The Moment The Vuelta Was Won

Vincenzo Nibali wins Stage 3 in Andorra while Chris Froome takes the maillot rojo on as the race rides into Andorra. Froome never looked back and gradually distanced all his riders. This was an early selection and among those distanced was Alberto Contador who gained the space needed to launch a series of crowd-pleasing attacks.

The race started in France with a team time trial in Nîmes, a city with a Spanish touch but presumably keen on hosting the Tour de France too and so putting itself in ASO’s hotseat. BMC Racing took the opening stage to help divert attention away from Samuel Sanchez’s positive doping-control.

None of the other riders posed much of a threat to Chris Froome. He hardly had to attack his rivals, instead they tended to fall away along the way as the chart above shows in part, depicting the GC standings for the eventual top-5 overall. But the graph doesn’t tell of the implosion of Esteban Chaves or David de la Cruz who were third and fourth overall midway after the stage to the Calar Alto observatory. The mountain is home to Europe’s largest telescope but fortunately it didn’t offer too much of a glimpse into the race’s future. At times past the Vuelta has seen the same riders engaged in the same efforts again and again, a daily repeat of who has the best VAM with only minor variations each day. But this year’s vintage was a bit wilder and riders on what looked like a distant orbit from Chris Froome were able to gravitate their way back into the top-10 overall, for example Steven Kruijswijk or Wout Poels even if they didn’t have a huge impact on the racing.

Froome took a stage win in Cumbre del Sol but was already in the lead and had to contain and mark his rivals. Hardly an easy task with the likes of Vincenzo Nibali, Esteban Chaves, Romain Bardet or Rafał Majka but gradually some of these names faded away. Orica-Scott in particular promised plenty with Chaves + Yates² but arguably Jack Haig had their best Vuelta.

Haig was one of many to show promise or even deliver on it. Wilco Kelderman finished fourth overall and was climbing impressively given he’s more of a mellifluous chronoman. Miguel Ángel López crashed out a year ago and broke several teeth, now he was all smiles with two stage wins and a top-10 overall and ended up as Astana’s leader. Ilnur Zakarin was close to the podium in the 2016 Giro before crashing out so we knew he could ride high on GC for three weeks but he confirms this now with his first grand tour podium while Michael Woods showed consistency while his Cannondale-Drapac team was threatening to vanish to deliver an impressive seventh overall and ended the race with his and his team’s future secure. Meanwhile Gianni Moscon, this blog’s pick of the neo-pros for 2016 has gone from Paris-Roubaix helper to Angliru pace setter, as versatile as his near neighbour Francesco Moser in an age where riders are normally hyper-specialists.

The breakaways often had their chance thanks to the hilly course which deterred sprinters and so meant fewer teams to chase all day to set up a sprint. But even the set piece mountain stages were often won by the breakaways rather than closed down by Team Sky with Julian Alaphilippe winning on the Xorret de Catí, Rafał Majka on La Pandera, Miguel Ángel López in the Sierra Nevada and Stefan Denifl’s triumph on Los Machuchos.

The remaining sprints were won by Matteo Trentin, four stage wins for him and often helped by an impressive lead out from the likes of Bob Jungels or Alaphilippe and Quick Step as a whole had a great Vuelta starting Yves Lampaert’s stage win and red jersey for a day.

Alberto Contador’s stomach problems were perhaps a case of “no hay mal que por bien no venga” or every cloud has a silver lining. Yes he lost over two and half minutes on the stage into Andorra but for counterfactual purposes let’s assume this didn’t happen and he finished in the same group as Froome. Based on his times for all the other stages the arithmetic says he’d still have stand behind Froome on GC for the whole race, even his raid to Los Machucos would only correct part of the time lost in the Logroño time trial and the previous day’s result at the Alto Hoya de la Mora. It’s likely he’d have had Sky and other teams working harder to contain him too. So his Andorran problems turned his Vuelta into a three week handicap race where he had the space to try and close the gap and this helped spice up the race.

Talking of counterfactuals and thought experiments, would Chris Froome have won if he rode for, say, Caja Rural? Arguably he lost the Vuelta last year on the road to Formigal because Sky brought a relatively weak team. They made amends this year even if Diego Rosa’s climbing legs weren’t there. Sky aim to asphyxiate the race by having millionaire domestiques set a fierce tempo in the mountains and this was most obvious on the Sierra Nevada where Vincenzo Nibali tried a brief attack only to sit up once it was apparent he wasn’t going to ride away. It helps explain why the Vuelta wants the steepest possible climbs – there’s almost zero drafting benefit on a 20% slope – and why this is the last grand tour to have teams of nine riders, it’ll be eight for all three next year.

The win enriches Froome’s palmarès substantially. Four Tour de France wins is plenty and he’s taken other stage races like the Dauphiné or Romandie but they felt like training races, the means to the end each July. Now the Vuelta – and the Tour double no less, this was not a salvage operation to rescue a sunken season – broadens is repetoire out from a Tour specialist and adds a line on his CV that allows comparisons to be made with the likes of Bernard Hinault and Jacques Anquetil. Comparable? Yes and no. For starters if we want to judge his place in cycling history then wait until his career is over. But playing the game for now, those were different times and the Vuelta used to start in April meaning much more recovery time… even if the likes of Hinault would have been busy racing in May and June too. For more fundamental comparisons Froome is still racing and there’s time in theory, to add, say, a rainbow jersey; the Bergen TT course suits but the legs might be stale, next year’s Austrian bergfest may tempt him. There’s possibly a Giro, maybe even a triumph in Lombardia or Liège too or even the British championships. This may read like picking dishes of a menu and it’s not easy, see how many times Froome has tried to win the Vuelta and besides he’s yet to win a one day race.

Contador only won a single one-day race too, the Milano-Torino in 2012 atop the Superga. This Vuelta was not a victory lap of Spain but certainly a valedictory tour where he got to commune with the crowds and helped attract record TV audiences. Winners write history and Contador’s final chapter is a story of popularity and going out on a high, quite literally, on the Angliru. As Pierre Carey reminds us Contador retires as a popular hero rather than a faded force or under a cloud like others from his generation, for example Samuel Sanchez may end his career.

