British Cycling's Ride of the Year: GB express train delivers Mark Cavendish to world title in Copenhagen

British Cycling's Ride of the Year 2011: The Nominations
GB express train delivers Mark Cavendish to world title in Copenhagen

What: UCI World Road Cycling Championships
Where: Copenhagen, Denmark
When: September 25

How it unfolded:
Sunday 25 September 2011 is destined to become, at least amongst cycling fans, one of those ‘I remember where I was when..,’ days.  An eight strong GB team; Millar, Wiggins, Stannard, Hunt, Thomas, Cummings, Froome and of course Mark Cavendish; a plan hatched three years previously to bring the octet together in Copenhagen to launch the Manx sprinter to victory. Ahead of them, 270 kilometres  and one golden chance to snatch a title that, for Great Britain, had remained elusive since Tom Simpson pulled on the rainbow jersey in San Sebastian in 1965.

The pre-race hype put Mark Cavendish squarely in the limelight; the burden of expectation was huge. As soon as the course was announced it was seen as Cav’s for the taking, fresh from a landmark green jersey victory and in the form of his life.

Problem was, the rest of the world’s teams knew it and were mindful of GB’s likely tactics – to control the race from the front, using the firepower of their world-class time triallists, one day specialists and seasoned, hardman domestiques. And so it played out. One by one, nation after nation attacked. From the gun, GB were cast in the unenviable role of breakaway policemen, controlling  the pace or relentlessly chasing down an endless stream of audacious breaks that leapt from the bunch like solar flares.

This they did for 17 long laps at a withering pace of over 28mph. Then within the last lap, when the final break seemed to be wrapped up, a final twist from the combatant extraordinaire Tommy Voekler. For GB fans, it was that sinking feeling in the second period of extra time, when the opposing team scores what looks to be a last gasp winner. But Wiggins was not deflated, moving to the front of the GB train and wringing its neck for a full lap. Behind him, Wiggin’s teammates, protecting their prize package, pushed themselves beyond endurance, hanging on for dear life. Thanks to Wiggins and co, the Douglas-born sprinting package had been express-delivered as promised; Stannard and Thomas assigned the task of final delivery men.

Through an impossibly tight gap Stannard and Thomas led Cavendish, until he found the wheel he was looking for and slotted in, biding his time on the tricky uphill finishing straight. Thomas and Stannard dropped away and the sprint unloaded, all hell broke loose, Cavendish seemed to disappear. All seemed lost for a horribly long few seconds but Cav had done his homework and resisted the urge to leap until the perfect moment. Then bang! The Manx missile struck, emerging from Lars Boom’s wheel, dropping into Matt Goss’ slipstream before outstripping the Australian to take a truly unforgettable victory.

What Mark Cavendish said:

"We had eight of the best guys in the world. It was incredible, we took it on from start to finish," said Cavendish. "I can't believe it. We knew three years ago when this course was announced - we put a plan together to put these best guys together. It's been three years in the making and you just saw they rode incredibly. I'm just so proud."

Why should this be the British Cycling's Ride of the Year 2011?

The first men’s road race title for 46 years, taken by a rider fresh from green jersey victory in the Tour de France, supported by a team of seven riders who rode out of their skins and stuck to the script without wavering for an instant.  

You can place your vote for British Cycling’s Ride of the Year 2011 here. Please note voting opens at 9am on 15 December once all the nominations have been revealed and closes at 5pm on 18 December 2011.