SSS Awards | 2018 Grand Tour of the Year
2018 Grand Tour Of The Year: Giro d’Italia
Podium: 1st Chris Froome (Team Sky), 2nd Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb), 3rd Miguel Angel Lopez (Team Astana)
The Giro throws up dramatic racing more often that it doesn’t, and this year wasn’t any different. While the start in Israel was more memorable for the debate that surrounded it that anything that happened on the road (Don’t think I’m going to get back those 10hrs of watching the peloton race along dual lane highways in the desert), the racing kicked off when the race reached Sicily.
Every day there was excellent racing, as Italy brought the scenic views, and the peloton brought the furious pace. The first week on home roads was filled with twisty finishes, as small groups finished at the front every day, and Simon Yates started to come to the fore.
The Brit’s aggressive racing was one of the highlights of the race, as he looked for time at every opportunity. Three stage wins and two weeks in the Maglia Rosa were a worthy reward, but it proved his downfall as he finally ran out of gas in the final week.
He was just one rider the racing took its toll on though; several GC contenders spectacularly exploded; Esteban Chaves went from winning on Mt Etna in Stage 8 to losing 25 minutes on an innocuous Stage 10. Thibaut Pinot exploded on Stage 20 and withdrew despite looking a podium chance. Two men showed staying power though; Tom Dumoulin was a pillar of strength and consistency as usual and looked in the box seat to defend his title, only to be bested by Chris Froome.
Froome’s nightmare early season continued into the Giro as he was woeful in the first two weeks, but a win on the Monte Zoncolan showed signs he was on the right track. What came next was the most brazen assault of a mountain stage we’ve seen since Contador at Fuente De.
A vintage piece of Team Sky planning had Froome launch an 80km breakaway on Stage 19, over the Colle delle Finestre, Sestriere and Jafferau. From 3 minutes down on GC to the Maglia Rosa, it was possibly the win that will define Chris Froome’s career, even if he goes on to join the club of five-time TDF winners. Keep calling them robots who are ruining cycling if you like, this win was pretty good.
Honourable Mention: La Vuelta a Espana
Podium: 1st Simon Yates (Mitchelton-SCOTT), 2nd Enric Mas (Quick-Step Floors), 3rd Miguel Angel Lopez (Team Astana)
The Vuelta has a pretty nice niche these days, and they leant into it this year. The short and steep climbs got shorter and steeper, and the racing was just as hot. Simon Yates was back after the Giro and pledging to keep a cooler head this time. Plot twist: he was attacking the field again on Stage 4. It was a reasonably more mature performance from Yates though, as he showed improved race nous to keep control of a super-aggressive field of contenders.
Movistar’s tandem of Quintana and Valverde fell flat as they did so many times this year; the Spaniard Valverde confirmed the idea that he wouldn’t be able to deal with the high mountains coming in the final Andorran stages, while Quintana lacked his usual zip.
Instead, the main challenge came from the young pair of Miguel Angel Lopez, who raced to his second Grand Tour Podium of the year, and Enric Mas, who’s GC potential gives Quick-Step Floors another thing to be good at (because they really needed that).
There were memorable stage winners too; Michael Woods took an emotional stage win at Monte Oiz and provided one of the better post-stage interviews going around, as he spoke of his personal troubles this year. Thibaut Pinot took two stages as part of his late-season tear, while Oscar Rodriguez took a dramatic win for the Pro-Conti squads on La Camperona, outclimbing Rafal Majka and Dylan Teuns.
Honourable Mention: Tour De France
Podium: 1st Geraint Thomas (Team Sky), 2nd Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb), 3rd Chris Froome (Team Sky)
We all made the assumption that Geraint Thomas couldn’t win a Grand Tour; he was too big, he’d never even finished top 10 and there was no way he’d even get support from Team Sky. Well, the thing about assumptions is they make an ass out of “u” and “umption”.
An opportunist’s win if there ever was one, Geraint Thomas beat his more highly fancied rivals in Tom Dumoulin and Chris Froome to take the Maillot Jaune. While those riders bit off more than they could chew by targeting the Giro/Tour double, Thomas headed to the usual Tour lead-in and was primed for La Grand Boucle. That doesn’t diminish what he did though; back-to-back wins in yellow at La Rosiere and L’Alpe d’Huez were the highlights as he proved a worthy winner.
July was a coming out party for many though, as we saw the LottoNL-Jumbo pair of Primoz Roglic and Steven Kruiswijk take the race repeatedly to Sky. Julian Alaphilippe also used the race to prove he’s cycling’s biggest personality; he had two stages, the KOM Jersey, multiple ballsy descents and about three hours of riding with his tongue out, à la Voeckler.
See you back at the social club,