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Domestique's 2023 Men's Pro Cycling Awards

The 2023 cycling season has come to an end. It was a year that well and truly had everything a fan could ever desire. From drama and controversy in all three grand tours to five simply amazing monuments. In this article, Domestique gave out ten awards based on the performances of the men's pro peloton during the past cycling season. Do you prefer listening to our 2023 cycling season review? Scroll down quickly and watch our podcast!

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Best Team

2023 was the year of Jumbo-Visma domination. 69 victories as a team, 12 more than their closest competitor UAE-Team Emirates who have 57. The most impressive thing about Jumbo-Visma’s number of wins is the quality of races that they have won, with 38 of their 69 victories being on WorldTour level compared to UAE Team Emirates who have 28 WorldTour races.

The Jumbo-Visma team simply dominated on all the fronts of the cycling season, with the most visible being in all 3 of the grand tours. What stood out specifically within Jumbo-Visma’s grand tour winning teams is that the tactics and teamwork displayed were absolute perfection. Everyone was competing for that one common goal: to win! The excellent tactics and teamwork were endangered just once, during La Vuelta. Primoz Roglic didn't seem to agree with the game plan at first, but in the end everyone cooperated to make sure Sepp Kuss took the overall victory.

Before the season kicked off Jumbo-Visma had its eyes on the Monuments Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, and another GC win at Tour de France. Despite the fact they couldn't meet up the expectations regarding that Monument win, their Classics campaign has been really impressive with wins at Omloop Nieuwsblad, Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, E3 Saxo Classic, Gent-Wevelgem and Dwars door Vlaanderen. With 69 wins between January 19th and October 17th Jumbo-Visma clearly was the best team of 2023.

Best rider

The best rider of the 2023 cycling season might be a very controversial topic. As was the case at the Velo d'Or award, many people will have conflicting opinions on who they believe was the best rider of the year, but this award goes to Mathieu van der Poel. The Flying Dutchman had a year nobody will ever forget winning no less than 2 monuments and the World Championships Road Race title in Glasgow.

Van der Poel attacked at a place where no one thought it was possible in the current cycling era

Mathieu’s performance at the Worlds is simply something to behold due to the sheer amount of power that was on display, leading towards a solo win in Glasgow. The power factor can also be looked at with his first monument win of the season coming in Milano-Sanremo. Beating Flippo Ganna, Wout van Aert and Tadej Pogacar by 15 seconds is inhuman. Van der Poel attacked at a place where no one thought it was possible in the current cycling era.

However, his second Monument of the season could have ended up differently as Van Aert's puncture towards the end of the race could have set an all-mighty sprint in the velodrome. We'll never know. But at the end of the day to win Paris-Roubaix you need a strong pair of legs and all the luck you can get. Mathieu van der Poel's season was one in which he showed he's a master in peaking. Doing even better next season seems almost impossible.

Underperforming rider

Biniam Girmay failed to live up to any expectations in 2023. He only achieved two wins for the season, coming in Tour de Suisse and Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana. He certainly expected more of this year. It's true, Girmay had some bad luck as well with a horrible crash at Tour of Flanders. He came back in the peloton with a promising performance at a fourth place at Brussels Cycling Classic, but he couldn't confirm it at Tour de France.

Girmay had some troubles with Jasper Philipsen in the bunch sprint, but with two top 10 places this wasn't the Grand Tour he'd hoped for. Another crash at San Sebastian took him out of the battle at the World Championships in Glasgow. The Eritrean with a couple of top 10 places at GP de Wallonie, Paris-Chauny and Lotto Famenne Ardenne Classics, but after winning Gent-Wevelgem and a Giro d'Italia stage he didn't take the next step.

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Best sprinter

There can only be one rider suitable for this award, the victory king of 2023: Jasper Philipsen. He took eight of his 19 victories on WorldTour level, starting with two stages at Tirreno-Adriatico. After winning Classic Brugge - De Panne, where he showed he's more than a pure sprinter, Jasper Disaster wiped the floor with the competition in the sprints at Tour de France, winning 4 stages and picking up the green jersey.

The competition might not always have been super strong, Philipsen still produced a year any sprinter could be proud of. And don't be surprised if he doest it all over again in 2024!

