The world’s most revered cyclists were recently rated by VeloNews and Bora-Hansgrohe’s Peter Sagan topped the list. It is what the sport desperately needs, according to legendary commentator Phil Liggett.
“The VeloNews survey named the current crop of the best riders in the world of cycling – not just with the legs, but also with the personality and persona,” he told In the Bunch during an interview for a segment on the next In the Bunch show episode that airs on Friday.
“Sagan, after the Tour of Flanders, became the world number one cyclist as well as being – for the third year – the world road-race champion, so he’s most definitely at the top.”
Liggett felt the choice was correct not just because Sagan was the world champion, but also because he was such an entertaining bike rider.
“The public wants to see him and the sport desperately needs an icon like Sagan right now.
“On occasions when I’ve interviewed him or spoken to him privately, he’s never ever said ‘I can’t be bothered now’, or ‘I’m in a hurry’,” said Liggett.
“I’ve asked him for autographs for young children away from the country I’ve been in, [and he would say] ‘no problem, give me the hat, give me the jersey’. He’s just a genuine guy that people can attach to.”
Cyclists were rated (with the help of a group of mystery experts) on the value they bring to the sport as well as their results, marketability, social following and teamwork.
Sagan, who recently won the 80th Gent-Wevelgem one-day classic, took top spot on every list received from the voters and was named the most valuable rider in the peloton.
Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde completed the podium. His impressive palmarès include four Liège-Bastogne-Liège titles, five La Flèche Wallonne wins, a Vuelta a España overall victory and nine stages, as well as two Critérium du Dauphiné titles.
“I have a lot of admiration for Valverde because of that terrible crash last year in the Tour de France,” said Liggett. “I thought his career was finished, yet he’s having the most amazing start to the year. I think as we speak he has had eight victories.
“He is a man in my book who has fought his way back. His management team said only the other day that if Alejandro wants to do it, he will do it.
“You can’t say he is a man to win the Tour de France or he’s a man to win a one-day classic. He decides what he wants to do and he goes out and tries to win it, whatever the type of bike race.”
Liggett felt Sagan and Valverde were the best names and the sport needed them right now.
“They’re very much needed because of the problems we have got within the sport which we’ve had for many years, let’s face it.”
Fourth on the list was Bahrain-Merida’s Vincenzo Nibali, who has won all three grand tours – Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and Vuelta a España.
The top five most valuable riders are:
1. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe): Results (5/5); Marketability (5/5); Teamwork: (5/5)
2. Chris Froome (Team Sky): Results (5/5); Marketability (5/5); Teamwork: (4/5)
3. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar): Results (5/5); Marketability (4/5); Teamwork: (5/5)
4. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida): Results (5/5); Marketability (5/5); Teamwork: (4/5)
5. Greg van Avermaet (BMC Racing): Results (5/5); Marketability (4/5); Teamwork: (4/5)