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Top attacks of 2012: Six moments that stand out

Attacking — it’s the juice that moves cycling. It’s the raison d’être for the sport.

The look and feel of aggression, however, have changed over the past few years as the sport has slowly tried to clean up its act.

Gone are the big-ring attacks over first category climbs with three Alpine summits to go to the finish. Today’s cycling is more controlled, more a test of holding on as long as possible, pushing power meters to the maximum. “Attacks off the back,” when a rider blows, are more the norm in what’s become a brutal race of attrition.

Attacks, when they do come, are typically shorter, more intense, perhaps more credible.

In a year when the Tour de France was won with nary an attack from Bradley Wiggins, there were still plenty of indelible moments.

The 2012 season was packed with thrilling moves, from Tom Boonen’s long-distance attack to win Paris-Roubaix for a fourth time to Alberto Contador’s do-or-die aggression late in the Vuelta a España that saw Joaquim Rodríguez crumble like the Spanish economy.