OK, time for our annual debate: who was the best rider, all things considered, in 2013?
On "best": Obviously this has to do with results, given that it's a results-oriented sport. After that, however, your assessment of "best" is subjective. Does a grand tour victory outweigh extended classics success? Does improvement against expectations or other perceived limitations push someone past another rider whom we all expected to win big? Make your case for your guy. I will start with the obvious candidates, but please jump into comments to expand the list. Voting starts on Monday.
Proceeding in chronological order here...
For: Won the Cobbled Double for a second time. Actually the triple, if you toss in E3 Prijs Harelbeke. Which of course I do. Third at a brutal Milano-Sanremo behind two sprinters. Didn't always have a ton of help, though things were better this year than in past years.
Against: He and Boonen seem to be taking turns crashing out of each other's way. So yeah, his double didn't include slaying his greatest rival. Except in E3, which as mentioned above counts.
For: Won the Giro d'Italia, a rather nasty edition of it. Came close to a grand tour double before conceding victory to Chris Horner in the Vuelta a Espana. Just off the podium at the Worlds, after playing his customarily active role. Generally rode the way you'd want everyone to ride.
Against: For major palmares it's the maglia rosa and that's it. NTTAWT, but this is a pretty elite list.
For: Winningest rider on the planet, points-wise and in terms of wins (22). Won Gent-Wevelgem to open his palmares account in Flanders. Second in de Ronde. Won Brabantse Pijl. Strolled to the Green Jersey in a fashion that makes you wonder when anyone else will win one. Ate multiple lunches at the USAPCC (three stages) and took the GP Montreal.
Against: Second in Flanders. One Tour stage win. Can you really ride Gent-Wevelgem to ROY?
For: Won the Tour de France, plus three stages. Won the Dauphine, Romandie and Criterium International.
Against: No results outside France or Francophone Switzerland. Typical Tour winner, who limited himself to winning the Tour.
For: Won Lombardia, finished third in the Tour de France, second in Liege, second in Worlds road race, fourth in Vuelta a Espana. Nobody tried (and nearly succeeded) to win more huge races.
Against: Just the one win. As we all know.
For: Won the Vuelta while being really old. Won two stages (while still old) and nearly the Angliru nightmare stage (while a whole week older than his last win). Didn't really get much help.
Against: Pretty much nothing outside the Vuelta. Defied odds?
For: World's fastest man, dusting Mark Cavendish three times (and Greipel, and Sagan) en route to four Tour stage wins. Won Scheldeprijs.
Against: End of story. Cav had more wins (19 to (16) as did Sagan (22). And do you really want to cast your vote for a bunch galloper?
For: World Champion. Won two Tour de France stages. Won Tour de Suisse for second time. For his quality, he did about as well as one could imagine.
Against: Bubkis in the grand tours, besides stages.
For: Story of the year, at least in terms of "who did what in 2013 that makes you excited for 2014?" Second overall at the Tour, including winning penultimate stage in mountains and best-placed GC guy at Alpe d'Huez stage. Won KOM competition, which was good for him, his country, and the KOM competition. Won Burgos and Pais Vasco tours.
Against: Second at the Tour means someone else won it.
That's all I got. If you want to try your hand at making the Valverde case, be my guest.