RoadBikeReview Best of 2016 Awards: Rider of the Year
Even if Peter Sagan didn’t win a single race this year (or in any year), he would still be among the WorldTour’s most popular riders. The Slovakian’s unique talents on the bike (think wheelies and bunny hops) have made him a fan favorite around the world. But Sagan is more than a circus act. Indeed, his combination of talent and panache hearken back to a time when riders were more well rounded, able to excel in a variety of situations, and not just race like robots with a single specific skill.
After winning the world title in 2015, it initially looked as though the dreaded rainbow curse was rearing its head once again. Following Sagan’s triumph in Richmond, he netted eight second place finishes before finally breaking through with a victory at the Belgian semi-classic, Ghent-Wevelgem. That win launched Sagan to the top spot of the UCI world rankings where he remained at the end of 2016.
The hits kept coming from there. Sagan captured his first monument with a win at the Tour of Flanders, then scored stage wins at the Tour of California, the Tour de Suisse, and stage 2 of the Tour de France, which also earned him his first career yellow jersey. Sagan added two more Tour de France stage wins, and easily captured the green points jersey. Finally, in October in Doha, Qatar, Sagan became the first rider to win back-to-back world’s titles since Italian Paolo Bettini in 2006-07. For all that (and those wheelies) Peter Sagan is the 2016 RoadBikeReview rider of the year.
Runner Up: Chris Froome
That Chris Froome won the Tour de France for the third time in his career was not a huge surprise. The Team Sky rider has already proven himself as the world’s premier current Grand Tour rider. But it was the way Froome took yellow jersey No. 3 that stood out. Daring downhill attacks, elbows to the faces of unruly fans, and of course who could forget that little jog up the final climb of stage 12. Froome earned a new level of respect in 2016 and for that he should be recognized.
Honorable Mention: Greg van Avermaet
Win an Olympic gold medal and there’s a good chance you’ll make it onto this list. But Belgian BMC rider Greg van Avermaet’s season highlights went beyond Brazil. During the spring he took a five-up sprint at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (beating Sagan among others). He also took victory at a shortened Tirreno–Adriatico, held the top spot in the UCI world rankings for a week, won stage 5 of the Tour de France, and wore the yellow jersey for three days.
This post is part of the RoadBikeReview Best of 2016 awards series. You can see all this year’s announced winners here.