Eurosport’s Carlton Kirby admits he’s a lucky man, getting to spend so much of his working year watching cycling.
And while some of the transfers for Carlton and the rest of the team – which includes regular on-air sparring partners Sean Kelly and Brian Smith – can be a bind, he’d much rather be in heart of the action rather than calling races in a cramped studio.
He said: “Some of the transfers are just nuts – at the Tour of Turkey we were doing five hours a day! It’s a big country and they want to get around it.
“It’s a cost thing but the point is that when you get there you do get to meet the riders and walk or ride around the course and finishes.
“For the live action there’s no difference because you’re sat at the finish line watching monitors just the same as we would be if we were in Feltham which is where the Eurosport hub is.
“You get more out of it being on-site because you get swept up in the atmosphere of it and a detailed look at the course is always vital and that’s how you can talk through major points of the race with authority.
“You can’t really do that when you’re thousands of miles away.”
Either way there’s very little of cycling’s exhaustive calendar of races that Carlton doesn’t see, making him well placed for the first part of Allez! Allez! CC‘s look back at 2018.
Chris Froome rides into pink with an 80km solo victory on stage 19 of the GiroEmbed from Getty Images
“Chris Froome’s move on Bardonecchia was unbelievable and for me that’s possibly the greatest ever individual stage win. I can’t imagine we’ll see anything like it again.
“It was the perfect day in terms of execution, they really did everything absolutely perfectly. It was 80kms out that he went on Bardonecchia, which was the Cima Coppi, the highest mountain in the entire race.
“The team were battle-ready when they attacked on it. They’d been at the head of the race all day and don’t forget that up until that point it had all been about Simon Yates. He’d won on Sappada, he’d won the Gran Sasso d’Italia and at Osimo so he was flying.
“But unfortunately for him (Yates) it was the Icarus thing, he flew too close to the sun and melted under the pressure from Team Sky.
“They had the entire team putting pressure on the peloton and they were shedding them as they onto the Cima Coppi and eventually Froome used all of his team.
“They were burnt out and he knew he wasn’t going to have another chance – it was all-in in poker’s parlance.
“He went over the top and we used to talk about his descending skills not being the best but he absolutely nailed it. Nobody ever got close to him – I think that day Yates lost 30-odd minutes.
“In order to sustain it and to make that work, they had to have feeding stations all along the route and even Dave Brailsford was out there holding bottles and gels and spare wheels just in case.
“I don’t know how many spare wheels they had on the course but they were relaying, using the country roads to get between spots.
“I think he took one gel and a bottle! It was unbelievable and he was so ready for it!”
Geraint Thomas hits the top step in the Tour de FranceEmbed from Getty Images
“Thomas missed the Giro to be fresh to help out Froome in his bid to win all three (Grand Tours) in one season.
“But having already come off the back of winning the Tour again last year and the Vuelta and the Giro there was always going to be a question mark over when he come good but he looked like he was going to do it and G was backing him up.
“Thomas was always there but he was holding back, even when he was in yellow to help Chris Froome and that shows the level of team work that is engaged with Team Sky.
“That’s not always been the case and that might break down next year but G was his faithful lieutenant.
“There were times when it was clear that he was so fresh but he was sacrificing himself.
“He had back-to-back wins on stages 11 and 12. The stage to La Rosière had two hors catégorie climbs and a couple of other climbs before it finished up there and one the drag up to the line Froome faded within a group but kicked on to finish third – he was effectively attacking his own teammate!
“Thomas won it ahead of Tom Dumoulin and Froome was sitting on his wheel because he wasn’t going to help Dumoulin and that was when the power tipped.
“The very next day he won up Alpe d’Huez and everyone fell in behind him at Team Sky but it took him until stage 12 to be allowed to believe but I don’t think he even believed then.
“He said he’d never been that deep and that far. What people forget is that Thomas won up Alpe d’Huez, which is one of the blue ribands of the Tour, but his finishing positions as well after that were brilliant.
“He finished on the podium at Saint-Lary-Soulan – which is the Col de Portet – and he then finishes runner-up into Laruns which is Cold’Aspin, Col du Tourmalet and the Col d’Aubisque but people forget about them –they remember the Alpe d’Huez but not how well he did after that!
“It was mega but for me what made was when he was being interviewed after the Tour he just sat there and said ‘I don’t know what’s happened to me’. He just broke down, it was just fantastic.
“He’s such a nice guy as well. He’s the one that anyone would like to spend time with – if you had a choice of all the riders to go for a drink with, who would it be? It’d probably be G.”
Simon Yates makes it three ‘n’ easy for Great Britain with a Vuelta victoryEmbed from Getty Images
“Someone who is different from Thomas when it comes to PR is Simon Yates – he’s not a PR monkey. His relationship with reporters and fans is limited, it’s just not his thing.
“But the way he came back after being done over in the Giro is phenomenal. Everyone was wondering how he would respond and he did it absolutely perfectly.
“It was a real display of proper control and he won a stage -stage 14 when he got back into the red jersey – but he was always there or thereabouts knocking on the door.
“That’s where everyone else finally capitulated and it was nice for him because as G bounced back from the 2017 Giro to win the 2018 Tour, Simon Yates bounced back from the 2018 Giro to win the Vuelta and therein teed up the phenomenal feat of three different riders from the same nation holding the three Grand Tour jerseys.