Contador is gone and a generation changes. Despite Movistar’s discreet race there’s reason for Spanish fans to look forward with Marc Soler, David de la Cruz, Enric Mas and Pello Bilbao having a great race and this time next year we might be talking about Mikel Landa winning thanks to his repeat attacks.

The Verdict
Many stars lined up but most fell away. Froome grabbed the race lead early and led throughout to win, the expected outcome. So much so that even the second placed rider on GC, Nibali, never posed a threat let alone wore the red jersey for a day which compares unfavourably to the Tour and Giro where Froome and Dumoulin at times looked beatable. This sounds like a recipe for a dull race yet the Vuelta offered a lot of action and entertainment, especially if TV viewers tuned in for the final 30 minutes each day. Breakaways were frequently rewarded and the novel climbs were exciting rather than gimmicky. Many days saw two races for the price of one with the day’s escapees contesting the stage win and the GC contenders scrapping for seconds behind them.

120 thoughts on “The Moment The Vuelta Was Won”

  1. As ever, many thanks for the time and effort you have expended during the last three weeks. You really made it come alive.
    But enough about Contactor, inrng has been excellent too. (b’dm, tish)

    Am I too much of a romantic to dream that Froome will grasp this opportunity to make history and go for the Giro? Nevermind the cold, the steeper climbs and the lack of preparation time (by Sky’s standards), I just think he should seize the moment, use his – never greater – influence in the team, and demand that the grand slam be the priority. I still think that, having made peace with the Vuelta, he could target a fifth Tour – a sole target – in 2019.
    2018, go for the Giro and try and hang on to his form for the Tour.
    2019, if that didn’t work, go for the 5th Tour as sole target.

    Not everyone’s dream schedule of course, but I think history demands that he give it a go.

    • Given Quintana seems to have showed the folly of racing for GC in 4 consecutive Grand Tours, I’d have thought a more likely scenario is Froome tries to join the 5-TdeF club in 2018 whilst he’s still at his peak, then if successful add the Giro in 2019.

      I agree going for (and winning) the 2018 Giro would be real history-book stuff but reckon it’s too much of a gamble.

    • Zero chance Froome tries to do Giro-TdF double in 2018. He knows how much is at stake for his legacy if he wins 5 Tours and that the fifth will not be easy.

    • A difference? Yes. A big difference? Maybe not. See how Sky coped fine once Geraint Thomas crashed out of the Tour de France for a case study. If anything the move won’t bother the likes of Sky who often show up with one goal – not always, eg Viviani rides the Giro sometimes – but could compromise a smaller team trying to compete on several fronts, eg bringing a GC outsider aiming for the podium and a sprinter because the GC rider or sprinter will lose a support rider.

      More thoughts on this from last November at

  2. Thank you INRNG, cycling is great and you help make it even better !

    I’m glad Kelderman did well, especially after the Barguil incident. He was the team leader and Barguil should have helped him so the punishment seemed adequate to me.

    I would disagree with INRNG on one point: Froome, after Los Machucos, looked very vulnerable. As it was, it was nothing and he won convincingly but I think most people thought the race was on after that stage.

    All in all, a very enjoyable Vuelta, better than last year and on par with the Giro. (But let’s not try and compare races between themselves and enjoy each one for what it is).

    Once again, a massive thanks !

  3. I’m coming round to the view that the Vuelta was probably won some time last winter when Froome and his Sky bosses hatched a plan to go for two grand tours at once. This big decision, which presaged a completely new routine for Froome which left him looking undercooked if not half-baked in his usual pre-Tour races in Romandie and the Dauphine, now seems something of a masterstroke. Remember, the context here is three other great riders, Contador, Nibali and Quintana, trying to win back to back races of their own. Two got one win and then failed in the second. The other missed both targets. So this was no easy thing that was being planned. It probably helped that the Tour route seemed to have been written to Romain Bardet’s own prescription; few mountain top finishes, many descents and a minuscule amount of time trialling. It was always going to be a tight race because the course had not been designed to facilitate big gaps. Froome, used to such races and handling a lead, came out on top. But then it was all about peaking as planned late in the Tour and this carrying over into Spain and, with hindsight, we must now admit that worked too. Froome gained time on his rivals in each week of the Vuelta, not just the first. On the final mountain he climbed it faster than any of his closest GC rivals save his own team mate, Wout Poels.

    So why did Froome succeed where others did not? One big reason is probably that there is not really any way to win the Giro easily. It always has summit finishes and recently it often has ball-breaking time trials too. You cannot be protected to a win without expending too much energy and that leaves you drained for the Tour. Indeed, this is a problem for the Giro and a reason why, sometimes, it attracts a poorer field than it should. Note that in the recent Giro-Tour attempts none of the three riders I mentioned above even podiumed at the Tour. That’s how much it takes to win the Giro and a problem for the race if the top riders see it as a hindrance to Tour success and not an opportunity. Froome, who probably favours the Giro least of the three grand tours anyway, choose to target the Tour and then the Vuelta and, its arguable, it is possible to win the Tour more easily than the Giro if you have the team protection in place and a forgiving parcours. This year, I would argue, he had both with all those transition and sprinter’s stages. The Tour was the easiest of the parcours this year to win on. But then there was still the little matter of performing on the steep Spanish slopes. Yet here Froome’s form and the Sky training plan worked a treat delivering a Froome at the top of his game giving him the best chance to win. It was, in my view, really smart planning and execution of the plan. We got the Froome we’d normally get at the Tour but at the Vuelta instead.

    PS It seems that next year many of the top riders are already aiming at the Tour. Dumoulin, Nibali, Quintana and Porte are all on record as having that interest and we can likely add Froome to the list. Already in his press conference last night he was talking about a 5th Tour as a “massive” goal for 2018 but of the Giro as only “one day”. So perhaps it will be a chance for a new rider to aim at the Giro knowing that many of the biggest riders have their eyes on another prize? When the courses are revealed and the riders sort out their plans it will open up a new, post-Contador landscape for grand tour cycling. What Froome has shown, not uniquely of course, is that its about having a plan for the whole year and not just turning up and hoping.

