The Tour Take | Post-Vuelta Musings
Mitchelton-SCOTT redeem themselves
In isolation, Le Tour was a debacle for Mitchelton-SCOTT, as they opted not to take one of the best young sprinters in the world to the race, having already told him he was going and needlessly made a public announcement six months earlier telling the world he was going. However, this win validates the team’s long-term strategy to become a GC Team. Not only do they have the Yates brothers, but a stable of young GC prospects when you include Jack Haig and possibly Esteban Chaves if he can rediscover himself. Along with LottoNL-Jumbo, Sunweb and Movistar, they’re now a squad you can count on to fight for the overall at every race.
Adam Yates’ redemption
Adam Yates was crucial to his brother’s win, and it redeems his season too. Yates had a poor tour, but he was crucial here. He was held back in the first few weeks, before riding strongly in the last two days. He looked in reasonable form near the end of the Tour, and looks like he’s still going well; he’ll have an eye on Worlds, where he’ll be amongst the favourites on a course made for punchy riders.
Is Nibali the favourite for Worlds?
It’s hard to look past Vincenzo Nibali though, as the Italian looks to take a maiden World Championship. After a Tour that went wrong, Nibali came here searching for form to take to Innsbruck. Although he didn’t take any stage wins, he was one of the most aggressive riders in the race in the last fortnight. As far as training goes, this is as good as it gets. Compare his ride to Richie Porte’s, who came into the race with similar goals. Porte was a bit anonymous; to consider him as a main favourite for worlds, you would have liked to see more.
Valverde’s last chance didn’t go to plan
With everyone wondering how much Simon Yates had left in the tank, it was kind of ironic that the most experienced adversary he faced fell victim to that. Like Yates, Valverde’s greatest strength is that finishing effort, and it cost him, much like it cost Yates at the Giro. Valverde never did enough to land a big blow though, he may have taken bonus seconds, but he never went out and took a minute in a finish like Yates did, and the pressure was always on him. In the end, Valverde comes away empty-handed and had probably cost himself a chance at Worlds. Seeing how empty he was in the last stage, it’s hard to believe that he’ll figure in a fortnight’s time, and that’s a shame as the course would have suited him.
Enric Mas - the heir to Spanish cycling’s throne
Valverde’s leaving Spanish cycling in good hands though (whenever he does leave), as Enric Mas announced himself with a brilliant last week. Having barely been mentioned in the lead-up, QuickStep itself were only expecting to fight for a top 10. Mas wildly outperformed those expectations, and it throws up an interesting dilemma for his team. How do QuickStep, who are cycling’s most successful team by any measure, morph into a GC team? With a team that’s already so good at so much, is there even space for them to do that? Becoming a GC team require the sacrifice of most other goals, and when the roster is stacked with cobbled and Ardenne classics superstars, A-level sprinters, and some of the world’s best opportunists, there isn’t really space to do that.
Viviani caps off a big 2018, but what’s in store for 2019?
QuickStep did come into the race with the goal to support Elia Viviani in the sprints, and he cleaned up. Three wins at La Vuelta makes seven Grand Tour stages this year for Elia Viviani, and you’d have to say he was the world’s best sprinter. But where next for the Italian? After a bad experience at Sky, he’d be loving the QuickStep set-up, but it’s unclear where he fits in with Fernando Gaviria. Did Viviani, a proud Italian, choose to race the Giro? Or was he asked to go there, so that Gaviria could do Le Tour? Any grand tour win is great, but they aren’t created equal; a stage win at Le Tour is worth more than a Giro one, and it’s hard to see Viviani being content with not getting a shot at the big dance.
What’s the deal with Movistar?
A team that does need to do some soul searching is Movistar. Valverde, Quintana and Landa turned out to be far from a holy trinity, as they all underperformed when it mattered. Quintana never really got going, Landa’s hot and cold form was mostly cold, and Valverde’s just a little bit old. So where do they turn now? For all the big budget riders on their roster, their biggest results were probably fourth from Richard Carapaz at the Giro and Marc Soler’s win at Paris-Nice. Maybe they’ll all perk back up next year, or maybe it’s transition time - you bet they’d love to have Enric Mas on the books though.
The Vuelta throws up great racing again
This was a pretty funky course from the Vuelta organisers, with barely any long climbs. Instead, they went all-in on the steep climbs that they’ve developed a taste for in the last few years, and made a whole grand tour out of them. The result was exciting racing every day, and a spectacle that was pretty even with the Giro for best Grand Tour of the year.
See you back at the social club,