2014 draws to a close and Brendan Gallagher looks back on the year that was, including picking out some quotes that will either live long in the memory, or perfectly encapsulate some of the big news stories in cycling this year.

Rider of the year: Tempting to go with Vincenzo Nibali whose silky skills dominated the Tour de France- not to mention a warrior spirit on the cobbles stage – but I’m opting for the panache and exuberance of world champion Michal Kwiatkowski (right) who is an outrageously gifted bike rider who can do the lot.

Just 24, he won Prologues, long Time Trials, stage races and the World title in 2014. He will soon start landing the big one day Classics yet you can also see him winning a Grand Tour sooner rather than later.

Best athletic performance: For the last two seasons Tony Martin has reigned utterly supreme come the long Time Trials and for most of the year it was inconceivable that he would not retain his world title. However once Bradley Wiggins realised that, for whatever reason, he was to be denied a ride in the Tour de France the Olympic champion set his sights on the World Championship in Spain, the one title he really coveted.  And once he got serious a fantastic mano-o-mano was always on the cards with Martin. On the day Wiggins emptied the tank, possibly for the last time on the road, and put 26 seconds into the remarkable German

British rider of the year: Normally you wouldn’t look past a reigning World Champion (Wiggins) but it’s time to acknowledge Lizzie Armistead (left) whose 2014 saw her take the UCI Women’s World Cup and win the Commonwealth Road Race. Rarely was she out of the top three either in any of the big one day races.

Best break: Was there a more exciting break than Stage Six of the Tour of Britain – a sure fire sprint finish according to the experts – when TT trojans Alex Dowsett and Matthias Brandle pinned their ears back along with Madison Genesis’ Tom Stewart. Endless, relentless, positon perfect TT for hour upon hour into a headwind, justifiably rewarded with a stage win for Brandle and the yellow jersey for Dowsett

Best comeback: The Hour record. Now that everybody is on a level playing field the enduring appeal of the event is clear to see again. Jens Voigt and Matthias Brandle broke the record in the autumn and already Dowsett and Jack Bobridge have announced attempts in 2015 with others certain to follow, including Bradley Wiggins.

Team of the Year: Omega Pharma Quick-Step who just know how to win races and Movistar who do so much to animate races.

Best newcomers: The Friends Life Women’s Tour which struck a huge blow for women’s cycling. Meanwhile in the men’s peloton IAM are making a splash and look set to go from strength-to-strength while look out for the ambitious MTN Qhubeka squad

Best Grand Tour: For once the Vuelta takes line honours here. The Giro featured some spectacular weather and stages at the end but was fairly routine while the Tour de France inevitably suffered from the crashing out of Chris Froome and Alberto Contador although there was much to admire in Vincenzo Nibali’s ride. But the Vuelta, with Contador and Froome back and any number of attacking stages, was an unexpected late season treat.

Best Stage Race: The Criterium du Dauphine, featuring a head to head between Froome and Contador but eventually won by Andrew Talansky was a belter but actually the stage race I enjoyed most this season was the Friends Life Tour of Britain with six different leaders in eight days. The racing was manic and unpredictable and the quality evidenced by the fact that Bradley Wiggins and Michal Kwiatkowski went straight from the Tour to win individual World titles the next week and Mathias Brandle progressed to take the Hour record the following month.

Champagne moment: Is 9am too early for a glass of bubbles? Of course not. I can’t remember a more uplifting moment in 2014 than wandering around Oundle early on the historic morning of the Friends Life Women’s Tour Depart. The town, little more than a village really, had gone all “Tour de France” for the morning, the sun made a rare appearance and it was excited smiles all round.

Best finish: Peter Kennaugh using every ounce of his talent and skill to beat Ben Swift on the line to take the British Nationals. As Kennaugh said himself afterwards Swift would normally win a sprint between the two of them 99 times out of 100

Best picture: Rarely can there have been a year to match 2014 for pictures in Britain with the Giro Depart in Belfast and the Tour de France Depart in Yorkshire adding to the mix. Scores of outstanding contenders but only one winner and that is James Maloney’s almost biblical shot of peloton and crowd becoming one on the Buttertubs climb on Stage One of the Tour de France (left). Maloney is a staff photographer for the Liverpool Echo and also one of the talents behind the online Spin Cycle Magazine. The photo also made the cover of the fantastic Two Days in Yorkshire book, shortlisted for SweetSpot’s Cycling Book of the Year Award.