“The keepers of the grail, in cycling as they consider themselves, Spain, Italy, France and Belgium they can only be jealous at what British cycling has done in the last few years.”
‘The new Merckx? ‘I’m the new me!’ Remco Evenepoel scores double Worlds junior winEmbed from Getty Images
“He’s only been riding 18 months and he’s played football for the Belgian international youth teams (and let’s not forget they got to the semi-finals of the World Cup!) so he’s one of those kids that everyone had at school who is good at everything.
“They say you always end up doing what you’re second best at so God knows what else he’s good at! He’s just a phenomenon because he’s got no palmares before 2017 because he wasn’t racing.
“The way he won the road race – he punctured, bridged over to a chasing group and then wound in the man who was up the road – was just a revelation.
“The Belgians never talk about the next Eddy Merckx but they are talking about Remco Evenepoel and what is so good about him, bearing in mind he’s a kid, is he could end up multiple world champion.
“He’s been quietly snapped up Quick Step Floors (racing next season as Deceuninck–Quick-Step) and he said himself that he hopes he can go quiet for a little while because the pressure is huge.
“They said to him ‘are you the next Eddy Merckx’ and he said ‘no, I’m this Remco Evenepoel!’. That’s such a great answer from an 18-year-old.He wasn’t being nasty, he was just saying he didn’t want to compare himself to anyone else but himself at the moment.
“Quick Step know what they’re doing, they won’t want to break him. We’ve seen a lot of young riders have false dawns and a lot of them have been push on too soon unfortunately. That’s the danger but he knows this is going to be a long process but he also knows he’s only 18.”
John Degenkolb confirms return to the top with emotional TdF win in RoubaixEmbed from Getty Images
“I’ve got a real soft spot for John Degenkolb because I’ve been quite close to him at times when he’s produced some brilliant performances.
“He was one of those, a bit like Fabian Cancellara, I was on nodding terms with because we ended up finding ourselves in the same place at the same time on a number of occasions and he’s a genuinely lovely, lovely guy.
“Had to get sacked from Alpecin because his hair was falling out and it just wasn’t doing it for them! He’s gone to Trek Segafrado which is bikes and coffee, much more John Degenkolb!
“He wins Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix in 2015 and he’s turned himself from being a spectacular cyclist into a Classics man. He’d won Paris-Tours in 2013 and Ghent-Wevelgem in 2014 but 2015 was his big, wow year –someone to take on Sagan and beat Sagan and everyone thought it was amazing.
“And then in January 2016 he had a crash at the training camp (Degenkolb was one of six TeamGiant–Alpecin injured when a car drove into oncoming traffic in Calpe) and his left index finger was so badly damaged they didn’t know if they could save it because it was literally hanging off his hand.
“It’s part of his bike riding, whether it’s gear changing or braking, you’re going to need that, and it knocked his confidence back as well completely.
“His results suffered and even though the team stuck with him it looked like it wasn’t going to work for him.
“His 2017 at Trek-Segafredo was great but when you’re talking about a fast man you’re dealing in percentages and a podium isn’t good enough. You want to see the wins – it’s great being best of the rest but it’s not good for the confidence.
“He went to the Tour that year and got three top fives and was second to Marcel Kittel on the stage into Bergerac and everyone thought ‘oh,that was close’ and then everyone just quietly forgot about him again.
“Then in 2018 well, bloody hell. He comes to the line in Roubaix so it was the return to his greatest victory, with the greatest respect to Milan-San Remo. Paris-Roubaix was the one he really wanted to win.
“Likewise, I think he went into the Tour thinking that stage into Roubaix was the one and he goes and wins. It was absolutely cathartic.
“It took him an hour to compose himself – he kept bursting into tears and whenever anyone said congratulations to him, they would as well. But that’s a measure of the man and what everyone thinks of him.”
Kristina Vogel shows incredible strength after being left paralysed following track crash in CottbusEmbed from Getty Images
“The final moment is Kristina Vogel, a track cyclist and a really phenomenal athlete who is now sadly paralysed.
“She was at Cottbus and it’s a concrete track so it has no give and an unnamed Dutch cycling – and I hope he always remains unnamed – was practising and without looking behind he just suddenly pulled up the track and she crashed into him.
“She was going full chat and probably even if he’d have looked he wasn’t expecting someone of her pace to be coming round because she was doing 60kmph.
“She went over the top and broke the seventh thoracic vertebra. She maintains lung function but below her chest she’s paralysed.
“But she’s been remarkable, it’s been a joy to watch her. She was always like a terrier on the track and I think that’s kept her going.
“Marcel Kittel, who is someone who can turn a minor thing into a significant thing in his mind and he can lose his mojo very easily. But with Kristina Vogel he said that she shows us all how to approach things given what she’s been through.
“He offered up a lot of admiration for her and how she’s handled it.
“She was always up for an interview, very sparky but you never really knew what the real Kristina Vogel was because she was a PR monster, the poster girl for German cycling full stop.
“It could be turned on like a switch for TV and you could never imagine her being interviewed without smiling.
“I don’t know what she did for quiet time but she’d go down the line at a press call and fizz in every interview and then go and fizz on the track.”