Riders 41-50 in our countdown of the 100 Best Road Riders of 2016
41. Sergio Henao
28, Colombia, Team Sky
The little Colombian was back to his best during the spring, capping off a series of impressive stage race performances with second overall at the Tour of the Basque Country. His season was interrupted in April after another review of his biological passport, but upon being cleared he climbed excellently at the Tour de France to help Chris Froome win yellow.
42. Michael Matthews
26, Australia, Orica-BikeExchange
After kicking off his season with a surprise opening time trial win at Paris-Nice and sustained but ultimately unsuccessful defence of the leader’s jersey, Matthews returned to his usual specialities of competing in bunch sprints and hilly Classics. The Australian picked up a lot of fourths and fifth, but did manage to out-sprint Peter Sagan to win his maiden Tour de France stage.
43. Elisa Longo-Borghini
24, Italy, Wiggle-High5
Third in the Olympic road race and fifth against the clock prove Longo-Borghini’s prodigious talent. However, her long pull to bring back trade team-mate Mara Abbott in the final kilometres in Rio perhaps indicate either tactical naivety or the absence of killer instinct.
That could account for her converting only two of her 27 top-10s into victories, though the depth of talent in Wiggle-High5 has possibly restricted leadership opportunities. With Abbott and Emma Johansson retiring, Longo-Borghini may now be afforded more chances to win.
44. Tony Martin
31, Germany, Etixx-QuickStep
2016 featured several trademark Tony Martin marathon tempo rides, from his two-man attack with Julian Alaphilippe on the stage to Bern at the Tour, to his 25km turn at the front of Paris-Roubaix to take Fabian Cancellara and Peter Sagan out of contention. But it was his reclaiming of the Worlds time trial title he last won back in 2013 that made his season a real triumph.
45. Sep Vanmarcke
28, Belgium, LottoNL-Jumbo
Vanmarcke put in his usual formidable display of strength on the cobbled spring Classics, starring in the endgames of both the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. But once again that longed-for Monument win eluded the Belgian, as he was unable to stay with Peter Sagan on the Paterberg in the former, and had a powerful late attack only just reeled in in the latter.
46. Steven Kruijswijk
29, Netherlands, LottoNL-Jumbo
Just two days away from what would have been a career-defining Giro d’Italia overall victory, Kruijswijk’s dream race turned into a nightmare as he crashed, lost the pink jersey and slipped off the podium to finish a heartbreaking fourth overall. It was nevertheless still a fine display, and one that suggests he may yet get other chances to win a Grand Tour.
My favourite rider…
By Henry Robertshaw, news writer
Cycling’s emotional rollercoaster was at its best with Steven Kruijswijk’s Giro performance.
We all rode that race with the Dutchman, experiencing the joy of seeing such an outsider within two days of claiming the most unexpected of Grand Tour victories, and then sinking into despair as he overcooked a corner, careering into a snowbank on the descent of the Colle Dell’Agnello.
Finally we cheered him on, as Kruijswijk refused to give in to his injuries, fighting on through the final mountain stage only to fall agonisingly short of the podium.
That performance will be remembered for much longer than Vincenzo Nibali’s overall victory, encapsulating everything we expect from the heroes of our sport.
47. Fernando Gaviria
22, Colombia, Etixx-QuickStep
It was clear from the moment that he beat Mark Cavendish in a sprint at the 2015 Tour de San Luis that Gaviria was something special, and this year he continued to develop at a staggering rate. The soon-to-be superstar won multiple WorldTour-ranked stage race sprints, put in a stunning late attack to hold-off the peloton at Paris-Tours, and could even have already have had a Monument to his name had he not crashed out at the last minute in Milan-San Remo.
48. Miguel Angel Lopez
22, Colombia, Astana
Colombia’s latest fresh-faced young talent put in an astonishingly accomplished performance for a 22-year old to claim the overall at the Tour de Suisse, and even showed an aptitude for one-day Classics by winning Milan-Torino. His opportunity to make an impression of his Grand Tour debut at the Vuelta was scuppered by crashes, but he already looks capable of competing for the GC.
49. Diego Ulissi
27, Italy, Lampre-Merida
Ulissi may still not feature too much in big races held outside of Italy, but he continues to delight the tifosi by starring on home roads. The Giro d’Italia was again his season highlight, where he rode aggressively to add a fifth and sixth stage win to his career haul.
50. Tim Wellens
25, Belgium, Lotto-Soudal
When Wellens wins, he does so spectacularly. His 2016 highlights included a first ever Grand Tour stage win with an early lone attack on the hilltop finish of stage six at the Giro d’Italia, overall victory at the Tour of Poland after a solo stage win in torrential rain, and out-sprinting Alberto Contador and Richie Porte after another long breakaway to win the final stage of Paris-Nice.
My favourite rider…
By Richard Windsor, digital editor
Everybody loves attacking racing, and everyone loves a rider willing lot put it all on the line for a remote shot at success. Break away, get pulled back, repeat until victory.
And it’s with that never-say-die attitude that Tim Wellens has, at just 25-years-old, already made a name for himself.
Who would have believed he’d be able to succeed on the final, gruelling mountain stage of Paris-Nice? After being caught by Alberto Contador and Richie Porte on Col d’Eze, having ridden the entire stage in the breakaway, there was still no giving in.
Wellens did the same to take a maiden Grand Tour stage win at the Giro d’Italia, and is now touted as having potential to fight for the overall at major stage races (he’s already won the Eneco Tour twice and the Tour of Poland.)
Let’s just hope that doesn’t mean he has to lose that flair for attacking, because that’s the kind of racing we all want to see.