Riders 16-20 in our countdown of the 100 Best Road Riders of 2016
16. Fabian Cancellara
35, Switzerland, Trek-Segafredo
2016 wins: 7
Fabian Cancellara’s final year was not quite the fairytale he or many of his fans had hoped for, but one golden moment did eclipse all else. The then 34-year-old won his third Strade Bianche and it looked like he might pull off the Classics season that would be a deserving, if fanciful, end to such a winning career.
But then the veteran rider’s Classics campaign spluttered between nearly-highs and definite lows. He just missed the podium in some smaller races in the lead up to the cobbled Monuments. Second to an unstoppable Peter Sagan at the Tour of Flanders was a good result, but then getting caught the wrong side of splits and crashes at Paris-Roubaix (not to mention falling off during his velodrome lap of honour) meant for less than ideal finish to the Classics career one of the best ever riders to take to the cobbles.
The Swiss crossed the line sixth in his hometown on stage 16 of the Tour de France, a stage finish devised in his honour. He pulled out of the race after the following stage. So far, not a great year by his very high standards.
Cancellara then defied the odds, and hopes of favourite Tom Dumoulin, by putting in one of the rides of his career – and that’s really saying something when talking about such a prolific palmarès – when he demonstrated his pure brilliance with victory in the Olympic Games time trial, a title he’d previously won in 2008. His joy on the podium showed what it meant to him and gave his competitive career a justifiable golden ending.
My favourite rider…
By Stuart Clarke, news writer
One of cycling’s more impossible tasks in 2017 will be to find ‘the next Fabian Cancellara’. The man wasn’t just a great cyclist, he’s an institution.
Three Paris-Roubaix titles, three Tours of Flanders, four World Championships time trial titles and two Olympic golds. Twelve national title, five Milan-San Remo podiums and an incredible 27 days in yellow at the Tour de France.
I was never lucky enough to see Spartacus in his pomp over the cobbles, but one of my most vivid memories is seeing Cancellara in his bright white world champion’s skinsuit tearing past me on the 2011 Tour de France time trial in Grenoble.
Good luck to whoever tries to fill his shoes at Trek-Segafredo next year – that’s one tough gig.
17. Adam Yates
24, Great Britain, Orica-BikeExchange
2016 wins: None
For British fans, Adam Yates’s ride in the Tour de France has to be the standout performance of the race and maybe of the whole season.
Yes, Chris Froome won the GC and Steve Cummings and Mark Cavendish took stage wins, but that’s what we’re accustomed to them doing.
Still reeling from an administrative error that meant his twin Simon could not take the start line at his side, Adam put that behind him and rode brilliantly for three weeks.
It was only due to a late crack in his form, and Nairo Quintana finally engaging with the race, that the 24-year-old missed out on a podium finish.
Regardless, he took the best young rider’s white jersey by a margin and appeared justifiably pleased with how his second Tour de France had gone.
Both Adam and Simon have extended with Orica-BikeExchange, where the team environment appears – from the outside at least – to be much more nurturing of their talent than another team much closer to home could have proved.
At the very least they are given the room to ride their won races and the support to take on the leadership.
Now the genie is out of the bottle about what Adam Yates is capable of there’ll be far more riders watching him during races than before.
However, the maturity and professionalism with which he’s handled his career so far will carry him, hopefully, to the podium of a Grand Tour in the near future.
Eight years younger than Bradley Wiggins was when he won the 2012 Tour de France and much more at home in the high mountains, the only rider stopping Adam from becoming Britain’s third Tour de France winner over the coming seasons could well be his own twin brother.
My favourite rider…
By Sophie Hurcom, news writer
Adam Yates has long been talked about as a rider with Grand Tour potential, but this year he turned that into a fourth place finish overall in the Tour de France and became the first British rider to win the race’s white jersey.
Yates rode the Tour with the maturity of a rider much older than his 23 years, to produce a result only bettered in Britain by Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome on just his second appearance in the race.
