Men’s Sprinter of the Year: Marcel Kittel
Yes, he looks like an actor from the front, that hair so perfectly styled and blond, that face carved from a block of stone.
But it’s his backside the sprinters are learning to get used to; they’ve seen a lot of Marcel Kittel from behind. After a monstrous campaign across France in July, Kittel is a star now, and one who looks the part.
“Four! I can’t believe it,” Kittel said after winning the final Tour de France stage this year. “It was a dream of mine to win on the Champs Élysées and now I’ve done it. I’m so proud — I started my sprint at 250 meters and pushed 1 million watts, and in the end, it was enough.”
Four, indeed. The big German wasn’t exactly a surprise — he’s been on the cusp of this sort of greatness for more than a year now — but any time any sprinter demonstrates control over Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) the way Kittel did, it’s a revelation. In fact, it’s not something the sport has seen happen since the Manx Missile exploded onto the scene.
Kittel won the Tour’s opening stage into Bastia and was rewarded with two things: his first win at the Tour, and a yellow jersey.
Much is made of rides through a season: who was there, who wasn’t there, who was training, who was injured, who was flying. But the Tour is the Tour; no one uses the Tour as a tune-up. That’s how the sport knows Kittel is the real thing. The German strongman gathered 16 wins this year, including stages at Paris-Nice, the tours of Oman and Turkey, and Scheldeprijs, and he won the overall at the Tour de Picardie.
He suffers on the hills terribly, but is so big and strong that it now appears that any time the road is flat into the finish, Cavendish and the rest will have one-million-watt competition.
Women’s Sprinter of the Year: Giorgia Bronzini
No one can close a stage quite like Giorgia Bronzini. The Italian stuck with the thinning peloton during the first stage of this year’s Route de France, while riders dropped off the back, as the women entered the 3.5km finishing circuit. With 150 meters to go, Bronzini opened her sprint and took the win by a bike length. Her form perfect, Bronzini again dominated the bunch sprint on stage 2, and the day after that on stage 3. For the next three days, Bronzini repeated her performance, finishing the Route de France with six straight stage victories and setting a new record for consecutive stage wins in professional women’s cycling.
The world road champion in 2010 and 2011, Bronzini has been racing professionally for a decade and is one of the most experienced riders on the newly formed Wiggle Honda team. “I’m bringing experience, but also an Italian style. I like to stay in a team where the riders are relaxed and enjoy each other’s company,” Bronzini said.
The change has been positive for Bronzini, who took stage wins in seven of the nine stage races she started this season. With the strongest sprint in the women’s peloton and a solid team riding in her support, there’s reason to expect more incredible finishes from Bronzini.
Editor’s Note: Read about all of our award winners in the December 2013 issue of Velo, out now.