The Moment The Vuelta Was Won

Simon Yates, Thibaut Pinot, Steven Kruijswijk - Andorra, Vuelta 2018

Simon Yates leads on the Coll de la Rabassa, he’s been in the race lead for almost half the race but only with a handful of seconds on his rivals, now he’s turning this into minutes.

If generals fight their last war, Mitchelton-Scott’s tactics were also shaped by the Giro and Yates’ collapse with three days to go. He’d ridden the Giro was based on a variant of the Ant and the Grasshopper tale, with him harvesting as many seconds and time bonuses possible ahead of the Trento time trial because of the threat posed by Tom Dumoulin and Chris Froome, only the ending wasn’t the same as the fairy tale and he paid for his industry. This time the idea was to conserve energy, to avoid work and it the course helped, there was often plenty of climbing each day but the stages culminated with a variety of short, sharp climbs and it was only in the final week that gaps measured in minutes rather than seconds would happen. The route was even more backloaded than usual, whether in comparison to previous editions of the Vuelta or the formulas used by the Giro and Tour.

The chart shows the top five overall in Madrid and how they fared, it shows the contest between Simon Yates and Alejandro Valverde until the Spaniard cracked in the Pyrenees going from Yates’ challenger to adrift during the final two mountain stages.

Valverde wasn’t meant to be the challenger. Nairo Quintana was Movistar’s the team leader, with Valverde as the team’s captain with an eye on the road race in Innsbruck. Quintana never got into his stride and if Valverde helped him at times later Quintana would become the helper. Perhaps the course didn’t suit the Colombian with two many spiky finishes, as if he needs a Galiber or a Stelvio although even the Lagos de Covadonga didn’t work either.

Astana also tried to challenge but were they after the win? On some days they sent riders up in the road to contest stage wins and Lopez’s form was mixed, three second places on the stages but never looking like he could ride away with the race. He was the catalyst for changes on the final mountain stage, sitting fifth overall his attack to La Comella got him onto the podium and he’s still just 24.

Nine stages were won from the breakaway, more than the Giro and Tour combined this year. Explained by the smaller teams of eight this year? Not really both the Giro and Tour had the same team sizes of course, instead it’s the Vuelta which had plenty of successful escapes last year too. Arguably it’s a function of the course sometimes where quickly many riders were well down on GC and so had room to move, plus a peloton where few teams wanted to chase hard all day and this made ordinary days into thrillers, take Ben King riding away through the cobbled streets of Candelario and Bauke Mollema’s chase on the slopes of La Covatilla on Stage 9; Michael Woods on the incredible climb of the Balcon de Bizkaia which is sure to feature again; or Stage 12 and the way the big breakaway was whittled down and Alexandre Geniez won with a combination of poker and power at Estaca de Bares but feel free to pick other stages too.

Oscar Rodriguez overhauling Dylan Teuns and Rafał Majka at La Camperona was the surprise, his wildcard team’s success was almost unimaginable from such a scenario. Nacer Bouhanni also took another win for the wildcard invitees but his salary alone may be superior to Euskadi-Murias’ entire team budget, a demonstration of how wide cycling’s second tier runs.

As well as Yates, Rohan Dennis was dominant in his niche, especially for the restraint in the way he saved himself for the Torrelavega time trial and the margin of his victory impressed each time.

Elia Viviani was the king of the sprints, demonstrated by his finish in Madrid where he seemed out of the picture only to surge through the traffic for the win. Is he the best sprinter in the world? It’s one of those café debates because he’s won so much but hasn’t gone head to head with the bike names. He was the obvious pick each day.

Thibaut Pinot took two of the three big mountain stages and if he was out of the running for the GC these were still à la pédale as he attacked the lead group but had he not floundered in the crosswinds on the way to San Javier perhaps he’d have been marked more closely.

The lack of Sky changed the atmosphere. Michał Kwiatkowski had a spell in the red jersey but otherwise the big team had a discreet race and without a lead to defend they didn’t try to lock down the race; perhaps they couldn’t have either? Others were quiet too, arguably Fabio Aru’s most memorable moment had him ranting at his bike after crash and his long barren spell continues. Richie Porte was a pre-race pick but didn’t have the form and seemed to be lapping Spain in order to bank a grand tour in the legs. Louis Meintjes had tough time at the Giro, and with a ninth place overall in Burgos in August looked to be getting it together again but was invisible. Vincenzo Nibali did what he could and Ilnur Zakarin went for some stage wins.

