CW’s British Riders of 2012: No. 12-11

Cycling Weekly is revealing the top 50 2012 British Riders of the Year, counting down every day until December 19.

The top 10 will be revealed in Cycling Weekly’s Christmas issue, on sale from Thursday December 20.

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Olympic road race silver medallist

One day after Great Britain’s masterplan in the men’s Olympic road race was unpicked by their rivals, Lizzie Armitstead lined up in filthy wet conditions knowing that a sprint finish on The Mall could not be taken for granted.

So much had been said about whether Armitstead or Nicole Cooke represented Britain’s best chance of a medal and the received wisdom was that a sprint was inevitable, especially as the women had to cross Box Hill fewer times than the men.

But major championship races rarely conform to type. The women’s race was nervy, aggressive, unpredictable and absolutely captivating.

The attacks, when they came, were full-blooded, utterly committed, do-or-die efforts.

And Armitstead responded when she needed to, applied pressure when it was right and forged a superb three-strong break with Marianne Vos and Olga Zabelinskaya.

The Russian had already been out in front a while and so was less of a threat than Vos who had already established herself as The Cannibal of women’s cycling, possibly the greatest the world has ever seen.

Armitstead was up there on merit and knew that she had to give everything to help drive the break away and then try to work out a way to beat the indestructible Vos at the finish.

Vos was too strong, of course, but Armitstead thoroughly deserved her silver medal.

The rest of the season was relatively quiet – her only other major wins came in Belgium, one being Ghent-Wevelgem, which does not yet have the stature of the men’s event.

But to time a peak for one given Sunday in late July was impressive and totally justified British Cycling’s decision to make her the leader. A world title on the road will come Armitstead’s way one day, we can be pretty sure of that. She just has to work out how to get the better of Vos – but that is a problem that faces everyone.


Olympic team pursuit champion

The 2012 season was all about the Olympic Games for Geraint Thomas. Having made big strides forwards in the Classics and the mountains of the Tour de France in 2011, stepping back to the track for a whole year must’ve presented something of a dilemma for the Welshman.

At 26, he is approaching the peak of his powers and he has already been quoted as saying he thinks he can emulate Bradley Wiggins and target the Tour one day.

So with all that talent and ambition burning, it took discipline and dedication to concentrate on the team pursuit and give his all to the task.

This year, Thomas has won another world team pursuit title, defended his Olympic team pursuit title and lowered the world record. He also picked up a silver medal, with Ben Swift, in the Madison at the World Championships.

As his road programme was tailored to the track objectives, he missed the spring Classics and a chance to improve further at the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

Nevertheless, he had some excellent results on the road. He won the short, pursuit-like prologue at the Tour of Romandy in Switzerland. Then he was second in the Giro d’Italia prologue (to Taylor Phinney) and second (to Marco Pinotti) in the final time trial in Milan.

With the Olympics now out of the way, Thomas has his eyes set firmly on the road. He’s a multiple triple world champion in the team pursuit and a double Olympic champion. Now it’s time to see what he can do in the Classics and stage races. Stand back. It could be spectacular.

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.
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Related links

Cycling Weekly’s 2012 British riders of the year index

Riders revealed so far…
December 17: Numbers 16-15 – Philip Hindes and Elinor Barker
December 16: Numbers 18-17 – Steven Burke and Peter Kennaugh
December 15: Numbers 20-19 – David Millar and Lucy Garner
December 14: Numbers 22-12 – Steve Cummings and Ben Swift
December 13: Numbers 24-23 – Ian Stannard and Helen Wyman
December 12: Numbers 26-25 – Annie Last and Scott Thwaites
December 11: Numbers 28-27 – Mark Colbourne and Alex Dowsett
December 10: Numbers 32-29 – Sharon Laws, Liam Killeen, Neil Fachie, Rachel Atherton
December 9: Number 33 – David Stone
December 8: Number 34 – Emma Pooley
December 7: Numbers 36-35 – Nikki Harris and Russell Downing
December 6: Numbers 38-37 – Anthony Kappes and Andy Fenn
December 5: Numbers 40-39 – Josh Edmondson and Matt Bottrill
December 4: Numbers 42-41 – Luke Rowe and Michael Hutchinson
December 3: Numbers 44-43 – Sam Lowe and Jon Dibben
December 2: Numbers 46-45 – Rebecca James and Jessica Varnish 
December 1: Numbers 50-47 – Alex Peters, Kristian House, Richard Handley and Wendy Houvenaghel