The 2019 season was one marked by the dominance of a select few big-name sprinters, with just five riders racking up 62 sprint wins between them, including 11 of the 19 sprint stages at the three Grand Tours.
Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Bora-Hansgrohe's Sam Bennett, Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal), Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) were the men in question, and they fill out our top-five spots this year.
For comparison's sake, the next 15-best sprinters in our ranking have won 23 WorldTour sprints between them – just over half of the big five's total of 40.
We've tweaked our ranking formula since last year's list, giving more weight to the Tour de France over the other Grand Tours, and also adding points for riders who placed in the top five at each race.
As this is a sprinters' ranking, only sprint finishes count towards the results, so time trial results and various end-of-race classifications didn't come into the equation, and, as an example, neither did Matteo Trentin's Tour breakaway win, or Mathieu van der Poel's Amstel Gold Race triumph. You can view the points table below.
In the end, the method didn't make much of a difference for the top spot. Caleb Ewan is our top sprinter of 2019 regardless. The Australian tops the list with a whopping 2,420 points thanks to his five stage victories across the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France, as well as consistent performances throughout the rest of the WorldTour calendar.
Read on to find out who made the cut in Cyclingnews' top 10 sprinters of 2019.
|Race/race category||Points for 1st||Points for 2nd||Points for 3rd||Points for 4th||Points for 5th|
|Tour de France||250||125||75||50||25|
|Vuelta a España||150||80||40||20||10|
1. Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) 2,420 points, 10 wins
Change from 2018: Up seven places
Going by the win totals, top sprinter of the year looked a close-run thing, but the quality of races that Ewan won in 2019 set him apart from the rest of the pack. In a year that saw no other sprinter win more than two Grand Tour stages, the Australian took two at the Giro and then grabbed another three at the Tour, which was surprisingly his debut at the race.
The 25-year-old, in his first year at Lotto Soudal, was consistent from January to September, taking 22 WorldTour podium places, including three further wins at the level at the Tour of Turkey and the UAE Tour.
It was only a series of near-misses during the first half of the Tour de France that prevented this ranking from being a complete walkover for Ewan. He was boxed in on stage 1, suffered a lead-out snafu on stage 4, and then missed out by millimetres on the uphill finish of stage 10. A couple of twists of luck the other way and Ewan's 2019 Tour could've been one to rival those of Kittel and Cavendish.
Nonetheless, Ewan is still our top sprinter of the 2019 season. The next job is to continue his good work into 2020, a task made tougher by the few sprint opportunities on offer at the Tour.
2. Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-QuickStep) 1,957 points, 11 wins
Down one place
The Italian sprinter's 2019 campaign didn't quite live up to last year, when he took 17 victories, among them seven Grand Tour stages. However, he kept the quality this time around, winning nine WorldTour races, down one from 2018.
Largely frustrating campaigns at the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France – he finished second five times across the two races – did, however, result in his first-ever Tour stage victory. Elsewhere, wins at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, the RideLondon Classic and Cyclassics Hamburg showed he could get it done against high-quality fields in one-day events.
The Italian national champion's jersey won last year has been replaced by that of the European Championships he won in August, although as he won from a three-man break, the points don't make the cut for our ranking.
Viviani is on the move next season, leaving Deceuninck-QuickStep after two successful years to head to French team Cofidis. In recent years, sprinters have typically not fared too well upon leaving the Belgian squad, although the French team look to have already set him up for success by bringing in lead-out men Fabio Sabatini and Simone Consonni – plus Viviani's brother Attilio – for 2020.
3. Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) 1,936 points, 13 wins
Up two places
Sneaking into third place by a tiny margin, Ackermann has enjoyed a year to remember as he took his first Grand Tour stage victories at the Giro d'Italia. With four other riders from our top 10 on the start list, his triumphs in Fucecchio and Terracina were quality wins, too.
Other WorldTour wins came at Eschborn-Frankfurt, the Tour de Pologne (twice) and the Tour of Guangxi (also twice). It should be noted, however, that 10 of his 13 wins came with Ewan, Viviani, Bennett and Groenewegen in absentia.
