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 11-15, riders 16-20, and riders 21-25.
10. Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky)
After several stagnant years, Kwiatkowski joined Team Sky in 2016. In 2017 the Polish rider showed he was worth every penny, winning Strade Bianche, Milano-Sanremo, and Clásica San Sebastian, before shepherding Chris Froome to his fourth Tour de France title. The 2014 world champion has extra value because, unlike past Froome support riders, he seems to have no grand tour GC ambitions of his own.
9. Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb)
Dumoulin’s Giro d’Italia and world time trial wins in 2017 instantly made him one of the most successful Dutch riders. The victories also put him on a crash course with Froome. Dumoulin is perhaps the only current rider with the skillset to challenge the Brit at the Tour de France. While his lifetime results are still thin, Dumoulin’s value is soaring based on immense potential.
8. Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors)
In 2017, Gilbert saved Quick-Step from a season of post-Tom Boonen doldrums, which may have helped the team survive its brush with financial ruin. His victories at the Tour of Flanders and Amstel Gold Race netted him a two-year deal with the team, and came after two seasons of disappointment at BMC. Alongside Valverde, Gilbert has the most monument victories of any active rider with four.
7. Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data)
Cavendish’s career results bring him a level of cachet that few riders in history have ever attained. He has the second most Tour wins in history (30), and is tied for the most grand tour stage wins (48). His transfer to Dimension Data in 2016 saved the team’s WorldTour ambitions. His half a million Instagram and 1.43 million Twitter followers make up for his 2017 results drought.
6. Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin)
The 2017 season was a huge success for Kittel, who powered to five stage wins at the Tour. And when his Quick-Step team couldn’t guarantee him the leadership role in 2018, he brought his talents to Katusha-Alpecin. Kittel is one of several Germans leading that nation’s revitalized cycling scene. His coif makes him the ideal spokesman for Alpecin shampoo.