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Cyclist's Team of the Year 2020

19 Nov 2020

And just like that, the strangest cycling season in living memory was over. A season disrupted by a worldwide pandemic that we thought was never going to happen, did happen.

The hard work of race organisers and teams ensured that we battled on despite adversity, managing to rearrange the majority of our most beloved races while the riders held up their side of the bargain, ensuring we witnessed some of the most enthralling and dramatic racing moments in recent memory. 

Among both the men's and women's pelotons, a broad church of riders rose to the top, some that we had seen before, some breaking onto the scene for the very first time. It was a year that saw the continued invasion of cycling's young superstars and the sad demise of yesteryear's most beloved instigators.

Below, Cyclist has compiled its eight-rider team of 2020. Spoiler, there are some surprising omissions.

Cyclist's Team of the Year 2020

Primoz Roglic

Team: Jumbo-Visma
Number of wins: 12
Biggest win: Liege-Bastogne-Liege

The best rider in the men’s peloton this year. Forget what happened on the penultimate stage of the Tour de France – that was just a fairly sizeable blip – because beyond that Roglic rode almost the perfect year. A Grand Tour victory, a Monument, a 50% win rate in completed stage races and 12 victories overall.

Through this truncated 2020 season the Slovenian has confirmed what we have known for a while: he is the best stage racer in the peloton right now.

A one-man army fighting the wave of adolescent superstars currently sweeping through cycling, aged 31 Roglic is improving like a fine wine with every season and it feels that a Tour Maillot Jaune is within his grasp if he manages to banish any lingering demons.

As for the season, winning Liege-Bastogne-Liege was Roglic’s biggest victory this year. Nevermind defending his Vuelta title, it was pipping cocksure World Champion Julian Alaphilippe at the line that really impressed. It proved that not only can he race to win in the one-days but that he had also buried the nightmares from that Tour shock of just two weeks prior.

Wout van Aert

Team: Jumbo-Visma
Number of wins: 6
Biggest win: Milan-San Remo

We truly are on the precipice of cycling’s next great Classics rivalry, aren’t we? The mighty Mathieu van der Poel vs the remarkable Wout van Aert, bringing years of fighting in cyclocross over to the road, setting us up for another Boonen vs Cancellara-esque spectacle.

Van der Poel may have pipped Van Aert at the Tour of Flanders in October but it was the latter who won the war of 2020.

Benefiting from riding on a WorldTour team, Van Aert shined brightly when cycling returned in August, winning first Strade Bianche and then Milan-San Remo, his first career Monument but surely not his last, in fairly dominant fashion.

However, what was truly impressive with the Belgian was his versatility as he neglected personal ambitions at both the Criterium du Dauphine and Tour de France to become the exemplary domestique, putting in performances in the mountains that have stoked rumours of his own GC ambitions.

Oh, and even when he took on that domestique role at the Tour he still found time to take a couple of stages for himself too.

Anna van der Breggen

Team: Boels-Dolmans
Number of wins: 6
Biggest win: World Championships road race

Knowing that she has already set her retirement date for the end of 2021 has done very little to slow down Anna van der Breggen. In fact, it has actually seemed to reignite the rider of a few years previous. After all, Van der Breggen had found herself overshadowed by compatriot Annemiek van Vleuten in the past 18 months.

This year, Van der Breggen re-emerged into the light.

Granted, she was given a helping hand in winning the Giro d’Italia Femminile when Van Vleuten abandoned in the race lead with a fractured wrist. But there was no helping hand at the World Championships later that month.

Van der Breggen was simply the strongest rider in both the time-trial and road race, and was fully deserving of both rainbow jerseys. Her performance in the road race was quintessential Van der Breggen: uncompromising, dominant, ruthless.

But where she really excelled in 2020 was at the Tour of Flanders. She did not win the race but her tactical nous and race craft were what helped propel teammate Chantal van den Broek-Blaak to victory and we say that in this display of selflessness is where Van ber Breggen’s true champion title was confirmed this year.

Lizzie Deignan

Team: Trek-Segafredo
Number of wins: 3
Biggest win: La Course by the Tour de France

Incredible to think Lizzie Deignan won three of the biggest races in the women’s racing calendar and yet hardly a column inch was spared to her in the mainstream press to mark the fact.

