Rider profiles: Fabian Cancellara, Taylor Phinney and Joaquim Rodriguez

I love riders with a lion’s heart. I love riders who are willing to lose a race to win a race – who don’t play it safe, who take the race by the scruff of the neck and who leave everything out on the road. I love riders who are gracious both in victory and defeat. I love strong riders who can rip a race open and leave the peloton in their dust. That’s why I picked my three riders: Fabian Cancellara, Taylor Phinney and Joaquim Rodriguez. All three have that ferocious lion’s heart.

Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack)

Image courtesy of Danielle Haex

Image courtesy of Danielle Haex

Age: 31.

Nationality: Swiss.

Role: Classics rider, time trial specialist, superstar. [Ahem – Ed.]

2012 WorldTour ranking: 37th, 134 pts.

2012 highlights:

  • Won prologue at Tour de France and wore the maillot jaune until he lost it on Stage 7.
  • Won individual time trial at Tirreno-Adriatico.
  • One-day Classics: won Strade Bianche, 2nd at Milan-San Remo.
  • Swiss national time trial champion.

Why I’m following him:

Anyone who knows me knows of my pure, blind devotion to Fabian Cancellara. But it’s not just his mighty haunches, cheeky good looks or tweets of Fabianese that I love. Most importantly, I love the way he rides. When it’s time for him to put the hammer down, there is no mercy. Unfortunately, sometimes this doesn’t work and he gets pipped at the post but no doubt he’s working on ways of nullifying that – he doesn’t rest on his laurels, he constantly seeks to improve. I can’t wait to see what this season brings for Spartacus. Last season was a shit year of #unluck for him (for the most part). I think that’ll bring him out of the start gate at full force this year. Hurrah!

Taylor Phinney (BMC)

Image courtesy of Danielle Haex

Image courtesy of Danielle Haex

Age: 22.

Nationality: American.

Role: Classics rider, time trial specialist, superstar. [Here we go again – Ed.]

2012 WorldTour ranking: 118th, 22 pts.

2012 highlights:

  • Won stage 1 individual time trial at Giro d’Italia and wore the maglia rosa for three stages.
  • Won team time trial at Giro del Trentino and wore the leader’s jersey for one stage.
  • Silver medallist in individual and team time trials at Road World Championships.

Why I’m following him:

I’m American but unlike seemingly everyone else in the world, I do not pick my sporting heroes because of their nationality. So Taylor’s being American is not really in the equation for me. But he does have a certain American exuberance that is infectious. He radiates positive energy, is fearlessly vocal about his stance on doping, has incredible focus and shows a healthy love of hard work. He’s a team player even though he’s clearly something special. A little ego – why not? – offset by a great sense of humour and an openness to engage with the sport and the fans. He’s the real deal and this year I believe he’ll be standing tall on a whole lot of podiums.

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha – for now)

Image courtesy of Katusha

Image courtesy of Katusha

Age: 33.

Nationality: Spanish.

Role: GC contender, climber, almost a superstar. [Pass me that rope, the one with the noose – Ed.]

2012 WorldTour ranking: 1st, 692 pts.

2012 highlights:

  • 2nd overall and won two stages at the Giro d’Italia, 1st in points classification.
  • 3rd overall and won three stages at the Vuelta a Espana, 2nd in points and combination classifications.
  • 2nd overall and won two stages at Tour of the Basque Country.
  • One-day Classics: Won Fleche Wallonne and Il Lombardia.

Why I’m following him:

I love any stage with a climb in it – the steeper and more magnificent, the better. When I first started following cycling, I hardly realised that different riders did particular things, let alone that different climbers suited particular climbs. Purito is the kind of climber who wants the steepest incline so he can jump away and take the stage. As with Cancellara and Phinney, he rides with enormous heart and if he comes out the wrong side of tactics sometimes, he has a graciousness to him that is endearing. The only big question mark over his season is what team he’ll go to due to Katusha’s failure to secure a ProTour licence. Cannondale might be a good fit – Purito with Basso’s help and SuperSagan’s fireworks? Now that would be a team to watch!

Websites: Fabian CancellaraTaylor Phinney (not currently active), Joaquim Rodriguez

Twitter: @f_cancellara@taylorphinney, @PuritoRodriguez

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