To kick off the awards season, let's start with the main course: the Rider of the Year, Dudes Division. This year's contest should be very, very interesting indeed. There are four clear candidates and arguably few others who measure up... but that's not for me to determine.
In keeping with past years, we will do this in two steps, collecting nominations today and then announcing a vote next week. The voting will remain open for five days or so, depending on when it kicks off, and the results will determine our Rider of the Year. [In past years I threatened to veto any results I didn't like, but that inane power trip wore off.] OK, let's look at a short list of candidates. Please comment on these guys and add other names to the list -- if you can make a case as to why your guy should get on the ballot, I'll put him on and leave it to the peeps to decide. Without further ado...
Podium Cafe World Rankings
- Joaquim Rodriguez, Katusha, 3837 points
- Bradley Wiggins, Sky, 2630
- Peter Sagan, Liquigas, 2556
- Tom Boonen, OPQS, 2007
- Alejandro Valverde, Movistar, 1931
- John Degenkolb, Argos-Shimano, 1930
- Chris Froome, Sky, 1612
- Alberto Contador, Saxo-Tinkoff, 1560
- Edvald Boasson Hagen, Sky, 1535
- Vincenzo Nibali, Liquigas, 1530
So there's that. I'll start the process by nominating the first four guys on the list.
Remember last year when Philippe Gilbert racked up 3986 points? Remember how that total represented such a mind-blowing sum that we practically canceled the voting process and handed PhilGil the trophy straight out? Purito came within one forgettable Ronde van Belgie triumph of matching that number. Five grand tour stage wins, two podium finishes, first monument victory in Lombardia, another Fleche Wallonne. Twenty-three days in a grand tour leader's jersey.
BUT! Will he ever win a stage race? Wait, sorry, he won the Vuelta a Burgos... last year. And the Volta a Catalunya the year before. So there's hope!
Not sure Wiggo will appreciate the company, but the tart-tongued British star became the first rider since Miguel Indurain to win the Tour de France and an Olympic gold medal in the span of a few weeks or so. And let's face it, Wiggins was dominant. He owned the Tour, winning with barely a challenge outside his own team. He dominated the Olympic time trial, beating world champion Tony Martin by 42 seconds. He won the Dauphine, Romandie, Paris-Nice. The only stage race he started and didn't win this year was the Volta ao Algarve, way back in February, and even there he was third. [Well, Catalunya too, but he abandoned in a snowstorm. Understandably.]
BUT! Amazingly enough, he started a grand total of ten events. Isn't there something to be said for racing a full calendar? Also, he used some very naughty language.
Nobody was more fun to watch. OK, that's a tad subjective, but Sagan was captivating. He won five of the eight stages at the Tour of California. He won three more stages and easily salted away the Green Jersey at the Tour. He's a sprinter, more or less, but climbed enough to scare the living daylights out of several pelotons' worth of riders. He won 16 times, served notice at the cobbled classics, and exhibited a playful sense about it while it was happening.
BUT! I dunno, are we really going to make him #1 already? Won't there be plenty of time for that later?
One of Belgium's most remarkable cyclists completed one of cycling's most remarkable runs in history. Boonen, coming off of two sub-Boonen years (that almost any other rider would kill for) proceeded to rack up the four biggest wins in the Cobbled Classics: E3 Prijs, Gent-Wevelgem, de Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix. That last one was accomplished in Cancellara-like fashion, with a 40km breakaway, though it should be noted that Cancellara wasn't there to stop his rival this time.
BUT! How does a rider of his stature not even take the start of a grand tour? Like Wiggins, Boonen stuck to his team's objectives and, having accomplished exactly all of them, went on vacation in July. He earned it, but that's a little jarring, isn't it?
OK, what do you think? Who else makes the iist?