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Cyclingnews 2008 Reader Poll Results

Most improved rider

Vande Velde: Coming back for more

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor

Christian Vande Velde during the Tour's final TT
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Garmin-Chipotle had a remarkable season in 2008, stepping up to the big time and then taking some big swings–including on the sport's biggest stage, the Tour de France. If Cyclingnews were to give a most improved award to a team, it would be it. So it is no surprise that more than half of you voted for one of its leaders, Christian Vande Velde, to be the most improved rider.

The Midwest boy that has long been tapped as a 'next hope' for American cycling has always had obstacles and bad luck in his way preventing a truly breakthrough performance. But that changed July 14 on the ascent to Hautacam, when Vande Velde showed he had the potential to not only hang with the best, but is himself one of the best.

Though he finished tenth on the stage, the company he kept was impressive and the rider eventually finished fourth overall in the Tour thanks to a podium finish in the final time trial. At the team's recent presentation in November, he admitted to the crowd that he "could have gone faster and made it harder!" and then assured the crowd that he would not let that happen again.

Christian Vande Velde in the Tour of Missouri
Photo ©: Mitch Clinton
(Click for larger image)

Vande Velde did claim an overall title in 2008 with the win at the Tour of Missouri.

Though very far behind first, it was a close race for second place between CSC's Carlos Sastre and Columbia's Kim Kirchen. But winning a little race called the Tour de France must have helped Sastre gain the 0.2 percent advantage. The Spaniard's second place in the Tour's mountain's classification and a third overall in the Vuelta a España rounded out an impressive season.

Kirchen also wore the Maillot Jaune in the Tour for four stages, finishing eighth overall. His biggest win of the season, and likely his career to date, had to be the rain-soaked Classic La Flèche Wallonne.


                                                                                  Votes   %age
1 Christian Vande Velde                                                            6147  53.39
2 Carlos Sastre                                                                    1428  12.40
3 Kim Kirchen                                                                      1405  12.20
4 Philippe Gilbert                                                                  782   6.79
5 Andre Greipel                                                                     632   5.49
6 Dan Martin                                                                        390   3.39
7 Chris Anker Sorensen                                                              243   2.11
8 Matti Breschel                                                                    237   2.06
9 Enrico Gasparotto                                                                 106   0.92
10 Yuri Trofimov                                                                     73   0.63
11 Jurgen  Roelandts                                                                 70   0.61
                                                                           Total: 11513