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VeloNews International Awards

Here’s a look at the rest of the VeloNews International Awards. Check back tomorrow when we will reveal the remainder of the North American Awards. MALE ROAD RACER OF THE YEARIn winning 24 races and taking his nine-year career total to 139, Erik Zabel was by far the most successful pro road racer in 2001. Among his major achievements this year: winning Milan-San Remo for the fourth time in five years; extending his tenure in the Tour de France green jersey to six years (and adding three stage wins); winning the Hamburg World Cup race for the first time; and taking three stage wins on his

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By VeloNews Interactive

Zabel won his sixth straight green jersey in 2001.

Zabel won his sixth straight green jersey in 2001.

Photo: Graham Watson

Here’s a look at the rest of the VeloNews International Awards. Check back tomorrow when we will reveal the remainder of the North American Awards.

MALE ROAD RACER OF THE YEAR
In winning 24 races and taking his nine-year career total to 139, Erik Zabel was by far the most successful pro road racer in 2001. Among his major achievements this year: winning Milan-San Remo for the fourth time in five years; extending his tenure in the Tour de France green jersey to six years (and adding three stage wins); winning the Hamburg World Cup race for the first time; and taking three stage wins on his Vuelta debut.

FEMALE ROAD RACER OF THE YEAR
When it came to the international women’s scene, there was so much talent that no one was really head and shoulders above the rest. But in that competitive mix, we know this much: Anna Millward topped both the World Cup standings and the UCI’s final rankings. Her goal of winning the World Cup required season-long consistency, and she showed that, placing top eight in eight of the nine World Cup races she entered, including two wins and two seconds.

MALE MOUNTAIN-BIKE RACER OF THE YEAR
Mountain biking’s effort to go global has a poster boy. How fitting, then, that South African downhill racer Greg Minnaar wears it on his sleeve. One of Team Global’s first recruits, Minnaar had a storybook season, but the truth is you didn’t have much of a chance to read what was written on his sleeve. Minnaar was a blur as he raced to a World Cup title at age 19 and became the first man without the last name Vouilloz to win the World Cup title since 1997. He’s also the first non-European ever to win the title.

Chausson added another rainbow jersey.

Chausson added another rainbow jersey.

Photo: Galen Nathanson

FEMALE MOUNTAIN-BIKE RACER OF THE YEAR
Nagging injuries forced Anne-Caroline Chausson to forego another run at the World Cup dual title, but other than that, the Frenchwoman’s year was just about perfect. Chausson started the year with five straight World Cup downhill wins, eclipsing Juli Furtado’s record for most wins in a single discipline. Then she finished things off by picking up two more rainbow jerseys at the world’s in Vail. Quite simply, Chausson is the best there’s ever been, and it will probably stay that way for a long time.

STREET SHOE AWARD
We introduced this category to recognize the person or persons we felt had the biggest impact on racing while not actually racing. Peter Englehart, senior vice president of programming for the Outdoor Life Network, was the driving force behind OLN’s bid to land the television rights to the Tour de France. Not only did he save us from ESPN’s lame coverage, but Englehart and a guy named Lance have given bike racing a legitimate corner of the American sports landscape. When George W. Bush feels compelled to weigh in on the Tour (“In the end the race is won or lost in the mountains,” he assessed), you know something’s up.

UNDER-23 RACER OF THE YEAR
There was no doubt about who was the best under-23 racer in 2001. The Italian-based Ukrainian Yaroslav Popovych won May’s prestigious Giro delle Regioni stage race and June’s Paris-Roubaix espoirs classic, and then dominated September’s Tour of the Aosta Valley, before winning the world under-23 road race title at Lisbon in a solo break. In stark numbers, Popovych scored 416 UCI points in the year, more than double the 189 scored by runner-up Lorenzo Bernucci of Italy.