In Guangxi, Ackermann told Cyclingnews that he still didn't consider himself among the best sprinters in the world – a modest claim following his impressive 2019 campaign.
The affable German just about established himself as the top sprinter at Bora-Hansgrohe, jumping above Bennett by a handful of points in our ranking. But with three of the world's leading fast-men piled into one team this year, Ackermann wasn't able to add to his GT-stage-win tally past the Giro.
That could all change for next season, with Sam Bennett leaving for pastures new. There's no doubt, then, that there'll be more room for manouevre in 2020.
4. Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) 1,932 points, 13 wins
Down one place
Lying just 25 points away from second place on our ranking, it's clear that Bennett has had a great 2019 – inarguably his best season yet. The Irishman kicked off the year with stage wins against strong sprint fields at the UAE Tour and Paris-Nice, later going on to grab more at the Tour of Turkey and BinckBank Tour.
Bennett also became Irish road race national champion along the way, and showed versatility with victories on the flat and on tougher, uphill finishes. In contrast, missing out on selection for the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France will have been understandably disappointing, and it was these decisions that have helped in part to drive the 29-year-old away from Bora next season, with a heavily-rumoured move to Deceuninck-QuickStep in the pipeline.
He did get his chance at the final Grand Tour of the season, however, picking up two stage victories in Spain. Bennett is now undoubtedly among the sprinting elite, although of his 13 wins, five came in a sprint field consisting of just one of the other 'big five' of 2019, and five against lesser-ranked competition.
That's partly due to his calendar, of course, and there's no doubt that Bennett will be relishing the chance to pick his schedule and preferred targeted races in 2020. A Tour de France return could even be on the cards, even with a lack of sprint stages on offer.
5. Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) 1,727 points, 15 wins
Down one place
Groenewegen is the last member of our 'big five'. With 15 wins on the board, he's the most successful of our top-ranked riders, although 10 of those victories came outside of the WorldTour.
Once again, he went to the Tour de France as Jumbo-Visma's main sprinter, and once again Groenewegen delivered, taking a stage win ahead of Ewan on the uphill finish in Chalon-sur-Saône, as well as grabbing three other podium finishes.
Two stage wins to open Paris-Nice, where he beat Ewan and Bennett, were other 2019 highlights, as was his other WorldTour victory at the Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne.
The 26-year-old has extended his contract with the Dutch squad for three more years – a sign of the confidence and trust he and the team have in one another. He's still progressing, too, he says.
That's borne out in the numbers as he's moved from one WorldTour win in his first year with Jumbo, to two in 2017, and then four in each of the past two seasons. With the team improving alongside him, there could be more to come in 2020.
Head to head
Our top five sprinters of 2019 all collected their victories and ranking points in very different races – and in very different places. We've analysed the race days of each rider, where they took their victories, and who they beat in the sprints.
In the match-ups, things were surprisingly even, with each rider holding their own against one another throughout the long season. Ewan and Viviani shared the most race days at 50 (from a total of 70 for Ewan, and 82 for Viviani), with the Italian's early-season wins seeing him come out on top, despite Ewan winning the Grand Tour battle, 5-1.
At the other end of the scale, it's notable how the two Bora-Hansgrohe men populate the bottom of our table, with Bennett's 22 race days against Ewan (21 before April) the most either man came up against the trio who raced the Tour.
The pair's absence at the July race is the primary cause of this, with both following alternate calendars as Peter Sagan headed to France. Bennett's departure from Bora next year should see this change, with both him and Ackermann likely to have more calendar freedom.
With only two head-to-head match-ups between Ackermann and Bennett in 2019 (both in national-team colours), we'll also get a chance to see how they fare against each other next year.
