Editor’s note: The January 2013 issue of Velo magazine, which is on newsstands now, is our 25th annual awards issue. Our 2012 Cyclist of the Year was announced on November 29; we’ll be rolling out various other award winners throughout the month of December.
Domestic Men’s Stage Racer of the Year: Francisco Mancebo
It is fitting that in the first year since USA Cycling cut criteriums from the National Racing Calendar, the most consistent rider on the circuit would earn Velo’s domestic stage racer of the year award.
It’s true that Spaniard Francisco Mancebo (Competitive Cyclist) won only two major U.S. stage races in 2012 — Arkansas’ Joe Martin Stage Race and Oregon’s Cascade Classic. It’s also true that breakthrough riders Phil Gaimon (Kenda-5-hour Energy) and Joe Dombrowski (Bontrager-Livestrong) beat the Spaniard at the Redlands Classic and SRAM Tour of the Gila — both races Mancebo won during his remarkable 2011 campaign that also included wins at Cascade and the Tour de Beauce.
That said, Mancebo, 36, nearly doubled the tally of Gila winner Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare) on NRC points and, at fifth overall, Gaimon was the next true stage racer in the standings, more than 525 points behind Mancebo. When he wasn’t winning, he was close to it, springing overall podiums at Redlands and Gila and winning stages at Beauce and Joe Martin.
Regardless of what you make of his past — and like many European pros who raced in the 2000s, Mancebo has a dubious past — there is no rider in the U.S. who impacts stage races when he toes the line the way he does. In the States in 2012, Mancebo was the best there was on a week-in, week-out basis.
Domestic Women’s Stage Racer of the Year: Carmen Small
What’s most impressive about Carmen Small’s 2012 season is not the number of NRC podiums she reached, but the fact that she stood on the top step of all four disciplines on the calendar.
At the Joe Martin Stage Race, the 32-year-old Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies rider took a road race win and finished the weekend second on general classification. At the SRAM Tour of the Gila, she took the win in the criterium, and again was second on GC. Further north in Minnesota, Small stormed away with the time trial and took the Nature Valley yellow jersey.
Small’s most impressive performance was at the national road championship. While she didn’t take home a stars and stripes jersey from any of the three events, she finished third on two occassions, and fourth in the time trial. Then, to top it off, she won the Cascade Classic criterium, once again finishing second on GC. Most recently, the cyclocross rookie reached the top-10 twice at the USGP of Cyclocross in Fort Collins, and finished second at the Boulder Cup UCI ’cross event, beaten only by Georgia Gould.
That type of consistency does not go unnoticed. In 2013, Small is graduating from the top NRC team to one of the top women’s squads in the world, Specialized-lululemon.
Men’s Crit Racer of the Year: Ken Hanson
Though he’s been trying to shed the label of “crit racer” for years now, Ken Hanson shows no sign of easing up on victories. Despite taking a stars and stripes jersey and numerous podium appearances on the NRC/NCC stage this year, what Hanson really wants is to race abroad in the big leagues.
Stateside, Hanson got consistently faster throughout the season. Though he won races internationally all season long, the 30-year-old didn’t bag his first North American win until the first day of the St. Francis Tulsa Tough weekend, where he took two second place finishes and the omnium title. He continued his streak with a win at the Manhattan Beach Gran Prix, just three weeks before the climax of his season — a win at the national criterium championship.
Hanson is looking forward to bigger and longer races, however. He claimed the King of the Mountain jersey at the UCI 2.2 Tour de Beauce this year, a title he chose to dedicate to his late father.
Hanson sees that as a taste of what’s to come. “I would like an opportunity to do the bigger races and the classic one-days, like Flanders and Roubaix.”
A strong sprinter who can also climb well, Hanson just might have what it takes to succeed on the circuits of Europe.