Naturally, every year there are riders in the peloton who try to get back on track after a difficult year. This may be due to all kinds of things, such as injuries, a dip in form or personal circumstances. The nominees in this category for 2023 are Milan Vader, Laurens de Plus, Rui Costa and Chloe Dygert.
On April 8, 2022, Milan Vader’s life suddenly changed forever. In the Tour of the Basque Country, the Dutchman crashed hard in a fast corner. Father fell more than ten meters and ended up in a coma. The rider only regained consciousness twelve days later.
Doctors even feared for Vader’s life for a moment. A carotid artery had ruptured and a life-saving intervention had to be performed by the round doctor in the ambulance. Vader still remembers nothing of the days leading up to the accident.
Fortunately for Vader, he was able to recover well from the crash and made his return to the peloton. It took a while before the form was back, but at the last minute he suddenly had the greatest success of his career. During the Tour of Guanxhi, Vader took his first victory among the pros in the queen stage and even won the final classification.
Just before that, Vader had also won the mountains classification in the Tour of Slovakia and so his nomination for comeback of the year 2023 is certainly justified.
Tour of Guangxi | How beautiful! Milan Vader records first professional victory with victory in queen stage
Laurens de Plus
When Laurens exchanged the Plus Jumbo-Visma for INEOS-Grenadiers in 2021, the British formation thought it had contracted an excellent servant for the mountains. For a long time, however, De Plus was not a shadow of the rider he was in the years before and INEOS seemed to have bought a pig in a poke.
However, that changed in 2023. The Plus was crucial for leader Geraint Thomas during the Giro d’Italia, who wore pink for a long time and came within a hair’s breadth of taking the overall victory. De Plus himself also achieved the best result in a major tour of his career with a tenth place.
Geraint Thomas’s popular podcast occasionally paid attention to De Plus. Leader Thomas often laughed at the stress his servant experienced when Thomas was too far back in the peloton and there were funny anecdotes about the Belgian’s limited steering skills. ‘Pluski’, as he is affectionately known to the British team, can now also act as host himself.
De Plus was also at the start of the Vuelta to support Thomas, but the Belgian unfortunately crashed quickly during the rained-out team time trial in Barcelona. He was the first dropout in Spain, but can nevertheless look back on an excellent year and a good comeback.
Giro d’Italia | Experience the insane denouement one more time with Primoz Roglic and Geraint Thomas
Rui Costa’s career seemed dead and buried after several very lean years with Team UAE-Emirates. Portugal’s national championship in August 2020 was Rui Costa’s last victory as he moved to Intermarché-Circus-Wanty in 2023.
This switch to the small Belgian team at the age of 36 meant that few people took Rui Costa into account anymore. Suddenly, however, there was a change. His first race in the service of Wanty was won immediately and victories followed in the Tour of Valencia, The Vuelta and in Japan. In the meantime, Rui Costa was also a trendsetter in several classics in the spring.
Rui Costa’s resurrection has earned him more than just a nomination for Comeback of the Year 2023. The Portuguese is leaving Wanty behind and will continue his career at EF Education-EasyPost.
La Vuelta | Rui Costa wins in the Basque Country after Oscar-worthy final – Summary Stage 15
Chloe Dygert made her final breakthrough on the road in 2019 by becoming a very convincing world time trial champion. Her lead over number two Annemiek van Vleuten was more than one and a half minutes, which was the largest margin in the history of the championship.
A new dominant force in women’s time trial seemed to be born, but in the years that followed, Dygert struggled. It all started with the World Time Trial Championships in 2020. Dygert defended her world title and was top favorite. However, things went completely wrong when Dygert veered and disappeared over the guardrail.
Dygert’s leg then had to be put back together with the necessary screws and there were fears for the end of her career. The American continued to suffer from injuries and won only a single match from 2020 to 2022. This was the United States National Time Trial Championship.
That changed at the World Cup in Glasgow. Finally her old form was back and Dygert won her second world time trial title. Grace Brown was still able to get close to Dygert, but otherwise the entire field was far behind.
World Cup Imola | Anna Van Der Breggen wins time trial, Chloe Dygert crashes hard
Where are you looking?
Eurosport and discovery+ will also be your Home of Cycling in 2024! From the first races in Mallorca to the entire World Tour and all major tours, of which the Giro d’Italia is exclusive. Stream live racing without commercials! For dessert, the Paris 2024 Olympic Games will be on top of that!