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 16th-20th. Stay tuned for the rest of the rankings, and be sure to check out riders 21-25.
20. Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates)
Dan Martin can ride with the best in the Ardennes classics. (He’s won Liège and Il Lombardia.) He also recently transitioned to be a leader at grand tours, though he’s been less successful. Will his transfer to UAE, where Fabio Aru joins him, mean less opportunity or more assistance? The effort the team showed in signing him would indicate it is heavily invested in his success.
19. Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors)
While Quick-Step boss Patrick Lefevere chose Fernando Gaviria over Marcel Kittel, we did not. Kittel’s five Tour victories in 2017 and his pedigree grant him more overall value for 2018. Still, Gaviria is on a skyward trajectory, having won four Giro stages in 2017 and the points competition. He’s also just 23, and he can survive the climbs to win events like Milano-Sanremo. Some see him as a future foil to Peter Sagan at the classics, which delights his Belgian team.
18. Mikel Landa (Movistar)
There’s a ton of momentum behind Landa heading into 2018, due to his fourth place finish and super- domestique role at the 2017 Tour. After Alberto Contador’s retirement, Spanish fans are hungry for
a grand tour contender. Could Landa be it? Perhaps. There’s an unfortunate precedent however. In 2016 and ’17 Landa was given leadership roles at the Giro. In both instances, he flamed out. At No. 18, Landa could be on his way up, or he could be a flavor of the month.
17. Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin)
Winning four world individual time trial titles would traditionally elevate a rider like Tony Martin to the peak of the sport. One problem: Fabian Cancellara did that and he won seven monuments. Martin will always live in Cancellara’s shadow, no matter how many time trials he wins. Still, the German’s huge engine makes him an invaluable teammate, especially at Katusha, where the team lives and dies by its sprint train.
16. Michael Matthews (Sunweb)
“Bling” made this list due to his green jersey victory at the 2017 Tour. Let’s face it—he won that title because Peter Sagan was kicked out. Remove that result, and Matthews would fall much lower on this list. Still, he has the finishing speed to win grand tour stages, and the legs to survive nasty uphills. Matthews could eventually be the foil to Sagan and Greg Van Avermaet. If he can regularly beat one of those two, expect Matthew’s value to rise.