At this time of year it’s particularly important to choose your riding companions carefully. Those long steady winter miles tend to drag when your ears are being chewed off by someone reliving in the tiniest detail every race of the previous twelve months. It’s like spending too much time with an elderly relative over Christmas who reminisces over the same few anecdotes over and over again.

And so it is with your club mate who would have made the winning break if only they hadn’t dropped their chain at the crucial moment, or sprinted to victory if they hadn’t befallen the misfortune of pulling their shoe from the pedal. Those pesky worn cleats! Or stormed through the Etape if only for an ill-timed mechanical, or befalling the unfortunate effects of the local cuisine, or choosing the wrong gearing, or, or… A full year’s worth of could-have-beens and should-have-beens is just waiting to be endured – I for one can’t wait for the new season so these tales of regret can be put to bed for another year.

Reliving every ride has become a regular habit for today’s cyclist: we’re living in GPS-enabled times after all. Online services such as Strava can turn any ride into an unofficial competition. Those little boxes attached to the handlebars can feel like an overbearing weight, spying on your every movement and heart beat. Better not slow down or there’ll be a disappointing dip on your post-ride data. Taking it easy up Box Hill won’t just have to be squared with your conscience, but also with any prying eyes analysing your uploaded files.

But aside from the numbers in cold black and white, looking back on a year of riding is a wistful detour down memory lane. Savour those memories now, because next week you’ll already be feeling guilty for missing your first weekly mileage target, or ruing your festive indulgence after the first New Year’s weigh-in. My main achievement of 2010 was managing to stay upright all year, despite a few close calls – everything else has been a bonus.

Cycling fans have also been able to enjoy a fascinating year of racing from the comfort of our armchairs. There have been plenty of heroes and villains to cheer or boo at during the spectacle of the pro cycling pantomime, and below are my top 5 memorable moments of 2010:

5. Armstrong finally cracks

A year after making his much publicised comeback, Lance Armstrong’s dream finally came to end on Stage 8 of the 2010 Tour de France. Sympathetic observers lamented the unfortunate series of spills and crashes that separated him from the front runners, but the truth was that neither Armstrong or his Radioshack team possessed the required firepower to challenge for the yellow jersey. With the weight of the Floyd Landis allegations, and the subsequent investigations that are still ongoing, it was time for Armstrong to bow out of the limelight.

4. Cancellara ‘motors’ away from the field at Paris-Roubaix

Coming into the 2010 Paris Roubaix there was one clear favourite – after trouncing Boonen a week before in the Tour of Flanders, it was clear Fabian Cancellara was in top form. Saxobank appeared to have the tactical edge over Quick Step, and once Cancellara was given the opportunity to put any distance between himself and his rivals, the race was as good as won. But it was the emphatic way in which Cancellara accelerated away from a group containing the race favourites on the cobbles to Roubaix that raised both gasps and eyebrows – and so was born the most unlikely conspiracy story of the year, ‘Bike Doping’.

3. Cadel wins Stage 7 of the Giro d’Italia

It’s easy to forget just how unpopular Evans was before he won the World Championships in 2009; an under-achieving wheelsucker who seemed destined to be a perennial runner-up. However 2010 saw Evans bring pride to the World Champion stripes with a string of impressive and gutsy performances, and his stage win on the dirt roads of Tuscany in foul wet weather was perhaps the most memorable. After tearing up the race and putting race leader Nibali in all sorts of trouble, Evans finished off the job by riding both Vino and Cunego off his wheel in the uphill sprint for the line. A few more of those performances and we might even see Evans get the hang of victory celebrations.

2. Contador tests positive for Clenbuterol

I’m not sure this should be at number 2, but it seemed like a pretty significant event – if not entirely unpredicted. For me there were always question marks hanging over Contador’s head ever since his named was linked to Operación Puerto, and it seemed only a matter of time before some mud started to stick. For the winner of such a major race as the Tour de France to test positive for drugs should really seem more scandalous than it currently does. But here’s hoping 2011 sees, not only the riders cleaning up their act, but also the UCI taking a firmer stance against cheats and ensuring punishments are enforced, no matter how powerful or influential the perpetrator.

1. The passing of Laurent Fignon

During the summer I read Fignon’s autobiography We Were Young and Carefree and was riveted and inspired by the tales from his racing career. Fignon was part of the generation of riders I watched as a kid during the eighties, one of the names I’ll always associate with those flickering and grainy images on the Channel 4 Tour de France highlights program. Fignon was one of our most distinctive icons – in his headband and spectacles, Renault jersey and ponytail – and he inspired so many of us to pick up a bike for the first time. He was outspoken against cheats, and an advocate of daring attacking cycling – it was a blow for cycling to lose such a positive force so prematurely.

Thanks to everyone who has read, contributed to, or supported this blog since it began last January. So far it’s been a really enjoyable little project, and one I hope to build on over the coming year. Wishing you all a very happy and prosperous 2011 – see you out on the road.

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