In terms of total race days shared with the other four men, the final tallies are: Ewan on 121, Viviani on 103, Groenewegen on 81, Bennett on 51 and Ackermann on 44.
|Rider combinations||Shared race days||Major Races||Head to head wins|
|Ewan & Viviani||50||Tour Down Under (6), UAE (7), Milan-San Remo (1), Giro (12), Tour (21)||6 - 7|
|Ewan & Groenewegen||33||Paris-Nice (7), Tour de France (21)||3 - 3|
|Viviani & Groenewegen||24||Tour de France (21), Euros (1)||2 - 3|
|Bennett & Ewan||22||UAE (7), Paris-Nice (7), Milan-San Remo (1)||5 - 3|
|Ewan & Ackermann||16||Giro d'Italia (12)||3 - 3|
|Viviani & Ackermann||16||Gent-Wevelgem (1), Giro d'Italia (12), Euros (1)||2 - 2|
|Bennett & Groenewegen||14||Paris-Nice (7), Euros (1), BinckBank Tour (6)||5 - 2|
|Bennett & Viviani||13||UAE (7), Milan-San Remo (1), Tour de Romandie (4)||1 - 3|
|Ackermann & Groenewegen||10||Volta ao Algarve (5), Euros (1)||0 - 2|
|Bennett & Ackermann||2||Euros (1), Worlds (1)||0 - 0|
For more context on how the five men took their wins, we've looked at how many of the 'big five' were in the peloton when each man won. The results are quite enlightening, with Ackermann proving the master of winning while the rest were elsewhere. The German picked up 10 of his 13 victories in races without Ewan, Viviani, Bennett or Ackermann present.
Ewan, meanwhile, seemed to save his best for the races with most competition, taking four wins when up against one of the elite five, and winning his remaining six races when he had two of the men to contend with.
|Rider Name||Alone||vs 1||vs 2||vs 3|
6th - 10th
6. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) 1,457 points, 4 wins
Down four places
2019 wasn't quite the year Peter Sagan has grown accustomed to, with four victories, in contrast to the 14, 12 and eight he's grabbed in the previous three seasons.
A seventh Tour de France green jersey was the biggest prize of the year, although he was consistent throughout, taking 17 podium places from the Tour Down Under through to the GP Québec.
It's this consistency that sees him retain his high spot in our rankings, while the wins he did take were high quality. First up there was an uphill finish Down Under, then his 17th stage win at the now-defunct Tour of California. He then beat Viviani at the Tour de Suisse, and a Tour de France stage win – the 12th of his career – came on a punchy stage to Colmar.
There was disappointment at his main goals of the season, with the 29-year-old 'only' finishing fourth, fifth and fifth at Milan-San Remo, Paris-Roubaix and the World Championships road race in Yorkshire.
Next season will see a big change for the 29-year-old, as he shakes up his regular calendar to take on the Giro d'Italia for the first time. It remains to be seen how he'll juggle his peaks at the May race, the spring Classics and the Tour, although a change of tack might be just what he needs to get back to his best – not that 2019 was a bad year, of course.
7. Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) 1,080 points, 6 wins
Down one place
It was an injury-plagued campaign for the Colombian, who suffered a knee injury after a crash on the track early in the year. Despite victory on stage 3 of the Giro d'Italia after Viviani's relegation, the injury meant he couldn't stick around past the first week of the race, and wouldn't hit the road in anger again until August's Tour de Pologne.
There were several false starts in the interim, with Gaviria attempting to make it to the Tour de France before his knee put paid to that idea. After two runner-up spots in Poland, the 25-year-old went on to complete the Vuelta a España – a good sign of his recovery from injury.
More confirmation came at the season-ending Tour of Guangxi in China, where he twice beat Ackermann and Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott) to take his first wins since May. It was these victories, along with some strong early-season performances at the Vuelta a San Juan and UAE Tour, that helped him hang on to a top-10 spot in 2019.
He'll be hoping for a lot more luck in 2020, when his ex-lead-out man and close friend Maximiliano Richeze moves from Deceuninck-QuickStep to join him at UAE. The Argentine is 36 now, but if the two can rekindle the partnership they had at the Belgian squad, there's no doubt that Gaviria will have shot back up the rankings by this time next year.
8. Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-QuickStep) 926 points, 7 wins
Still just 23, the Dutchman leaps up into our top 10 this year after doubling his career tally with seven victories, including four at WorldTour level. In his sophomore season with Deceuninck-QuickStep, Jakobsen got better and better, and ended up with his first two Grand Tour stage victories to his name.
A repeat at Scheldeprijs came early in the season, before wins at the Tour of Turkey (against Bennett and Ewan) and the Tour of California (against Sagan) saw him build on a strong early season, in which he also grabbed two Paris-Nice podiums.