The Verdict
Highly enjoyable but not a thriller, the action came more from the daily stage battles than a three week scrap for the red jersey. Probably this was due to the course, it had a succession of uphill finishes but many were so short it kept the GC contest tight but without many reversals, plenty were in contention for a long time but their order barely changed each time. The fight for the overall classification took time to get going and once it did Simon Yates looked unshakeable, his biggest worry was himself and repeating the defeats of Paris-Nice and the Giro. Enric Mas and Miguel Angel Lopez climbed onto the podium late in the race but they attacked and deserve the rewards. As ever the Vuelta is a relaxed race and bar one mishap after the finish line in Estaca de Barès, there were no polemics and in a season where the acronym TUE has been used almost as much as UCI, Yates’s past ban barely got a mention.

We often see Simon Yates as the twin of Adam but sometimes it’s as if he’s got another twin, a Jekyll and Hide aspect with the Simon that rides like a pirate with a knife between his teeth during the race which is compelling to watch; the Simon in post-race interviews who is unassuming, mild and less compelling to listen to. We’ll be hearing a lot more from him and already, such is cycling, there’s talk of aiming for the Giro next year. As the sunsets on the Vuelta projecting into next year is getting ahead of things, the cycling season now takes an autumnal hue, the yellow rays will soon shine on the Worlds and the exciting course in Innsbruck.

122 thoughts on “The Moment The Vuelta Was Won”

  1. Thanks INRNG. Always a joy to read your race coverage.

    Huge congrats to Yates. I was gutted for him at Giro but to bounce back in the same year is a top drawer performance and will give him plenty of confidence.

    With Froome, Nibali and Thomas etc getting on in years there’s an exciting new guard coming through who will be fun to watch over next 5-8 years.

  2. “Highly enjoyable but not a thriller”

    Yeah, I think that sums it up nicely. Day-to-day there was always something to enjoy although it’s a shame Porte’s form wasn’t there, as it’d have been good to see him and Yates go toe-to-toe. Once it was clear that Quintana didn’t have the legs I couldn’t see anyone else winning it. I think Nibali had more in the tank than he let on but is 100% focused on the Worlds and I’d love to see him do it.

    PS – given the global readership of this blog I realise this isn’t of interest to most INRNG readers but it’s a quirk that, despite this being the eight time a British rider has won a GT, it’s the first time a rider born in England has won one.

      • England is the one that keeps losing at football, Britain is the one that is good at cycling (for now). Let’s not even start on the difference between the UK and Britain 🙂

      • I believe they do know the difference, it’s just that they don’t care:-)

        But indeed in the 2010’s there are two remarkable developments at the top level of road cycling nationalitywise: the appearance, in mass, with quaklity and with quantity of riders, (not completely out of nothing at all or no history whatsoever but still) of the British and the resurgence of the Colombians.

        I don’t think there is any other nationality that we could mention in the same sentence. Not even the Australians:-)

  3. Thanks INRNG.
    Great coverage as usual.
    As an Aussie I’m very happy for Simon Yates, Mitchelton Scott & Gerry Ryan.
    The Yates brothers seem like fantastic blokes who fit in very well with the culture of
    an Australian owned however multinational team.
    Looking forward to the 2019 Giro already.

  4. Very pleased that Yates was able to bounce back from the Giro in the same year. Pure conjecture, but that recovery alone could have a significant impact to his future palmares.

  5. Simon Yates is like the opposite of Bradley Wiggins – hugely exciting to watch with his Pantani-like uphill attacks in the drops, but is tedium personified in every interview. Wiggins on the other hand was the template for the Sky train, only without the occasional last 5km Froome attack or last 500 metre Thomas acceleration, just riding to a power that was a few watts ahead of everyone else. Interesting to think where Simon would have been had he signed for Sky, but the Aussie team was the right call.

    Lots of talk from the commentariat about the Tour, but I look forward to Yates returning to the Giro where he gained a lot of new fans to slay some personal demons.

    • Yates should box clever. He is superior to most of the so-called “contenders” we hear about every grand tour (most of which do not contend for anything and very soon predictably morph into “stage hunters”) but I don’t think he is yet ready to go head to head with the Froomes and Dumoulins… or maybe even the Roglics and the Thomas’s… over 3 weeks. In the Giro and the Vuelta he would have a genuine chance to win but the Tour remains for the very best, teams as well as individuals. Yates may become that but he isn’t that yet. In short, the boy done good but he isn’t yet the best. Racing Giro and Vuelta he could easily bag 3 or 4 grand tour wins in his career.

      • I would say that is a rather harsh review of Yates. I would say it’s that the Tour geography favours more of a TT rider (Wiggins, froome, Thomas, dumoulin etc.). The Vuelta and Giro favour a different type of rider, or a wider range of riders perhaps, where climbs tend to be less consistent with steeper ramps.