BEST ALL-AROUND ATHLETE
With a solid résumé on the road, Steve Larsen made the switch to mountain-bike racing in the mid-90s and quickly became one of the best. But it wasn’t until this year, when he made another career switch, that Larsen’s real talents were exposed. Larsen won July’s Ironman USA Triathlon in Lake Placid, New York. By nearly 12 minutes! And that was after finishing the swim nearly 11 minutes behind the leader. Larsen went on to finish a very respectable ninth in the sport’s premier event, the Ironman Triathlon World Championship in Hawaii.

TRACK RACER OF THE YEAR
If you have any doubts about this year’s best track racer, just remember this number: 58.875. As if his three gold medals at the world’s in Antwerp weren’t enough, Arnaud Tournant made history a few weeks later in La Paz, Bolivia, when he became the first man on two wheels to break the 1-minute mark for the standing-start kilometer.

BEST INTERNATIONAL ROAD TEAM
It may not have won the most races in 2001, but the U.S. Postal Service squad rode as a powerful unit when it mattered — in supporting George Hincapie at the spring classics, Lance Armstrong at the Tour de Suisse and Tour de France, and Roberto Heras and Levi Leipheimer at the Vuelta.

BEST INTERNATIONAL MOUNTAIN-BIKE TEAM
In a year when most teams moved away from multi-discipline outfits, the Volvo-Cannondale gang continued to be all over the mountain — and the podium. Led by another brilliant campaign from Anne-Caroline Chausson, the team brought home World Cup wins in cross-country, downhill and dual; world championships in downhill and dual; NORBA wins in men’s and women’s downhill; and the first 24-hour NORBA national championship.

BEST INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S TEAM
From the Tour de Snowy in March, throughout the summer and into the fall, the Saturn women’s team dominated nearly every event it entered. Anna Millward took the World Cup, Kim Bruckner took Snowy and the Tour de Suisse Féminin, Lyne Bessette and the team controlled the Hewlett-Packard Women’s Challenge from the start. And that only scratches the surface. By mid-October, the Saturn women had nearly a 500-point advantage over the world’s second-ranked team. Who else could we have picked?

BEST JUNIOR: ROAD
Before dominating both the time trial and road race at world’s in October, Britain’s Nicole Cooke performed well in elite women’s stage races for her national team or Italy’s Acca Due O-HP squad, and won her national senior road title by shaking off three teammates in the winning break. And her cross-country world’s win at Vail made her a candidate for best junior mountain biker….

BEST JUNIOR: MOUNTAIN BIKING
Asia’s biggest breakthrough on the international mountain-bike stage came wrapped in a small package. Japanese downhill racer Mio Suemasa, a two-time world champion in observed trials, took her skills to the downhill circuit this year and she made history at the Vail world championships. Suemasa scored an upset win over Céline Gros of France, giving Japan — and all of Asia — its first mountain-bike world champion.

MOST DRAMATIC DAY OF ROAD RACING
Besides being the toughest day of the Tour de France, stage 13 from Foix to Pla d’Adet was packed with emotion — the long solo by Laurent Jalabert, who broke clear at the memorial to the late Fabio Casartelli; the brave defense of race leader François Simon; the aggression and dramatic crash of Jan Ullrich; and the eventual attack by Lance Armstrong to win the stage and the yellow jersey, which he dedicated to Casartelli.

MOST DRAMATIC DAY OF MOUNTAIN-BIKE RACING
Cross-country day at the Vail World’s had it all. An all-out battle between under-23 rivals Julien Absalon and Ryder Hesjdedal. Walker Ferguson’s under-23 bronze. The out-of-nowhere re-appearance of Gunn-Rita Dahle followed by her disastrous flat tire in the race’s final minutes. Alison Dunlap’s emotional victory celebration. And, finally, Roland Green’s classy win to top off a magical season. Gives you goose bumps just thinking about it, doesn’t it?

BEST ROAD SPRINTER
Erik Zabel kicked off the season in February with stage wins at the Majorca Challenge, and he never stopped racing until taking fifth at the world’s in October. In amassing 24 victories, he proved he was the fastest and most confident sprinter in the peloton — particular in winning the Milan-San Remo and HEW-Cyclassics World Cup races, and taking three stage wins at both the Tour and Vuelta.

