Today on the VeloVoices Awards we’re asking you to pick from seven (actually, eight) riders who we’ve shortlisted as our Breakthrough Rider of the Year. This award is for riders who made a major breakthrough in 2014. And that’s about as sophisticated as our criteria got, with one of us choosing a 545-year-old and another even selecting two riders because, well, that’s how we roll. You didn’t expect us to stay serious for all the awards, did you?!?
Previous winners: 2012 – Taylor Phinney. 2013 – Nairo Quintana.
Midge: Michael Valgren. A brilliant professional debut from a rider I have been excited by all season. He followed up victories at both the National Championship and Tour of Denmark with a strong team performance at the Vuelta. His fantastic ride in the closing kilometres of the World Championships road race epitomised the skills I will always admire in a rider – sheer attacking style and panache. Anyone who can ride mano a mano in a breakaway with Sylvain Chavanel at a race as tough as the Four Days of Dunkirk deserves to win this award for sheer cheek alone.
Panache: I’m picking two riders who represent one country: Ag2r La Mondiale’s Romain Bardet and FDJ’s Thibaut Pinot. These two turned the Tour from a potentially boring affair to an unmissable spectacle that completely captured the imagination of cycling fans worldwide. Plus, I was scolded by Kathi and Midge for not appreciating these French talents during our recording of our 50th podcast and I’m still licking my wounds!
Sheree: At the start of this season, Fabio Aru was touted as Italy’s next big thing. He didn’t disappoint. The 24-year-old Sardinian, in his second full year as a professional rider, finished third overall and won a stage at the Giro d’Italia, and followed that up with fifth overall and a brace of victories at the Vuelta a Espana. He closed out the season with ninth overall at Il Lombardia. His reward might well be team leadership at next year’s Giro.
Tim: I’ve been talking about Alexander Kristoff as ‘the best sprinter people have never heard of’ since the start of 2013, but this season he broke cover and joined the elite. He announced himself in March, pipping Fabian Cancellara in a brutal Milan-San Remo, then added two stages at the Tour as well as the Vattenfall Cyclassics. He’s a tough rider who is at his best in the tough races – he always goes well at Three Days of De Panne and he was fifth at Flanders this year too – and yet on his day he has also beaten Kittel, Cav, Greipel, Sagan and Degenkolb in genuine head-to-heads. Not many sprinters can say that!
Ant: There was one guy who really made a breakthrough this season. He came from nowhere in track cycling, and overnight became a track sensation, thrilling the world of cycling with a record-breaking ride … some fella called Jens … [Nah, never heard of him – Ed.]
Jack: Winner Anacona. Usually riders are frighteningly young when they first make their big breakthrough, but the optimistically styled Colombian first impressed this season at the ripe old age of 26. He was terrific at the Vuelta a España, with the highlight coming on stage nine when he attacked from a big breakaway to take a solo victory. He’s earned a move to Movistar on the back of his impressive Spanish showing, and he’ll no doubt go on to be a valuable asset for Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde.
Kathi: Michal Kwiatkowski, although I’m not sure if he’s technically a breakthrough rider as he did rather well in the 2013 season. This year everyone knows his name and he’ll be easy to pick out of the peloton next year because he just happens to be wearing the rainbow jersey!
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: Flop of the Year.
How about Rafal Majka? He had an absolute belter of a year. For me it would be a choice between him and Fabio Aru. Both had big breakthrough years, and were previously pretty unheard of.
Cheers Tim, good shout. Majka certainly had a great year, although I think you could probably argue that his breakthrough year was 2013 – seventh at the Giro and third at Lombardia meant he wasn’t unknown coming into this season. (True, one could say the same for Kwiatkowski but hey, the rules are fast and loose in this particular category!)
Yep I agree with both of you. I so very nearly did plump for him, but went with a neo-pro instead… 😉