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Handicapping the Rider of the Year Race

With the Worlds Road Race beckoning, the race for the Ride of the Year is wide open. Let's handicap it.

Doug Pensinger

Who is the Rider of the Year?


A rhubarb broke out in the Men's TT thread. We love rhubarbs! We love pie! Thanks to wannabe scarrista.

Never an easy task to figure out, this year the race for the year's best rider is even more wide open than normal. Just compare to 2013 and three potential riders stand out and stood out before the World Championships:

- Peter Sagan with his year long excellence. He was competitive everywhere, winning the Green jersey at the Tour along with wins at Gent-Wevelgem and Quebec along with numerous stage wins and the podium at MSR. Etc etc etc.

- Chris Froome, the Tour winner along with stage race wins at the Dauphine, Romandie, and Criterium International

- Vincenzo Nibali with his Giro win, Tirreno-Adriatico and coming of so close at the Vuelta and Worlds RR.

(Fourth place would go to Valverde with an endless number of podiums at Vuelta, Worlds RR, LBL, San Seb, Amstel, and  Murcia.)

This year though we have a good eight riders on the cusp of the Worlds RR who could pull down top honors by seasons' end. You (yes I'm looking at YOU) may not like the order I put them in, but the truth is any of these eight riders could take home top honors by late October. They all have work to do. Let's look at 'em and give 'em odds. First though which are the main races that will decide this thing?  Worlds RR obviously. Lombardy too. Paris-Tours could prove important. Milan-Turin could give a decisive push to it's winner. The other races probably aren't important though with the race so tight any extra wins in SSRs could be big.  Okay, the players:

Alejandro Valverde

Why he'll win- Al could be thought of as the Peter Sagan of this year's race-except he's been winning more often. His wins this year compare favorably to the whole careers of so many decent riders. His big wins are San Seb, La Fleche Wallone, and stage 6 of the Vuelta. He won his Nats ITT and gifted his teammate Ion Izzy the Nats RR. He came in a close 2nd at LBL. He came in 4th on GC at the Tour and 3rd at the Vuelta.

In addition he's got wins at Roma Maxima where he stuck his break better than Nadia Comaneci or Mary Lou Retton. But wait!  There's more! He won the overall at Andalusia with three stage wins, won Murcia, 3rd at Strade Bianche, won Big Mig, placed 4th at Amstel making him the best Ardennes rider this year (Kwait #2), and 2nd at Route du Sud.

Why he won't win-. He doesn't have a win in a Grand Tour GC or a Monument.  And some folks don't like his doping past and will never vote for him.

What he needs to do to lock down the title- Win either Worlds or Lombardy-and do well in the other.  Winning Milan-Turin wouldn't hurt either. With Al you have to take into account his consistency and he's money there.

Odds-5-1 Yes, he's the leader at the top of the stretch. But he can't coast as a bunch of riders are just a bike length away...

Simon Gerrans

Why he'll win- LBL winner. Also won both Canadian races (no NOT Alberta- the other two.) He also won TDU (which isn' t all that much) and was 3rd at Amstel and Vattenfalls.

Why he won't win- Like Spartacus, the cupboard is a little scant as of today. Would have been nice if he had serious contested say France-Plouay or won a Tour stage but alas, no.

What he needs to do to lock down the title- Win Worlds RR. That's a must. Hope that no one else has a big fall. Not sure if he's riding any other race this year which could be a problem.

Odds-13-2  At the end of July he was nowhere to be seen in this fight. He's got momentum but the Worlds race is against tougher competition than the Canada races.

Alberto Contador

Why he'll win- he's the best stage racer this year, easy. His Vuelta win says that. Before his win there  (beating Froome, Valverde, J-Rod, etc. and including two stage wins, he has GC and stage wins at Pais Vasco (beating Valverde and Kwiat),  and Tirreno-Adriatco (beating Quintana and Kwiat),  He finished 2nd overall at Algarve, Dauphine, and Catalunya. He finished first or second in every stage race he participated in this year. No one matches that cred.

Why he won't win- crashing out and thus not contesting the Tour hurts, and again there's the past doping suspension that some people have a hard time forgetting. He's also not yet raced a one day race and won't be at Worlds. Definitely he's the #1 stage racer but overall? Depends on what you value in road racing.

What he needs to do to lock down the title-He's got two races left: Milan-Turin and Lombardy. A win at Lombardy might lock down the title but the course isn't to his favor. A Milan-Turin win might be enough depending on how other races pan out. Procyclingstats have him entering Beijing. Can't imagine that though it would be winnable for him.

