3. Marianne Vos: Take your pick
Marianne Vos was in a class by herself in 2012. In just about every race she contested, she was either winning or making the winning moves. She opened the year winning the world cyclocross championship and then blasted through the spring classics. In July, she won the Giro Donne with five stage wins along the way.
It was the Olympic road race over Box Hill where Vos reached her zenith to capture the lone cycling prize that had so far eluded her: the Olympic road race gold medal.
The 25-year-old surged clear over the Box Hill climb, drawing out three other riders. Everyone knew that Vos’s wheel was the one to follow. Following it, however, was another story. An unfortunate puncture for Shelley Olds in the final hour of racing knocked the American sprinter out of a chance for an Olympic medal. Arguably her top rival gone, Vos finished it off with a perfect sprint to strike gold.
Vos was even better in Valkenburg, attacking on the final climb up the Cauberg to win her second rainbow jersey on home roads. Fans ate it up and Vos got her just desserts, recognized as the best rider of her generation.