Back in the 1990s, the big reveal was a simple affair. The identity of the winner of the Vélo d’Or was revealed on the newsstands, when the year’s final edition of Vélo Magazine would go on sale featuring a cover photograph of the laureate dressed in a suit and clutching his trophy.
In 1998, Tour de France winner Marco Pantani created a minor stir when he opted against formal attire for the cover shoot, but given the low-key nature of the prizegiving, his decision to dress down for the occasion was an understandable one. In the years that followed, the convention of the winner uncomfortably donning a dickie bow on the cover of Vélo Magazine quietly disappeared.
There ought to be a little more pomp in Paris on Tuesday evening, however, when the 2023 winners are revealed during the first formal awards ceremony in the 31-year history of the Vélo d’Or.
The event will take place at the Pavillon Gabriel, just off the Champs-Élysées, with Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault on hand as guests of honour.
There have been attempts at formality in the past – Chris Froome received his 2017 award on stage at the Tour presentation – but this extended ceremony has been organised with the obvious aim of making the Vélo d’Or presentation an event in the manner of football’s Balon d’Or, which is run by Vélo’s sister title France Football.
The timing, on the eve of the 2024 Tour de France route presentation, should ensure that a sizeable amount of the nominees – and, presumably, the eventual winners – will be on hand in Paris for the occasion, which features a number of new prizes.
When the Vélo d’Or was inaugurated in 1992, there was an overall award and an additional category for French riders. Miguel Indurain was the first winner, with Laurent Jalabert picking up the local prize.
In 1995, Jalabert became the first man to win both prizes in the same year, while in 2000, Felicia Ballanger became the first – and only – female recipient of the Vélo d’Or Français.
Lamentably, women’s cycling remained largely ignored by the Vélo d’Or until last year, when Annemiek van Vleuten became the first winner of the new Vélo d’Or Femmes.
Van Vleuten is again among the nominees in 2023, but the clear favourites for the prize are the SD Worx duo of Tour de France Femmes winner Demi Vollering and world champion Lotte Kopecky. The other nominees are Elisa Longo Borghini, Alison Jackson, Juliette Labous, Katarzyna Niewiadoma, Gaia Realini, Marlen…