Chris Froome, Lizzie Armitstead and the other top 10 riders of 2015
By Matt Westby
Last Updated: 28/12/15 10:35am
The best riders in the world have once again delivered some outstanding and memorable performances in 2015.
Established names have continued to excel, while several rising stars have also made a big impact.
Here, we count down the top 10 riders of the year…
10. Pauline Ferrand-Prevot
Her achievements on the road have been relatively modest in 2015, but for three short weeks in September, France's Ferrand-Prevot was the holder of the world titles in road cycling, cyclo-cross and cross-country mountain biking. She lost her road world title to Lizzie Armitstead just 21 days after winning her mountain biking crown but will nevertheless go down as the first woman to hold all three simultaneously. A truly unique feat.
9. Peter Sagan
Following a big-money and high-profile move from Cannondale to Tinkoff-Saxo last winter, Sagan made a poor start to the 2015 season and looked to have lost his old edge. However, he gradually built his form, winning the Tour of California in May before finishing on the podium on no fewer than seven stages of the Tour de France and then soloing to victory at the World Championship road race in September. He ended the season with eight wins and a colossal 32 podiums, which was 40 per cent of his race days.
8. Alberto Contador
This year hasn't been the best season of Contador's career, but he still walked away with two stage-race victories, including one in a Grand Tour. He had been targeting a Giro d'Italia and Tour de France double and although he succeeded at the Giro, he was too tired to ever be a challenger for the yellow jersey at the Tour. His Giro victory - built largely on one of the finest performances of his career on stage 16 - was his seventh Grand Tour triumph, and he followed it up by winning the Route du Sud in France the following month.
7. John Degenkolb
Degenkolb claimed his first and second victories in one-day Monument Classics in 2015 by becoming the first rider since Sean Kelly in 1986 to win Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix in the same season. While his Milan-San Remo victory was a triumph of raw speed, his win at Paris-Roubaix was thanks to outstanding tactics and opportunism. He took a gamble by chasing down a two-man breakaway late in the race and reaped the benefits by sprinting to an historic victory.
6. Alejandro Valverde
Valverde has enjoyed another remarkably consistent season and was the No 1-ranked rider for the second year in succession. The highlights of his 2015 came at the three Ardennes Classics in April, where he won Liege-Bastogne-Liege and La Fleche Wallonne and finished second in the Amstel Gold Race. But he was just as competitive in stage races and Grand Tours, finishing third at the Tour of Oman, second at the Volta a Catalunya and third at the Tour de France. He also had enough energy left over to finish seventh at a fiercely competitive Vuelta a Espana and fourth at Il Lombardia. Valverde ended the campaign with eight wins and 21 podiums, which are tallies a sprinter would not be disappointed with.
5. Anna van der Breggen
The 25-year-old Dutch rider had a superb season in 2014 but has been even more successful and consistent this year. She picked up wins at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, La Fleche Wallonne and La Course by Le Tour de France over one day, and proved just as potent in stage racing, winning the Festival Elsy Jacobs and the women's Giro d'Italia. Her versatility was further underlined when she finished runner-up in both the time trial and road race at the World Championships. Van der Breggen ended the season with 11 wins and 23 podiums from her 49 race days.
4. Alexander Kristoff
Kristoff's statistics in 2015 are little short of remarkable. From his 81 race days, he picked up 20 wins (25 per cent) and finished on the podium 31 times (38 per cent). Although the majority of those wins came in sprints in second-tier races, one of them came in the Tour of Flanders, which is among the toughest and most prestigious races on the calendar. That victory came in the middle of a formidable run of form in which Kristoff claimed six wins in eight days.
3. Fabio Aru
Aru has been arguably the best Grand Tour rider of the year, finishing second at the Giro d'Italia and first at the Vuelta a Espana. He looked a beaten man at the Giro when he entered the last five stages more than four minutes down on race leader Contador, but while the Spaniard wilted in the final week, Aru came back to form, won two stages and ultimately lost by only 1min 53sec. He also saved his best till last the Vuelta, overtaking leader Tom Dumoulin on the penultimate stage after proving himself to be the most consistent rider in a race where all the contenders had ups and downs.
2. Chris Froome
After a 2014 hampered by crashes, illness and injury, Froome got back to his best with some excellent performances and results in 2015. He started his season by beating Contador to victory at the Ruta del Sol in Spain and although he missed out on the title at the Tour de Romandie, he won the Criterium du Dauphine in June and then produced a dominant performance to claim his second Tour de France triumph in July. He may well have added the Vuelta a Espana title had he not broken his foot in a crash midway through the race.
1. Lizzie Armitstead
Armitstead has been the outstanding rider of the season not just in women's cycling, but road cycling as a whole. After winning the Ladies Tour of Qatar in February, she won the UCI Women Road World Cup for the second year in succession after claiming victory in three of the nine events of the series. She then underlined her status as the best in the business by winning the World Championship road race in Richmond with a performance that perfectly combined tactical nous, patience, climbing skills and raw speed. She ended the campaign with 10 wins and 15 podiums from her 36 race days.
The Spaniard is now 36 years old but has enjoyed another successful season, winning two stages of the Tour de France before winning one stage and finishing second overall at the Vuelta a Espana.
Landa announced himself as one of the best climbers in the world by winning two stages and finishing third overall at the Giro d'Italia and then winning one stage at the Vuelta a Espana.
Kiryienka has been arguably the best time-triallist of the year, winning the individual time trial at the Giro d'Italia and then the World Championship time trial in September.
Porte was outstanding in the early part of the season, winning Paris-Nice, the Volta a Cataunya and Giro del Trentino.
Do you agree with our list? Who would have been in your top 10? Let us know by leaving a comment below...