Riders 81-90 in our countdown of the 100 Best Road Riders of 2016
81. Fabio Aru
26, Italy, Astana
The smooth ascent of the career of last year’s Vuelta a España winner suffered its first major setback on the slopes of the Col de Joux Plane, where a jour sans not only ended his hopes of a Tour de France podium, but catapulted him out of the top 10. Italy’s great new hope will return to the Giro d’Italia next year to reassert his reputation.
82. Mathias Frank
29, Switzerland, IAM Cycling
Back in mid-July, the thought of Frank making an end-of-year list of top riders seemed very unlikely – he had just fallen sick at the Tour de France, after illness had already forced him to also abandon his other major target, the Tour de Suisse. But he returned fully fit for the Vuelta, where his attacking riding was rewarded with a stage win in the final week.
83. Kirsten Wild
34, Netherlands, Hitec Products
Wild’s six road victories came despite splitting her time between road and track where she competed in the Olympic omnium. Her results proved her still as a sprinter to be reckoned with, though her year may be unfairly defined by her inability to convert Dutch dominance at the World Championships, where she finished second.
84. Andrew Talansky
27, USA, Cannondale-Drapac
The rider known as ‘Pitbull’ was back to something like his tenacious, dogged best this year, battling his way to top fives at the Tours of California, Utah and Switzerland. His decision to skip the Tour de France in order to target the Vuelta a España paid off handsomely, too, as he broke the top five in a Grand Tour for the first time in his career.
85. Jonathan Castroviejo
29, Spain, Movistar
For years a solid time triallist, 2016 was the year that Castroviejo entered the elite – first with gold at the European Championships, then bronze at the Worlds (although he missed out on a medal in the Rio Olympics by just four seconds). The Spaniard was also an important factor in Nairo Quintana overall victory at the Vuelta, where he was often found riding tempo on the early climbs.
86. Petr Vakoc
24, Czech Republic, Etixx-QuickStep
There were glimpses of Vakoc’s talent last year, but 2016 was where the young Czech made it count. Back to back victories in the French Sud Ardeche and Drôme Classics were seriously impressive among a stellar field, while victory at De Brabantsje Pijl showed his bright future in the Ardennes Classics.
87. Robert Gesink
30, Netherlands, LottoNL-Jumbo
Having recovered from career-threatening heart problems in 2014 to return to his best in 2015, Gesink suffered another drawback this year when a head injury sustained at the Tour de Suisse forced him to miss the Tour de France. Nevertheless, the gangly Dutchman again bounced back to animate the mountain breaks at the Vuelta, and triumph on a gruelling stage to Col d’Aubisque in what was (surprisingly for a rider of his talent) the first Grand Tour stage of his career.
88. Magnus Cort Nielsen
23, Denmark, Orica-BikeExchange
Riding in his second year at the top level with Orica-BikeExchange, Cort Nielsen’s fledgling career took off in the final week of the Vuelta a España where he won two bunch sprints in the space of just four days, including the final stage in Madrid. Aged just 23, the strapping blond Dane may be one to look for in the Classics.
89. Gianni Meersman
30, Belgium, Etixx-QuickStep
Having spent most of his career as an understudy to stars like Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel, the Belgian got a rare chance to ride a Grand Tour as Etixx-QuickStep’s protected sprinter at the Vuelta this year. He flourished in the role, capitalising on the lack of any A-list sprinters to dominate the opening week’s bunch finishes and come home with the two biggest stage wins of his career.
90. Sonny Colbrelli
26, Italy, Bardiani-CSF
Though he’s still looking for that elusive win at WorldTour level, Colbrelli’s third place at the Amstel Gold isn’t too bad an effort. Aside from that, the Italian has been prolific in lower ranked races, taking seven victories and numerous podium finishes. It’s no wonder Bahrain-Merida have recruited his services for 2017.