        In the Giro Yates had to take time early on to hold off froome and dumoulin in the TT. In the vuelta his rivals had similar strengths to his own and hence, tactically, it was a different race.

        Perhaps the race was actually won in the TT as, apart from Valverde, that’s where the gaps between the GC riders opened up for Yates.

        • “I would say it’s that the Tour geography favours more of a TT rider (Wiggins, froome, Thomas, dumoulin etc.).”

          Often true, yes. But the Tour is also where especially Sky bring their A-train which makes for a much more controlled race. That makes it easier to gain (or lose) time on TTs compared to attacking in the mountains.

      • How many other ‘so-called “contenders”’ could have won this year’s Tour had their team been so financially dominant?
        Do you want to see the best rider win or do you want to watch ‘your’ team win due to money they have?

    • My guess is that if he had signed for Sky, he may have been pushed into 1 week races and hilly classics, due to his punchy racing. They would not have let him have a go at being a GT leader until his late 20’s./early 30’s. He would have missed a good 4 years of GT leadership with Sky, that he has gained at MS.

      • Will you reappraise if Bernal is given leadership opportunities in the next few years? I ask because it would seem you’re basing that on what’s happened with Thomas and Froome and that might just be circumstance rather than methodology.

        • Since it seems almost certain that Bernal will be leading grand tour teams at well under age 25 (he’s not even 22 until next January), I’d say you had a point Larrick.

  6. Maybe not a thriller but it was exciting to see some tactics working out on the road and others that flopped. Kruijswijk deserves a mention for really trying and it was great to see teams needing to make alliances while so many breakaways became unpredictable.
    Bring on the new wave of riders who won’t wait to assume the role of team leader
    Thanks as ever INRNG

    • Kruijswijk, certainly a great accomplishment by him! After his great TDF also a good Vuelta, although he also clearly lacked form in the mountains to really pressure others like he sometimes can. With the 2016 Giro, his last TDF and this Vuelta, specially his time trial, I think he will stay (or become) an important GC contender next years. It looked like that one Giro was his chance for success but if all the pieces fall in to place there will be more opportunities.

      • I feel for Kruijswijk who woke up on the final Saturday of the race with legitimate hopes of a podium finish at last only to see them vanish. But at the same time good to see him back, his strongest ride since that Giro he lost.

          • Well he’s 31, a good but not great TTer, a very good but not consistently elite climber.

            So a win seems highly unlikely, tho not impossible. He could definitely nab a podium.

            If he’d won that Giro it would’ve been less of a fluke than Hejesdal’s but still he seems one of those guys who needs everything to fall into place to win a GT and that was his shot.

            Still like everyone else, good to see the guy back in form, he always brings it when he has the legs. His duo w/Roglič was one of the only things that really lit up a largely dull TDF.

          • He still seems to improve year by year, his performance in two consecutive GTs this year and his Vuelta ITT show this. So who knows. But I agree a lot needs to fall into place. I think that he’ll ride the Vuelta or giro for the GC and possibly help Roglic at the tour.

  7. There is an argument that Simon Yates’ victory was a result of events in the last few kms of the stage to Prato Nevoso at the Giro, where he ran out of gas, he was not going to let that happen again. You can argue that this was against a weakened field but you can only beat the riders that race not those that dont. Who can say he would not have won whichever riders had been competing? There has been some suggestions that he was being overly aggressive in the last couple of stages, I thought those moves were exactly what might have been expected from Alberto Contador or Chris Froome, he saw victory was within his grasp and went for it. He had ridden conservatively until that point to save energy so he could spend it when he needed to.

    Movistar took home the team prize again, who actually cares about this (maybe the team’s sponsors?) otherwise it does leave a large question mark over just who will be leading their GC’s challenges next year.

    Enric Mas was clearly the surprise of the race, he does look as if he might be able to build on his performance but can he do so at Quick Step (or whatever they are going to be called)? Perhaps Movistar have a vacancy for a GC leader?

    Not sure whether Miguel Lopez will be able to push on to the top step rather than the 3rd. He does seem to be getting a bit of a reputation for wheel sucking which he might find works against him in the future.

    The end of the Veulta means autumn is upon us (beautiful day in the mountains yesterday once the early morning mists had cleared), the cycling season drawing to a close along with the leaves turning colour. As always Inrng has had the best coverage around. Thanks

    • Bouhanni signed at the peak moment, he’d come off a series of Giro stage wins, the Alonso team project was in the works which was bidding up wages and Cofidis desperately needed a leader. His next contract though will likely be a fraction of the current one.

