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Cyclingnews 2008 Reader Poll Results

Rider of the Year

Contador dominates polls, too

By Daniel Benson

From hot beach to cool pink: Alberto Contador made the most of the short notice Giro invite
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The votes have been counted and the results are in and we're pleased to announce Alberto Contador as the readers' rider of the year. The Spaniard took a whopping 42 percent of the vote and swash-buckled his way to overall titles at the Giro d' Italia, Vuelta España, Vuelta a Castilla y León and Vuelta País Vasco - all despite missing out on the chance to defend his Tour de France title in July.

In fact missing the Tour was perhaps a blessing in disguise for the 26-year-old, as instead of focusing on his number one goal, the Spaniard was able to spread his almost-unrivalled stage racing talent across the entire season. Success started early at the Vuelta Castilla y León, with Contador winning ahead of Mauricio Soler at Puerto de Collada de Salcedillo and sealing the overall in the process. The ball kept rolling at País Vasco, where he won the opening hilly stage and cemented his position at the top of the standings with a fine display against Damiano Cunego on the final stage, a time trial.

Contador's season didn't hit full throttle until a late invite to the Giro. Dropped in at the last moment – and disrupting a holiday in the process - no one knew how he or Astana would compete against an Italian onslaught from Ricco, Simoni and Di Luca. What played out was one of the most entertaining races of the season as Contador built his form slowly before twisting the knife and extinguishing any hope of a home win. It was Spain's first Giro win since Miguel Indurain in 1993.

Alberto Contador won the famous Angliru stage in the Vuelta a España
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Astana's July hiatus meant Contador could aim for a second Grand Tour at the Vuelta and this time there was no denying his status as the number one favourite. Carlos Sastre seemed preoccupied battling Bjarne Riis's while Alejandro Valverde decided that concentrating during flat stages wasn't important and lost contact with the leaders while removing a jacket at the back of the field. Contador's dominance and overall win elevated him to a select band of riders to win all three Grand Tours, including Jacques Anquetil, Felice Gimondi, Eddy Merckx and Bernhard Hinault.

So where does the sport's top Grand Tour rider go from here? Well, another shot at the Tour would be as good a place as any to start. That he'll line up in Monaco as the favourite shouldn't be a burden - his young shoulders are clearly strong enough to handle pressure from the media and his rivals. The biggest challenge for Contador could be the battle from within his team as he tries to exert his status on his Astana cohorts. Don't believe Lance Armstrong's softly, softly approach. Under those thin pretensions of humility is the simmering mindset of a champion, and if there's even a sniff of victory he'll fight tooth and nail for it.

Fabian Cancellara gets the great feeling of celebrating his time trial win in Beijing
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Back to the poll and for the second year in a row Fabian Cancellara took the runner-up spot. The Swiss maestro kicked off his winning run with wins at Monte Paschi Eroica and Tirreno-Adriatico, before an almost flawless performance at Milano- Sanremo. Cancellara, like Contador, remains a rider able to win throughout the season. Fast forward to July and he was instrumental in Carlos Sastre's Tour de France win, while his Olympic time trial victory and phenomenal performance in the road race a few days earlier (he took bronze) cemented him as your runner-up.

The final place on the podium went to Mark Cavendish. The sprinter won more races than any other professional in 2008 but his greatest achievements were undoubtedly his six stages in Grand Tours. A disappointing Olympics followed, but he's already setting his sights on raising the bar in 2009, with a crack at the Classics. If all goes to plan the young gun from the UK could be topping the poll this time next year.


                                                                                  Votes  %age
1 Alberto Contador                                                                 5100  42.23
2 Fabian Cancellara                                                                1868  15.47
3 Mark Cavendish                                                                   1477  12.23
4 Chris Hoy                                                                         758  6.28
5 Nicole Cooke                                                                      739  6.12
6 Carlos Sastre                                                                     709  5.87
7 Christian Vande Velde                                                             675  5.59
8 Alejandro Valverde                                                                241  2.00
9 Levi Leipheimer                                                                   225  1.86
10 Lars Boom                                                                        105  0.87
11 Samuel Sanchez                                                                    78  0.65
12 Bradley Wiggins                                                                   63  0.52
13 Judith Arndt                                                                      38  0.31

                                                                           Total: 12076