Throughout December we will be revealing Cycling Weekly‘s top 50 British riders of the year.
Here we reach the end of our online countdown – you can find out who is in our top ten in this week’s Cycling Weekly magazine (December 25 issue).
NO. 11: EMMA POOLEY
What a year it has been for Emma Pooley. Her transition from surprise package to bona fide world-class rider is complete.
The season kicked off in fine style when she won the hilly Trofeo Alfredo Binda, which was the second round of the World Cup.
That laid down a marker. Perhaps she, not Nicole Cooke, might be the best bet for gold in Beijing, particularly as the course was likely to suit the more natural climber?
In May, Pooley had a disastrous time at the Tour de l?Aude. Suffering with a lack of form, she was off the back in the hills, when she would have been expected to be setting the pace, and eventually finished outside the time limit on stage seven.
Women?s team manager Julian Winn stressed then that it was a mere blip, and so it proved.
At the National Championships in Yorkshire, Pooley was the only rider able to stay with Cooke in the final stages, as she took second place.
In July she won the Tour of Brittany, including two stages, one of which was a time trial. It was at this stage that Project Pooley was beginning to pay dividends.
British Cycling had been working on Pooley?s time trialling, including optimising her position on the bike with the hilly Beijing circuit in mind. Knowing that Pooley would want to get out of the saddle on the climbs, they went about making a set of handlebars which copied her standard climbing position, allowing her to place her hands on a standard pair of brake hoods rather than a pair of levers designed for time trials. This combination of TT aerodynamics and climbing comfort paid off and demonstrated the ways BC is prepared to think laterally to solve a problem.
It wasn?t all about the handlebars, though, far from it. Pooley did the ride of her life that day and won a silver medal, finishing just 24 seconds behind Kristin Armstrong of the USA.
A few days earlier, Nicole Cooke had won the road race, and together they had given Great Britain a dream start. In fact, Pooley?s role in Cooke?s win must not be under-estimated. She was a huge factor, attacking as they started the final lap, bridging across to Russia?s Natalia Boyarskaya, who had been in the lead for a while, and taking Italy?s Tatiana Guderzo, the eventual bronze medallist, with her.
Pooley laid the groundwork for the final move, there is no doubt about it.
After Beijing she won a stage and was second overall in the Tour de l?Ardeche in France, and then she played another key role in Cooke?s World Championship success, attacking repeatedly on the climb to soften up GB?s rivals.
It has been a fantastic year for Pooley and now the Olympic Games are out of the way and she?s joining the Cervélo team, there?s the prospect of two British riders vying for the biggest prizes in the sport.
RIDERS REVEALED SO FAR
December 23: No. 12 Geraint Thomas
December 22: No. 13 Ed Clancy
December 21: No. 14 Jamie Staff
December 20: No. 15 Shanaze Reade
December 19: No. 16 Paul Manning
December 18: No. 17 Sarah Storey
December 17: No. 18 Ross Edgar
December 16: No. 20 Chris Newton and 19 Wendy Houvenaghel
December 15: No. 22 Gee Atherton and 21 Rob Hayles
December 14: No. 24 Joanna Rowsell and 23 Simon Richardson
December 13: No. 26 Rachel Atherton and 25 Ben Swift
December 12: No. 28 Lizzie Armitstead and 27 Steven Burke
December 11: No. 30 Andrew Fenn and 29 Sharon Laws
December 10: No. 32 Peter Kennaugh and 31 Josh Bryceland
December 9: No. 34 Jody Cundy and 33 Liam Killeen
December 8: No. 36 David Millar and 35 Ian Stannard
December 7: No. 38 Daniel Fleeman and 37 Matt Crampton
December 6: No. 40 Jessica Allen and 39 Daniel Lloyd
December 5: No. 42 David Daniell and 41 Dean Downing
December 4: No. 44 Steve Peat and 43 Anna Blyth
December 3: No. 46 Jonny Bellis and 45 Jess Varnish
December 2: No. 48 Luke Rowe and 47 Michael Hutchinson
December 1: No. 50 Katie Colclough and 49 Chris Froome