  8. Big thanks @inrng and to all who contribute here. I live watching the racing and reading about it on this excellent blog. Much appreciated.

    That excitingly youthful podium picture is a breath of fresh air.

  9. Thanks for the great coverage. Yates was clearly the one of the most interesting GT riders of the year. Despite his Giro collapse, his name was all over the race. He certainly looks like the next real contender for GC’s for the foreseeable future. On the flip side. Quintana looks to have taken a big step back, or has the rest of the climbers caught up and surpassed him. It appears we are entering a generational transition and despite his youth, he appears worn out. If a classic type of climber can’t thrive on these short punchy Vuelta type climbs, then lots of luck agains the bigger TT/rouleur type GT riders in France.

  10. I found the GC battle enjoyable, and thought there was ample suspense on the ‘gc finishes’ with the way no one seemed sure of anyone else’s form — would Kruijswijk survive, can Valverde hang at altitude, what about the youngsters — can Mas really pull off a podium? Where is Quintana’s form, and so on. Less of a fist fight and more a war of attrition, I agree.

    Also I think LottoJumboNL deserves more of a mention for the way they created tension in the first weeks and throughout, their team contributed to the efforts nicely. They are a team that has been impressing me this year.

    side note:

    I watched Hannah Grant’s documentary TV Show “Eat. Race. Win.” (about her time cooking for Michelton Scott during the 2017 TdF) at the beginning of the Vuelta and by itself, it was an amazing picture of the challenges and beauty of professional cycling but together with the Vuelta it really deepened the personalities of Michelton Scott and Adam Yates for me. I highly recommend watching the series (on Amazon Prime).

    Great coverage, thanks again, and I’ve been rocking the supporter kit in the local mountains (really more of hills or bumps).

    • And let me just add an echo: I really, *really* did not miss Sky’s presence in the race. I think the dynamism I felt can be attributed to the push/pull of teams having to figure out ownership when a super team is not doing the work for everyone.

      Also I really enjoy Adam Yate’s riding, and for once the Yates duo really fired on all cylinders (of course helped by Adam’s form) and I’m sure made Eusebio jealous as heck. Also the Izaguirre bros are still disappointing, I’m not sure what they are missing — misfired on training or what?

      • Possibly the issue is with training block. They looked sluggish and over worked. I think a lot of the riders who rode the tour and the Vuelta looked a pale shade of themselves in both races.

        In previous years some of the Spanish teams that rode the TdF and the Vuelta managed to gain form in a month. This didn’t look like pain e agua racing to me, and while I think the whole thing is a shade of grey, we are looking at paler shades from the sorts of efforts put in.

        I would still question Estaban Chaves ride and fall in the Giro though.

  11. Thanks once again for the reportage: by far the best site for English-language coverage.

    A couple of points from pedantry corner:
    “head to head with the bike names” – typo or clever pun? I was too thick to work it out, myself.

    An acronym is an initialisation that can be pronounced as a single word, like AIDS or radar. Neither TUE nor UCI is an acronym.

  12. It’ll be interesting to see what Simon (and Adam) Yates’s ambitions are after this. One suspects it will rely on either investment from Michelton-Scott in getting some super domestiques, or offers from other teams with deeper squads, as at the moment their GC ambitions will depend greatly on the competition entering into any GT they enter into.

    Though both Simon and Adam have had credible results in other GTs, bagging the best young rider awards and placing top 10 on occasion to mention a few, being the rider to beat against the best teams on their best form is not something they have looked capable of in previous GTs. Sniping from the cheap seats would be how I catagorise their previous MO. Obviously the Giro raised the bar on expectations, but one only has to look at the way that none of the teams turned up with riders that could control the race that this would allow Simon (on form) a shot at winning the race.

    From this point of view MS and Yates played a blinder. They kept it tight in the early stages, not wasting their team fruitlessly controlling breakaways while trying to keep the red jersey. I suspect that a fresh and fit Ritchie Porte might have created a more worrisome shadow at this Vuelta, as the other aspect Yates did not need to contend with were GC time trialists of the ilk of Dumoulin, Froome, (on form) Nibali, and so there was never the spectre of huge time losses needing to be factored in (which cost Yates in the Giro).

    Obviously having just won the Vuelta Yates will likely look to structure a strong tilt at the Tour (and so answer the critical observations above). Whether Mitchelton Scott are will to do so will be a different matter. At this point I would wonder how Yates would fair at a BMC, Astana or Movistar? His bid for the TdF might look stronger, but probably fall down in the same way that others have against the all round riding ability of a Dumoulin or Froome.

