Cycling Weekly will be revealing the 2012 British Riders of the Year over the next 20 days. Starting at number 50, we will be counting down every day until December 19.
We’re kicking the countdown off today with four riders. The top 10 will be revealed in Cycling Weekly’s Christmas issue, on sale from Thursday December 20.
50th ALEX PETERS
National Junior Road Race Series champion
Alex Peters of Mosquito Bikes won the National Junior Road Race Series by combining consistency with a couple of outstanding individual performances.
He won the second round, the Tour of the Mendips, near Bristol in April and then clinched perhaps the most prestigious of them all, the Tom Simpson Memorial in June.
It’s always tough to know whether a junior rider is going to fulfil the promise as he or she matures but in recent years, the strength in depth in the junior ranks has been impressive, so just to operate at the top of his field marks Peters down as one to watch.
After all, five years ago, Peter Kennaugh won the National Junior Road Race Series ahead of his now Team Sky team-mate Luke Rowe, with Adam Blythe in fourth overall.
Peters is one of a number of very promising young riders. At the Tom Simpson Memorial, he beat Germain Burton into second place. In the overall series standings, he beat Harry Tanfield by almost 50 points, with Tao Geoghegan Hart in third. And it took a strong, gutsy ride in the final round, the three-day Junior Tour of Wales, which was hit by some terrible weather, to ensure victory.
49th KRISTIAN HOUSE
One of the many great things about this year’s Tour of Britain was hearing the composition of the day’s big break and listening out for whether Rapha Condor Sharp’s Kristian House had made it.
More often than not, he had. In total, the former British champion spent almost 400 miles off the front of the bunch in one escape or another.
On day one, he got away with three other riders and they stayed clear until the final few miles as they approached the Norfolk showground. Two days later, the weather had changed from scorching sun to Scottish drizzle but House was off the front again, in a group that gained almost 13 minutes at one point.
He also attack on stage four to Blackpool and stage six to Caerphilly and had the king of the mountains competition wrapped up well before the end of the week.
With Rapha recruiting a number of young riders, House perhaps felt the responsibility to get the team’s jersey noticed. He also inspired his younger team-mates, Richard Handley and Mike Cuming, who both showed well at times in the race.
48th RICHARD HANDLEY
The 22-year-old from Wigan might just be one of the gems in John Herety’s squad of young riders. Eighteen months ago Rapha Condor Sharp took the deliberate decision to focus on nurturing younger riders who had fallen short of making the grade with the Great Britain academy and were not ready to make a leap towards Europe.
With Herety at the helm, Rapha have given riders the opportunity to experience a tough level of racing around the world but in a secure, stable environment.
Handley is one of those to have impressed this year – with his stand-out victory being stage five of the Vuelta a Leon in Spain.
47th WENDY HOUVENAGHEL
Few would pretend that Wendy Houvenaghel’s Olympic year panned out the way she would have hoped.
She was the fourth rider in a three-woman team and found herself frustrated on the sidelines watching as Laura Trott, Dani King and Joanna Rowsell stormed to gold medals and world records.
However, it was still a good year for the 37-year-old from Northern Ireland. She came closer to winning her first individual pursuit world title than ever – missing out to Alison Shanks by a mere two seconds in the final in Melbourne.
She won the British National Time Trial Championships again and the prestigious Chrono Champenois in France before representing Great Britain at the World Championships on the road in Valkenburg.
But being overlooked for a place in the victorious team pursuit line-up stung, as her interview with the BBC, in which she took aim at the selection process, showed.
The UCI’s decision to extend the women’s team pursuit by a kilometre and make it a four-rider event will probably come too late for Houvenaghel but it should not be forgotten that she was an integral part of a squad that dominated from the start.
Don’t agree with our choice of riders? You can vote for your top 10 British Riders of 2012 on the CW website.
When Tweeting about our countdown or your nominees, use the #ridersoftheyear hashtag.
We’ll be running your choice in a future issue.