The utterly brilliant Sarah Connolly has kindly honoured us with putting forward her nominations for our women’s cycling categories and here is her first set of nominations. This is pretty self-explanatory – the riders who had their breakthrough results. Some of them have shown promise and had good podiums, or even a win, but 2016 was the season when they really arrived.
Previous winners: new category
Maria Giulia Confalonieri
Proving it wasn’t a one-off, she came fifth in two more WorldTour races: the Crescent Vårgårda Road Race and the Madrid Challenge. She’s still developing and growing, and this season should be a springboard for some more podiums, and wins.
Danish rider Amalie Dideriksen is only 20, yet as twice junior road race world champion (2013 and 2014), was one of the hottest signings last year, when Boels-Dolmans snapped her up for her first year as a pro. She took her first elite UCI win in last year’s Lotto-Belgium Tour, where she was second overall, and she spent much of 2016 focused on the Olympic track, where her phenomenal Points race took her to 5th in the omnium. After Rio, she won her first road win of the season at the Boels Rental Ladies Tour. But then came the Road World Championships in Qatar.
One of the underdogs in Doha, as Denmark is a “small” team in women’s cycling, especially compared to the giants of the Netherlands and Italy, Dideriksen kept her nerve and managed to be up there in the end, fighting for that coveted position on Kirsten Wild’s wheel – and wow, she took advantage beautifully! It’ll be fascinating to see what she does next.
Huang Ting Ying
The Tour of ChongMing Island day race was always a bit of a contentious inclusion in the Road World Cup, and the ChongMing stage race was a surprising inclusion in the Women’s WorldTour. ChongMing Island is utterly flat and is definitely one for the bunch sprinters, but in 2016 and the first Women’s WorldTour, it proved why it should be there – giving Huang Ting Ying the chance to shine. While the big-name teams were all looking at each other, she was the surprise winner of Stage 1 of the Tour, and then did it again on Stage 3. In fact, it was only Chloe Hosking taking the intermediate sprint bonifications that gave her the overall win.
Huang has always had talent, but winning at ChongMing gave her a ride at the Giro Rosa with small Italian team Servetto Footon. I very much hope that ChongMing turns out to be a springboard for her to get to Europe, if that’s what she wants, and gives other riders from Asia the inspiration to follow her bike-treads.
Leah Kirchmann has always had potential, and while riding for US-based teams, Kirchmann had had forays to the European races, but never had a full season, until this year – and wow, she more than lived up to expectations!
She won the Prologue, and on 26th birthday, wore the first maglia rosa of the race. She finished 8th overall, a fantastic result for a rider who’s known for her sprinting. Another WorldTour podium in the Prudential Ride London GP and more big-race top 10s showed off that sprint power – it seems like she is a perfect all-rounder, and given she said that her great Classics and Giro results were down to increased confidence, she’ll be going into 2017 as a real contender.
Thalita de Jong
At 22, Thalita de Jong had already made one breakthrough in 2016, when she won the Cyclocross World Championships, a surprise winner, but very definitely a worthy one. She took that confidence onto the road as domestique with Rabo-liv, and she had strong results in important races – 4th and 6th in stages supporting Kasia Niewiadoma to win the Festival Elsy Jacobs, a stage win at the smaller Giro del Trentino, but then it came to the Giro Rosa, and after coming second in the Prologue, and racing for her team-mates, she got into the breakaway on the final stage, attacked on the final stage, and won!
This category got the most votes of all the them, with 700 votes. Leah Kirchmann got 55% of those 700 with Amalie Dideriksen second at 24%. Thalita de Jong, Maria Giulia Confalonieri and Huang Ting Ying trailed behind.