While no male rider dominated this year’s WorldTour, Pogačar is the favourite to succeed 2022’s winner, Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep), on the strength of his winning the UCI World Rankings for the season with 7,685.9 points, easily beating runner-up Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) who had 6,304.1 points. The 25-year-old Slovenian also won the season-ending Monument Il Lombardio, three spring Classics – La Flèche Wallonne, the Amstel Gold Race and the Tour of Flanders – the Paris-Nice and the Vuelta a Andalucia.
Unfortunately, a broken wrist he suffered in a crash in the Liège-Bastogne-Liège set back his preparations for the Tour de France, where he finished second, and the subsequent road world championships. But his bold Il Lombardia victory will surely be fresh in the minds of the international journalists who elect the winners.
A serious case could also be made for Primož Roglič, the longtime Jumbo-Visma rider who will compete for rival team BORA-Hansgrohe in 2024. Though Roglič finished fourth in the UCI rankings, with 5,603.4 points, he was undefeated for most of the year, winning the Giro d’Italia, Tirrenno-Adriatico, Volta a Catalunya and Vuelta a Burgos before finishing third in the Vuelta a España when public pressure forced Roglič and Vingegaard to ride in support of teammate Sepp Kuss after the American had seized the GC lead and held it for much of the race. However, his third-place finish in the Il Lombardia, behind Pogačar, will probably lead voters to support the Slovenian.
There is an argument to be made as well for Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) who won world championships this year in both road racing and cyclocross as well as taking victories in the Paris-Roubaix and Milan-SanRemo but he has not raced enough on the WorldTour, ranking seventh in the UCI standings (4,163 points), to be a serious threat to Pogačar. However, he is a dynamic and popular rider, and anything is possible in an election. Which means that perhaps his teammate Jasper Philipsen, who won four stages and the Škoda Green Jersey in the Tour de France – often being led out by van der Poel – as well as seven one-day races, has an outside chance. But don’t bet on it.
The women’s contest for the Vélo d’Or is much less debatable. Only two riders appear to have a chance to win the prestigious prize, which was first awarded last year to a female rider when it was given to the recently retired Annemiek van Vleuten following triumphs in the Tour de France Femmes, Giro d’Italia Donne and La Vuelta Femenina. This year’s Tour de France Femmes winner Demi Wollering (SD Worx) has had a marvelous season, also winning four prestigious spring Classics: La Flèche Wallonne, the Amstel Gold Race, the Strade Bianche and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and she sits atop the final UCI World Rankings with 6,039.8 points, miles ahead of her teammate Kopecky who is second with 4,367 points.
But numbers sometimes cloud the issue and Kopecky has, I believe, been the most impressive woman cyclist of the year, winning the Tour of Flanders, the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and, most importantly, the world championship road race in Glasgow, ahead of Vollering. She also finished second behind her teammate in the Tour, took away the Tour’s Škoda Green Jersey and won two gold medals and a bronze at the 2023 track world championships. It will be tough to choose between the two friends and teammates but whoever ends up holding the trophy will be a deserving winner.