For the second year running, Marianne Vos (Rabobank Women) has taken out the title of Female Road Rider of the Year in Cyclingnews' annual reader poll. And what a season it was for the Dutchwoman who could easily be considered the best rider - male or female - in 2012, adding further ammunition to the claim that Vos is one of the greatest cyclists in history.
Vos' season got off to a rocky start with a broken collarbone in May, but she was back in time for the Giro Donne where she was simply dominant, repeating her performance from 2011.
Vos came out swinging on stage 1 with a sprint victory over American Shelley Olds (AA Drink-Leontien.nl), and immediately followed this with a time trial win by five seconds over Clara Hughes (Specialized-lululemon).
While she conceded half a minute and her maglia rosa to Evelyn Stevens on stage 3, Vos rebounded, using her superior descending skills and new found strength on the finishing climb to Montecatini Alto on the following day to reclaim a lead she would then never relinquish.
After regaining the pink jersey, Vos went on to win two more stages and come second on the final stage to Swedish champion Emma Johansson to secure her victory by a stunning 3:27 margin over Emma Pooley with Stevens in third at 6:32.
Vos would then claim her second Olympic gold medal - her first on the road having won the points race at the Beijing Games in 2008 - with an emotional victory on The Mall in London. The 140km event came down to a battle of three: Vos, Lizzie Armitstead (Great Britain) and Olga Zabelinskaya (Russia). Armitstead and Vos would contest the sprint with the former arguably faster but it was the strongest rider who would prevail with Zabelinskaya two seconds in arrears.
"After Beijing, [taking the Olympic road title] was the only thing on my mind for four years," said Vos. "Now it's happened, it's incredible. The gold is mine."
The undoubted highlight was still to come - a World Championship on home soil. Having finished as runner-up since 2007 after her first victory in 2006 as a neo-pro, if anyone was due to step into a rainbow jersey, it was Vos. Thirty-seconds in arrears of a lead group of five riders with around two laps remaining in the 129km race, Vos made her move with Italian Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy) and it was clear that only this handful of riders could decide the 2012 World Championship. Vos and Dutch teammate Anna Van der Breggen would test out the group on the penultimate time up the Cauberg, a warning shot of what was to come.
"I knew how having the jersey felt from a long time ago, but I almost forgot after 2006," a delighted Vos said afterwards. "But this year has been very special, after the Olympics I focused really hard on this. I felt good and knew I had to profit from that."
Profit she did and as the finish line loomed up ahead, Vos accelerated at the steepest point on the Cauberg and never looked back, sealing an impressive and emphatic victory. Australia's Rachel Neylan claimed silver while Longo Borghini took bronze.
"I waited till the speed was high and then I just made that attack," Vos said following her win. "Of course it helps when you have done the Cauberg 100,000 times before, so I did this at the hardest spot and knew I could do this (keep the pace going) to the top then there was 'only' a kilometre and a half to go at the top. I say 'only' because there was a headwind and it was pretty hard actually."
Twenty-four victories; UCI rankings and World Cup leader; Olympic Champion; World Champion. This was the year that belonged to Vos.
Second place in the reader poll went to last year's winner Olympic Time Trial Champion, Kristin Armstrong. The American came back to cycling after some time out, with the prime focus on securing a repeat of her gold medal in the chrono at the Beijing Olympic Games.
Next best in the poll, was another American Evelyn Stevens who made up for her disappointment in missing out on a ride in the time trial for the Olympic Games with a silver medal in the individual time trial and gold in the team time trial with trade team Specialized-lululemon.
|10||Linda Melanie Villumsen||0.5%|
Total: 28,185 total votes