t expect to see it in France in July!).
Chris Froome’s Tour de Romandie seemed to be heading for disaster when he finished 17:30 down on stage two winner Nairo Quintana, after he punctured on the category two climb Les Champs and was unable to get back to the peloton.
But Froome’s resiliance came to the fore two days later as he took stage four in impressive fashion, chasing down the early break alongside Tejay can Garderen, before he rode away to take the win by four seconds from the group of GC contenders, led by Ion Izagirre and Thibaut Pinot.
10. Steven Kruijswijk’s crash ends his Giro d’Italia dream
It was all set up for the underdog to win the Giro d’Italia, but Steven Kruijswijk moment of misfortune saw his dreams slip away.
Leading the general classification by three minutes with three stages to go, the LottoNL-Jumbo rider crashed at the top of the descent from the Colle dell’Agnello and saw his rivals take advantage.
He lost his maglia rosa that day and then on the final mountain stage he suffered further, slipping off the podium completely.
11. The Critérium du Dauphiné’s mountain prologue
Talk about a tough way to start a race. The route planners of the Critérium du Dauphiné decided to mix things up a little bit this year with a monstrous mountain prologue in Les Gets.
It was only four kilometres long, but with gradients of over 20 per cent in places it wasn’t for the faint hearted. Luckily the organisers waived the normal time limit, meaning those chaps not designed for sprinting up mountains wouldn’t have been eliminated at the first hurdle.
Chris Froome put up a formidable time of just shy of 12 minutes, but that was smashed by first Richie Porte and then Alberto Contador to take the first yellow jersey.
12. Mark Cavendish takes yellow at the Tour de France
As remarkable as Mark Cavendish’s Tour de France palmares was heading into the 2016 race, he’d never won the first stage to wear yellow.
That all changed in Normandy on July 2 as Cav defied the odds to beat all in front of him to win at Utah Beach and take the race lead. It was also the first time that Cavendish had beaten Marcel Kittel in a sprint, also pipping Peter Sagan and Andre Greipel to the line.
Cavendish’s stint in yellow was only to last one day, but he went on to win three more stages to take his Tour tally to 30.
13. Chris Froome and Peter Sagan attack in the crosswinds
Who said Chris Froome was boring and defensive? In the crosswinds on a stage supposedly for the sprinters, Froome and Peter Sagan stormed off the front of the peloton in the final kilometres in one of the most remarkable moments in recent Tour history.
Froome in the yellow jersey, joined by Sky teammate Geraint Thomas; Sagan in the green, joined by Tinkoff teammate Maciej Bodnar. The four of them worked hard in the wind to open up an advantage over the rest of the peloton.
Sagan eventually won the stage and although Froome only took six seconds on his rivals in the end it was the mental blow as much as the physical one that affected the other riders in the GC.
14. Chris Froome runs up Mont Ventoux
The most unforgettable image from the 2016 Tour de France doesn’t even have a bike in it. Having crashed into the back of a motorbike that was held up by the huge crowds on Mont Ventoux, Froome was forced to run up the fabled climb until his team car could reach him with a new bike.
It was a trot that inspired countless memes on Twitter, got Sir Dave Brailsford crying with laughter and almost ended Froome’s Tour hopes.
Fortunately for the Sky man, the commissaires decided to award him the same time as Bauke Mollema, who got up from the crash and sped off to the finish line.
15. Chris Froome wins his third Tour de France
Froome got the beers in on stage 21 having all-but sealed his third Tour victory. The yellow jersey had a few bottles of beer in his back pockets for all his teammates on the processional ride to Paris, but it was the moment his crossed the finish line on the Champs-Élysées that will last long in the memory.
Flanked once again by his teammates – all eight of who made it to Paris – Froome looked a little emotional as he wrote another chapter of sporting history.
Immediately being greeted by his wife and young son was a lovely moment and his speech on the podium, while scripted, was pretty decent for once.
16. Greg Van Avermaet wins the men’s Olympic Games road race
Everyone thought the Olympic Games road race would be fought out between the peloton’s best climbers. Chris Froome, Alejandro Valverde and Vincenzo Nibali were all present for the mountainous circuit, but it was a Classics specialist who rode away with the gold.
Peter Sagan had already said the route didn’t suit him, but he may have regretted that when he saw Greg Van Avermaet on top of the podium. The Belgian kept pace with the climbers along the route, which started and finished at Fort Copacabana, to beat Jakob Fuglsang to the line.
17. Quintana and Contador attack Froome at the Vuelta
The attacks we missed from Nairo Quintana at the Tour de France he made up for as he won the Vuelta a España in September. His winning moment may have come on stage 15 as he and Alberto Contador joined forces on a short stage to put Chris Froome to the sword.
The duo were in an elite breakaway group that went almost from the gun on the 118km mountain stage. Froome missed the break and was forced to empty the tank to limit his losses.
Quintana ended up gaining 2-37 on the Team Sky man, nearly double the amount he eventually won the race by in Madrid a week later. Attacking racing won through on this Grand Tour.
18. Chaves wins Il Lombardia
Esteban Chaves’s great year had gone a bit under the radar before he won Il Lombardia. Second at the Giro d’Italia and third at the Vuelta a España were fantastic achievements, but in October he became the first Colombian to win Italy’s autumn Monument, and he did it in some style.
He had fellow Colombian Rigoberto Uran for company in the final kilometres, along with Diego Rosa and Romain Bardet. The sensible money was on Uran, who possessed the best sprint of the four, but Chaves was having none of it.
Rosa played his cards too early, attacking twice in the final three kilometres, while Chaves just sat in the wheels and moved around Rosa at the very last to claim the famous win.
19. Amalie Dideriksen upsets the Dutch at the World Championships
With a world-class team working together to drive Kirsten Wild to the line in Doha, it wasn’t hard to pick a favourite in the women’s road race at the World Championships.
And heading into the final kilometre with a strong lead-out train, Wild looked certain to take the rainbow stripes. But Denmark’s Amalie Dideriksen, with only two teammates for company on the day, upset the odds by sprinting past Wild in the desert heat.
The 20-year-old is well versed at World Championships podium procedure, having won two successive junior titles in 2013 and 2014, and proved you don’t need a big team to win the rainbow jersey.
20. Peter Sagan upsets the Belgians at the World Championships
It’s like déja-vu. Like how Dideriksen upset the Dutch powerhouse, Peter Sagan trumped the Belgian dominance in the men’s road race.
In a race split by crosswinds with 150km still to race, Tom Boonen looked the favourite to win as five of his teammates joined him in the front group. Sagan only had two other teammates – just like Dideriksen – and bided his time at the end to sprint past the Belgians and take the win.
It rounded off a phenomenal year for Sagan in the rainbow stripes and ensured he’ll keep the jersey for his first season with Bora-Hansgrohe.