    PPS One thing that might be forgotten is that not just Chris Froome but also Team Sky have now won two grand tours in a row, something Astana and Tinkoff also did in recent years (although not in the same year). Whether or not Froome does the Giro, Team Sky certainly will be. And so Team Sky will also have the chance to own all three jerseys at once even if Froome himself does not.

    • Interesting points about the Tour being easier to win than the Giro and the energy required. I wonder if it being colder at the Giro makes any difference. Generally speaking if you do anything in the cold you’ll use more energy. I’d imagine the Giro next year will be a Nibali/Aru show down. I’m not sure if the Tour route this year made it easier to win, but definitely easier than usual to complete.

      • I would think being cold makes a difference if you don’t like it. Froome is from sun-drenched places rather than icy wastes. You can much more easily avoid the cold in France in July and Spain in late summer. Froome always does the Tour of Catalunya every year and it usually rains and you can tell he doesn’t like it. He lives in Monaco with its 300 sunny days a year for more than tax reasons I’m sure!

        • Don’t forget he grew up in the equatorial heat of Kenya and the sun-drenched land of South Africa. Then factor in the 2013 Tirreno Adriatico, the only race he lost all Spring and Summer, when he faltered in the cold and the rain. I suspect it’s the snow rather than the parcours and the need to peak for the Tour that keeps him away from the Giro.

    • Conversely though, and maybe as some consolation, it does *seem* possible for the right rider (and, at present, I would not include Dumoulin on that list) to win the Giro and La Vuelta in the same season?
      As a season double, that offers more than comparison with a Tour win?

      • It should be possible yes and its very possible to podium at both as Nibali has done this year and Aru did in 2015, winning La Vuelta of course. Yet this seems the easy way out if you want to duck the big hitters who will inevitably be drawn to the Tour. It just seems to me that the Giro takes too much effort for anyone to win in the modern era for that double with the Tour to be plausible. If Contador, Nibali and Quintana could not do it that probably only leaves Froome of the very best riders to try and yet the example of the other three is probably why he almost certainly never will. We also have to remember that Froome will be 33 at the next Tour and he really must imagine that he only has a couple of years to win what he wants to win before it probably becomes too difficult. He will then be roughly as old as Contador is now. I expect he, like El Pistolero, would like to go out at the top rather than trailing off as a has been. His two prime targets therefore must be to win a 5th Tour and to add a Giro. He will then have won them all and be with the Tour greats on 5 wins. But there’s no guarantee he will ever win anything else, of course. So still work to do.

        On the other hand I will watch with interest what Vincenzo Nibali does now. Does he take on Froome again or avoid him at the Giro?

        • Froome is 32 therefore he really has to win his 5th Tour next year, or else he may never win it. Don’t forget, in early 30’s riders start to lose their top top top level very quickly.

          This is anecdotal evidence, but look at Contador, for a few years now he’s been beaten handily by Froomesicle and Nibali is not even in the conversation right now – both are in their early/mid thirties.

          I bet Froome is well aware of this fact.

  4. Great summary. I’d just like to add a word of congratulations to Lotto Soudal for their 4 stage victories, including Thomas De Gendt getting a well-deserved win meaning he now has one in all three grand tours. LS were riding like Orica were a few years ago, getting into breaks and being aggressive, good stuff. Also another GT done and dusted for Adam Hansen, and his legend continues to grow.

  5. Thank you INRNG.
    I was thinking, there’s not another blog or website I follow that seems to run on such little sponsorship yet offers such phenomenal and in-depth writing. Long may it continue, although if you ever decide to charge a subscription or stick a banner top&side a la cycling news, I wouldn’t complain a jot. It’s a joy waking up every morning of a grand tour to read. Thank you.

  6. I’d argue whether those young spaniards you named really had a ‘great race’. None of them won a stage or ever really looked like doing so and De la Cruz faded badly from the GC picture in the last week. Fair enough they are young with plenty of time but major talents usually show early and leave little doubt. It took Old Man Contador to prevent the home nation going winless. It’s been a common issue on the Tour in recent years and even the Giro this year but not something the Spaniards have had to worry about at all in the era of Contador, Valverde, Rodriguez and others. It wasn’t that long ago those 3 were top 3 in this race, now they might just have Landa to carry the fight.
    Interesting comparison between Moscon and Moser. It’s doubtful these days whether a rider will have such a broad palmares. It’ll be interesting to see where he specialises going forward.

    • Well a sign of the times, perhaps because the sport is cleaner, younger riders have less resources to help them recover at their disposal. Therefore, seeing young athletes fade into oblivion after 7-10 days seems to reflect how difficult these races are.

      Or, even seeing more variance in the leader board is a sign of the times.

    • If Moscon could pick off a few one days races he could be slotted in as a Tour domestique much like Geraint Thomas was and like Kwiatkowski this year. Somehow I don’t see him being groomed as Sky’s new GC hope. This isn’t because he might not be good enough, he is the current Italian TT champion and is clearly not the worst climber, but because Sky have just purchased the cream of the U23 talent in Bernal, Sivakov and the others. Why purchase them on 3 year contracts if not to fill the inevitable gaps left by Froome, Thomas, etc, as they grow older?

      • Gianni, why not just wait and see? You have Kwiatkowski, who is clearly exceptional, but you’re unsure whether he’ll turn into a classics specialist and super-domestique or a GC contender. You have Thomas who is an amazing domestique and a solid classics rider, but hasn’t quite shown the ability to take the next step, but obviously could. You have Poels, who looks ready for a GC shot right now. You have Moscon, who can put in a time trial and can climb on occasional days, as proven, and looks to be seriously talented. Then you have, as you say, the cream of the U23 talent. Why not just wait and see if they all develop and how they do so? What’s the point of taking your bets right now? Sky has the resources to develop them all, and there are certainly plenty of races to try them all out. I suspect Froome will take only one GT next season, for example.

