They say it's the taking part that counts, but bike racing is about more than showing up. Daring to grab the race and take a chance, riding with style, fighting with passion; these are the qualities we reward with our annual recognition of Panache. For the past eight years we have honoured riders who have produced the most stunning moments of the calendar, from the cobbles of the Kwaremont to the ascent of Angliru. We asked some of our friends for their picks from 2017.
Let us know yours using #panache2017.
Nominated by Juan Antonio Flecha (former pro and Eurosport presenter)
Surprise, surprise. The peloton's puncheur performer rode with panache in 2017. But for all his headline grabbing moments this year, it is his second place in Milan–San Remo that earns Sagan a mention. "He rode an exciting finale from the top of the Poggio to the finish line," TV's Flecha explains. "Instead of waiting for the final sprint, he took the risk of going on the attack. He lost La Classicissima but delivered an everlasting show."
OVO Energy Tour of Britain, Stage One
Nominated by Elena Cecchini (Canyon//SRAM Racing)
Rolling to the start line in her Polish national champion skinsuit and with just one gel for the long 150km stage ahead, Niewiadoma drew sceptical glances from Canyon//SRAM’s Elena Cecchini. “I told her that she’d need more gels, to which she said: ‘oh, but it’s just going to be a boring, flat stage today’.” Whether bluffing or not, Niewiadoma rode off the front with 47km to go. “No one followed her because we all thought ‘she’s totally crazy and she’ll never make it alone,” says Cecchini. The WM3 rider did make it – almost two minutes ahead of the pack, with enough of a buffer to win the general classification four days later too.
Tour de Suisse, Stage Four
Nominated by Andy Fenn (Aqua Blue Sport)
Warbasse had been hunting for his first win as a professional for years, starting the 2017 season with that elusive victory as his primary aim. On the fourth day in the Tour of Switzerland, a lumpy ride from Bern up to Villars-sur-Ollon, the American made the break. "Warbasse attacked on his own on the final climb," explains his team mate Andy Fenn. "He was the only rider from the break to hold off the main peloton, crossing the finish line the best way possible – solo. A guy who always tries and never gives up."
Nominated by Tiffany Cromwell (Canyon//SRAM Racing)
Among the classics of the cyclocross calendar, the Belgian Druivencross is notoriously difficult; steep and muddy climbs, unpassable descents, impossible corners. It is even more difficult if it's your second cross race in 18 months." Ferrand-Prévot started at the back of the grid," Cromwell explains. "She fought her way through the pack, passing her competitors one by one. She crossed the line solo, with her arms in the air, having left all of her competitors behind."
Tirreno–Adriatico, Stage Two
Nominated by Simon Mottram (Rapha Founder & CEO)
The Welshman's season didn't go as planned and early baths at the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France were made even more disappointing by the promise of early season performances. The second stage of Tirreno–Adriatico was one such showing. Team Sky had lost time in the team time trial the day earlier and Thomas rode fearlessly toward Pomarance. With 224km already in his legs and five more to go, he attacked with Bob Jungels tucked in his wheel. But even Maglia Rosa-wearer Jungels couldn't hold G's pace. He drifted away, winning by nine seconds and punching the air across the line.
UCI Downhill World Cup Canada
Nominated by James Fairbank (Rapha Head of Brand)
Panache comes in all shapes and sizes, and on any width of tire. At the Downhill World Cup on Mont-Sainte-Anne, a ski resort outside Quebec, it could be found in droves. Gwin took four minutes and 18 seconds to descend the mountain in torrential rain, taking victory by less than a second and challenging the laws of physics at every turn. Inside lines, two wheel drifts, and scary speeds in the straights, all with a complete disregard for the conditions – Gwin’s ride will go down in history.
Ronde van Vlaanderen
Nominated by Brendan Quirk (Rapha President – North America)
Following a crash that took down the chasing group of Peter Sagan, Oliver Naesen and Greg Van Avermaet, cycling fans questioned whether Philippe Gilbert would have stayed away to the finish line solo. It matters not: Gilbert, resplendent in his Belgian national champ jersey, had attacked on the Kwaremont with a mind-boggling 55km to go. Roared all the way home, the Boar of the Ardennes topped his first Flanders win with something truly special: a walk over the line, bike aloft. Pure panache, but no lemonade in this Belgian's beer.
National Circuit Championships
Nominated by Tom McMullen (Rapha Communications Manager)
Hailed in not-so-hushed tones as the great hope for the future of British racing, Pidcock has been turning heads throughout the season. Scattered among the upstart’s wins this year was a ride of serious panache at the National Circuit Championships in Sheffield. Competing against much bigger men, the 17-year-old hit the front with a kilometre still to race and rode with so much skill that none of the chasing pack had the watts to come past him. To watch Pidcock pedal round that final corner is to witness the daring of youth in its purest state.
Elisa Longo Borghini
Nominated by Harry Dowdney (Rapha Content Manager)
The chalky gravel of the Strade Bianche is rarely raced without drama. A legendary course and opener to the UCI Women’s WorldTour season, the 2017 edition was no different. Longo Borghini, riding for Wiggle High5, broke from the fracturing peloton with five others on the seventh of eight dirt sections. She had already crashed once, forcing a bike change before chasing back on. Heading into Siena, the dangerous duo of Lucinda Brand and Shara Gillow caught and flew past the lead group. But the Italian kept her cool, reeling them in and dropping everyone on the final devastating 18% climb up to the piazza.
La Vuelta a España, Stage 20
Nominated by Stuart Downie (Rapha Copywriter)
Love him or loathe him, Alberto Contador will be missed in the mountains. El Pistolero had spent most of his last race scattergun attacking without success. But he saved his final bullet for the hardest climb of them all: the Alto de l'Angliru. Barrelling down the treacherous, wet descent off the penultimate climb, he showed the bravery and heart of a champion with one last rain dance up the Angliru to win solo. How do you say panache in Spanish?
Tour de France, Stage 15
Nominated by Jack Saunders (Rapha Art Director)
Our final Panache nomination goes to the entire AG2R team for their coup d’attaque on Stage 15 of the Tour. Suddenly massing at the front with 40km to go, the brown and blues drilled such a fearsome pace that yellow jersey Chris Froome was dropped. With the big bad Belgian Oliver Naesen leading the charge, Froome was 45 seconds behind at one point. But Team Sky rallied and their leader made it back to the front. AG2R’s ambush attempt had failed, but we applaud their daring. At least they tried, unlike everyone else.