Greg Van Avermaet has won the coveted Marmeladrome Rider of the Year 2016 award. A quick run down of his season proves why he finished ahead of a very strong list of other notable contenders.
He joined his other classics contenders in the desert heat at the start of the season and finished on podiums at both the Tour of Qatar and Tour of Oman. He then went on to silence his critics as an ‘almost man’ by winning his first Belgian spring race, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. From conquering the wet and windy Belgian countryside, he went and did the unthinkable and conquered the Italian cold and frosty mountainscapes. Ok, so he ‘only won’ the G.C. at Tirreno-Adriatico because of cancelled mountainous stages, but he made the most of the situation and deservedly took home the trident trophy, pipping Peter Sagan by a second overall.
A few days later he lined up for the Milan Sanremo and avoided crashes and controversy to finish a very respectable 5th in the ‘sprinters classic’. Unfortunately his luck couldn’t match his form and a bizarre crash involving the majority of his BMC teammates caused a DNF at the Tour of Flanders and a DNS at Paris-Roubaix.
In his own words:
“For me it’s a big disappointment because Flanders and Roubaix are the biggest races of my season and I cannot be there. It’s not a good situation but hopefully I can handle it and come back stronger.”
Fortunately, Greg did come back stronger. A second place on stage 4 of the Tour of California and a couple of top ten results at the Criterium du Dauphiné showed he was back in form at just the right time for the summer season, and the Tour de France, to start.
Keeping out of trouble during stages 1 to 4 at the Tour, stage 5 saw Van Avermaet become part of a nine man breakaway that he would later jump out of to solo to a marvellous victory atop the Massif Central. He took the yellow jersey for the first time in his career and admirably defended it with some aggressive racing in the breakaway.
You’d think he’d be content with a season of so many victories already, but the big one was yet to come. Riding for his country this time, Van Avermaet was able to conquer the brutal hills of Rio to claim the Olympic Gold medal after an incredible day of racing ended in a nail-biting finale. From there he saw his season out with a win in Canada at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal and a notable tenth place at the World Championships in Qatar.
With such a successful 2016 under his belt his eyes will now be firmly fixed on Flanders and Roubiax for the 2017 season — we wish him the best of luck.
Notables: Peter Sagan, Mark Cavendish, Adam Yates, Simon Yates, Esteban Chavez
One Day Race:
Unsurprisingly we have chosen Paris Roubaix as the year’s best race. For an in depth review written at the time you can read what we wrote back in April or watch Orica GreenEdge’s enjoyable, albeit a little mawkish, Backstage Pass from the race.
Many had been hoping for a wet Roubaix, yet this year was another dry edition but the racing was vintage. A brilliant final hour to the race, with a fully deserved winner, it was everything a bike race should be and the best of what cycling has to offer.
Notables: Vuelta a España stages 14, 15 and 20, Giro d’Italia stages 19 and 20, Paris-Nice Stage 7
After the dramatic finish to this year’s Giro d’Italia, it was going to be a tough task for another race to match it for drama. The Maglia Rosa was worn by eight riders, showing that the whole three weeks offered up fantastic racing from start to finish. The rise and tragic falls of both Kruijswijk, after riding into a bank of roadside snow, and Chaves, who succumbed to illness on the final stage and couldn’t compete with a rampant Nibali. Stage wins for Wellens, Brambilla, Ciccone and Nieve also stood out. We grumbled when the marquee sprinters left the race, but that only distracted a little from the overall spectacle.
We were hoping that the Tour de France would live up to its pre-race hype, but apart from a few off bike incidents (Froome ‘running up that hill’ and Yates making a late bid for the GB gymnastics team) it was a Tour made of a great one day races, with standout wins for Van Avermaet, Dumoulin, Cummings, Pantano and Bardet and a dominant Mark Cavendish. The GC battle was again suffocated by Team Sky and also let down by the lack of fight and attacking tactics by the other teams.
When we reached The Vuelta a España, Quintana had learnt his lesson and preceded to dominate the GC race. However, it was a much closer affair with the red jersey still in the balance going into the final road stage on Stage 20 and Froome attempting to make back a 1:21 deficit. It could have been a very different race if Sky hadn’t been caught with their bib shorts down at the start of stage 15, which saw Froome lose over two minutes to Quintana, Contador and Chaves. But for us it was those three weeks in Italy back in May that stood out amongst the Grand Tours and Stage races, it gave everything: spectacular stage wins and a tight and dramatic GC battle.
Notables: Paris-Nice, Tour de Suisse and Criterium du Dauphiné
Midway through July it became evident that the only thing that could stand in the way of our young rider of the year was an inflatable banner, and that 2016 was going to be a real coming of age year for the young man from Yorkshire, Adam Yates.
Stepping up from a talented domestique to a strong and confident team leader, Yates deservedly won the white jersey at the Tour de France with incredibly strong rides right up next to the big hitters Quintana, Froome and Contador.
With Esteban Chavez and Simon Yates also in the squad, Orica Scott could potentially (though obviously it’s unlikely) ride the three Grand Tours with three different leaders, all strong enough to podium.
Thank you for all your support and kind words over 2016! We’ll be back in January with our previews for the 217 season and the Tour Down Under!