The votes are in and we’re happy to unveil the winners of this year’s Rouleur Awards.
Designed to celebrate the best performers from the past road racing season, the Rouleur Awards have been chosen by our seven-strong panel, consisting of some of the most respected minds and ex-racers in professional cycling.
It includes Sean Kelly, David Millar, Stuart O’Grady, Erik Dekker, Roger Hammond, Rouleur editor Ian Cleverly and Rouleur.cc editor Timothy John. For each category, they chose an individual first and second place from our shortlist, in case of a tiebreak (fortuitously, there wasn’t one).
After plenty of agonising over the decisions – Sagan or Degenkolb? Tour de France or Vuelta a España? Alaphilippe or Yates? – the picks were made, and we have included the judges’ reasoning for winning selections.
Congratulations to all our award winners, a number of whom will be celebrated at the Rouleur Classic on November 19.
Rider of the Year: Men
Winner: Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo)
Voted for by Millar, Dekker and Timothy John
“You worry about the sport being robotic and getting dominated by power and science boringingness, but Sagan has proved that you can be one of the most successful, exciting riders of today’s generation and as mad as a box of frogs.” David Millar
“All the best riders are excellent in one part of the year; Sagan does it the whole year through. He’s been second a lot of times too, of course, but the way he rides, and how he ended the season as world champion, makes him the best rider.” Erik Dekker
“Sagan was my second place behind Degenkolb. He had a very difficult start to the season: new team, a lot of expectations of him and Tinkov shouting all the time – no patience, no biking background – and he just kept working at it. The Classics didn’t really go right but he won California and in the Tour he was exceptional, the breaks he was getting into.
“Then he was there at the Vuelta, unfortunately getting knocked off by a motorbike. To be able to live with that, work with that setback and come good in the end at the Worlds.” Sean Kelly
Rider of the Year: Women
Winner: Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans)
Voted for by all seven judges
“Lizzie is definitely way out there… in the Worlds, she got it right, she raced tactically very well, following the race, then putting in an attack to hurt the legs of people a bit, a little test. To win three World Cup races, you have to be present all year round, and to win Qatar too – she can do it all.” Sean Kelly
“I think she can win any race she wants. She would’ve sacrificed everything for that World Championships win yet she still won the World Cup.” David Millar
“A big star for years and now world champion; she deserves it.” Erik Dekker
“She had one of those years where no matter what you do afterwards, it’ll probably be the pinnacle.” Stuart O’Grady
“Even before winning the World Championships, Armitstead had this in the bag, having won three of the ten rounds and the overall of the World Cup. The only mistake she made all year was the unfortunate post-win crash at the Women’s Tour.
“It would have been interesting to see what Armitstead could have done against a fit Marianne Vos, out injured this season, but you can only beat who is on the start line, and Lizzie did that all year.” Ian Cleverly
Team of the Year
Winner: Team Sky
Voted for by Millar, O’Grady, Hammond, Cleverly and Timothy John
“I think they came in this year wanting to prove to people that they can win on multiple terrains and I think they’ve done that. Although they didn’t win a big Classic, they were there with Stannard and Geraint winning semi-classics – and then they still managed to succeed at the Tour. It’s not so often you see a Tour de France-winning team present throughout the year; I think they’re coming of age.” David Millar
“I’m reminded of my football team’s motto: ‘No one likes us, we don’t care.’ Whether you are a fan of Sky or not is irrelevant. They are bloody good at what they set out to do: win the biggest bike races.” Ian Cleverly
“Last year was a disaster for them, so targeting and pulling off the Tour is pretty good. They were under pressure, their head was on the chopping block. They were impressive everywhere they raced this year.” Roger Hammond
Stage Race of the Year
Winner: Vuelta a España
Voted for by Kelly, Millar, Hammond, Timothy John and Cleverly
“The Vuelta’s been the best Grand Tour for the last five years. I think a Grand Tour should be unpredictable, and it kept making you want to watch the next episode, almost like a soap opera, with the number of twists and turns that happened.
