The season’s over and soon the retrospection begins. One of the most prestigious prizes available is the Vélo d’Or from France’s Vélo Magazine. Meaning “golden bike”, it is determined by a vote from journalists around the world who send in their picks.
Alberto Contador was the winner last year but despite several impressive results this year, I’d be surprised if even the Spanish correspondent recommends him given the allegations.
So who would you pick? Me, I’d go for Philip Gilbert. Sometimes it’s easy to remember the most recent winner of a big race and forget the early season but Gilbert isn’t just a winner in the back end of the season, he was on fire in the Amstel Gold classic. He’s a level above other one day riders, his rivals know he will attack but they simply can’t respond.
Cancellara achieved similar levels in April and I’d place him a close second. He delivered throughout the year, in the classics, in the the Tour de France and finally in the Worlds. Why Gilbert over Cancellara? Just because I find Gilbert more exciting and arguably more dominant.
Other notable riders this year include Mark Cavendish. His early season was a write-off but he came back in the Tour de France and being only 25 years old has almost as many Tour stage wins as Freddy Maertens. Another 25 year old, Vincenzo Nibali confirmed his talent this year, a late entrant into the Giro he was up there with Basso and then he won the Vuelta. Joaquin Rodriguez finishes the year as the number one rider in the world but the rankings flatter consistency rather than domination. “Purito” has had his wins but I’m not sure I’d nominate him as the best rider of the year. Finally Cadel Evans is worth a mention for his full season, making the rainbow jersey shine in so many events, from the classics to the grand tours. He proved the jersey isn’t cursed, indeed his only real bad luck came when he was in the yellow jersey, injuries sustained proved too much.
Finally Vélo d’Or award also sees a national competition for the best French rider. As far as I’m concerned it’s Jérôme Coppel, although I suspect others might not agree. The Saur-Sojasun rider hasn’t been invited to the biggest races but he’s delivered consistent results in the season and mano a mano I think he’d see off every other French rider on a hilly stage. Sylvain Chavanel is the other stand out name here but his spring season was hampered by a crash; if his comeback for July was impressive it’s hard to award something out of sympathy.
EDIT – the prize has gone to Cancellara for his double classics wins, the World Champion title and the yellow jersey. A deserved winner but I personally find Gilbert more dominant and exciting. The French prize went to Thomas Voeckler, a good pick with his French champion jersey, his win in the Canadian Pro Tour race and the Tour stage win, not to mention his team loyalty. Although athletically I still think Coppel is the strongest French rider but he’s been denied a chance to shine / he opted to join a smaller team.