Odds-10-1 Needs to do well in a couple of Classics. Would be good if an outsider wins Worlds too.

Alexander Kristoff

Why he'll win- Won MSR. 2 stage wins at the Tour. Won Vattenfalls (beating Gerrans). Plus a load of smaller races. Outside of Valverde this is the guy who's been winning all over the place especially in Norway. Won Frankfurt (over Degenkolb).

Why he won't win- Needs more wins in bigger races

What he needs to do to lock down the title- A win at Worlds makes him a serious contender. If he adds Paris-Tours to that then, he's probably got it.

Odds- 15-1 Everyone wants the Norwegian.

Vincenzo Nibali

Why he'll win-The Tour winner always gets serious consideration. Add to that his four stage wins there-an unusual number these days for a non-sprinter. He also has his Nats RR win.

Why he won't win- There's literally nothing else to hang his hat on. At this point he's not a serious contender.

What he needs to do to lock down the title-He's a dark horse for Worlds RR. Not sure if he's riding more this year but a win at Lombardy would do wonders for his chances. He might need a win at one of Worlds or Lombardy and a podium at the other.

Odds-20-1 If he shows like he did in the Tour, he wins this going away.

Michal Kwiatkowski

Why he'll win-Best rider on the best team. Won Algarve (over Contador). Won Strade Bianche (over Valverde, Sagan, and Cancellara). 2nd at Pais Vasco (to Contador). 5th, 3rd,and  3rd, in the three Ardennes races. Won his Nats TT race. 2nd at Britain.

Why he won't win- Not yet ready for prime time mountain stages. Could not win the white jersey at the Tour. In general, pooched out after April.

What he needs to do to lock down the title- Win Worlds. Probably win Lombardy too.

Odds- 25-1 One year soon he'll win this competition.

John Degenkolb

Why he'll win- So far not enough. But he has the Vuelta points jersey along with four stage wins, and Gent-Wevelgem (beat Kristoff and Sagan) to begin building his case. There's also a 2nd at Paris-Roubaix and (trying to build his case here)  2nd at Frankfurt to Kristoff.

Why he won't win- He's got a bunch of 2nd place finishes in various small races but for a sprinter type to get serious consideration he needs to win a bunch. That he hasn't done. Yet....

What he needs to do to lock down the title- Worlds RR is a must and it could be in his wheelhouse. No one will want to tow him to the line but no one might be able to get rid of him either. That win would boost his chances but it's not enough on it's own. But if he won say Paris-Tours and a couple of smaller races like Sparkhassen and Paris-Bourges, then we'll be talking about him.

Odds-35-1 Realistically hoping for a podium spot.

Peter Sagan

Why he'll win- The Fastvakian could be thought of as the Valverde of this year's race except he doesn't win as much. Won the Green Jersey at the Tour plus he won E3 (beating Terpstra and Cancellara among others). 3rd at Gent-Wevelgem

Why he won't win- Cause he just hasn't won enough races.

What he needs to do to lock down the title- Basically a vintage Gilbertian end to his season is needed. We know that's a potential with this guy and that's why he's here (much like Clint Mathis in South Korea.) Odds are against him of course.

Odds- 40-1 You know he can do this-especially after an inspirational word from Oleg.

Fabian Cancellara

Why he'll win- Flanders winner. (I hear some folks put a lot of emphasis on that race.) 2nd at MSR, 3rd at Paris-Roubaix, Very nice spring.

Why he won't win- The rest of the trophy case is bare. He won his Nats TT. That's about it.

What he needs to do to lock down the title-Obviously he's a long shot but if he wins Worlds RR then he'd be in the conversation. The only other race I see him in though is the Japan Cup-a nice race but too little too late.

Odds-75-1 Hopefully I won't wake up tomorrow only to hear him yelling at me.

Niki Terpstra

Why he'll win-Best cobbles racer this year with his P-R win, his DdV win, his 2nd at E3, his 5th at Omloop, his 6th at De Ronde. He won Qatar too. Fun fact! We are closer to the 2015 Qatar than the 2014 edition, easy.

Why he won't win- Um cause he can't win outside the cobbles? Yeah, that's right.

What he needs to do to lock down the title- Race for one thing. But notice that he's not even on the Belgium squad even to do donkey duty.

Odds- 1000-1 Cobbles races are on the road, right?