Editor’s Note: Marianne Vos is Velo’s 2012 International Cyclist of the Year

Marianne Vos and Bradley Wiggins both had superb 2012 seasons, but only one could take home our top award for 2012

Editor’s note: The January 2013 issue of Velo magazine, which hits subscribers and newsstands this week, is our 25th annual awards issue. Neal Rogers’ “Signing In” editor’s note from that issue, explaining our selection of Marianne Vos as the International Rider of the Year for 2012, appears below.

The debate was lively during the editorial staff meeting that would decide which rider was more deserving of our most prestigious award, International Cyclist of the Year.

Narrowing it down to two finalists wasn’t tough; both Bradley Wiggins and Marianne Vos had stellar 2012 campaigns that will likely go down as the best of their careers, and among the best in history.

Both riders won Olympic gold, and both won the hardest stage race on their race calendars. Wiggins won every stage race he targeted, against a much deeper field, but the breadth of accomplishments for Vos was greater — she also won a world road championship, a world cyclocross title, three World Cup events, and the World Cup overall.

I found myself on both sides of the argument, until, finally, I realized that there was no way we could not give the award to Vos. Our International Woman of the Year in 2010 and 2011, Vos is simply a bike racer without rival. Not only did she achieve every major objective she set for herself in 2012, she did it as the odds-on favorite, with an entire women’s peloton dedicated to stopping her. And while we gave the award to Vos, we ultimately gave the cover to both riders — Vos crossing the finish line in the rain in London, Wiggins resplendent in the maillot jaune at the Tour de France.

Those were two highlights from a year that challenged the faith of even the most passionate of cycling fans. Though the bulk of the revelations from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s investigation into Lance Armstrong and his U.S. Postal Service team occurred from 1999 to 2005, the level of sophistication and depravity uncovered as part of USADA’s evidence shook the sport to its very core.

The fallout from the investigation, led by USADA CEO Travis Tygart, made 2012 a year that will change the sport forever; whether those changes prove to be beneficial or harmful to pro cycling remains to be seen. Either way, the USADA case was, without question, our Story of the Year, if not the decade, as it will carry on in 2013 and beyond, in the shape of UCI reform, sponsorship overhauls, anti-doping measures, and the general perception of our sport.

When I look back at the 2012 racing season, a handful of memories stand out: Tom Boonen’s domination of the cobbled classics; Evelyn Stevens outclimbing Vos at Flèche Wallonne Femmes; Ryder Hesjedal becoming the first Canadian to win the Giro d’Italia; Timmy Duggan soloing across the finish line at the national road championship; Mark Cavendish gracefully carrying water bottles in his world champion’s jersey at the Tour; Nino Schurter in tears after he’d been beaten to the line by Yaroslav Kulhavy in a two-up sprint for the most important prize in mountain bike racing; Alberto Contador’s successful kamikaze attack at the Vuelta a España — the list goes on and on in the pages that follow.

And for the third year in a row, we’ve photographed as many of our award winners as possible in our special Velo Cyclist of the Year jersey. Thanks to everyone who donned the jersey, and congratulations.

For better or for worse, the 2012 season was an emotional rollercoaster. It wasn’t the most fun year in pro cycling, but it might just end up proving the most important. Here’s to looking back, but also to looking forward.