BEST ROAD CLIMBER: MALE
First to L’Alpe d’Huez; first at Chamrousse; first to Pla d’Adet, where he took over the Tour yellow jersey for keeps. Lance Armstrong. Period.

BEST ROAD CLIMBER: FEMALE
When she is fit and healthy, there’s no current climber in the women’s peloton to touch Spain’s Joane Somarriba. Over the Col du Tourmalet, the toughest climb of this year’s Grande Boucle Féminine, she dropped all the top contenders: former race champions Fabiana Luperini and Jeannie Longo, and 2001 Giro winner Zinaida Stahurskaia.

BEST DOWNHILLER: MALE
Greg Minnaar blew us away with his big air and fearless lines. And somehow he stayed healthy enough to win the season-long World Cup.

BEST DOWNHILLER: FEMALE
Hmm, tough one. Anne-Caroline Chausson just keeps rolling.

Dekker

Dekker

Photo: Graham Watson

BEST CLASSICS RIDER
Erik Dekker not only won the Amstel Gold Race, he exceeded expectations at just about every other World Cup race he entered. In the end, he was able to hang on for the season-long World Cup title.

BEST CYCLO-CROSS RACER
Tired of playing second fiddle to a fellow Belgian he really didn’t like all that much anyway, Erwin Vervecken finally earned his stripes at the world championships in Tabor, Czech Republic, last February. And he came and raced in Massachusetts, which made us all really happy, too.

BEST ROOKIE: ROAD
When not winning mountain-bike races, Roland Green made his debut in pro road racing for the U.S. Postal team. He won two stages of California’s Redlands Classic in March, and ended his year by taking an excellent 14th place in the elite men’s time trial at the Lisbon world’s.

BEST ROOKIE: MOUNTAIN BIKE
Alfonso Soriano was one hell of a rookie for the Yanks this year. But that was nothing compared to Mick Hannah, who showed up at Sea Otter this year having never seen a dual slalom race. The 17-year-old qualified ninth and made it all the way to the quarter-finals (beating Brian Lopes in one heat) before being ousted. The rest of the Australian’s season was just as fun to watch, too, until he broke his collarbone at Mount Snow.

BEST ROOKIE: CYCLO-CROSS
Ever since she started dating Tim Johnson earlier this year, Lyne Bessette had jokingly threatened to “give cyclo-cross a try.” This fall, Bessette attended a skills workshop on a Wednesday — her first time on a ’cross bike — and then raced and won on Saturday. She hasn’t lost a race since. Yikes! What a “try.”

BEST TEAM SUPPORT RIDER
The U.S. Postal Service knew it was getting a workhorse when it signed José Luis “Chechu” Rubiera. Outsiders might have had doubts when tendinitis hampered him in the early parts of the Tour. But when Lance Armstrong needed him on the slopes of Alpe d’Huez, Rubiera set a blistering tempo for his leader. He finished the Tour strong, and then showed selfless support for Levi Leipheimer and Roberto Heras at the Vuelta.

BEST SPORTING GESTURE
Winning the Giro’s major Dolomites stage atop the Passo Pordoi would have been a tremendous coup for Gilberto Simoni. He and Julio Perez had left race leader Dario Frigo 45 seconds in arrears, and Simoni looked set to take the stage and the pink jersey. Yet, despite being clearly the stronger of the two, Simoni showed great class in instructing his Mexican companion to stay on his wheel and then let the Mexican pass him for the win.

BEST RACE ORGANIZER
To pull off a first-year race without a hitch is a good accomplishment. To turn that race into the biggest event of the year in the U.S., and have it gain worldwide recognition, is something truly remarkable. Tailwind Sports and Threshold Sports, the organizers of the San Francisco Grand Prix, pulled things off in grand style.

BEST COACH
Vouilloz’s right-hand man Stéphane Girard did more than just manage and coach the members of the Vouilloz racing team in 2001. He also coached a list of successful clients that included Americans Leigh Donovan and Ruthie Matthes.

