We Got A Wide Open Mens Rider Of The Year Race

We Got A Wide Open Mens Rider Of The Year Race

93rd UCI Road World Championships 2020 - Men Elite Road RacePhoto by Bas Czerwinski/Getty Images

What riders need to do to win the award

The weird year continues and with I wonder who in the hell could win the rider of the year award? It is such a diverse field that even with just nine eight races left, including the currently running Giro, another Grand Tour and two Monuments, there’s no one in the pole position and every contending rider has work to do to. And since this year is just so unique we have Spring Classics in the fall that will decide the top rider, somethinhg that we never normally think about when we watch them in the spring. Let’s take a peek…

For these guys, if they win one or two more big races they probably will win the rider of the year award, in part because that will mean that’ve beaten a couple of their rivals and also because they are just that awesome.

106th Liege - Bastogne - Liege 2020 - Men ElitePhoto by Bas Czerwinski/Getty Images
never give up

A week ago I would not have put him on the short list. But then LBL happened and his teammate Doom said that leadership on the team for the Vuelta will be decided on the road-which is Tomspeak for it is Roglic who will lead with Tom hoping for a podium.

What’s he done so far- Quite a lot. Every race he’s been in he’s been on the short list of favorites. 1) actually racing the full 257km of LBL and winning it. 2) 2nd place in the Tour, winning one stage. 3) winning Tour d’lAin, which is tops in Will’s book and given this weird year a top Tour prep race. 4) dominating the Dauphine before I guess getting concussed and not starting the last stage. 5) 6th in the Worlds RR, part of the lead chasing group. 7) Won the Slovenian Nats RR over Pogs and coming in 2nd to Pogs in the national TT.

Oh- as I am writing this he’s the leading point earner in FSA-DS after having won that title last year too. The guy is a points magnet.

Commentary- Over the last two years he’s been the top GC guy in the peloton. Dominant but very much flawed. If he had closed out the Tour with a win he’d be in the pole position, no question. But he didn’t. In fact he wouldn’t be in the top tier of rider of the year contenders if he hadn’t won LBL. But he did win that Monument and that added diversity to his palmares as he is more than just a GC guy.

What he needs to do to win- Win the Vuelta. We don’t know what the startlist will be in that race but it is looking like Jumbo is bringing back most of their Tour team, meaning they will be the straw that stirs the drink again and he benefits. With the Vuelta also being the last race of the year to be decided there will be recency bias in his favor. It would be nice if he added a victory above the Tourmalet in a snow shower for romantic points. Winning on l’Angrilu would also be nice.

That last bit, the part after winning the Vuelta is pretty important. It won’t quite wipe out the disapointment of losing the Tour but it will give him a leg up on all the other contenders that include a Grand Tour win in their credentials.

Odds? He’s not a given in this competition but he might have the clearest path. 40%?

CYCLING-ITA-MILAN-SAN REMOPhoto by MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP via Getty Images
MSR winner!

Wout Van Aert

What he’s done so far- 1) Won the second season opening, Strade Bianche. 2) Won Milan- Sanremo a week later. 3) won Belgian TT. 4) Won two sprinter stages in the Tour. 5) Was the super domestique par excellence in the Tour: talk about panache! A sprinter who wound up 20th in GC! 6) 2nd in both Worlds RR and TT. 7) Won the MTF of stage 1 of the Dauphine beating Bernal, Valverde, Impey, Pogs etc.

Commentary- Wout was in the Tour basically what Ala was last year- except for not wearing the yellow jersey: Absolute Unit. Just imagine if Jumbo changed horses midway through the Tour and gave Wout the bit- and he won? Just think of all the babies that would have been borne nine months after!

But.

He was a domestique, even if a superduper one. He needs a little more to overcome the actual wins that other riders have. Fortunately he has that chance because of this totally weird year…

What he needs to do to win- Win 1) Gent-Wevelgem 2) De Ronde 3) Paris-Roubaix. Easy peasy! But seriously he will be on the shortlist for each of these races. And if he wins all three he’s a shoe-in for Rider of the Year. He definitely needs to win at minimum one of the Monuments to be considered. Winning one Monument and G-W will have him contending with a very good chance of winning. But it depends on what other riders do at that point. L

Odds? Oh hell, I dunno. I’m asking a lot for him. Other the other hand he’s Wout. 15%?

