Chris Froome - Contested Possessions - Haig
Well well well, the Vuelta is done and dusted and much like the Tour, it was the Team Sky show. An incredible display with 19 days in the leader’s jersey. Madness really. Looking back, it was a real disappointment that Alberto Contador lost that 2.30mins on stage 3. He was the only one who really took the bull by the horns on numerous occasions to try and win back time on Froome. It was fitting that he was rewarded for his efforts with a stage win on the top of the Angliru, almost as if it was scripted. By far, El Pistolero was the man of this year’s Vuelta, attacking at every point possible to try and wrestle seconds back on Froome. He was probably given more rope than the other favourites due to losing a big chunk of time into Andorra, but let’s not take anything away from the now retired Spaniard who made this year’s race worth watching while the other favourites followed wheels.
History has shown us that Nibali always goes big in the third week of a Grand Tour. I was expecting him to do the same in this race but he never really got that engine fully fired up. There were times where he threatened to launch big attacks, sending his team to the front to set tempo, but the attacks never really came. In the end, it was damage limitation on the Angliru for the Shark. I think 2nd overall would be a pass mark for the man from Sicily, but coming in fresh after not doing the Tour, he would be a little disappointed to fall so far short of Froome.
Zakarin was 3rd? Really? Never really popped up on our screens throughout the whole Vuelta. He had a solid TT and never really had a bad day. I guess that traditionally adds up to a solid GC result, so full credit to the gangly Russian. His performance on the penultimate stage to the Angliru is what landed him a spot on the podium, with the help of Kelderman losing valuable seconds in the last few kilometres. You could look at it like West Coast making finals due to the help of the Demons having a shocker in the last round - how on earth did the Eagles make finals? And how did Zakarin finish on the podium?
Kelderman was another man who seemed to just be along for the lap of Spain. Not taking anything away from his tremendous 4th on GC, but the Dutchmen wasn’t lighting up the race in any way. After a slow start, the 26-year-old rode himself into the race and showed he can be a threat in Grand Tours to come, with a strong set of Time Trial skills to complement his diesel like climbing style. The stocks are looking for Sunweb heading into 2018.
Lopez had a super second week but his young legs looked to blow up in the third week (fair enough) but has shown that he can be a serious threat in Grand Tours to come. But to win a Grand Tour it’s more than just having talent in one area. Just ask Leon Cameron about his Melbourne private school boys at the GWS Giants. "Where is your hard ball gets!?”
Orica went in with a three-pronged attack and come out with heaps of not much if they have an honest reflection of the Vuelta, results wise. For mine, the biggest success of their Vuelta was the proper arrival of Jack Haig onto the Grand Tour scene. He has been good before in the professional ranks but this wasn’t Stage 2 of the Tour of Slovenia, this was the third week of a Grand Tour where he was climbing with the best guys in the world. Another promising GC prospect for the Australian squad. With so many talented climbers and more firepower to the Caleb Ewan sprint train being signed, it will be interesting to see how they spread their resources in 2018.
To see Froome win the 2017 Vuelta, after winning the Tour de France was a big surprise for me. I didn’t think it was possible in modern cycling. But I feel Chris Froome is maybe the most underrated/ under glorified GC rider of all time. He has won the Tour de France four times and finished 2nd at the Vuelta three times in the past. Maybe because of the negative style in which Team Sky ride to the value of x in three-week races has taken some of the shine off his triumphs. But now, for a rider to win five grand tours and finish 2nd in four, he has to go down as one of the all-time greats of Grand Tour cycling, and I feel he is not done yet! Grats Froomey
See you back at the social club