Tim Declercq (Deceuninck-QuickStep) has been named the best domestique in the world by his fellow professional riders.
As well as picking the top helper in their own team, they were all asked, anonymously, to name the best domestique in the entire peloton, the stipulation being they could not vote for a teammate.
Declercq, who’s known as 'El Tractor' for his diesel engine and penchant for 'pulling' pelotons, topped the poll with a mighty 17 per cent of the vote. The two-metre-tall Belgian began his pro career at Topsport-Vlaanderen but has emerged as a tireless and consistent helper since joining QuickStep in 2017, where he has contributed to victories at Milan San-Remo, Tour of Flanders, and Paris-Roubaix, as well as stages in the Tour de France and Vuelta a España.
It was something of a two-horse race between Declercq and Team Ineos’ Luke Rowe, who enjoys a leadership role in the Classics but has stood out for his ability to protect Ineos’ stage racers on the flat, in the crosswinds, and even over mountains.
Rowe was voted as best domestique by almost 16 per cent of the riders who took part, overtaking Declercq on a couple of occasions before the Belgian pulled away at the end.
In fact, Rowe would have won convincingly, had we taken each vote at face value. As it turned out, there was an apparent attempt from the Ineos ranks to swing the vote late on.
Soon after we contacted the team to request quotes from Rowe should he win, we received no fewer than 23 votes for the Welshman in quick succession. All of the respondents named Rowe as the best domestique both in their team and from outside their team, and the votes were therefore declared null and void.
Had those votes counted, Rowe would have walked away with almost 30 per cent of the vote. It has to be said that there was also one such example of tactical voting in favour of Declercq, which was similarly discounted, and one witty respondent who picked himself on both counts.
Behind Declercq and Rowe, the next best rider was Deceuninck-QuickStep’s lead-out man Michael Morkov, who lost out to Mikel Nieve in the final of our reader poll. The Dane, whose track skills help him negotiate chaotic sprint finishes with a calm head, earned 7.5 per cent of the vote.
Andrey Amador was the next most popular pick, with 6 per cent. The Costa Rican has ridden for Ineos since the start of the year but forged his reputation at Movistar, notably piloting Richard Carapaz to victory at last year’s Giro d’Italia. Despite leaving the Spanish team in controversial circumstances, after a bitter contractual dispute, he picked up a number of votes from his former teammates.
Imanol Erviti was near-unanimously voted best domestique at Movistar and also picked up 4 per cent of the general vote, and it was the exact same story for CCC’s Michael Schar. Deceuninck-QuickStep’s Iljo Keisse was the other rider with a significant share, at just under 4 per cent.
A number of other riders received a minor share as 50 different names were put forward.
The best from each team
We asked riders to name the best domestiques in their own teams, and this is what they said. We’re excluding teams who did not want to be included or did not return sufficient responses to build a clear picture.
AG2R La Mondiale: Julien Duval
Bahrain McLaren: Damiano Caruso
CCC Team: Michael Schar
Deceuninck-QuickStep: Tim Declercq
EF Pro Cycling: Tom Scully
Team Ineos: Luke Rowe
Israel Start-up Nation: Alex Dowsett / Guillaume Boivin (tied)
Jumbo-Visma: Tony Martin
Lotto Soudal: Nikolas Maes
Movistar: Imanol Erviti
NTT Pro Cycling: Michael Gogl / Jay Thomson
Trek-Segafredo: Kiel Reijnen / Alex Kirsch