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 women we ranked 21st-25th. Stay tuned for the rest of the rankings.
25. Arlenis Sierra (Astana)
Though her palmarès is short on big wins, Sierra’s story is what garners attention. Success on the UCI’s South American circuit in 2016 attracted attention from several big teams. The Cuban thrived in her first WorldTour season in 2017, taking a stage win and second overall at Setmana Valenciana, second at Trofeo Alfredo Binda, and third at the Tour of California.
24. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Cervelo-Bigla)
At 22, Uttrup-Ludwig is a rising star of Danish cycling. The two-time national time trial champion finished first overall in the youth classification at the Giro Rosa and Setmana Valenciana. She took the Women’s WorldTour youth classification overall. While she considers herself a climber, she was third to Coryn Rivera at Alfredo Binda.
23. Kirsten Wild (Wiggle-High5)
A staple at the top of the women’s peloton since 2006, Wild remains one of the most powerful riders in the bunch. Her 70 professional career wins on the road are just the start. She is also a prolific track competitor, having secured six world championship medals in her career, including gold in the scratch race in 2015. In the last two years, she has won four Women’s WorldTour races.
22. Ruth Winder (Sunweb)
Winder had a breakthrough season in 2017 with UnitedHealthcare. She placed second behind Annemiek Van Vleuten at the Cadel Evans Road Race. She was instrumental in helping teammate Katie Hall come one second shy of winning the Tour of California. Her aggressive style caught the attention of Team Sunweb for 2018.
21. Hannah Barnes (Canyon-SRAM)
Hannah Barnes is on the rise. Her stage win at the Giro Rosa and her third place overall at the OVO Energy Women’s Tour in 2017 speak to her rapid ascent. Still, she’s not on everyone’s radar. Our judges had mixed reviews: she landed as high as 15th, but didn’t make some lists. Her social media following tops that of riders several tiers higher.