Specialized-lululemon, Sky and Boasson Hagen win Velo awards

Sky, Specialized-lululemon are our Best International Men's and Women's Teams; Edvald Boasson Hagen is our Best Support Rider

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Editor’s note: The January 2013 issue of Velo magazine, which is on newsstands now, is our 25th annual awards issue. Our 2012 Cyclist of the Year was announced on November 29; we’ll be rolling out various other award winners throughout the month of December.

International Men’s Road Team of the Year: Sky

Britain’s Sky dominated the early season stage races and the Tour de France. As cringe-worthy as it is to say now, the black and blue team reminded us of the old U.S. Postal Service teams of Lance Armstrong: Every man rode for one leader, and they executed with singular precision and strength.

Sky was founded in 2009 with the stated goal of producing a British Tour de France winner within five years. That goal was realized early when Bradley Wiggins marginalized the rest of the Tour field with a flawless July performance, surviving the mountains and crushing the time trials. His teammates were always near, from Chris Froome high in the mountains to Edvald Boasson Hagen and Bernhard Eisel grinding away on the front for the long miles. Michael Rogers and Richie Porte were strong all around, no matter the terrain. At times, it seemed as if Sky had four riders capable of winning a mountain stage, not just Wiggins or Froome.

All this rests atop the fact that the 2011 world road champion Mark Cavendish won three stages at the Tour, and Froome took another. And who could ever forget the sight of a world champion’s jersey, stuffed with bottles? At Sky, that’s the type of season it was — massive results and a distinct team ethic. Consider the Tour feats with Wiggins’ overall titles at Paris-Nice, Tour de Romandie, and the Critérium du Dauphiné and Sky was a juggernaut.

Sky stood alone atop the UCI WorldTour team ranking, head and shoulders above Katusha, and it’s a possibility that in 2013 the big-budget British team may see even more sterling results. Wiggins will focus on the Giro d’Italia — there’s no immediate reason (except for perhaps Alberto Contador) to think he can’t win it — and Froome will unleash himself during the mountainous 100th edition of the Tour de France. Imagine that: a year after winning its first grand tour, Sky goes for two more.

International Women’s Road Team of the Year: Specialized-lululemon

When it came to the 2012 women’s international calendar, it was a tale of Rabobank’s Marianne Vos, the whole of the Specialized-lululemon team, and then, everyone else.

Rising from the ashes of the successful HTC women’s program, the Specialized women were good all over, in the U.S. and across the pond. All told, the team won more than 60 races in 2012, including a world team time trial championship in The Netherlands, demonstrating the consummate team approach and top-down talent.

Its primary pistons were sprinter Ina Teutenberg, who won all sorts of races, from Philadelphia to stages at the Brainwash Tour and Thuringen Rundfahrt and the Exergy Tour, and Evelyn Stevens, the relative newcomer who dazzled with a stage win at the Giro Donne and wore the maglia rosa.

Stevens won the Route de France, the Exergy Tour, and La Flèche Wallone Femmes, and took second at the world time trial championship, fully announcing herself as a force to be dealt with on the international level.

The team swept the final podium at the Exergy Tour with Stevens, Amber Neben, and Clara Hughes, outlining, step-by-step, how much better they were this year collectively than nearly everyone else who pinned on numbers. Rabobank may have won the UCI team rankings, based on Vos’ domination, but in terms of depth, Specialized was easily the strongest squad.

And there’s no reason to think the squad’s roar will be hushed in 2013, either. It will return its eight members from this last season and add three more: Canadian Gillian Carleton, Utah native Tayler Wiles, and Carmen Small, our Domestic Road Stage Racer of the Year (see page 54).

Support Rider of the Year: Edvald Boassan Hagen

Edvald Boasson Hagen may not have been the final bullet in Bradley Wiggins’ revolver, but the Norwegian national champion and Sky super-domestique proved invaluable in July as Wiggins was on his way to the top step in Paris.

“Boss Hog,” 25, was on the front of the race for many long, arduous miles before television coverage captured him in the thankless role. He could be counted on in the flats, and helped crack the foundation of the peloton low on the climbs, as Sky employed a ruthless tactic on the steep pitches, firing its bullets until the peloton was a ghost of its former itself. The young Norwegian was always there.

It’s clear he curbed his own ambitions for the benefit of his team and Wiggins’ yellow jersey. He finished fifth in the prologue, and took third twice, on stages 1 and 3, finishing behind Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) both times on short, uphill finishes.

But he didn’t labor in vain. Every morning outside the Sky bus, Boasson Hagen had the loudest cadre of fans. In journalists’ audio recordings there was one thing as constant as the blond Boassan-Hagen’s white jersey was at the front of the peloton: screams of “Edvald! Edvald! Ohhhh, Edvald!” earning Norway a write-in vote as Most Supportive Nation.

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.