He showed more of the all-round ability needed to win a three-week long race. His climbing skill is no secret, but he performed consistently; stepped up his time trialling that had been a weaker point; and even when he started to suffer in the closing mountain stages, rode sensibly, didn’t panic and limited his losses.
If that’s what Yates can do when he said he wasn’t targeting the general classification, who knows what’s possible in the future.
18. Anna van der Breggen
26, Netherlands, Rabo-Liv
2016 wins: 4
The absence of team-mate Marianne Vos throughout 2015 gave Anna van der Breggen the opportunity to flourish into one of the best cyclists in the women’s peloton, a trajectory on which she has continued this year.
Though not a particularly prolific winner, her ability to successfully hit her targets was never better illustrated than in Rio where she not only bagged gold in the road race, but also won bronze in the time trial, proving herself a complete rider.
Fifth and fourth places at Strade Bianche and Ronde van Drenthe respectively propelled her to the top of the WorldTour standings for a week, the only non-Boels-Dolmans rider to lead the series, and in April a second consecutive victory at La Flèche Wallonne broke Boels-Dolmans’ WorldTour winning streak.
Ironically she will ride for the Dutch team next year when Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Amstel Gold, both new events suited to her abilities, are likely to prove particularly attractive.
My favourite rider…
By Owen Rogers, freelance writer
Of my two favourites for the Olympic road race one was Anna van der Breggen.
Her ability to put aside the sight of friend and teammate Annemiek van Vleuten crumpled at the roadside, then produce an patient, canny sprint under such pressure was very impressive.
However, two of her earlier victories also stand out for me, both excellent tactically. Her first win at La Flèche Wallonne in 2015 when she bridged to a teammate, then attacked alone at the bottom of the Mur de Huy. The other was later that year on the Champs Elysées, the result of a near suicidal last lap attack.
After both she just smiled.
19. Julian Alaphilippe
24, France, Etixx-QuickStep
2016 wins: 2
This year’s Tour of California winner has been in the mix on a range of terrains in 2016 and is certainly one of the new wave of young French hopes. Julian Alaphilippe came close to a stage win and yellow jersey at this year’s Tour de France, but was marginally denied both by (this year’s number one) Peter Sagan.
The same result befell the 24-year-old when he crossed the line behind Sagan at the European Championships. Second two years in a row at La Flèche Wallonne, an Ardennes Classic or even a Monument are within his capabilities in the near future. Such is the belief from his team in his ability, that double Monument winner Dan Martin was put to the task of supporting him in the Ardennes this year.
But Alaphilippe is one of the classiest and most consistent riders around; always up there, always competing. Despite not making waves overall in the Grand Tours yet, with plenty of professional years ahead he could join Romain Bardet in challenging for a home win in the Tour de France in the next decade or so. Sixth place at the Critérium du Dauphiné and best young rider amongst a stellar field is evidence of that.
The most painful of his near misses from the last couple of seasons though will surely be fourth place in the road race at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, but while the results have been just out of reach, Alaphilippe is arguably the most talented young prospect among this 100.
Set for his third season with Quick-Step in 2017, his development should continue on the same upwards trajectory, and he should be afforded plenty of opportunities in any early season races that suit his style and capabilities.
20. Tom Boonen
36, Belgium, Etixx-QuickStep
2016 wins: 3
‘When will Tom Boonen retire?’ was the question many were asking at the start of 2016.
It now looks like he will have one more tilt at the Classics in 2017, likely inspired by his ride in this year’s Paris-Roubaix. As with Fabian Cancellara’s second place at the Tour of Flanders, Boonen crossed the line behind Mat Hayman in the Roubaix Velodrome to be denied the fairytale finale.
Boonen counts six podium finishes, including a record four wins, from 10 starts at the Hell of the North, so a fifth win may have been one too many.
Holding his form into the tail end of the season, the Belgian was present in the lead group of the long, flat World Championships road race. He finished the race third behind winner Peter Sagan and second place Mark Cavendish, giving a podium made up entirely of former wearers of the rainbow jersey.