The year in cycling was one of surprises. For the first time in ages, there was no invincible patrón to lock up the race results before they'd even begun (though Philippe Gilbert did his darnedest, and Contador still stood atop the podium plenty). It was the year of the underdog (Cadel Evans) and break-out gregarios (Chris Froome). It was a year without many new doping scandals, and yet here, too, Contador was inescapable as his clenbuterol trial churned on. It was a year of aero bikes (Specialized McLaren Venge), aero wheels (Enve Composites), and carbon everything (while small-scale metal manufacturers like Vanilla and Moots still thrived). Here's what we heard the cycling world talking about in 2011.
1. Riccardo Riccó. The Cobra beheaded at last?
2. The Fall of Spartacus. Fabian Cancellara couldn't follow up on his 2010 classics domination. Only the big Swiss could be disappointed with second at Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix and third at Flanders and the Time Trial World Championships.
3. The Rise of Philippe Gilbert. The Belgian one-day specialist won whenever and wherever he liked.
4. Tainted Beef. Insert joke here.