Who deserves the Oppy?

Al Hinds

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Four potential winners for the 2012 Oppy. From left; Simon Gerrans, Jason English, Caroline Buchana and Anna Meares. (Getty Images)
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Amid headlines of doping, corruption, conspiracy and fraud, political upheavals and remonstrations it's easy to forget what an outstanding year it has been for Australian cyclists across all disciplines; providing no shortage of headaches for those picking this year's "Oppy", writes Al Hinds.

Poll: Who's your pick for the Oppy?

Since 1958, when Russel Mockridge took out the inaugural Sir Hubert Opperman medal, the "Oppy" has gone to names synonymous with Australia's celebrated association with the two wheel sport, Barry Waddell, Peter Besanko, Stuary O'Grady and Cadel Evans all among them.

Until 1995, it was presented to "the ride of the year", but the criteria has since changed "is now presented to the best all-round performing cyclist each year who also displays a high level of sportsmanship and is an ambassador for the sport of cycling."

A further condition is that the winner of the "Oppy" must be a winner of another category. This rules out four-time medal winner Cadel Evans, who all things considered didn't have a bad season, but didn't make the cut for Elite Male Road Cyclist of the Year.

With this in mind, here are my top-three.

1. Simon Gerrans
It goes without saying that Gerrans will arrive on Friday evening a favourite for the top gong. In January he broke his duck at nationals, against two of the country's finest in Richie Porte and Matt Lloyd. Two weeks later he was a winner in ochre once more at the Santos Tour Down Under, only the second double victor alongside Stuart O'Grady.

Then came Milan-San Remo. Demonstrating his class Gerrans went with Nibali and Cancellara in the finale, before sprinting home for the win. His form dipped for the Tour de France, but he came back strong in the European autumn, to finish a brilliant 2012. Considering he's also a powerful public speaker, all-round nice guy, and strong ambassador for the sport, there's plenty in Gerrans' Oppy quiver.

2. Anna Meares
Meares has won the Oppy once before, in 2008, also an Olympic year, and could well do a repeat this year after another strong Games. She starred at the UCI Road World Championships in Melbourne, with gold in the Keirin, and 500m TT, plus a bronze in the sprint. With plenty of momentum she hit London on a high.

She began her Games campaign with a team sprint podium behind the invincible Germans, missed out on the Keirin, but took out the blue-ribbon individual sprint to match her Athens haul. Meares also led with aplomb throughout the Olympics, an exemplary figure on and off the boards. She's certainly an excellent chance, but it's hard to see her surpassing Gerrans.

3. Jason English
If Cycling Australia wanted to make a statement about how much it cares for mountain biking, English should be its man. The Australian added yet another 24hr solo world championship to his palmares this year, dominating the discipline all season. Though it would be great to see English try his hand at cross-country against the big hitters of the sport, he does represent Australia beautifully in the 24hr solo races. I doubt English will get the nod, (Dan McConnell may even win the Elite Men's Mountain Bike category), but I'd endorse it if it did occur.

This is far from comprehensive of course, and I'm happy to hear your thoughts, or picks. There's plenty of talent out there. The full nominees are here.

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