    • As has been commented elsewhere on this site, the other teams seemed to miss Sky pulling them along (which probably explains the number of days the breakaways were able to stay away). Nobody seemed to quite know what to do with a free reign. This played nicely into MTS hands.

      Perhaps an indicator of the style of racing we can expect when Sky finally loses its dominance (until US Postal mk3 establishes itself).

    • I too have some doubts about MS. They do seem to have an “A team” as far as GTs go, it was largely at the Giro. However there is a limit how much Jack Haig & Mikel Nieve can achieve. Even Sky struggle to put out 3 top GT teams in a year, for other squads it is even more difficult especially with inevitable looses due to injuries. This time MS came up with the perfect strategy for an anarchistic GT where not much happened in most stages until the final 20km. Having just a couple of mountain helpers played out just fine, what would have happened if SY had had a puncture or ill timed mechanical? Or if there had been a crosswind stage, there was a moment on Stage 19(?) where Movistar split the peloton, there were not many MS riders around to help pull it back, SY needed help from other teams to pull it back much to the relief his DS in the team car.

      I suspect he will be back at the Giro next year rather than the TdF where he will be one of the big favourites.

      • For MS & SY: Another Giro or Vuelta tilt or two > If successful buy domestics > TDF

        They’ve played the long game to get to this point and have time on their side

      • Let’s hope this win busts open some wallets in terms of sponsorship. A quick look at the MS Team website shows most of the funding is of the, well, let’s say “vanity” type. Can this expense really be justified to sell Gerry Ryan’s (he’s the moneyman, right?) wines, camper vans, camper van rentals, etc? Scott certainly puts in some loot but there doesn’t seem to be a lot else there unless there’s some secret money-laundering going on.
        Cadel Evan’s TdF win didn’t open the sponsor floodgates in OZ so perhaps a Vuelta win by a British rider is just wishful thinking?
        While the teams think 18 is a great number for the World/Pro/Whatever-it-is Tour the proposal to cut the number down could make each team better off financially and perhaps reduce the massive disparity between the “rolling in money” teams vs the “scraping-by” ones? Might even spread the talent around a bit more evenly?

        • Hang on… isn’t nearly all of cycling supported by “vanity” sponsorship?
          In France, Belgium, Italy and maybe a couple more territories there is a case to be made that cycling is a ‘national sport’ (and it’s not soccer) which supposedly was the only way for some firms to get their brands on national TV. – Meanwhile national TV is not quite as important as it once was…
          So you can go through the teams and say OK; there’s the Belgian, French and Nederlandse lottery teams plus QuickStep. There are a couple of credit or insurance teams (plus headline sponsors but they are mostly through ASO). Then you have the ‘Italian’ teams, er, Astana, Bahrain Merida, UAE Emirates (this part of the list once included Sky too). Swiss pride is upheld held by Katusha Alpecin. Movistar for Spain, fair enough. Germany has Bora Hansgrohe and Team Sunweb (hardly in proportion to the national GDP).
          Take a country that’s highly successful at these grand tours and what do you have? er, well there are likely not to be many second or third tier teams left in Great Britain after this year since the media assets have been found out and cannot show any great value or return to sponsors. Aquablue, JLT Condor, OnePro and probably more are closing. You might have missed the Tour of Britain that was on while we’ve been enjoying the Vuelta. ‘The Tour Series’ is an evening crit on TV from wherever is in need of having its profile boosted by… an evening crit. Welcome to Salisbury! Motherwell!
          So yeah, let’s enjoy the circus and its bunch of crazy fools while they all keep on wanting to put on a show, but let’s not look too closely at the economics or marketing returns.
          Respect the athletes.
          Zwift eTour anyone?

        • Gerry does it for the love Larry. Nothing to do with vanity. He’s supported Australian cycling for a long time and has always stayed in the background.

          The issue of sponsorship is quite simple. An Australian company or any company looking to the local market will get far more bang for their buck being a short sponsor for a AFL, RL or A-League team where many games are on FTA at prime time rather than paying out far more money to be on SBS a few times a year and ES more regularly but nearly always in the middle of the night. What’s required is an Australian company wanting to grow their brand in Europe but they are few and far between at this point.

      • “Or if there had been a crosswind stage”

        There was a crosswind stage, immediately after that awful crash into the badly sited bollard which did for Pinot and arguably Kelderman’s GC hopes

    • I felt my ears burning as if Larry was talking about me… and what do you know. So, Morten, please describe exactly what Simon Yates “doping ban” was for. It was reported as a team medical officer not filling in the appropriate paperwork for a legal medication and getting it to the relevant authorities on time.