Best domestique

Yet again, there is an outright winner for this award: Sepp Kuss. The American not only competed in all three Grand Tours, he also won La Vuelta. Kuss was the man that was always there for Jumbo-Visma when the team needed him the most. One notable example of this was stage 16 at this year’s Giro d'Italia. After an attack by João Almeida, he single handedly dragged Roglic to the line to cut his losses to Geraint Thomas.

Kuss' Vuelta win was a gift from the team to display the gratitude for his efforts for the team

The fact that the ever loyal American won La Vuelta doesn’t change the fact that he is still a Domestique after all. If the team wanted Vingegaard to win La Vuelta he would have done so, but by working for Kuss the Dane strengthened the relationship between the two of them. In essence Kuss' Vuelta win was a gift from the team to display the gratitude for his efforts for the team. Does it get any better?

Most improved rider

The rider who took the biggest leap this year in the pro scene is Ben Healy. Picking up 5 wins this season, notably winning the Irish national championships and winning stage 8 of this year’s Giro d'Italia. What was particularly impressive about Ben is how he won his Giro stage: after a 50,2 km solo attack. His long-range attacks became something of a trademark in 2023!

Healy also had a very good classics season with excellent performances in De Brabantse Pijl (2nd), Amstel Gold Race (2nd) and Liège-Bastogne-Liège (4th). Will he be able to go one step further next year and take a Classics win? We talked to the Irishman during the 2022 offseason and discovered he was even dreaming of becoming a GC rider. At the same time he said he wasn't about to focus on the 2023 Classics as he thought they were too hard to compete for the win. He proved himself wrong...

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Best one day race

The Domestique’s choice for this category is Tour of Flanders. The race won by Tadej Pogacar, succeeding with an out of this world attack on the Oude Kwaremont. The action in this race was frantic, with a massive peloton crash and a huge chase of 10 riders who escaped with a 3-minute gap. This group almost seemed to be winning.

You would expect riders to wait for the Oude Kwaremont cobbles to attack, but Pogacar already launched his move before the first cobblestone

That was until Pogacar set off his fireworks and produced an attack which the Tour of Flanders has never seen before. You would expect riders to wait for the Oude Kwaremont cobbles to attack, but Pogacar already launched his move before the first cobblestone. Tour of Flanders expert Mathieu van der Poel tried everything he could to follow the former Tour de France winner, but the Slovenian was simply too strong.

Best stage race

The Tour de France gets the vote for best stage race of the season. The battles between Pogacar and Vingegaard were battles for the ages. It took us as fans on an emotional rollercoaster as we became so invested in the fight for yellow.

UAE Team Emirates showed from the very first stage they were ready to take on the battle against Jumbo-Visma, but after stage 5 the fight for GC seemed almost over already. Vingegaard dropped Pogacar on Col de Marie Blanque and took an advantage of more than a minute. The Slovenian wasn't impressed at all as he fought back the next day, dropping his Danish rival on Cauterets-Cambasque. He repeated that trick on the iconic Puy de Dôme and the Grand Colombier.

It all led into stage 16, a 22,4 km individual time trial from Passy to Combloux in which we witnessed an iconic moment. Vingegaard showed he knew every stone, every corner and every pothole on the course. He smashed his Slovenian competitor down with an advantage of 1'38". That day will go down as one of the greatest time trial performances in cycling history. The next day everyone expected Pogacar to knock back, but on Col de la Loze the fight was completely over. With the legendary words "That's it. I'm gone. I'm dead", Pogacar dropped from the group of favourites. The end of a supreme Tour de France GC battle.

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Moment of the season

We already mentioned it: Tadej Pogacar's attack on the Oude Kwaremont. It was a move every one expected him to make, but the way he did it was exceptional. Du jamais vu as the French would say. A Tour de France winner obliterating the high-class competition in this manner. We have never seen anyone ride the Oude Kwaremont that quickly. Question is, will we see the Slovenian back in action at Tour of Flanders next year?

Surprise of the season

Derek Gee. The Canadian who simply came out of nowhere. Before this year’s Giro d'Italia he was a complete stranger for most cycling fans. That soon changed after his breakaway performances! Going into the breakaway a total of 7 times and trying a solo attack on the last stage, Derek truly was the breakaway king riding 1045 km in front of the peloton. He was so close to achieving a famous grand tour win with four 2nd place finishes from those respective breakaways, but he stole a lot of cycling hearts with his attacking way of racing.

In our 2023 cycling season review podcast we discussed all of the topics mentioned above and we also handed out 10 awards to the women's peloton. Check it out!

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