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Check out the January/February 2016 issue of VeloNews magazine for more awards content.
Male cyclist of the year: Peter Sagan
Double rainbow jersey … What does it mean!? It means Peter Sagan remains the king of pro cycling. We catalogued his best year ever earlier this off-season, but it merits a quick recap: sprint win at Gent-Wevelgem; solo victory at de Ronde; three Tour stage wins (2, 11, and 16) plus a green jersey; another world title; and eight other wins tossed in for good measure.
Female cyclist of the year: Megan Guarnier
We had a hard time picking this category because Megan Guarnier’s teammate Lizzie Deignan is also a fine candidate for the honor. We went with Guarnier because she won the biggest women’s race of the season (the Giro Rosa), the Amgen Tour of California, and a tough one-day race in the Philadelphia Cycling Classic. Plus Deignan had that sticky whereabouts drama clouding her season. Guarnier also won the Women’s WorldTour, so basically UCI President Brian Cookson’s got our back if you start sending us mean tweets.
International cyclist of the year: Chris Froome
Chris Froome’s 2016 palmares is almost as impressive as Sagan’s; the Brit won three overall classifications, most notably his third Tour de France. He also got a bronze medal in the Olympics TT and won four grand tour stages. But Froome really is best remembered for riding the first half of the Tour with the fearlessness of an underdog and having a good sense of humor about running up part of Mont Ventoux.
Domestic cyclist of the year: Lachlan Morton
This is a tricky category, due to the diversity of North American racing. Do we favor crit specialists like Samantha Schneider, who won 15 U.S. Pro Road Tour races and the points series? Or are major stage race wins more meaningful? Given the caliber of the fields at the Tour of the Gila and the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, and the difficulty of the routes, we have to give this one to Morton, who won both races. Plus, he won Utah with panache, attacking on the final day to win the day and the overall.
Best sprinter of the year: Mark Cavendish
Cav is back. He won eight races in 2016, but here’s the kicker: half of those were Tour de France stages (1, 3, 6, and 18). He defied expectations in France after a couple of years getting knocked around by Andre Greipel and Marcel Kittel. The only way he could have improved on 2016 would have been first instead of second at UCI worlds.
Best climber of the year: Mara Abbott
A true climber’s climber, Abbott shone in her final season as a full-time pro. She won one of the toughest stage races, Tour of the Gila, claiming stages 1 and 5. Abbott also earned the queen of the mountains title at the Amgen Tour of California. Plus, she lit up the Giro Rosa with a win in stage 5, taking the fight to the Boels – Dolmans ladies and holding the overall lead for a day. And then there’s the Olympics. Abbott climbed with the best on the brutally steep Rio course and nearly hung on for the gold medal. Alas, being the best climber doesn’t always translate to solo speed on a flat beachfront road.
Grand tour stage of the year: Vuelta a Espana stage 15
Etapón! That’s how they say it in Spain. A stage to remember. Contador and Quintana left Froome and the other GC contenders on the ropes. They built up a lead of almost three minutes as they went over two early climbs. Froome was isolated with only Lopez — 100 of the Vuelta’s peloton finished outside the time cut, only to be saved by the race jury.
One-day race of the year: Paris-Roubaix
Mathew Hayman spent 170.5 kilometers away in the escape at the Queen of the Classics. He rode with the top contenders after his break was caught and then pulled off the ultimate coup, out-sprinting Tom Boonen and Sep Vanmarcke in the velodrome. His Orica team director Shayne Bannan said it best: “Tactically, in the last 20 kilometers, Mat Hayman was in another league. It was like watching the final round of a heavyweight fight, it was really just the last man standing.”