6. Annemiek van Vleuten
35, Netherlands, Orica-Scott
2017 wins: 7
The cycling population waited, heart in mouth, during the women’s Olympic road race – just as anxious to hear the outcome for injured rider Annemiek van Vleuten as the name of the eventual winner.
Van Vleuten’s Rio crash looked horrific – but only 10 days later, she was back on the bike.
Throughout 2017, van Vleuten excelled when it came to time trials. At the Giro Rosa in May, she won both stage two and the deceptively hill stage five ITT – which, though flat in the rider handbook, contained inclines over 20 per cent. Her final position was third overall.
Carrying form into June, the Dutch rider attacked both stages of the La Course women’s stage race that accompanies the Tour de France.
On stage one, a 67.5km race which finished atop of the Col d’Izoard, van Vleuten attacked within the final 5km, leaving clear tarmac between herself and Lizzie Deignan (Boels Dolmans) who had been previously setting the pace.
Van Vleuten’s pace was such that only the winners of the replicating men’s stage were able to beat her time on Strava – only stage winner Warren Barguil and second place overall Romain Bardet were ahead of her average speed.
Going into the second day of La Course, a handicap race which saw riders released on to the road in their finishing order from stage one, van Vleuten time trialled away from Deignan who held back to team up with Elisa Longo-Borghini (Wiggle High5) and Megan Guarnier (Boels Dolmans) and ultimately finished 1-52 adrift.
Van Vleuten took her first UCI World Championship title in September, winning the time trial and clearing second place winner and compatriot Anna van der Breggen by 12.16 seconds – her own time was 28-50.35 over the 21.1-kilometre course.
High finishes all year meant that van Vleuten clinched second overall in the UCI Women’s WorldTour standings, with 989 points to countrywoman van der Breggen’s 1016.