      Do you regard this as the crime of the century? Is it evidence of Yates cheating? Or is it mere bureaucracy others are desperate to blow up into an incident? Even with a totally unjust 2 year ban he would still have been eligible to race this Vuelta. Keep muck spreading.

      • Worth pointing out that the only reason that Yates was found out was because he filled out the form adding in the medication he was on. He didn’t fail a test and then have ‘an excuse’ as has happened in the past. Unfortunately Morten Rupiert (sorry for the spelling if it’s wrong) has always shown a reluctance to see anything other than the very worst in certain riders and teams. Sort of like Larry but on steroids… 😉

      • Someone said the other day that those burnt by falling for Armstrong tend to be the harshest on Froome/Sky. Well Morten probably still hasn’t recovered from having his heart broken by Riise and Sorensen.

  13. Thanks INRNG, and all

    Apparently the sun is not setting on the British cycling empire.

    Sky will come knocking for the Yates kids. Although the price just got higher.

    • Not sure Sky will, they have a zero tolerance policy which would normally prevent them from hiring Simon Yates, unless it becomes an “almost zero tolerance” and they try to finesse it but they seem to be preparing to go big with Egan Bernal.

  14. An interesting race in the end that took a little while to get out of its first week heat induced siesta. The GC battle and daily stage punch ups gave an interesting insight into how 3 week races can be without one team suffocating them. In fairness the Giro had that too. Basically sport is more interesting if you don’t know what will happen in advance.

    • People keep insinuating that Sky suffocate the breaks, and are responsible for predictable racing, but Sky are interested in sprint finishes, or rolling parcours. That’s the territory of Quickstep, Bora-Hansgrohe, and Lotto-Soudal amongst others. In the most part these teams didn’t seem to have the energy for chasing, or perhaps the incentive of the road did not really inspire them to try.
      Generally speaking Sky has found it difficult to shut down racing at the Vuelta in the same way as at the Tour. Equally, such racing style is lacking at the Giro.
      What I’m trying to say is that insulations about Sky are a little unfounded, and that the Vuelta this year was about a riders ability to carry good form (which apparently most teams didn’t). All the top 3 at the Vuelta missed out on the TdF and so adds to the narrative of a punch drunk peloton limping its way through three weeks.

      • I was referring more to the GC battle. The form of everyone was largely unknown. Would Yates crack again? Could Valverde hang on? Can Kruijswijk do something? Is López a bigger wheel sucker than Quintana? That kind of thing. Like in the Giro we never quite knew if Yates was taking enough time before the TT, even though it ended up being irrelevant. All those questions were more important because Sky, or anyone, didn’t steamroller all the mountain stages. It was a nice change if nothing else.

      • The constant theme of SKY dominating and crushing the opposition and spoiling the sport becomes a little repetitive and ignores the reality of the sports development and history since earliest times.

        The very early days of Alycon, Mercier and La Francaise or the ‘red guard’ of Van Looy. When Van Looy was faced with similar disparaging accusations about his dominating team, his reply was ” we remove those who won’t win and leave the fight to those who can win”. What about Merckx and his Feamea and Molteni teams – same model. There are examples of teams who employed the same model going back through history, right up until the recent past – US Postal – if I am allowed to mention them.

        SKY tactics and financial clout is not a new phenomenon. They are not the first and won’t be the last.

        As the old saying goes “there is nothing new in the world”.

  15. Thank you for the coverage of the Vuelta.

    The reason why I always check INRNG is because of the quality of the pieces. There is only one INRNG guy, you cannot hire other writers and expand – and one writer cannot churn out an inspired an well-written piece every day. At least not in my world. This is not some run of the mill rag. This is your creativity, your inspiration, your lifeblood. At least that’s what I want it to be.

    What I am saying is: I’d rather have a gem once in a while than a daily update that doesn’t really matter. Write when you can’t not write. Don’t feel the pressure.


  16. Thank you Innring for one more great coverage also from my side. Maybe an idea for one of the next blogs…what happened to sprinters? Where do they race? If 4 to 5 flat stages at Giro and Vuelta aren’t enough for them, what is? What is more important from marketing perspective? Why would someone pay good money for Kittel, Degenkolb, Cav, Greipel, etc.? For 1-2 potential big wins a season? What does the future look like? I don’t follow each and every second, third class race anymore…I lack time for all that in this stage of my life. But if I don’t, probably many others don’t too…so is it really worth paying them that much to race in UAE or England and Wales (were they even there? I honestly don’t know., didn’t follow at all..)? What happened to this category of riders in general?

