The Take Out | February's Winners and Losers
Volta a la Communitat Valencia, Vuelta a la Region Murcia, Tour de la Provence, Tour Colombia 2.1, Tour of Oman, Vuelta a Analucia; what do all those stage races have in common? Team Astana won them all. With five stage wins too, they’re 2019’s most successful team. With all their big names like Jakob Fuglsang, Miguel Angel Lopez, and the Izagirre brothers (who might be the winter’s most underrated transfers) taking wins, it’s set up to be a fantastic season for the team. With a deep roster, they’re a genuine chance for some big week-long stage races this year, and maybe a sneaky grand tour or two if everything goes well for Superman.
It was a shock for Gaviria to move on from Quick-Step last year; its generally not been a move that benefits people. It was also a shock to see him moving to UAE Team Emirates, who already had Alexander Kristoff. If you were worried about how that might work, then Stage 2 of this week’s UAE Tour should calm you. At the unofficial sprinter’s World Championships, (Viviani, Cav, Kittel, Ewan, Bennett, Gaviria, Bauhaus are all there). Kristoff bossed the leadout, and Gaviria finished the job as impressively as you could possibly do it from 250m out into a headwind. If (and it’s a big “if”,) Kristoff’s happy to work for Gaviria at the biggest races of the year, then that combo is about as good as anything in the peloton, even his former outfit.
Alejandro Valverde (Finally)
You know the last time Alejandro Valverde reached the 26th of February still winless for the season? 2008. Hence, he was pretty happy to finally get off the mark this week, especially considering he’s in the Rainbow Stripes this year. Worlds was the win he’d been chasing for so long, had he lost his mojo after finally getting there? On Tuesday, he showed he’s still got the form needed, as he swatted away a Team Jumbo-Visma assault from Laurens De Plus and Primoz Roglic. Calmly bridging to the front, he went and won the sprint, just like he always does.
Another year, another set of races in the Middle-East, cycling’s most historic world region. Thankfully we’re down to two races this year, Oman and a combined UAE Tour. Granted, most places in Europe are still too cold to have proper racing yet, and the money’s needed by the sport. But it’s still just a fortnight of meaningless racing in a place that doesn’t matter, that serves no other purpose than sportwashing, and the biggest loser is the sport itself.
See you back at the social club,