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Vollering, Vingegaard Win  Vélo d’Or for Best Cyclists of 2023

By Siegfried Mortkowitz

Apparently, winning the Tour de France counts a lot in the voting for cycling’s top individual award – or does your last name have to begin with a V? In any case, this year’s Tour winners, Demi Vollering and Jonas Vingegaard, were awarded the Vélo d’Or for best female and male cyclists of the year at a gala ceremony in Paris late Tuesday.

The 26-year-old Vollering, a Dutch native who rides for women cycling’s dominant team SD Worx, was a sensational winner of this year’s Tour de France Femmes with Zwift, taking the yellow jersey by more than 3 minutes over her Belgian teammate Lotte Kopecky. Kopecky, this year’s road race world champion, also finished just behind Vollering in the Vélo d’Or voting, with last year’s award winner Annemiek van Vleuten in third place.

In addition to the Tour, Vollering also won four prestigious spring Classics –  La Flèche Wallonne, the Amstel Gold Race, the Strade Bianche and Liège-Bastogne-Liège – as well as the season’s final Monument, the Tour de Romandie Féminin. She also ended the year as the highest ranked female rider in the UCI World Rankings with 6039.8 points, far ahead of Kopecky, who is second with 4367 points.

Demi Vollering at Strade Bianche
Vollering at the 2023 Strade Bianche. © Profimedia

Though Vingegaard did not race as prolifically as many of his Vélo d’Or rivals, what probably tipped the scales in his favor was that he won the Tour de France for a second consecutive year in 2023. One of his main rivals for this year’s award, Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), also won the Vélo d’Or after his second Tour win, in 2021. In addition to Pogačar, other candidates for the prize included this year’s road race world champion Mattieu van der Poel, ITT world champion Remco Evenepoel and the Giro d’Italia winner (and former teammate of Vingegaard’s at Jumbo-Visma) Primož Roglič.

Though Vingegaard did not race as often as others, he won almost every race he started this year. In addition to the Tour, he won the GC of the O Gran Camiño, the Itzulia Basque Country and the Critérium du Dauphiné. He also finished second in the Vuelta a España after his team asked him to ride in support of Sepp Kuss, who had been leading for much of the race. Vingegaard did not attend the awards presentation, which was held as a formal ceremony for the first time. However, he expressed his gratitude in a video.

“It’s a big honour for me to win the Vélo d’Or award,” he said. “When I see all the names winning it in the past, it’s a crazy feeling to know now that I am the winner of it. Eddy Merckx was going to give this award to me and it’s very special. He’s such a big icon, and always winning. I’m always trying to do the same, trying to win all the races that I am doing.”

Kopecky and van der Poel – who like Kopecky finished second in the Vélo d’Or voting –  did not go away empty-handed. They were the first-ever recipients of the Eddy Merckx Trophy for the best female and male Classics riders of the year. In addition, Vingegaard’s Jumbo-Visma teammate Christophe Laporte, this year’s European road race champion, was named best French rider of the year, while the female version of that prize was given to multi-discipline cyclist Pauline Ferrand-Prévot.

The Vélo d’Or has been given to male riders since 1992, but this is only the second year that women have been accorded the prize. The award is organized by the French cycling magazine Vélo, with winners elected by a group of international journalists.