That was the decade that was. How do you sum up ten years in cycling? One way to do it is with a good old list. We could have come up with our favourite races since escaping the insufferably-named ‘noughties’, but we’re all getting a bit long in the tooth at Rouleur towers and remembering last year’s Paris-Roubaix is hard enough, let alone the 2013 Eneco Tour. Besides, we’d all have picked MvdP’s smashfest at this year’s Amstel Gold, anyway.
Instead the editorial team have rummaged through our race books, and each picked a set of our favourite riders since January 1st 2010. No easy task, we make no apologies for prioritising personal preferences over objective measures of greatness, though few can object to the talent contained within our nines. Up last but not least, it’s Rouleur editor Andy McGrath.
The first name on my team sheet. 20 of his 30 Tour stage wins have come this decade, as well as his world title. He is the greatest sprinter in history, the last man to make bunch sprints a formality for years on end – and his straightforward, uncompromising attitude makes Viviani, Groenewegen and company look like wet blankets.
If one rider has dominated the stage races of the Teenies, it’s Froome. Four Tour de France titles, two Vueltas and a swashbuckling Giro – not bad for someone who was on the cusp of not getting a contract renewal with Team Sky before his metamorphosis. He faces his biggest test yet in 2020, coming back from a career-threatening crash, but whatever happens next, his legend is assured.
Cancellara, Kittel and company – read Nick Christian’s team of the decade picks
Saved his best for his thirties. A canny breakaway artist who nearly stunned the sport with Tour victory in 2011, a puncheur who excelled in hillier Belgian one-day races, a hyperactive, impish protagonist who carried French hopes. Guaranteed to give any team publicity, win or lose. He made my team by a hair’s breadth over his namesake De Gendt.
The lean, green consistency machine. How is he only 29 when he was getting in breakaways with Lance Armstrong way back when? Sagan on board means satisfaction guaranteed for any cycling team. Good for morale with his quirks, charisma and changing hairstyles too, though the daily viewings of The Wolf of Wall Street on the team bus would probably get a bit wearing after a few stages.
Has defied everything from a doping ban to a broken kneecap, the questionable “teamwork” of Nairo Quintana and Father Time. For years, a Valverde cakewalk at the Flèche Wallonne was up there with death and taxes for unavoidable life events. His longevity, breadth of success and consistency makes him a standalone example in this era. That two-year suspension at the turn of the decade casts a question mark over his purity, but there’s no doubting his class as a bike rider.
What links Stefan Küng, Romain Bardet, Taylor Phinney and Luke Rowe? They reckon this underrated rider is one of the best domestiques in the bunch, and I agree. Schär is hard-working to a fault, astute and very loyal – having helped Cadel Evans to Tour victory in 2011, he is still with CCC ten years on. The pro cyclist’s cyclist.
The powerful WNT-Rotor rider towers over her sprint opposition, literally and metaphorically, winning at least a race every season this decade, often many more. She is more than ‘just’ a prolific sprinter too, with Gent-Wevelgem victory and second at the Tour of Flanders to her name.
Anna van der Breggen
Still in her twenties, it’s easier to list the prestigious women’s races that the mild-mannered former nursing student hasn’t yet won – Trofeo Binda, World championship TT and Olympic TT. Er, that’s it. She has been at the vanguard of Dutch dominance of the second half of this decade. Also, uses her number one platform to speak out and push for progress in women’s cycling.
Ellen Van Dijk
Yes, we’ve gone triple Dutch, but they bossed the decade. One of the biggest engines in the sport, a world TT champ, multiple TTT rainbow jersey winner, Tour of Flanders victor and an invaluable super domestique for Lizzie Deignan and Coryn Rivera during their best years. She shaded it over Tony Martin for me, who could perform a similarly versatile role for this team of galacticos.