Rouleur’s riders of the decade: Part I
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. To begin, it’s Executive Editor, Ian Cleverly.
If there was one takeaway from the close of the decade, it was the sweeping away of the old guard by young upstarts. Mathieu van der Poel, Wout van Aert, Richard Carapaz, Remco Evenepoel, world champion Mads Pedersen and a whole new generation of talent showed no respect for their elders. They raced, they won. Simple as that. Any terrain, any distance, young guns were having fun.
And top of the crop was Egan Bernal, youngest Tour de France winner for over a century, first Colombian to take the title, with victories at Tour de Suisse and Paris-Nice along the way. Calm, level-headed and supremely talented, Bernal can lead my team for this decade and the next.
There is nothing this fella can’t do and the last couple of seasons have seen him shine across the board – Classics, GC contender in week-long races, Grand Tour stage wins and even a tenacious defence of the yellow jersey that very nearly saw the Frenchman break his country’s 34-year duck in their home race. Plus he’s charming and funny, and Team Cleverly is going to need all the publicity it can get. Allez Loulou!
The versatility of Vos makes Alaphilippe look like a one-trick pony. Road, cyclo-cross, mountain bike and track – she wins them all. She was twice road world champion in this decade, to add to her gold in 2006, with a remarkable run of six silvers in between.
After a (by her standards) indifferent two seasons, we wondered if we’d seen the best of Marianne at the start of 2019. Of course not. Highlights included four stages at the Giro Rosa preceding a stunning win at La Course in Pau. And there is more to come from Vos the Boss. Long may she reign.
Talking of versatility, the chunky Norwegian is good for a handful of wins every year, ranging from early-season desert races to Sanremo to Flanders via Gent-Wevelgem, followed by a Tour de France stage or two. A consistently strong performer across the board.
When Yates cracked in spectacular fashion on the Finestre at the 2018 Giro, where Chris Froome seized the day and the maglia rosa, you wondered if the boy from Bury had a Grand Tour win in him. But he answered that particular question in style just four months later by taking the Vuelta a Espana with a classy, mature performance against decent opposition. A thrilling racer in the mountains with an instinctive eye for an attacking opportunity.
It could be argued that Boonen’s best years were behind by the time we reached 2000, but he still delivered in spades. And give me a Classics winner over a GC contender any day. Tom took Roubaix, Flanders, Gent-Wevelgem and E3 Harelbeke in 2012 – a unique achievement. One of the all-time greats from any era.
Somewhat lost in the conversation surrounding Team Sky’s Tour de France dominance throughout the decade was this blindingly obvious fact. They signed the best riders in the world, and got the best out of them. Henao had the talent to lead a lesser team, but put aside personal ambition to become one of the finest mountain domestiques in the peloton.
Unashamedly patriotic perhaps, but I want some Yorkshire grit in this team. They don’t much grittier or northern than this Otley woman, who has excelled across the board over the last ten years. And the icing on the cake? A year off to have baby Orla and Deignan comes back and wins the Women’s Tour overall. A brilliant born winner.
We are going to need a quality TT rider in the mix, and Dennis is simply the best. Granted, he can be a tricky customer to deal with, as Bahrain-Merida discovered to their cost when he threw his toys out of the pram at this year’s Tour, but that’s brilliant athletes for you. Team Cleverly’s backroom staff, with a mix of carrot, stick and the occasional cuddle, will keep the maverick tester on the right track.
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