Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) has been awarded the prestigious Vélo d'Or as the rider of the year, with Miguel Indurain, who won the first edition of the award in 1992, presenting him with the trophy on Friday.
The Vélo d'Or is awarded by French magazine Vélo to the rider their panel deems to have had the best season. Another trophy, the Vélo d'Or Français, is awarded to the best French rider of the season, and this year it went to Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ).
Valverde wins the award after becoming world champion last month. The Spaniard had finished on the podium on six occasions but he finally reached the top step in Innsbruck as he came over the Höll climb with Romain Bardet and Michael Woods and out-sprinted them in the run to the line.
Valverde didn't win either La Flèche Wallonne or Liège-Bastogne-Liège this year - the first time he's gone without a win in the Ardennes Classics since 2013 - but he did win every week-long stage race he entered, with the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, Abu Dhabi Tour, Volta a Catalunya, and La Route d'Occitanie. He finished 14th at the Tour de France after working for teammates Nairo Quintana and Mikel Landa, but went for the GC at the Vuelta a España, finishing fifth overall after slipping off the podium in a final-day slump.
Valverde ended the year as the top rider in the UCI's rolling ranking system, but missed out on the 2018 WorldTour crown to Simon Yates, with Peter Sagan also above him in second place.
Valverde was not present at the unveiling of the route for the 2019 Tour de France on Thursday, where the Vélo d'Or is usually handed out, but he received his trophy as the Movistar team gathered for a first pre-season meeting in Pamplona on Friday. There to hand over the award was fellow Spaniard Miguel Indurain, who won it in 1992 and 1993.
"It gives me great honour and pride to win the 2018 Vélo d'Or, and even more so to receive it from the great Miguel Indurain," Valverde said.
The Vélo d'Or Français went to Thibaut Pinot after a storming second half of the season that more than made up for the disappointments of the first.
The FDJ rider won the Tour of the Alps and was flying high at the Giro d'Italia, only to be struck by pneumonia on the final mountain stage, which not only wiped him out of the race but also forced him to miss the Tour de France. After recovering, Pinot claimed to stage wins at the Vuelta a España and finished sixth overall, before a sensational run at the Italian autumn classics, where he finished second at Tre Valli Varesine before winning Milano-Torino and then the big one at Il Lombardia - his first Monument.
"I'm very honoured to have been elected Vélo d'Or Français 2018," Pinot said. "Thanks to my team and my sponsors for their support."
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