        • And they’re all at the same team. And all bar one will be used primarily as domestiques for the TdF team leader. That’s why ‘the Vuelta offered a lot of action and entertainment, especially if TV viewers tuned in for the final 30 minutes each day.’
          Personally, I like races to be interesting for longer than 30 min.

        • I agree with you Frank,

          Having a team stacked with talent gives you multiple options, the biggest difficulty is finding them all the appropriate targets, next year surely the targets for the (stage racing) U23 riders will start with some supporting roles in some of the early week long stage races, maybe get each to do a minor role in one of the grand tours to see how their legs are going.

          Moscon looks like he can handle 3 weeks fine but the best way to manage him and keep him happy is to have a conversation with him, ask him what he wants, if it’s “everything” then suggest he go go hard at the classics where having multiple strong riders is a benefit (a la quickstep) and then make him the chief lieutenant at the vuelta.

          All the young guns get a go and over the next few years you take a view as to which you think have the greatest potential – you wont always make the right calls but you can have a go!

          As for the Vuelta, I think the reason Sky were so supportive of investing in the vuelta is that the monkey is now off Froome’s back and they can potentially give that leadership role to someone else – Poels seems ideal.

          • Rups: I agree about Moscon, but I think we need to make about the Sky superdoms. Sky does tend to rotate them. In this Vuelta, for example, Moscon was often the lead out guy, then fell back, and one of Poels (mostly in the second half) or Nieve would pace Froome up. But it wasn’t the same every day. They have such talent, they have the luxury of doing that.

            Anyway, as for the talent, I would assume they’ll gain experience and get hardened up by cycling as support/water-carriers/whatever, and then whoever shines will be given chances to move on. But decisions won’t be made early. But with Stannard, Thomas, Moscon, Poels (if he doesn’t become the ex-Froome GT contender) and Kwiatkowski, Sky now has a formidable classics lineup.

          • Luke Rowe’s accident may be an opportunity to give Moscon a leading role in next year’s classics season. He was already 5th in Paris-Roubaix, entering the stadium in the lead group. This bodes well for him if the early part of his season is dedicated to a leadership role. Even in races where he was not the designated leader he would serve as a strong lieutenant, for example to someone like Kwiatkowski in Milan-Sanremo or even that greatest of races, De Ronde. This would save the Pole, one of the few who has beaten Sagan head to head, from doing too much work himself.

          • But they’re always going to back the British guy – others will only get opportunities in GTs that Froome is not going for and, as we’ve seen, even then they’ll often have to share leadership with Thomas.

  7. As always the best cycling site around not only for Inrng’s insight and knowledge but the quality of the prose (and not just in English).

    Chris Froome was more than a worthy winner, once he took the jersey on the first mountain stage it was difficult to see any other result. I know his “style” may not appeal to all but he has matured into an outstanding stage racer. The historical comparisons are perhaps a bit overblown, bike racing has changed significantly (mostly better but some worse) since Miguel Indurain retired let alone Bernard Hinault or Eddy Merkx. Chris Froome’s achievements must stand on their own (and he probably isnt finished yet). I am not a great on past results but the run in GTs since the 2011 Vuelta must bear comparison with any, especially when he could have plausibly won both the 2011 Vuelta and 2012 Tour if he hadnt been riding for Wiggo.

    He has become a master of both strategy and tactics. The planning for this win meant, as he has admitted, that he was not on peak climbing form in July yet he still managed to win the Tour seemingly with little stress (perhaps helped by Richie Porte’s crash). All riders have bad days for one reason or another but he has the knack of spotting weaknesses and taking back time in unexpected places. This must be very dispiriting for his competitors, they think they have found a chink in his armour only to loose time on what should be a straight forward finish.

    I know this will not be popular with some but Team Sky must also be applauded. The planning for all this has been well nigh perfect. Yes they have more resources than most, yes they can come across as arrogant and rude, yes far too much corporate blah and their (especially Dave Brailsford) behaviour over the “jiffy bag” carry on has been bizarre but that should not obscure what has been a text book display of team management. It is now up to others to study all this and use the lessons learned to improve their own performances.

    I know there is now pressure for him to ride the Giro next year but I cant see that happening. The man himself, whilst careful not to rule anything out, has made it clear his priority is a 5th TdF and while the Giro would be nice the reality is it would be too much of a risk. Tom Dumoulin’s team manager has floated the idea of trying for a Giro/ Vuelta double, not sure if that is serious and whether the pull of the tour is too strong.

    There is also the thought that Chris Froome’s desire to win the Vuelta has raised the profile of the race itself. It was no longer a just race for those who had not quite made it / crashed out in May or July but an achievement to stand on its own. Perhaps those who run the race might want to think how they can attract more sprinters and puncheurs whilst still contriving to find fiendishly steep finishes up goat tracks in some remote part of the Iberian peninsular.

    • “their (especially Dave Brailsford) behaviour over the “jiffy bag” carry on has been bizarre”

      INRNG, this got me thinking.

      With the exception of Postal’s various lawsuits, has there ever been a home-state inquiry into behaviour in a cycling team with state funding, like the one going through Parliament?

      Katusha are/were defacto Russian-state-backed, see also Astana/Kazakhstan; UAE and Bahrain-Merida will obviously have state money in there too. I’m sure there’s more.

      I find it interesting that us Brits feel we should look into something where there’s no solid proof of wrongdoing, and that even looking in the first place means it’s then used as a stick to beat Sky with (not saying I disagree, there). I think it says a lot about us as a nation, really – the Spanish don’t care about Contador’s ban, and yet our media takes even a hint of legally expoiting an ethical margin by someone doing well (Farah/Wiggins) as a reason to lop the head off the poppy.

  8. Thank you for the coverage.

    Here’s a toast to my fellow commenters: Let’s keep this a place where we share our thoughts about the sport we love. Let’s not turn this into the youtube comment section. We’re all adults and we can agree to disagree.