In June, he took the tricolor stripes at the Dutch National Championships, and then, two months later, beat Sam Bennett not once but twice at the Vuelta a España. Both were photo finishes, with Jakobsen enjoying the strength of the Deceuninck-QuickStep lead out in El Puig and Madrid.
The Spanish race was his first Grand Tour, and taking a win at the end of three weeks was an impressive achievement. The sense, then, is that there's still a lot more to come from Jakobsen, and that he's on the right team to keep developing. He has the best lead-out in the sport to help him, and, pretty soon, he might just have his Vuelta-rival Bennett to learn from.
9. Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) 827 points, 5 wins
Down two places
It has felt like something of a quiet year for the 2016 Milan-San Remo winner. The Frenchman had five wins on the board in 2019, but only one came at WorldTour level, all the way back in May at the Giro d'Italia.
After a couple of podium places, he broke through in Modena, outsprinting Viviani, Ewan and the rest to take his first Giro stage win, later calling Pascal Ackermann "arrogant" after a mid-race argument.
Other wins came at La Route d'Occitanie (two), the Tour de Wallonie and Tour of Slovakia, but it was mostly his Giro – where he took five top five placings – that boosted Démare up our rankings.
What's on the menu for 2020 is as-yet unclear, although another crack at Milan-San Remo looks certain. Earlier this year he proclaimed that he'll win there again one day. After a 2019 season spent under the radar, maybe next year will be his time for a repeat on the Ligurian coast.
10. Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) 803 points, 7 wins
Finally, we come to our only non-mover in the top 10: the steady Alexander Kristoff. It has been an up-and-down season for the Norwegian, but he's grabbed a fair few wins along the way and made it back to 10th place.
Gent-Wevelgem was the high point – winning a bunch sprint at the end of the 250-kilometre race was typical Kristoff style, and the result added to what is now an impressive collection of Classics. Along with Gent-Wevelgem, there's Flanders 2015, San Remo 2014, Ouest France 2015, Vattenfall 2014, plus four titles at Eschborn-Frankfurt.
The big one – Paris-Roubaix escaped him once again though. This time, it was a decision to race on tubeless tyres that proved his undoing. Three months later, there was more bad luck as a new sports drink took the blame for UAE's disappointing Tour de France performances. Though the team has denied it was the problem.
Kristoff took a second place there, behind Viviani in Nancy, but would return to winning ways before the season's end. Stage wins at the Deutschland Tour and Tour of Slovakia were added to triumphs earlier in the season at the GP Canton d'Argovie and the Tours of Oman and Norway.
All in all then, it was a good season for the 32-year-old, despite two major letdowns along the way. While not a pure sprinter racking up a dozen wins like some on this list, the speed is still there at the end of a hard day in the saddle. Another bite of the apple at those spring Classics he loves so much beckons in 2020.
|#||Rider Name (Team) Points|
|11||Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team) 737 points|
|12||Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott) 687 points|
|13||Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) 645 points|
|14||Bryan Coquard (Vital Concept-B&B Hotels) 580 points|
|15||Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) 565 points|
|16||Mike Teunissen (Jumbo-Visma) 515 points|
|17||Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus) 490 points|
|18||Álvaro Hodeg (Deceuninck-QuickStep) 488 points|
|19||Eduard Michael Grosu (Delko Provence Marseille) 484 points|
|20||Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) 476 points|
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Daniel Ostanek has been a staff writer at Cyclingnews since August 2019, having joined in 2017 as a freelance contributor and later part-time production editor. Before Cyclingnews, he was published in numerous publications around the cycling world, including Procycling, CyclingWeekly, CyclingTips, Cyclist, and Rouleur, among others. As well as reporting and writing news and features, Daniel runs the 'How to watch' content throughout the season.
Daniel has reported from the world's top races, including the Tour de France, and has interviewed a number of the sport's biggest stars, including Egan Bernal, Wout van Aert, Remco Evenepoel, Mark Cavendish, and Anna van der Breggen. Daniel rides a 2002 Landbouwkrediet Colnago C40 and his favourite races are Strade Bianche and the Vuelta a España.
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