Vaughters after his wasp encounter.

Vaughters after his wasp encounter.

Photo: AFP

UNLUCKIEST RIDER
Jonathan Vaughters. Out of the Tour de France because of a wasp sting? You’re kidding, right?

MOST IMPROVED
Levi Leipheimer had been winning minor pro races for four years going into 2001, but at 27 he proved the full extent of his talents by taking third place at the Vuelta, his first three-week stage race, and then fourth place at the Lisbon world’s time trial.

MOST AGGRESSIVE
Never afraid to attack, Crédit Agricole’s Jens Voigt appeared in breakaways throughout the season. The highlight was his constant aggression at the Tour de France, where his appearance in two marathon breaks netted him a stage win (at Sarran) and the yellow jersey (at Colmar).

RIDE OF THE YEAR: ROAD
Two of the top-three riders had been booted, and the Giro was hurting. Dario Frigo was sacked by his team for having drugs in his suitcase and Wladimir Belli was DQed for punching a fan. As for race leader Gilberto Simoni, he had not inherited the jersey, having taken it fair and square from Frigo on the Pordoi. Still, Simoni had yet to win a stage. Then, on the next-to-last day, Simoni put his indelible stamp on the race with a brilliant 50km solo attack on the cold and rainy stage 20, which passed over the Cat. 1 Mottarone twice. The stylish Lampre-Daikin rider attacked on the climbs, descended flawlessly on treacherous roads and powered across the flats to put more than three minutes on his remaining rivals.

RIDE OF THE YEAR: MOUNTAIN-BIKE
She spent much of the race fighting for survival with four or five riders between her and the world title, but the jolt of electricity Alison Dunlap displayed in the second half of the women’s cross-country race at Vail was matched only by lightning flashing from the stormy sky. In the last 9 miles, Dunlap passed Sabine Spitz, Caroline Alexander, Alison Sydor and, finally, Gunn-Rita Dahle, to provide one of the lasting memories in bike racing this year.

BEST STRATEGIC MOVE
It wasn’t really a specific move, more of an overall plan. Whatever, Crédit Agricole went for broke in the opening week of the Tour de France. The team placed riders in every significant break, and it paid off, with six days in yellow for Stuart O’Grady, one for Jens Voigt, and victory in the team time trial.

WORST STRATEGIC MOVE
Fassa Bortolo’s Wladimir Belli punching Gilberto Simoni’s nephew Loris

BEST UNI’
They’ve been growing on us for the past few years, and it’s about time we recognized that the Independent Fabrication team skinsuits are pretty dang stylin’.

WORST UNI’
Cannondale Chain Gang. A picture says a thousand words.

MOST COURAGEOUS PERFORMANCE
Julio Perez started the Giro as an unheralded Mexican rider on the Panaria-Fiordo team. He didn’t remain anonymous for long. Perez broke his chain while on a solo breakaway 2km from the stage 4 finish atop the Montevergine, and then crashed into a guardrail, knocked out two teeth and lost nine minutes. Instead of going home, the 23-year-old from Tlaxcala attacked 2km into stage 8, crested the final climb alone, only to be passed in the final 10km. Still, the feisty Mexican didn’t give up, and Perez was rewarded with winning the Giro’s toughest stage in the Dolomites.

THOSE WE WILL MISS
Ricardo Otxoa (killed by a speeding car on a training ride before the Ruta del Sol in February);

NO LONGER TOEING THE LINE
Niklas Axelsson, Adriano Baffi, Franco Ballerini, Christophe Bassons, Elke Brutsaert, Giuseppe Calcaterra, Michele Coppolillo, Laurent Desbiens, Leigh Donovan, Laurent Dufaux, Viatcheslav Ekimov, Pascal Hervé, Jimi Killen, Pascal Lino, Laurent Madouas, Glenn Magnusson, Ruthie Matthes, Armin Meyer, Javier Otxoa, Wilfried Peeters, Massimo Podenzana, Pavel Tcherkassov, Marcel Wüst

BEST ACTOR
It may not have been Academy Award standard, but Lance Armstrong‘s performance on stage 10 of the Tour de France certainly fooled a bunch of TV commentators and team directors. By feigning fatigue during the climbs of the Col de la Madeleine and Col du Glandon, the Texan gave (unfulfilled) encouragement to his rivals. Not quite an Oscar … but the Daytime Soaps?