“Dumoulin was a guy really discovering himself and pushing his limits. Imagine the stress that guy had; he pushed himself further and further, the underdog with the leader’s jersey till the penultimate day. A courageous, fascinating ride.” Roger Hammond
“A very exciting race and physically very hard. The finish was amazing with Dumoulin riding so well. It seemed like he could hold on but it was always going to be real tight on that penultimate day.” Sean Kelly
“It started off as being a battle between Nibali, Quintana and Froome but it ended up between Aru and Dumoulin. That already was unexpected… We saw future Grand Tour guys come good and that’s what the Vuelta is for, really. It’s like the end of their apprenticeship to go and do well there.” David Millar
“Much as I’ve been complaining about the three Grand Tours trying to outdo each other in the toughness stakes, the Vuelta’s parcours (bar the farcical team time trial and the insanely mountainous Andorra stage) produced a thrilling race that went right to the wire. Even though the top dogs faded after their Tour exertions, the less stellar members of the peloton stepped up to produce some thrilling racing, and that’s what it’s all about.” Ian Cleverly
One-Day Race of the Year
Voted for by Kelly, Millar, Dekker, Hammond and Timothy John
“Normally you see two riders away into the final. Here was an attacking race and you couldn’t pick a winner going right to the finish… it was an exceptional race, tactically.” Sean Kelly
“The last ten metres of Degenkolb’s sprint, it was nice to see how much he wanted to win that race. For me, Roubaix and Flanders are always nice to see tactically because it’s so important, and every second, you are watching; it’s almost a game.” Erik Dekker
“Very exciting to watch. Everyone was waiting for Degenkolb, and he didn’t wait: he turned the race on its head, the unexpected happened. That’s how you win bike races. Chapeau, good on Degenkolb; it doesn’t always happen when you do that, but when it works… what panache.” Roger Hammond
Best Young Rider (U23)
Winner: Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-Quick Step)
Voted for by Kelly, Dekker, Hammond, Cleverly and Timothy John
“He was a surprise for me. You can expect big talents to develop. But he skipped a few steps. The story of every young talent: they perform well, big expectations come. Physically, he is good enough. But it’s really difficult to get better every year: he cannot get 20 per cent better. And if he does, he’ll win every race!” Erik Dekker
“A serious contender for the Classics this year following a supporting role to Kwiatkowski in 2015. And he’s French, which is good to see.” Ian Cleverly
“Alaphilippe is going to be the one who other teams want because he can do well in the Classics and in the one-week races… but it goes onto whether they can keep going for you when they get big contracts. Fame and fortune can cause problems.” Sean Kelly
Most Attacking Rider
Winner: Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team)
Voted for by O’Grady, Dekker, Hammond and Timothy John
“There’s a difference between being able to break from the gun and attacking going for the win. Escaping in the final 15km, you’re thinking about winning the race, you’ve got to ride away from people. That’s why I have given it to Greg. That takes courage, and also you have to finish things off: you have no other option.
“Courage should be connected to the most attacking rider, to attack when you could just sit in and wait for the sprint. And it takes more to attack with the weight of the team on your shoulders.” Roger Hammond
“If he had a little bit more luck or just a little bit more strength, then he’d win a lot of races. But he keeps going and keeps fighting, and what he does very well is ignore people or newspapers, saying he should change his tactics.
“I like racers like Greg. It’s wonderful to see and pleasing that he’s not playing defence… I’m sure he’ll get his big Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix victory.” Erik Dekker
“You basically watch the TV waiting for him to go. He goes and then Gilbert goes after him, or vice versa, whatever way they discussed in the morning. I love watching the TV seeing if his moves will hang on or not.” Stuart O’Grady
“If he had a better sprint on him – if he had a better sprint than his postman – he would’ve won more races.” Sean Kelly
Top Banana: Unsung Hero of the Year
Winner: Dani Moreno (Katusha)
Voted for by Millar, Dekker and Hammond
“He’s been body-guarding Rodriguez for a few years now – I don’t think people have noticed quite how much he’s done.” David Millar
“He won Flèche Wallonne and stages of the Vuelta, and you can tell he was being used to soften up rivals for Joaquim Rodriguez to finish the job. There have been times he has been metres from victory, but sacrificed his chances. If he won big races, he would have no problem with a contract, but he gave it up for Rodriguez. That’s the ultimate sacrifice: to put your job and career on the line for someone else.” Roger Hammond