  9. I’d like to add my thanks to Inrng and the Daily Diaz as well and to say that La Vuelta has been my favorite race of the year. I like the fact there are few sprinters days. After the sprinter’s Tour we really needed that! Froome described the race last night as really a 21 day GC race which I like as a description. To see this guy racing for the points jersey was great too. Who says he has no passion and does not race for himself? In the last few years La Vuelta has really begun to come into its own as a great race worth winning in its own right rather than the poor relation too. I applaud that. Its a different challenge and not a carbon copy of the tours in Italy and France. Viva La Vuelta!

    • Froome getting the points was a nice addition. it will look good on his palmares in years to come. i think it was a fair contest – 2 very different riders were in contention right to the last day, similar to the giro in 2013 when cavendish had to take the final stage and intermediate sprints to deny nibali. it’s things like this, and his increasing skill on descents, which make me think froome could one day have a crack at a one-day race, il lombardia being the obvious choice. although, as others have pointed out, he may never win another race.

  10. I think the parcours was very good this year. I enjoyed seeing the breakaways stick and some of the climbs were original.
    This Vuelta course compares very well to the Tour this year. And, the Giro was a bit slow in it’s first week, although it turned into a cliffhanger by the end.
    This Vuelta felt like a good balance between the different aspects of a GT.

    Interesting to think how much I enjoyed La Vuelta, seeing as the GC comp was the least closely fought of the 3 GTs.

    Also, my experience of the season has been greatly enhanced by inrng. I don’t think I missed more than 1 or 2 posts! Thanks and respect.

  11. Inrng says it best: “None of the other riders posed much of a threat to Chris Froome.”

    Aside from the Contador Farewell Tour, Froome was actually the GC rider who attacked most. He attacked on La Comella on stage 3, Xorret de Cati on stage 8, Cumbre del Sol, stage 9, the end of stage 18 and on the Angliru. He dropped Nibali, Zakarin and Kelderman with each of these attacks and gained time on 4 out of the 5. I’ve never seen a rider so miscast by the views of those watching races. The rest often just followed him. And he cared enough about an extra jersey to chase bonus seconds and do a sprint finish on the last stage. Chapeau!

      • I hope this makes sense;

        Arsenal won the title in ’91, losing just once – The song “One-Nil to The Arsenal” was formed.

        Newcastle were runners up in ’95 & ’96 – They were labelled “The Entertainers”.

        I know who I’d rather watch and who did more for the game.

        • Actually you have inadvertently brought up an interesting point that would support those who have been arguing for rule changes. I apologise for this having nothing to do with cycling but Arsenal under George Graham were an extremely defensive, and successful initially, team. They won 1-0 a lot in the days when tackling from behind and goalkeepers being allowed to pick up back passes were allowed. Those two things were banned in response to the 1990 World Cup and came in to force in 1992/93 I believe, following which Arsenal under Graham were never as consistently successful again and were surpassed by Manchester United. So they did nothing for the game because their method was effectively outlawed, preventing others from copying it. Just saying.

      • It’s not Froome that is boring, it’s the tactic of a strong team successively towing their leader to near to the top of mountains, dropping most as they go along, whilst the other GC contenders simply follow. Doesn’t matter who the team is, who the leader is or who the other contenders are. And it happens in most GTs, even when the team is not Sky (Sky are just better at it – having the strongest A-team).

  12. Team strength (or lack thereof) was particularly apparent in this race. It was stunning to see the GC group whittled down on multiple occasions 10-15 riders of which Sky had 4-6 riders. Other than a few instances of Astana or Bahrain Merida trying to push pace on the front, no team could impose itself. Trek gets credit for using its team with tactical, albeit limited success. QS was able to boss the more sprint-centric stages reflecting the composition of its squad and the lack of other sprint oriented teams given the route.

    The Tour was better for the fact that at least Ag2r had a willing and able team to try to fight a frontal and guerrilla war with Sky.

    Whatever Christian Knees and Ian Stannard are paid, they earned it this Summer. And why would you ever let Mikel Nieve leave if you can afford to keep him, if only for one more tilt at the Tour?

    • Agree, even as a Froome fan it was a bit depressing to see a “peleton” of 13 riders on Angliru and 6 of them were from Sky. I know Astana, BM, Trek and others has “used up” domestiques earlier but it was a bit like watching Chelsea take on Wickham Wanderers! I was pleased when Peletzotti had a pull and 4 of the team were dropped.

      Also agree with Nieve… surely he’s only going to Orica as super domestique again rather than a leader

  13. Just a thought on Quickstep’s success. Inrng’s team victory rankings from this time 2 years ago had them on 51 wins, only 8 of them World Tour. They doubled their WT victories with GT stages alone this year, not to mention numerous other WT wins.

  14. Thanks Inrng for a great blog with always a bit more insight than any of the others. The Vuelta had some beautiful stages, it would have been a better race if anyone could have seriously challenged Froome for the red jersey but he and his team were simply better.
    It was great to see so many breakaway wins, there’s always so much interesting dynamics going on in a break once they start coming closer to the line. Given the many opportunities for punchy riders it was a little disappointing to see that most of the top names in that category were absent. I guess they didn’t want to get too tired for the World’s.

  15. Bravo Inrng ¡ felicitaciones for the great coverage of the best GT of the season. In this very post I also learnt that you can read Spanish. Adios Alberto, the best stage racer of his generation¡¡

  16. I said before this Vuelta that I hoped someone totally bizarre popped up and mugged the field. That didn’t happen, and we had close to the most predictable GC imaginable. Not to mention only the single Spanish win (like the Giro’s trouble, also this year) and the lacklustre sprints when we got sprints (I’m pleased for Trentin, but he barely broke a sweat getting four stages, admittedly some in fine style).
    A breakaway win is always nice, but means a lot more when it’s either a la De Gendt, nearly winning the overall, or comes from a small team. Denifl got a wildcard win, but it was the only one and from a rider who was WT until his team folded, forcing his move. This is more normal than the Giro, where I find it a tragedy when minor teams can’t win, but I lament it nonetheless.
    No small wins; no grand sprints; a winner in control almost from day one and as predictable as tick following tock, I can’t say I’ll remember this Vuelta. But I’ll remember Mohoric.

