CW’s British Riders of 2012: No. 22-21

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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Vuelta a Espana stage winner

Steve Cummings’s debut season with BMC Racing had not been going well. Blighted by injury and a lack of form, it was perhaps a minor miracle that he made the team’s nine-man selection for the Tour de France at all.

The man from the Wirral broke his pelvis at the Volta ao Algarve in February and recovered only to crash again during his comeback race, the Tour of the Basque Country, fracturing his wrist. He crashed a third time at the Tour of California.

The Tour de France was by no means a disaster. Cummings got stuck into the muck and nettles work of supporting his team leader, Cadel Evans. But that is largely unheralded toil, and while all his compatriots in the race won a stage, Cummings was one of the rank and file relieved to see the Champs-Elysees.

Come the Vuelta, he was back to something approaching his best and he rode brilliantly during stage 13 from Santiago de Compostela to Ferrol.

Demonstrating the instincts of a pure racer, Cummings outwitted a very handy group, which contained Cameron Meyer and Juan Antonio Flecha to win the stage. The sense of timing to break away from the others, combined with the strength to hold the gap in the final kilometre, was very impressive.

Adding his name to the ever-growing list of British riders to win a stage of one of the three grand tours was the finest achievement of his career so far. He followed up by beating Ryder Hesjedal to win a stage of the Tour of Beijing at the end of the season.


World scratch race champion

Ben Swift’s surname could hardly be more apt. He really is swift. The 25-year-old from Yorkshire is not a pure sprinter in the Cavendish mould but he is a very fast finisher in the less orthodox stages.

Given all the success by his compatriots this year, it would be easy to assume that Swift has not progressed, but that would be to ignore the evidence.

At the World Track Championships in Melbourne, he came away with a rainbow jersey in the scratch race. That was his first senior world title, and silver medals in the points race and Madison, where he partnered Geraint Thomas.

On the road, while all the attention was on Bradley Wiggins leading the Tour de France, Swift was quietly winning a couple of stages and the points classification at the Tour of Poland.

Although it clashed with the biggest race on the planet, the Tour of Poland was still a World Tour event with a classy field, many of whom were using it as preparation for the Olympic Games.

Swift beat the likes of Elia Viviani (another excellent road and track rider), Tom Boonen and John Degenkolb to win his stages in Poland.

At the Vuelta a Espana, he enjoyed some good lead-outs from his Sky team-mates, but the closest he got to a victory was second place behind Daniele Bennati at Valladolid.

However, his two victories in Poland lifted him to joint 12th in the list of all-time British professional winners on the road. Expect him to step into the top 10 next season.

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 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