The riders, races and coverage that left you happy or hopping mad
- Photos by Graham Watson, Yuzuru Sunada, Andy Jones and Daniel Gould
The cycling world provided plenty of excitement in 2016 — particularly in Olympic year. It was very much a season of the new and old, with fresh new cycling talent emerging and mixing it up with the established names.
Peter Sagan, Chris Froome and Mark Cavendish all showed once again why they are at the top of their game, but they must now look over their shoulders at the likes of Esteban Chaves, Adam Yates and Romain Bardet accelerating through the ranks.
Your voting thoroughly reflects all those riders’ stellar years.
Our poll has thrown up a few surprises. The public’s choice of villain of the year was certainly a revelation.
Riders and teams
Most impressive international rider
1st Peter Sagan
2nd Esteban Chaves
3rd Greg Van Avermaet
Last year’s winner: Peter Sagan
Peter Sagan was the dominant force in pro cycling in 2016, and this was reflected fully in our poll. Tinkoff’s Slovak powerhouse attracted an astounding 73 per cent of all votes. Few would deny that he thoroughly deserves it. Sagan delivered wins in Ghent-Wevelgem and a memorable edition of the Tour of Flanders. Three stage victories in the Tour de France, a fifth green jersey, and wins galore — 14 in all — were topped off by a successful defence of his world title. No curse of the rainbow jersey here.
Ever-smiling 26-year-old Colombian Esteban Chaves proves that you don’t have to win to be impressive. A breakthrough season for the Orica-BikeExchange man saw him make two Grand Tour podium appearances: second in the Giro d’Italia and third in the Vuelta a España. And victory in Il Lombardia was a final flourish. Men’s Olympic road race champion Greg Van Avermaet was third in your voting.
Nairo Quintana just missed out on the top three. Although the diminutive Colombian misfired at the Tour, he went on to out-race Froome at the Vuelta. Tom Dumoulin also received a significant number of your votes.
Most impressive British rider
1st Mark Cavendish
2nd Chris Froome
3rd Adam Yates
Last year’s winner: Geraint Thomas
Much was made of Mark Cavendish’s lofty ambitions at the start of the season, as he targeted the Tour de France and Olympics. Many said it could not be done, but that wasn’t going to stop Cav. He took four stages of the Tour in a show of vintage Cavendish sprinting, then moved on to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. He put everything into the multi-discipline omnium on the track, and came away with a silver medal. Also on the track, Cav took the Madison world title and the Ghent Six Day, both with Bradley Wiggins.
Chris Froome came a very close second in your voting, having put in a dominant performance in the Tour to take his third win in the race, and elevate himself among the all-time greats. Adam Yates was very impressive in the Tour too, claiming the white jersey of best young rider.
Steve Cummings was one of the most exciting riders of the year, attacking to take five big wins, including a stage of the Tour and the Tour of Britain overall. Laura Kenny, Bradley Wiggins, Geraint Thomas, Rachel Atherton, and Jason Kenny also attracted many votes each.
Performance of the year
1st Mathew Hayman in Paris-Roubaix
2nd Team GB in the Olympic Games (track)
3rd Chris Froome in the Tour de France
Last year’s winner: Tom Dumoulin at the Vuelta a España
At 38 years old and with a 17-year career forged as a dependable super-domestique, few would have bet on likeable Aussie Mathew Hayman winning a Monument, let alone the biggest of them all — Paris-Roubaix. Yet Hayman hardly put a foot wrong in a race that he later described as “controlled aggression for five or six hours”. A final sprint in the iconic Roubaix velodrome to beat Classics hardmen Tom Boonen and Ian Stannard, and Hayman was stood tearfully atop the podium clutching the winner’s cobblestone.
Great Britain’s track squad placed second in your voting. After a shaky lead-up to the Rio Games, which saw Shane Sutton resign from the team under a cloud, there were doubts that the squad would deliver. But deliver they did, outstripping their hauls of 2008 and 2012, to claim 12 medals. Chris Froome’s third Tour de France win was third on your list.
Peter Sagan appeared in your voting, receiving nominations for both his successful World Championships defence and his Tour of Flanders win. Someone voted ‘Rachel Atherton in every race’, which is hard to deny, given that she won every round of the UCI Mountain Bike Downhill World Cup.
Unluckiest rider of the year
1st John Degenkolb
2nd Alberto Contador
3rd Annemiek van Vleuten
Last year’s winner: Tom Dumoulin
The cycling world was stunned at the news in January that members of the Giant-Alpecin team had been hit by a car while out training in Calpe, Spain. German John Degenkolb was one of those with the most serious injuries after the horrific incident, with one of his fingers all but severed. Despite a good recovery, Degenkolb could not defend his 2015 victories in Paris-Roubaix and Milan-San Remo. He returned to racing in May, with his hand still bandaged up and took his first win of the year in August, a stage of the Arctic Race of Norway.
Spaniard Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) was second, attracting votes for his crash in the opening days of the Tour de France and subsequent withdrawal later in the race. Few will forget Annemiek van Vleuten’s crash during the women’s road race at the Rio Olympics. Poised to take the victory, the Dutchwoman crashed heavily on a descent, sustaining a fractured spine. Thankfully, she made a swift recovery.
Mark Cavendish was nominated for his second places in the Rio omnium and World Championships road race, and Steven Kruijswijk attracted votes for his untimely crash while leading the Giro d’Italia, ending his chances of victory.
Most impressive team of the year
1st Team Sky
3rd Dimension Data
Last year’s winner: Team Sky
Once again Sky were a force to be reckoned with, not least in the Tour de France, where Chris Froome took his third win. The British team’s dominance in the race is part of the reason why organiser ASO is looking at reducing team rosters from nine to eight riders per team in 2017. Wout Poels broke Sky’s duck in the Monuments too, finally giving the team a big one-day race win at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Australian outfit Orica-BikeExchange are morphing into a Grand Tour force, with Esteban Chaves, Adam Yates and Simon Yates shaping up to be the future of three-week races. And let’s not forget Mathew Hayman’s victory in Paris-Roubaix. Dimension Data also impressed you: Brits Mark Cavendish and Steve Cummings brought them some memorable victories.
The WorldTour’s top team, Movistar, came fourth in the poll. Belgians Etixx-QuickStep now appear to be made up of an entire roster of winners. And top women’s team Boels-Dolmans obliterated the opposition in the inaugural Women’s WorldTour.
Best team kit
1st Team Sky
2nd Team Wiggins
Last year’s winner: Team Sky
Sky’s black, blue and white kit could hardly be described as radical, but it has become distinctive. Will that continue into next year? Rapha has been replaced by Castelli for 2017 with a new design featuring dashes across the front. One unkind observer said it looks like a game of Frogger.
British Continental squad Team Wiggins makes it a top two for Rapha, with their blue, red and gold kit standing out from the crowd. However, this might be the final season that Sir Bradley himself wears it as he ponders retirement. In third place, Movistar’s dark blue and green kit remains one of the most popular — and there’s a British connection there too, since it’s made by Scottish company Endura.
“No one really stands out so I would put US Postal in,” said one voter. Elsewhere, Tinkoff, Etixx-Quick Step, Dimension Data and Trek gained similar amounts of votes, and the bold Canyon-SRAM kit is rapidly gaining popularity.