    • The Tour is the big rendez-vous for the sprinters, although there are other contests all season long and not just the second or third class races. They still have plenty of good opportunities but you raise a good point, if TTs have become less prominent because of their dire ratings, what about processional stages across Northern France for the sprinters next? Coping with a climb or two could become more important.

      • I am also looking a few years back…longer more than 5 years ago. Back then the best sprinters gathered in at least two GTs. We could see decently represented sprints in all 3 GTs. I know the business model of Giro and especially Vuelta has changed since, however I still find it weird that the teams cannot decide for them to go and tackle those 4 stages or at least 2 of Giro and Vuelta if they don’t make it over to the third week. I guess the best ones also earn quiet a lot. Probably more than Bauke Mollema. But if I think about it who I saw this season more…it is definitely Bauke. Just one example…

  17. An extremely “meh” race from a very “meh” field. If you dispute that please tell me how many of the guys on the podium you think will EVER win the Tour de France?

    • I thought La Vuelta 2018 highly entertaining in a lot of ways. Whether any of the podium guys could ever win LeTour has nothing to do with that or the value of their placing IMHO.
      Sadly, I think the attitude you describe is far too prevalent in the cycling fan world – but I chalk that up to ignorance as much as anything. There are a lot of great champions who will never win LeTour…so?

        • Rominger was pretty cool. He rode for Mapei so bonus points there, held the hour record, was better in one day classics than Contador… being Swiss is pretty cool too.

      • I can wholeheartedly agree with you here Larry. It’s like saying that the World Cup final or Super Bowl is the pinnacle so why watch anything else in that particular sport…?

        I didn’t see Jasper Stuyven (who will never win a TdF…) take the victory in Jef Scherens on Sunday but I saw his Wallonie win on the citadel last Wednesday and it was a cracking race. A shame that some ‘fans’ are ignorant of cycling as you say and miss out on so much entertainment.

    • Don’t agree with the ‘meh’ – there was plenty of interesting daily action even if the GC battle took a while to get going. But you do pose an interesting question about this podium’s chance of winning yellow. Personally I think Mas is the most likely but he’s still a long way off right now. Simon Yates could be a Giro/Vuelta multiple winner. Lopez needs to kick on some to move up the podium steps and his poor time trialling is a big barrier.

      • Likewise, it’s not always about the Tour de France. The battle at Paris-Nice this year between Simon Yates and Marc Soler was to be enjoyed in the moment as a contest even if the two may scrap for bigger things later.

        Still Yates, Lopez and maybe Mas are all very promising riders who should shape the Tour in years to come.

        • You surely should have included Jelle Wallays’ momentous win?
          I think, barring Yates’ Andorra stage, that had to be my favourite day at La Vuelta.
          One could argue that Wallays should never have been allowed victory but then that argument could be levelled against, say, Nibali’s win at Milan – San Remo?

          • I’ll second the appreciation for Wallays’ win. He had an exacting plan against 100-to-1 odds and pulled it off in dramatic fashion. The thinking man’s victory.


          • +1. I can’t remember enjoying a stage as much since Tony Martin just failed to make his solo breakaway stick (and I would have at one much more if he had pulled it off).

  18. This race really made think about what the serious GC picture will look like in 2-3 years, once Froome, The Shark etc, are finally gone.

    Doom, S (and maybe A) Yates, Roglič, Bardet, MAL, Mas, Bernal, maybe Sivakov, maybe Sosa coming on, maybe one or two other current youngish guys make the leap. A bunch of just a cut below guys like Pinot who could win if things line up their way. Lots of contrasting styles. Only Doom + Roglič are world-class TTers and they both worked themselves into fantastic climbers but still neither is peak Froome. Bernal, Mas (and Sivakov?) as more Contador strong but not elite TT/but elite climber types. MAL and Sosa as pure climbers. And who knows what’ll happen with Sky’s sponsorship going forward with Comcast or Fox (sidenote: can’t believe they’re actually gonna settle that with a silent auction), let alone the general chaos of cycling teams over time. I’ve always been a Froome fan but gotta say I’m ready for some chaos.

    Of course this being cycling probably one or two guys will just dominate like usual, but still.

    • Other sidenote, watching him get 2nd in the Tour of Utah a couple years ago I really thought Adrien Costa would be as much of a can’t-miss prospect as Bernal is now, and while it obviously pales in comparison to the awfulness of his injury (let alone whether he would’ve returned to cycling even without the injury), it’s still unfortunate that we’ll never get to see him compete against those guys cause it would’ve been good.

      • I am not so sure about the Colombians. Remember the rise of Quintana? It suddenly stopped and there are more examples. Maybe we are proven wrong, but they seem to reach their peak at a younger age than most. After that, they do not grow as much as everyone expects them to based on their age. An effect of living on altitude?