60th Brabantse Pijl 2020 - Men ElitePhoto by Luc Claessen/Getty Images
Step 1

Julian Alaphillippe

What he’s done so far- 1) Won Worlds RR in a great attack. 2) Won stage 2 of the Tour and wore the yellow jersey for a few days. 3) 2nd at MSR (to Wout). 4) a relegated 5th at LBL (to Rogla). 5) And this just in he won Brabantse Pijl over MvdP. Overall his palmares is thinner than the other main contenders but he has a huge chance to make good.

Commentary- And then there’s his last 100 meters at LBL, which he almost duplicated at the Brabant Arrow. which at least to some eyes sinks his chances. It must be noted that to some fans he can do no wrong including that finish. (I wonder what Lefevere thought of his deviating from his line there?) That and the last half of the Tour where he went stage hunting in breaks several times but came up short. Myself I liked his demeanor after Brabantse Pijl- low key and relieved. Humble, not a clown. That helps in my eyes if not yours.

What he needs to do to win- In all fairness he needs more wins, like every one he can get. Beating MvdP today was step one of several. Next De Ronde, which he has to win as he will beat more of his main rivals in doing so. I don’t see him at Paris-Roubaix so if he shits it down after Flanders he will probably come up short. So probably Rider of the Year is not in the cards for him. But his form is great right now-maybe he will change his mind about P-R?

Odds? 10%? He needs the other riders here to not win. That he lost LBL looms large.

16th BinckBank Tour 2020 - Stage 5Photo by Luc Claessen/Getty Images

Mathieu van der Poel

What he’s done so far- Bink Bank Tour win baby! I mean what else do you need? But coming in 6th the next day at LBL is low key but impressive. That last stage win at Tirreno-Adriatico was pretty impressive too. Winning the Dutch RR with yet another long range attack is nice too. That 3rd place at Gran Piemonte was cool. 2nd at Brabantse Pijl was excellent except he lost to one of his main rivals: first loser and all that.

Commentary- Cool. Nice. Not really rider of the year material. But this is a wacky year. He’s not on this list because of what he’s done, which is less than any of the others. He’s here because of the possibility of him having a fantastic 18 days starting with Brabant….damn.

What he needs to do to win- a win at Brabantse Pijl over Ala, G-W, de Ronde AND P-R. Easy! And it would help if in P-R he comes from behind to win on the velodrome a la Amstel. I don’t ask for much, really.

Odds? 5%

103rd Giro d’Italia 2020 - Stage ThreePhoto by Tim de Waele/Getty Images
Etna action

Jakob Fuglsang

What he’s done so far- Lombardy is the big solid dominant win. But he’s been solid all year, much like Roglic. 1st at Andalusia, 2nd at Poland, 5th at Strade Bianche and Worlds RR, 6th at Emilia and the only race he wasn’t a major factor was Tirreno-Adriatico where he was supporting his love child, Vlasov (which he did at Emilia too.) So he checks the proud papa box.

Commentary- It’s like he’s on a parallel life path with Roglic. They both won a monument and have won a short stage race; been competitive in every other race. Roglic needs the Vuelta win; Fugs needs a Giro win. If they both get their dreams, Roglic’s victory against a probable much stronger field at the Vuelta would beat a Giro win for Fuglsang.

What he needs to do to win- Win the Giro. That’s the easy part. Have Roglic lose the Vuelta. Have the cobbles monuments be split among a couple of riders, preferably with none of them being won by Wout or MvdP.

Odds? 5%? Yes, he’s never done so well over three weeks of a GT. But this is COVID season! Richie Porte lasted past stage 9 in the Tour so who’s to say that Fugs can’t win this watered down Giro?

Honorable Mentions

  1. Arnaud Demare- Really nice return to being a full time sprinter. Wins a flat Milan-Turin, Nats RR, not one but two small stage races, stage winner already at the Giro and may well take home the points jersey there.
  2. Tadej Pogacar. One a little race that I like to call the Tour de France. Was in the running for Worlds and LBL and if he had pulled either off he might be this year’s best rider.
  3. Remco Evenepoel. Such a good first 14 days in August! His absence in the Giro is sorely felt. And what would he have done at Worlds?