Velo International Most Exciting Racer of the Year: Peter Sagan; International Rookie of the Year: Moreno Moser

Peter Sagan is our Most Exciting Racer of the Year, while Moreno Moser is our International Rookie of the Year

Editor’s note: The January 2013 issue of Velo magazine, which is on newsstands now, is our 25th annual awards issue. Our 2012 Cyclist of the Year was announced on November 29; we’ll be rolling out various other award winners throughout the month of December.

International Most Exciting Racer of the Year: Peter Sagan

Each time Peter Sagan toed a start line in 2012, you could sense that you just might see something special that day. Is he capable of beating the pure sprinters at their own game? He seems tailor-made for that uphill sprint — whose legs will he break in the process? Did he just win a time trial?

In 2012, no other racer was more exciting than Peter the Great.

All told, Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) won 16 races in 2012. He came oh-so close at the spring classics, finishing in the top-five at Milan-San Remo, Gent-Wevelgem, the Tour of Flanders, and the Amstel Gold Race. He destroyed the field at the Amgen Tour of California, taking five of the eight stages on offer, overcoming late obstacles (flats, crashes) and still making it look easy. At the Tour de Suisse, Sagan torched the prologue, where he nailed a harrowing descent into the finish, and won three more stages, for a total of four.

Then came La Grande Boucle. Sagan had shown he was good, but there were naysayers. He hadn’t done it on the biggest stage, they said. A favorite for the prologue, Sagan came into a tight roundabout too hot; what would have surely been a crash for many riders meant little more than unclipping and losing a few seconds for the former mountain bike pro.

On Stage 1, Sagan took a hardman finish up a short climb to Seraing. He won his first career Tour stage by following the yellow jersey, Fabian Cancellara, then plainly ignoring the patron’s elbow flicks to pull through so that they could stay away from the wolves behind. No dice, Fabian. Sagan took the stage, threw in a little chicken dance across the line, and then he took another just like it a few days later, up the category 4 finishing ramp of Boulogne-sur-Mer. His “running man” victory salute (with a bit of swagger) followed, and he struck again, this time in a flat-out sprint against the likes of Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) and Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge). His Incredible Hulk victory salute was ridiculous. He wins, he smiles, he has a blast. That much is clear. Chris Horner (RadioShack-Nissan) probably said it best: “This kid, he’s got talent all over the place, and he has it all year long.”

Even when he isn’t winning, Sagan puts on a show — see his numerous no-handed wheelies over KOM lines when he finishes out of contention. We’re already looking forward to the classics, and what he comes up with next.

International Rookie of the Year: Moreno Moser

Of all the extensive Moser clan, Moreno was the one least likely to pursue professional cycling.

Uncle Francesco is the most famous, a winner of the 1984 Giro d’Italia. Another uncle, Aldo, was a top pro, while his father and two brothers, Leonardo and Matteo, all tried their luck in the pro ranks.

And yet, it’s the young Moreno, just 21, who once said he was too bored with cycling, who seems destined to carry the family name into the future.

“I don’t know how far I can go,” Moser told Velo at the Tour of Beijing. “This is the first year that I truly lived and trained like a pro. The most important thing for me is to enjoy cycling.”

Moser enjoyed a breakout neo-pro season that many say is indicative of his potential. A strong finisher with a good nose for tactics, Moser won two stages and the overall at the Tour of Poland and reached the podium with a second place at the GP Montreal.

Those kinds of results excite the folks at Liquigas-Cannondale, who will give him more opportunities in 2013 after easing him into the pro ranks in his rookie season.

“He has big potential, not just in one-day races, but the grand tours as well,” said team manager Roberto Amadio. “We think he will develop into one of the next big riders, but we want to bring him along slowly.”

The go-slow tactic worked wonders for Peter Sagan, another young protégé in Amadio’s stable. Moser could well be the next big thing — so long as he remains interested.