    • I suspect Froome’s double will last a lot longer in the popular consciousness Kit. But it sounds like you couldn’t even bring yourself to mention it.

      • Why? He’s been seconds away before, proving he’s physically capable years ago. Actually doing it was beyond predictable, especially this year, as I mentioned in my first sentence. The way Froome rides the Tour, the much bigger surprise is that he doesn’t win everything else, not that he also wins the Vuelta, as I’ve said several times in this blog’s comments. His 2012 Tour will stick in my mind far more than this Vuelta, as it it wasn’t predictable, at least to me.

  17. Thanks INRNG you deserve a rest (but not until after the Worlds/Lombardia 😉)

    Fairytale ending to the GT season and chapeau to all the jersey winners.

    My big ‘what if’ is if Astana had got their house in order last year and retained Nibali. For my money, they could have put up a decent challenge to Sky…

    Next year: Zakarin to win the Giro, Froome the Tour and an Orica rider the Vuelta

    Cheers too all the commenters!

    • I’m going out on a limb here and claim that Froome has just won his last GT. Sunweb have a formidable team next year: Dumoulin backed up with Oomen, Kelderman (maybe Matthews even) can take SKY head on. AG2R, Astana, FDJ have all been building strong teams the last few seasons, Movistar had a weak season but the augurs for the next aren’t necessarily bad. Next July we’ll see the undoing of Froome…

      • Ha – I hope you’re no one’s stockbroker!

        You may well be right, we don’t know the future but…

        Come on? We’ve just read an article on how Froome eased to victory, as he likewise did below (by his own admission) full capacity at the Tour… He’s clearly just demonstrated his a cut above the competition in back to back tours and appears to have the ability, tactics and team to win at the very least one more grand tour… you may get great odds on the above bet but it’s for a reason, every single bit of logical thinking opposes that view.

        I too think Dumoulin will rock Froome at some point and maybe even next year, but there’s a lot more to doubt in Dumoulin’s challenge at this point than Froome’s. As well as the fact that from what we’ve seen in the previous three years (dependent on the course) you could make a decent argument that D is his only realistic rival.

        Again this isn’t my view, I think Porte would have run Froome very close this year and Quintana will come back strong, as may Landa but there’s very solid arguments against those thoughts also and if you’re siding with the best reasoning it’s not even close to saying Froome won’t win another GT.

        I actually think that’s complete madness to even think vaguely seriously.
        Even if we’re posting here in three years time and it’s come true for whatever reason it’s not an I told you so moment, rather that you just went against all rational thinking and got extremely lucky.

        Although just to make clear, I too hope for a lot of riders to bring their A game next year and mount proper challenges or at least for us to get the Froome of 13,15 back and see some blistering attacks at the TDF and lead up races to make it a little more exciting.

        Froome vs Dumoulin is mouthwatering without a doubt.

        • Dumoulin vs Froome is clearly the next big GC battle and, at this stage, you can make a case either way. (Note that Dumoulin is the only significant rider Froome didn’t face this year.) Assuming that they butt heads in France next July the parcours is going to be crucial. There are rumours of a TTT on stage 3 of 35kms in length which might produce an early gap between the two and thereafter who knows? Dumoulin, to me at least, seems even more of a tempo climber than Froome and in the Giro it was noticeable that in the third week he was sometimes susceptible to changes of pace and then didn’t have an Nieve, Poels or Moscon to help him catch back. Sky bring the A Team to the Tour so I’m not convinced that merely Kelderman and Oomen will be enough to support the Dutchman but its all speculation. Every year that passes makes it harder for Froome. I suspect if he doesn’t win any grand tour in 2018 then he’ll never win again although him switching to the Giro might see other contenders hastily re-arranging their programs.

          • Its interesting. Dumoulin is improving every year, Froome as you say can only really go one way from here though maybe not just yet. Dumoulin’s climbing will probably improve but maybe at the expense of his time trialling and his team will always be weaker compared to Sky. I think that with the weapons that Sky can put out against Dumoulin, Kelderman, Matthews in a Team TT any gap will be pretty small whichever way it goes. If they are putting a 35km TTT in it would seem that any patriotic sentiment towards Bardet is being put to one side so maybe they’ll put a decent sized ITT in as well. At this stage I’d still have Froome coming out on top but with a more attacking style required than against the current crop of TT phobic GC challengers.

      • I am a bit dubious that the teams you mention really will be able to ape Sky’s tactics. No doubt Sunweb are building up a formidable A team but not sure they have strength in depth and the reduction to 8 man teams will hurt them more than Sky (assuming Michael Matthews wants to chase green again). FDJ, really? AG2R tried very hard this year but were found wanting, unless Romain Bardet suddenly becomes a better TT rider all the daredevil descending in the world wont help. Astana do not appear to be a happy ship, Fabio Aru looks to off for pastures new, Miguel Lopez is a potential top talent but it is a big step from winning stages to be able to sustain a challenge at the TdF but he might have a chance at the Giro, not sure they really have the roster to challenge Sky. I have not been convinced by Movistar, they have handled Nairo Quintana badly and their race tactics have been questionable to say the least. How do they manage to keep NQ, Mikel Landa and possibly Alejandro Valverde happy? They seem to have lost some key domestiques too.

        I suspect if there is going to be a serious challenge to Sky (as opposed to bad luck / loss of form with Chris Froome) it will come from Bahrain-Merida or UAE. They are well funded and seem to be building up formidable rosters of riders. The challenge will be to create the needed team spirit in a short period of time.

        I suspect we might seem Vincenzo Nibali / Bahrain , Fabio Aru /UAE, Miguel Lopez/ Astana, Geraint Thomas & Wout Poels / Sky and Mikel Landa / Movistar fighting it out next May. Chris Froome / Sky challenged by Nairo Quintana / Movistar, Tom Dumoulin / Sunweb plus assorted overhyped French riders at the TdF. Depending on the course Chris Froome would be favourite for number 5.

