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 11th-16th. Stay tuned for the rest of the rankings, and be sure to check out riders 16-20 and riders 21-25.
15. Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First-Drapac)
Urán’s value soared in 2017 thanks to his second-place finish at the Tour. It was a huge result for a rider who had been knocking on the door of greatness for the last decade. Several months after his Tour result, Urán showed his true value, helping to save his Cannondale-Drapac squad after it nearly collapsed due to sponsorship woes. While other riders jumped ship, Urán publicly committed to the team. His involvement undoubtedly helped the team land EF Education First.
14. Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale)
Will Bardet ever win the Tour de France? Who knows? But enough French fans have faith in Bardet to make him cycling’s most popular Frenchman in a generation. Ag2r La Mondiale has quickly shaped its ambitions around Bardet’s legs. His third-place finish at the 2017 Tour — just one year after finishing second — boosted his position within the hearts and minds of cycling’s largest market.
13. Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates)
With two monument victories and the finishing speed to win Tour sprints, Kristoff has all of the physical skills to be one of the top-10 most valuable riders in the peloton. So why isn’t he? The Norwegian suffered through two inconsistent seasons — the drought reportedly caused a rift at Katusha, which decided not to re-sign him. Kristoff found a home with UAE-Emirates, but the team’s GC ambitions hurt his chances of winning big races.
12. Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates)
When he claimed the red jersey at the Vuelta back in 2015, Fabio Aru seemed destined for success. Yet he hasn’t matched that result since. Still, like Nairo Quintana, there’s plenty of time for Aru to develop, particularly against the clock. Aru signed with the big budget UAE-Emirates squad for 2018. All eyes will be on him at his home race, the Giro d’Italia.
11. Nairo Quintana (Movistar)
Quintana’s disappointing 2017 campaign does not diminish the fact that he already owns two grand tour titles. His success at the 2013 Tour awakened Colombia’s throngs of cycling fans. Quintana boasts nearly one million followers on both Instagram and Twitter. Having risen from a peasant town to cycling greatness, Quintana’s story alone is worth millions.