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.
6. Dominating domestiques. Think Nick Nuyens (Flanders), Johan Vansummeren (Roubaix), Oliver Zaugg (Lomdardia), and Juan José Cobo (Vuelta).
7. Wouter Weylandt R.I.P.
8. The Giro d'Italia, a.k.a. the Contador show.
9. The Crostis: It's too dangerous! No it's not! Thankfully we'll never know.
10. 29ers: Jaroslav Kulhavy becomes the first World Cup elite racer to win aboard big wheels, and he does it resoundingly with five of seven wins in the series and the overall World Championship.
11. Lance Armstrong and Tyler Hamilton walk into an Aspen bar...
12. Matthew Busche, Andrew Talansky, Brent Bookwalter, Tejay Van Garderen, Taylor Phinney breathe fresh life into American cycling.
13. A crash-marred first week of racing at the Tour. The worst: Johnny Hoogerland and Juan Antonio Flecha vs. French TV.
14. Thor Hushovd: Impressive in rainbow stripes, insufferable in the media.
15. The Schlecks still can't time trial.
16. Garmin-Cervélo finally gets its French TTT win.
17. Cadel finally gets his Tour.
18. Strava, the FaceBook of online training that lets you see your friends rides and times—and then crush them.
19. The Lance myth in the balance. When's that federal inquiry due?
20. Who cares about downhill mountain biking? Aaron Gwin, the first man to ever win five World Cup DH races in one season and the first American to ever win a World Cup overall title.
21. Single is the new double as SRAM makes 1x10 setups easier and more popular.
22. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Up for 2013, RadioShack-Trek-Omega-Quick Step-Cannondale?
23. Farewell to HTC-Highroad and Geox-TMC as the economic crisis hits the peloton.
24. Pro cycling finally returns to Colorado with the much-lauded, well-attended USA Pro Cycling Challenge. Pity about the name.
25. "Halo" bikes: dream fodder or insult to the 99 percent?
26. World Champion Mark Cavendish. It was only a matter of time.
27. Tattoo-Gate. In which the two victors at the Single Speed Cross World Championships ducked out on the mandatory winner's tattoos. There was much gnashing of teeth.
28. Floyd, guilty. Jeannie Longo, not.
29. Cyclocross blows up, as in, it's HUGE.
30. Caso Contador. Isn't it over yet?