Which cyclist is more valuable: the Tour de France victor or the world champion? For decades, fans and media alike have argued over questions of this nature. Unlike mainstream American sports, pro cycling does not award a Most Valuable Player prize to its greatest champions. Instead, that title has been determined by debates on the group ride, or at the pub.
In our annual Season Preview issue of VeloNews magazine, we were determined to rank the top 50 riders, male and female, based on their perceived value. We created a methodology that took into account race results, marketability, social following, teamwork, and other qualities. We then reached out to a group of experts to help us vote. We kept them anonymous to prevent personal relationships from swaying their votes. Our group of mystery voters included agents, team directors, Olympic champions, and even a grand tour winner or two. Their votes helped inform our final list, which was chosen by the VeloNews editorial team.
Did we get it right? It is up for debate — and that’s the point. Here are the pro men we ranked 21st-25th. Stay tuned for the rest of the rankings.
25. Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott)
With his ebullient smile, Chaves has the personality and approachability that his countryman, Nairo Quintana, does not. On the other hand, Quintana has grand tour wins, and Chaves only has podiums. Chaves does have the ability to win one-day races, as he did at Lombardia in 2016. His social media following, especially on Instagram (229,000 followers), far exceeds the riders above him.
24. Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ)
It wasn’t long ago that Pinot was the talk of France. His third place in the 2014 Tour spurred the predictable chatter that soon he would break his country’s losing streak in July. And then Romain Bardet came along. Pinot doesn’t win a lot, but he’s near the front plenty, from one-day races to grand tours. The rabid French fans appreciate his flair for the dramatic.
23. Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates)
It’s been several years since Costa was at his best, but a former world champion and three-time Tour de Suisse overall winner surely deserves a place on the list. His attacking style doesn’t always yield victories, but it nets him and his team plenty of exposure. As UAE-Emirates adds more stars to its roster, Costa’s value continues to decline.
22. John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo)
Degenkolb won Milano-Sanremo and Paris-Roubaix in 2015. A training crash in early 2016 severely hampered his career trajectory. Still, Trek-Segafredo brought him on last season to replace Fabian Cancellara and has built its classics ambitions around him. This will be a make or break season: A third monument win would boost his value, but another empty season and he’d be off of the list.
21. André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal)
One of the winningest sprinters of his generation, Greipel’s best years are behind him. That said, with 34 grand tour stage wins, you can count on the German to be in the mix on the greatest stages. Greipel has always been the unassuming, quiet killer. He’s in the final year of a two- year contract with Lotto-Soudal, which could put pressure on him to win more in 2018.