I guess it is indicative of where women’s cycling still lingers and how far we have to go as Deignan’s exploits would have most likely been big news had she simply been a man.

After all, this is a woman who has come back from childbirth to return to the sport’s highest level and win its biggest one-day races and in remarkable fashion. The only two major one-day races eluding Deignan’s palmares were Liege and La Course. She now has both of them.

Her La Course win, outsprinting Marianne Vos and Van Vleuten among others, was smart while her Liege triumph was simply just strong.

It is also worth mentioning Deignan’s teammate Elisa Longo Borghini too. Unfortunate to miss out on this team but a real titan who proved selfless riding can always be worth its reward.

Marc Hirschi

Team: Team Sunweb
Number of wins: 2
Biggest win: Stage 12, Tour de France.

It was no secret that Marc Hirschi was going to be one of cycling’s next big talents but I do not think any of us could have predicted the season he ended up having.

Sure, plenty will tell you that they were singing the 22-year-old’s praises long before he even became Under-23 World Champion in 2018 but nobody envisaged him being the most entertaining rider at this year’s Tour de France and the most consistent rider in the Ardennes.

Second on the second stage of the Tour in Nice awoke us to Hirschi, while Stage 9's result of coming within a whisker of victory into Laruns after that solo raid had us sitting up in our chairs. The perfectly timed win on Stage 12 to Sarran was then the just reward.

Julian Alaphilippe

Team: Deceuninck-QuickStep
Number of wins: 3
Biggest win: Men’s World Championship road race

Technically, in terms of victories, this was Alaphilippe’s worst season since 2017. Just three wins throughout the year, a fifth of his 2019 haul, you could ask the question of what’s happening to the swashbuckling Frenchman.

Ask those questions, but you would be daft to do so as this year was a confirmatory one for the 28-year-old. Proof that he is cycling’s number one superstar. A man who regularly lights the touchpaper and reminds us why we love to watch bike racing.

Two occasions were testament to that. Firstly, his Stage 2 victory at the Tour. A textbook assault on the peloton on the Col des Quatre Chemins, he eventually crossed the line in floods of tears, dedicating victory to his recently-passed father Jo.

Then his victory at the World Championships. The strength to ride away from his competitors on the final climb, the guts to ride the final 11km alone, the guile not to get caught. It was a win that was unanimously respected across the peloton and one that was wholly deserved in every way.

Lizzie Banks

Team: Equipe Paula Ka
Number of wins: 1
Biggest win: Stage 4, Giro d’Italia Femminile

It was not the manner in which Banks continued her impressive progression through the women’s peloton with yet another Giro stage win and a hard-battled second at GP Plouay that impressed us, it was the way in which she dealt with the troubles and adversities of trying to make a living in women’s cycling that really made us take notice.

Out of the blue, her team Equipe Paula Ka folded in October. After having only taken the reins from Bigla-Katusha in April, the French fashion brand upped sticks as it became apparent the company was about to go bust.

Leaving a raft of riders and staff unemployed, Banks’s honest yet considered approach to proceedings saw her become the team’s mouthpiece, telling the truths behind the situation and the hardships being faced. Her character as a beacon within women’s cycling was confirmed during these unfortunate events and her contract with Ceratizit-WNT next season is fully deserved.

Arnaud Demare

Team: Groupama-FDJ
Number of wins: 14
Biggest win: Stage 4, Giro d’Italia

There was a time not too long ago when Arnaud Demare was considered a second-rate sprinter. A man unable to compete against the peloton’s quickest, yet to show the consistency to win day-after-day. His biggest victory, 2016 Milan-San Remo, also comes with its own question marks.

That all changed in 2020. Demare is now, pound-for-pound, professional cycling’s best sprinter. Four dominant stage wins at the Giro contributed to an impressive 14 victories through this shortened season, the most of any rider, all coming after racing’s return in August.

And what’s more, it’s not just Demare’s victories that have made us take notice but the manner in which he has taken them, like a kid overawed by the fact he gets to race his bike, let alone win on it.

Notable mentions for Tadej Pogacar, Richard Carapaz, Mathieu van der Poel, Hugh Carthy, Tao Geoghegan Hart, Filippo Ganna, Remco Evenepoel, Annemiek van Vleuten, Eliso Longo Borghini, Lisa Brennauer. All close but no cigars.