Unanswered questions: Why didn’t Bradley Wiggins ride the Tour de France? It makes even less sense now than back in July and it was incomprehensible then. One of life’s little random inexplicables. And what exactly was the plan when Peter Kennaugh thinking headed up the road on his own after five minutes of the Men’s road race at the Commonwealth Games? A verbatim transcript of his conversation with Isle of Man DS Mark Cavendish, when he drew alongside in the team car, would be priceless, although possibly unprintable.

Cycling Book of the year: That’s up to you. Get voting for the Sweetspot Cycling Book of the Year from 1st January onwards!  Check out our shortlist here.

New Year’s wishes:  A four way dust up between Nibali, Froome, Contador and Quintana at the Tour de France. A Classics win, finally, for somebody from Team Sky. Ian Stannard perhaps? And a relatively injury free season for Mark Cavendish after a 2014 which saw him complete just one stage of a Grand Tour

New Year’s prediction: Brad Wiggins will park the Hour record on a very high shelf indeed!

Quotes of the year 

“I just felt that it wasn’t really fair that we can go to George Hincapie’s Gran Fondo, we accept that Christian Vande Velde can be our commentator, I give interviews to Frankie Andreu, but Lance is the evil guy, and I just don’t see how there can be that double standard.” 
TJ van Garderen explains why he asked neighbour Lance Armstrong to pace him on his Vespa recently.

“If you don’t want to race, that’s fine. But don’t ask for it to be cancelled, don’t promote that. You’re racing on the road, there’s a possibility bad weather will happen. If you want to race in good weather, go to the track.” 
Juan Antonia Flecha wasn’t impressed with some of the whinging that went on during the snowy Stelvio stage at this year’s Giro.

“The mother of the idiot is always pregnant.” 
Vincenzo Nibali knew the doping questions would come eventually at the TDF and had a cracking soundbite prepared.

“Je ne suis pas un loser.” 
A defiant Peter Sagan after a run of four second places on Tour de Frances stages this year.

“What Dave Brailsford calls marginal gains, I call excuses. The excuse mentality needs to be shut down at source and a very good start is to deal with any of the problems or issues. If they are not there, if there are no excuses, then it’s down to the rider and the team getting it right.” 
Ex-rider, commentator and now General Manager at MTN Qhubeaka Brian Smith spells it out.

“I like Tinkov, he’s a real character and I think he does a lot for the sport. But to be honest I find it quite flattering that he talks about me so much. I don’t think about him at all but he’s entitled to his opinion.” 
Sir Dave Brailsford on Tinkoff Saxo owner Oleg Tinkov.

“It’s time for them to stand up and lead, for Brian [Cookson] to do what he said he was going to do. Lead the sport.” 
You sense Brailsford would like to have seen the UCI being stronger with Astana after they recorded their fifth positive of the year.

“Now that all the difficulties are behind us, the team will consult with its lawyers. I believe that we must receive an apology at the least from the European press for the libel that has struck the team in recent months.”
Alexander Vinokourov insists that the five positives within the Astana organisation were all the fault of the press.

“He’s got a choppy pedal stroke. His arms are sticking out, his head is down, and he’s all over the bike. He’s the Jim Furyk of cycling, unconventional in every way. Except that it works. And the reason it works is superior cadence. His tempo is amazing. It’s paced in a way that gives his unusual mechanics time to fall together.” 
Lance Armstrong on Chris Froome.

“We’re going to have to get used to the crowds but it’s nice. Coming around that bottom corner there were massive crowds and you don’t normally get a crowd until the finish line in women’s races  so that was confusing. As a British girl I got over-excited and went for it. I started far too early, Emma Johansson was on my wheel and she won. So I gave her the perfect lead-out basically!” 
Lizzie Armitstead on an unexpected problem for the sprinters at the Friends Life Women’s Tour. 

“This is one of my most emotional moments in a life in sport, to see the excitement and support of everybody here this morning was quite something. For some reason I started crying when I saw all the police motorbikes arrive early in the morning – it suddenly seemed very real and inspiring a big international women’s race was about to get underway in this country.” 
Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson was in tears at the start of the Friends Life Women’s Tour in Oundle.

“It’s life, it’s certainly the life of a bike racer and you just need to deal with it. Riders have crashes all the time and some of them are pretty serious. I’ve had plenty myself and have almost always bounced straight back up but not in Harrogate I didn’t. I’ve been pretty lucky but this time it was my turn to suffer.”
Mark Cavendish in philosophical mood after the bitter disappointment of crashing out of the Tour de France in Harrogate.

Don’t forget, voting in the SweetSpot Cycling Book of the Year opens on the 1st January. You can find the ten book shortlist and all the details of how to vote here, and what one lucky voter will win.