Yesterday we kicked off our 2014 VeloVoices Awards with our first poll asking you to select the Race of the Year. Today we’re asking you to select your Rider of the Year. And, boy, is it a heavyweight field, with no room even for Giro champion Nairo Quintana! (Or Chris Horner …)
Previous winners: 2012 – Bradley Wiggins. 2013 – Peter Sagan.
Jack: Alejandro Valverde isn’t going to win the popularity prize, but objectively he more than merits this award. On his way to a spot at the top of the WorldTour rankings, the Spaniard once again demonstrated his immense versatility and extraordinary consistency. From the spring classics to the season’s autumn encore in San Sebastián, Valverde was pretty much ever-present. In this regard, he is unparalleled, even though he’s now 34.
Kathi: Marcel Kittel. Along with his teammate, the Mighty Degs, Kittel lit up the sprints this year and helped make Giant-Shimano a team to be reckoned with in any race that looked like it would end in a bunch sprint. He started the year with a hat-trick of stage wins in Dubai, then went on to win Scheldeprijs for the third year in a row. He took two stages in the Giro (before having to leave due to illness) before storming back in the Tour to take four wins, including the first stage to wear yellow, the third stage in front of Buckingham Palace and, of course, the final stage on the Champs. And his hair was every bit as glorious as his wins.
Midge: So many to choose from this year, but in the end I went with … TA-DA!!! Simon Gerrans. I know, I can scarcely believe it myself! I may not be the biggest fan of his style, but there is no denying the talent. Starting the season with wins at his National Championships and the Tour Down Under, and finishing with back-to-back wins in Canada and a fine second place at the Worlds, Gerro has been consistent. Throw in a third at Amstel and of course the win at Liege-Bastogne-Liege and even I have to add ‘brilliant’. As I said in most of my reviews, “never discount Simon Gerrans”.
Panache: Vincenzo Nibali. He won the Tour de France, and not just any Tour de France – the one with cobbles, mountains, miserable weather, wizards, asteroids, black holes, dragons and Tinkoffs. Yep, this Tour had everything you could imagine and Nibali won it handily while all other contenders crashed out or faded from view. The Super Bowl of cycling was a blow out, won by the Shark of Messina.
Sheree: In 2014 Alberto Contador returned to reclaim the title of the best stage racer of his generation. He never finished lower than second in any of the stage races in which he took part, except for the Tour de France where he abandoned after falling and then riding 10km with a broken leg. Then he returned just a few weeks later to win the Vuelta a Espana. Miracles do happen, you just have to believe.
Tim: Michal Kwiatkowski. The results for this 24-year-old wunderkind speak for themselves. He started the season with wins at Strade Bianche (comprehensively out-punching Peter Sagan) and the Volta ao Algarve. In Ardennes Week he was third at both Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege (and fifth at Amstel Gold). Then in October he became the youngest world road race champion since Oscar Freire in 1999. And he’s only just getting started. We talk about Sagan still being a kid – Kwiatkowski is four months younger.
Ant: Out of many worthy candidates, my choice would be John Degenkolb. Four stage wins and the points jersey in the Vuelta, second place in Roubaix and victory in Gent-Wevelgem constitutes a pretty successful season in anybody’s book, yet it was his Tour de France performance which won me over. Cycling is a sport which is not just about results but also character, and Degenkolb has both. This is a guy who could be the lead sprinter in any team he races with and who, at 25 years old, has still to peak, but in the Tour he took on the role of wing-man to Marcel Kittel. He accepted his position with class and dignity, and showed how it’s done. There are many, many riders who could learn from The Mighty Degs.
Let us know your choice and the reasons for it – or if we have missed out your personal favourite – in the comments below.
Polls will close at 1200 GMT (UK time) on Friday 12th December.
Next: Team of the Year