BEST ACTOR IN AN ONGOING SERIES
All season long, John Wordin told us everything was fine, that his Mercury team was still racing. It was a worthy performance, but everything wasn’t fine. Riders missed paychecks, and by the beginning of October, the team was suspended from racing.

DUMBEST MOVE
He had a good thing going with the Mercury team as 2000 wound to a close, but John Wordin pretty much drove a stake into the heart of North America’s No. 2 road squad when he tried to expand the program by joining up with the evolving LeMond-Viatel team. The early signals — an existing bike deal with Fuji, for example — and the ballooning payroll should have set off the alarm bells. (Of course, we have the benefit of hindsight.)

WORST TURN OF EVENTS
The drug blitz in San Remo caused the cancellation of the toughest stage of the Giro and left thousands of spectators and volunteers with no satisfaction after all their preparations. Not to mention the further stain it put on the Giro and on cycling in general.

BEST TURN OF EVENTS
While some of us thought that the police raids at this year’s Giro was a low point, some saw it as a good sign. Putting fear into the minds of drug cheats may just force them to leave the pharmacies at home … where the local police can find it.

COSTLIEST CRASH: ROAD
Francesco Casagrande had built his entire season around winning the Giro. Breaking his wrist in the first stage shattered his hopes and caused him to lose his world No. 1 ranking in the process.

COSTLIEST CRASH: MOUNTAIN-BIKE
Coming into the downhill at Grouse Mountain, Steve Peat hadn’t lost a race all year. But a trip over his bars and into a tree during a practice run resulted in a separated shoulder and put an end to the streak. Peat missed most of the rest of the season and didn’t win another race.

BEST MECHANIC
Nicolas Vouilloz completely rebuilt his downhill bike the night before the world championship downhill at Vail. Yeah, he won.

MECHANICAL MELTDOWNS
Gunn-Rita Dahle’s flat at mountain-bike world’s; Julio Perez’s broken chain in the Giro.

THE CHARLES BARKLEY AWARD
Chris Horner is cycling’s quote machine, never afraid to say what’s on his mind.

HEADLINES WE’D LIKE TO SEE
Hincapie takes Paris-Roubaix
Vaughters finishes Tour de France!
USA Cycling and Earnest reach accord
Giove retires, cites head injuries
OLN to air ’cross world’s
Any American man wins any cross-country race
Armstrong to race road world’s
Tour teams selection dead on
NORBA series expands

NAMES WE’D LIKE TO SEE IN HEADLINES
Solrun Flataas, Sam Hill

THE CHECK’S IN THE MAIL AWARD
We heard the explanations. We may have even understood the reasons, but Mercury-Viatel, NetZero, Schwinn, GT, Linda McCartney and Noble House (do we have everyone?) have at various times left their riders waiting for paychecks. In several cases, those checks never came. Ferchrissakes! Don’t have a team if you can’t afford to pay your riders. If this were a 7-Eleven or a McDonalds, the employees could at least go to the Department of Labor.

THE FINE-IS-WORTH-IT AWARD
He has earned more than his share of fines from the UCI for an assortment of jersey and uniform violations. A lot of them were kinda silly. But that muscle suit Mario Cipollini wore for the prologue at the Giro d’Italia was cool enough to make the fine worth it.

THE KRYPTONITE AWARD
We all felt sorry for the Bonjour team when more than half of its cool blue-and-red De Rosas were stolen at the Giro. Then it happened again! The French team then had to rely on neutral support bikes to finish the race. Maybe someone should sleep in the team van next year.

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