SSS Awards | 2018 Sprinter of the Year
Sprinter of the Year – Elia Viviani, QuickStep Floors
Major Wins - Giro Stages 2, 3, 13 & 17; La Vuelta Stages 3, 10 and 21; Italian National Championship; Giro d’Italia and La Vuelta Points Classifications.
Elia Viviani’s switch from Team Sky to QuickStep Floors might be the best move of last year’s silly season. Team Sky is a GC team, and they always will be; any relationship with a top-tier sprinter is going to be short-lived once they realized that Dave Brailsford’s gaze extends no further than the leader’s jersey at the next Grand Tour. Viviani was left out of his pet event, the Giro, and that was that.
With Marcel Kittel leaving Patrick LeFevere’s Belgian super squad, a spot as sprint leader alongside Fernando Gaviria had opened up. Gaviria might be sprinting’s next big thing, but Viviani stole the limelight in 2018 as he took 18 wins, including 4 at the Giro and 3 at the Vuelta.
Perhaps none of those wins matter as much as a single one at Le Tour de France would (though as a proud Italian, Viviani might argue the National Championships and wearing the green, white and red on his Jersey for a year is as good as it gets), and Viviani needs to conquer le grand boucle to truly establish himself as one of his discipline’s elite. With Gaviria moving to UAE Team Emirates, he’ll likely get the chance to do that now.
But by any measure, he was the quickest guy on two wheels in 2018. He took full advantage of the sport’s most organised lead out, the envy of every other sprinter, and rode it all the way to the finish to underline his new reputation as a serial winner
Honourable Mention – Fernando Gaviria, QuickStep Floors
Major wins – Le Tour Stages 1 and 4; Tour of California Stages 1, 5 & 7; Tour of California Points Classification
Having won four Giro Stages in 2017, the cycling world was waiting for Fernando Gaviria to debut at the big dance. He didn’t disappoint when he finally did start Le Tour, winning two stages of Le Tour and spending a day in the Malliot Jaune.
As the old guard of sprinters fades away, Gaviria’s at the forefront of the new generation, and his battles with Dylan Groenewegen were a taster of what we can look forward to for the next decade (plus Caleb Ewan when he starts Le Tour).
The next step is one into the unknown though; QuickStep Floors has been a team that’s fostered a huge amount of success in all their riders, and UAE Team Emirates, frankly, is the opposite. Kittel and Cavendish have only gotten worse since leaving the QuickStep Floors team in recent years, which doesn't bode well for this move. Will it be a success, and how will he co-exist with Alexander Kristoff? It’s going to be an interesting 2019 as we find out.
Honourable Mention – Dylan Groenewegen
Major wins – Le Tour Stages 7 and 8; Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne;
After a few years of showing his potential but nothing sticking, Dylan Groenewegen’s 2017 win on the Champs Elysees was eye-raising, and raised anticipation for 2018 as he aimed to put it all together on a more consistent basis. He accomplished that, with a classics season that saw him win Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, stages at the Tour of Norway and explode at the Tour de France.
He started slow at Le Tour, but won back-to-back on days 7 and 8, with dominant performances on days seven and eight. His finishing kick was incredible, as he overcame limited sprint support to smash the rest of the sprint field. An early end to his campaign was unfortunate, but he’s proved he’s here for the long haul.
See you back at the social club,