The inaugural UCI Gala took place in Abu Dhabi this past weekend, and while 17 great cyclists were celebrated, we felt that some athletes were left out. Specifically, female athletes. So we came up with our own Ella Awards to celebrate the season’s best moments and performances.
1. Best overall season
It’s a rare rider that can perform well throughout the entire season. The winner of this award achieved impressive results throughout the season, not just in one particular part of the season
Winners: Anna van der Breggen & Lizzie Armitstead
Winning both the World Cup series and the World Championship road race, Lizzie Armitstead is an obvious pick. But while Armitstead notched an impressive 17 podium finishes with 11 wins, the Worlds silver medalist Anna van der Breggen graced the podium no fewer than 29 times.
Stepping up as Rabo-Liv’s new leader, Van der Breggen took home some of the season’s biggest wins inluding Omloop het Nieuwsblad, the prologue and stage four at the EnergieWacht Tour, Flèche Wallonne, Elsy Jacobs, the Dutch national time trial championships, the Giro Rosa and La Course.
And if she wasn’t on the top step of the podium, she was never far behind, coming in second to Armitstead in the Word Cup series and the World Championship Road Race, and behind Linda Villumsen in the World Championship time trial.
2. Most impressive breakout performance
All it takes is one big result and suddenly everyone is talking about you. The winner of this award hit the big-time with a memorable result this season and will talked about for the next few years.
Winner: Jolien d’Hoore
A track rider relatively unknown in the road peloton sprinted her way to her best season yet with no less than 14 wins, two of which were World Cup races.
3. Ultimate team player
Only one rider can take glory at the end of a race but, invariably, there’s a whole team of riders behind that winner, deserving of just as much praise. The winner of this award is the perfect teammate; a rider who excels at their job of supporting their leader.
Winner: Evelyn Stevens.
Stevens, well capable of winning against the best herself, served as super domestique for Boels-Dolmans teammates Megan Guarnier and Lizzie Armitstead for most of the season.
GP Plouay was a great example of her selfless riding as she attacked, and attacked and attacked some more, earning herself the Sufferfest Prize as a result and her team the win with Lizzie Armitstead finishing first.
4.The year’s biggest feel-good victory
We all have our favourites but sometimes there’s a winner that everyone can get behind. It might be the journey the rider’s been on to get to that point, it might be something to do with the race itself – regardless, this win was a popular one.
Winners: Mayuko Hagiwara winning stage six of the Giro Rosa.
Stage six of the Giro Rosa saw Hagiwara, a five-time Japanese national road champion, launch a bold attack on the last of three climbs, riding alone for nearly 30 kilometres before crossing the stage six finish line alone. In winning this stage, Hagiwara became the first Japanese rider to win at the Italian Grand Tour. This was the biggest international win of her career yet, and her reaction was priceless.
5. Best race of the season
Most bike races provide an element of drama and excitement somewhere along the way but occasionally there’s a race that just stands out from the rest. It might have been a tight finish, an explosive selection or some other moment that stood out. Here’s our pick of the year.
Winner: GP Plouay.
The terrain and timing of GP Plouay –so close to the World Championships –as well as the depth of the women’s peloton created one of the most aggressive and animated races of the season. A calm start to the afternoon belied the non-stop action to follow. Ultimately, it was Lizzie Armitstead who won the sprint over Emma Johansson and Pauline Ferrand-Prevot.
6. Future star award
You can tell some riders are going to be a star just by looking at them. Their focus, their attention to detail, their results – they all point towards future success. We expect the winner of this award to attract plenty of attention in the years to come.
Winner: Chloe Dygert.
The 18-year-old American rode away from nearly every single collegiate road race and elite criterium field she set a wheel in this year, and executed the same strategy to win both the Junior Women’s World Championship time trial and road race.
7. Most surprising victory
Sometimes the winner of a race is one of the last people you would have picked for that victory. But often it’s the unlikely victories that are the most impressive and memorable.
Winner: Christine Majerus winning Stage 3 of the Aviva Women’s Tour.
Boels-Dolmans had a stellar roster this year; each rider capable of winning. Even so, some were designated worker bees. Christine Majerus was one of them, but she was given a rare opportunity to lead when Lizzie Armitstead withdrew from the Aviva Women’s Tour following a freak accident after winning the opening stage.
Majerus, now Boels-Dolmans’ best placed rider, rose to the occasion, winning stage three.
8. Best victory salute/celebration
If you’re going to win a race, you might as well do it in style. The winner of this award went the extra mile to making their win memorable, rather than just sticking their hands in the air.
Winner: Lizzie Armitstead winning the World Championship road race.
Pure emotion. However, if we had a category for worst salute, she’d be taking that one home as well:
9. Most impressive team
It’s reasonably easy to work out which team achieved the most victories for the season, but the team that won this award did more than that. Their success is attributed not only to the number of races they won, but which races they won, and how they did it.
Whereas Rabo-Liv had been a dominating force for the past few years, the early season showed there would be a new team-to-beat as the orange and red of Boels-Dolmans dominated the early season podiums.
It shouldn’t have been a surprise, really. With a roster of international powerhouses, they were already the strongest team on paper — they just had to prove it. And that they did. And the best thing is that everyone got their chance to shine with the team to back them up.
Lizzie Armitstead shone in the World Cup series, Megan Guarnier had an incredible run at the Giro Rosa, Chantal Blaak took the win at Le Samyn, and together, they gave the dominating Velocio-SRAM TTT squad a run for their money.
10. Greatest injury comeback
Getting injured is part and parcel of being a professional bike rider. Everyone gets injured, but not everyone comes back at the same level they were at beforehand, if not at a higher level.
Winner: Annemiek van Vleuten.
Annemiek van Vleuten got injured in August when she was hit by a car during a training ride in Italy. She was was left with multiple fractures and a collapsed lung. Gearing up for a successful late season, Van Vleuten had won the opening prologue of the Giro Rosa the month before and was a hopeful for the World Time Trial Championships in September.
She made her comeback at the Giro Toscana Int. Femminile where she won the prologue and finished third overall. Unfortunately, she missed out on Worlds selection.
We’d love to hear from you if you agree or if you would have picked someone else. Let us know in the comments below.