        • I can’t see Matthews winning green again. I know you have to be “in it to win it”, and chapeau to him for doing so, but he was rather lucky with all the DQs/abandonments. Quite a pickle for Sunweb to be in, if Dumoulin takes a tilt at yellow.

        • I don’t really doubt’s Froome inherent physical fitness to win a fifth tdf but the competition is definitely building up force and momentum. I have doubts whether he’ll be able to retain focus long enough after his legendary double this year. It must have taken its toll both mentally and physically. If the competition (mostly Dumoulin but also Zakarin, Aru, Nibali w/ stronger teams) follows the trajectory of the last 2 seasons Froome will be tested much more next tdf than this year’s if he makes one mistake the bid for a fifth tdf may be over, and I think he’ll make that fatal mistake because of a lack of focus as a result of this year’s superhuman efforts. He’s not a superhuman just a very very good bike rider.

          • “He’s not a superhuman just a very very good bike rider” – my 2p would be that he knows this and will completely focus on the Tour next year, to have the very best chance of the 5th. From a romantic point of view I’d love it if he then tried the treble in 2019 – a massive gamble for absolute legendary status (not as a Froome fanboy – just someone who loves the narrative of phenomenal sporting achievement)

          • I think he’ll ride the Vuelta as a Domestique for Poels – make the team look great, get an “easy” tour in his legs for winter (seems to have done his tour ambitions no harm over the years), thank Poels for his support over the years etc

            I don’t think he’ll do the Giro until he “fails” to win the tour

          • Don’t forget Landa. Landa can become Movistar’s lone leader for the Tour. Clearly Quintana had a rough TdF this year, probably in large part because he rode to second at the Giro, but keep in mind that he was an outright favourite at the 2016 Giro and could not really distance Dumoulin without some controversial tactics.

      • StevhanTI – There is definitely some sense in your comment:

        Froome is old by GC champion standards, and it’s far from a given that he will win his 5th TdF.

        In order to topple the Yellow jersey defender it takes a strong team, but most importantly it takes a rider who has the legs to beat him. Landa and Dumoulin both proved that their legs are just coming into their primes. Landa had to hold back at the tour this year too.

        2018 will be an interesting year for sure.

  18. He took control from pretty much Stage 1 and never relinquished it. A dominating performance; a juggernaut that the rest could not resist, though some tried. What can you do against such an asphyxiating presence?

    Some days he wrote more than the original blogger: I am talking of course of RonDe. In the realms of sofa-based comment activity, the moment the Vuelta was won was when he first hopped off his Shimanos and took to the keyboard. Some of those 20% climbs he put in were awesome. And, let’s forget if we can, he had a strong Tour too; a veritable double whilst the big hitters took a rest.

    Of course, if you’re looking at GT history, Ron’s palmares simply do not match up to the old greats, like Gabriele. And Gabriele, not in his own language, has shown a range of reference that is well beyond Ron’s: the classics as well as GTs. (In this regard, the irony of RonDe’s clever name tag is, of course, not lost.)

    But the posting was perhaps not so clean in the past. Since Blood Passports, now posting is focused on racing performance without extraneous erudition. Some say this is monotonous, boring. But wake up and smell the Java- it’s modern posting so suck it up. You cannot ignore it, for it has a ripple effect. It’s not only Ron setting the pace but all the responses to Ron from a frothy plethora of Anonymous posters that one has to try to surf and avoid – the bunch is a dangerous place to keep out of trouble. Anyway, at the Vuelta we have Manuel Diaz to leaven the bread. Every Sky has a silver lining, or something like that.

    As the imagery that is creeping in here seems to indicate -Time for breakfast.

  19. Quick question on Froome’s ‘style’. I’m not sure I really get the criticism of his supposed ungainliness. I’m not saying that he is a stylist, just that now that riders are spinning at high cadence, it seems to me that we’ve really lost the ultra smooth style of the past, when I remember Stephen Roche looking particularly silky. I guess of the modern guys, Nibali is one who always strikes me as having a beautiful, creamy smooth style, but most of the others, spinning a 90-110 cadence don’t strike me as stylists. Armstrong never gained criticism, and he always struck me as somebody wrestling with his bike as he bested mountains and time trial courses with sheer force-of-will savagery.

    • See Wilco Kelderman. Froome looks smooth on a TT bike but is very angular on the road bike, I’ve likened him to someone pushing a loaded supermarket trolley while talking into a phone they’re holding between their head and their shoulder.

      • Ha! Excellent! I suppose it’s the elbows, right? He has got something of Crazy Crane about him, I know. And the head down thing is bizarre, like he’s checking to make sure his chain ring is working (although given the number of mechanicals he seems to have, that might well be the case). However, I still don’t see him standing out as _particularly_ ugly in this day and age. In golfing terms, he’s not Fred Couples, but I’m not sure he’s Jim Furyk, either.

    • I find it irritating how many people seem to comment more about Froome “style” on the bike (I don’t mean you Frank) than his achievements. These same people seem not to notice how Aru rides, especially uphill, or how Domenico Pozzovivo’s bike seems to be about 5 sizes to big for him.

      • I’d go so far as to say that none of the current crop of GC riders look ‘good’ on a bike, or elegant if you like. We are dealing with varying degrees of atrociousness. People say Nibali looks good but I don’t see it. Others have said Bardet and I definitely don’t see that. Froome is the worst due to his incredibly long arms but Aru, Bardet and Martin are not far behind. I’m sad and cycling obsessed enough to watch old races on youtube when I am on the turbo. Pedalling style, suplesse or whatever, has definitely took a nose dive in recent years. No doubt as a result of high cadences and tiny gears. I’m not sure when the change happened but riders up until around the early to mid 00’s stroked the pedals round. Now they look they look like they are trying to rip them off. Of the current crop of riders I would put Moreno Moser, Luis-Leon Sanchez, Matteo Trentin and Kwiatkowski down as noted stylists, maybe with Valverde who just looks absolutely right on a bike no matter what we think of him.

        • Personally I find Contador’s style quite unattractive as well. When he’s in the middle of the pack going uphill he looks like a kid at a concert constantly jumping to try and see over the adults in front.

    • I’ve always seen Froome as the cycling equivalent of Paula Radcliffe.

      A strange style, with an obvious tick, but somehow it works.

      He’s just not a pretty in the knee high white compression socks…..

    • Thinking about it though, Frank, you are right that Froome does not seem to fight his bike. Inrng’s description about pushing a supermarket trolley doesn’t contradict this either. Someone who really is uncomfortable to watch, for me, is Dan Martin- now there is a bike-fighter.

  20. Big thanks to Inrng for the GT coverage this year.

    You literally saved my life during La Vuelta not being able to watch much at all while Cycling the Danube so the catch up was invaluable.

    Froome also did his Sponsors a massive favour by winning La Vuelta on the eve of Sky launching its service, i wonder if somebody had a little word in his ear about not pushing too hard on the Angrilu to catch Berty?

  21. Intrigued by the number of people who have Tom Dumoulin down as the Froome killer. Tom needed 70kms of ITT to beat Quintana and Nibali by 31 and 40 seconds. You’ll say he had a mishap and that’s true. But the lesson of that and this Vuelta is about being bullet proof in a sport where accidents and incidents will always happen. Where would Tom be with half the ITT kilometers? Could he win many kinds of grand tour or only ones with mucho time trials? Sky won’t be any weaker next year.

      • 70km never used to be mucho time trial. Not so long ago some GT TTs were almost that long on their own. While reducing the total TT kms in the 2017 TdF to around 35km to apparently allow particular climbers (Bardet) to challenge Froome was clearly a failed strategy, I doubt that’ll stop the organisers from doing the same again next year and hoping for better. On that basis I agree Dumoulin will struggle to unseat Froome, he’d need many more kms than will be on offer.
        If the TdF organisers do increase TT kms next year I hope it’s by way of a mountain time trial, I’ve always found them captivating to watch.
        Something tells me Dumoulin will put more than a minute into Froome in the Worlds TT. Which is give or take what I think Froome would have taken back from him in each of four or five mountain stages at the Vuelta or TdF this year, had he started either. And probably will do for the next year or two yet.
        I just think the TdF organisers want their race decided in the mountains, and will try again to make this happen. That would help Bardet, and hopefully a resurgent Quintana and Chaves, but obviously not Dumoulin.

        • Dumoulin beat Froome by only 15 seconds in last years Olympics in a race that was about 73 minutes of effort over 54.6kms. That’s less than 0.25 of a second per minute of difference between the two. Over a shorter course Froome and Dumoulin should even up. And remember that the Worlds course finishes with a 3.4kms climb at over 9% with several hairpins which will mean the need for several fast accelerations. And its much shorter at 31kms in total. Might be closer than some imagine. Froome also beat a rested Dumoulin whilst aiming for GC in the 17kms mountain ITT at the Tour last year by 21 seconds.

  22. The top 5 in the time trial were, in a different order, the top 5 on GC. There seems no future for bad time trialists in grand tour for the foreseeable future. Senor Quintana take note.

  23. I see no reason to doubt the likelihood of Froome winning next year’s TdF. He shows no sign of weakening, he will still have the strongest team and all of his competitors are either inferior climbers or inferior time trialists, or both.
    I also highly doubt he will jeopardise his chances of winning both a 5th or a 6th Tour by doing the Giro – nor, I think, would his team let him – as long as he remains at his current level.

    • Froome’s comments, which are heavily couched in uncertainty I admit, seem to suggest that he will skip the chance to win three GTs in a row, and therefore the TdF is his primary goal.

      Personally I think this is a shame. The great thing about this year’s TdF was that Froome didn’t turn up in his invincible form and was effectively one Pyresgudes away from losing it. Having him test his legs on the Giro and then the TdF would perhaps open one or both competitions up to his competitors.
      What we know now is that Sky like to dominate and throttle the competition and putting them out of their comfort zone will make this harder.
      Personally I don’t think Froome can win the Giro and the TdF, and won’t try. But I hope he does give it a go.

  24. I am not sure about Landa taking the place of Kontador and launching crazy attacks. To be honest, i would be surprised if he ever wins a grand tour. He is an outstanding climber, but not good in ITT, and above all, I think he is quite weak mentally.

    • I have my doubts too. I am not convinced he made the right decision moving to Movistar. I can see he might feel more comfortable in a “Spanish” environment – he made comments about how Sky favoured the brits as it is a British team, however given the Nairo Quintana situation not sure this is the best place to be. Maybe a move back to Astana or to a team where there would be no doubt as to who is the main GC rider. What happens if he rides the Giro next year, would he be happy to then be a super domestique for NQ in the Tour?

      • I think you forget that Movistar have a selection of super domestiques already, including Valverde. The main difference is that Valverde and the other riders are generally given greater reign to cycle for themselves.
        If you remember last year’s Vuelta they came together with devastating effect to Formigal.
        I expect that Landa has agreed a GC leaders role as part of his move anyway – whether he gets to ride as lead in the TdF will likely come down to meeting training performance targets.

        • I am not convinced Mikel Landa has the strength of character to impose himself, he seems like a nice guy but that might not be helpful to him. Time after time he has been mugged at a finish he should have won, I dont think that is simply down to an inability to sprint. Look how Chris Froome has forced himself to become a reasonable sprinter, he wont beat Cav or Marcel Kittel but he can put himself in the mix amongst his direct competitors.The is about strength of character and self belief. Tom Dumoulin demonstrates the same strengths as Chris Froome, as do some others, Alberto Contador, Vincenzo Nibali etc.

  25. Consistency seems to me to be Froome’s real strength this season.

    Gone are the days of searing uphill attacks. Fromme’s approach appears more measured and assured, and relies on the opposition not being able to handle this daily (almost) level on consistency.
    A strong team and being an excellent ITTist helps with this approach.

    I am not sure if this style of riding hides a little loss of power – next year should reveal all.

    Again thanks Inrng for the blog, and all posters for insight and discussion. Nowhere matches these pages.

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