        • If ever there was a year for a Colombian World Champion, surely this is it.

          I’m looking forward to @INRNG’s preview obviously but at the moment, Colombia looks to be the strongest team to me. GB could have been right up there in terms of strength in depth but Thomas and Froome are cooked and are no-shows. Spain will obviously contend (though Valverde looked exhausted to at the end of this Vuelta). France look very strong, although good luck on getting Pinot and Bardet (and now Julian A) to work together … Steve Cummings might be chuckling at the thought!

    • On the Sosa front I saw an interesting story over the weekend others may have caught. It seems that Sosa has recently changed his manager/agent. It also seems that he did not personally sign the new contract it was announced he had signed with Trek Segafredo. But it also seems his new agent/manager doesn’t want him to sign for Trek anymore. He wants him to sign for Sky! There was speculation that this is just a trick to extract a bit more cash from Trek but it would draw even more howls of complaint from the Larrys of the world if Sosa too found himself reaching for the Sky.

      That said, I do always chuckle to myself when people talk up riders like Sosa, other good current examples being Chaves or Superman Lopez, because it seems clear to me that these 55 kilo wet through riders simply aren’t all round riders and not being all round riders they are never going to win three week all round races. I don’t care how many times they come second and third. They are never actually going to win a grand tour. Gianni Savio, who was team boss of both Bernal and Sosa, says that Sosa is more the pure climber and Bernal more the all rounder of the two so on that basis perhaps Bernal has the best chance to be the Colombian who makes a real mark in the grand tour wins column. I’m not sure those who are just pure climbers ever will.

      • I am inclined to believe that with Bernal’s height and weight ratio, plus his some ITT and expected MTF wins, he could be the first Colombian to become a TDF winner. ITT capability is definitely a race changer.

  19. Thoroughly enjoyed this Vuelta and a great win for Simon and MS. Enjoyed the daily Ytube vids posted by MS which seemed so befitting now that victory was in their camp.

  20. Difference between England and Britain (BBC Just a Minute question?) If asked differences between Chinese and Taiwanese and Hong Konger, I say nothing to be on the safe side.

    • Great Britain (often shortened to Britain) is made up of the separate countries of England, Scotland and Wales. The full title of the political entity is “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”. Geographically the British Isles covers all of the group of islands to the north of the northern coast of France however best not to suggest that to an Irish person. In contemporary use the term “British” is becoming less common.

      • Yes… Great Britain is the island that includes England, Scotland and Wales. In apposition to Lesser Britain – aka Brittany in France. Someone should start a Tour of the Britains, that starts in Scotland and ends in Brittany…

      • Thank you jc for a brief history of the UK. I do wish Br politicians are just as sober as they used to be. Every now and then I picked up news from LBC (Leading Britain‘s Conversation), Sky News, BBC Lifestyle programmes in particular. Back then a male colleague from UK told me he holds separately 7 passports from various countries (Switzerland,Spain,US,Australia…) I was in awe! Isn’t that tiring when you need to serve your country? Saw in numerous occasions that G Thomas is in fact pointed out as a Welsh … I‘d stop here!:)

      • Not quite, the UK is not the same as Great Britain. The UK is “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”, and as the name suggest this is Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) plus Northern Ireland. There are various islands, other than Ireland, which are also part of the British Isles but not part of either Great Britain or the UK including the Isle of Man, so Mark Cavendish is not officially British.

        I would never describe myself as English but would do so as British, because I am half Welsh, half English.

        and Steven I also proudly carry my yellow umbrella around the streets of Hong Kong.

        • Sorry just read your post HK time Thurs. morning.
          Power to the people. Thank you for sharing your true support. I got yellowish feelings already reading this inside my heart.

          • No worries. Hope see you out riding on the roads of HK (when the pollution and temperature drops, and it stops raining so i have run out of excuses to not be riding!)

          • Thank you for your kind words. Weather here was just not forgiving and had experienced more rainy wet road surfaces than the usual September dry weather we had. (Probably you can feel the Hurricane sweep too)Kowloon and New Territories weren’t ideal for fast riding due to a call for more stricter traffic enforcement on bikes (hence issuing tickets on a regular basis.). We have a small Cantonese-speaking riding group up for the Peak on a regular Sundays and then down south to Shek O. Hence ‘Hong Kong Shek O Cycling Friends’ on YouTube.

  21. Chris Horner won his Vuelta 2013 (?) aged over 40+. I guess it takes two to tango, luck and talent. Remind me of Schleck brothers (aged 29/23) who rode Vuelta together (2009?) Team CSC both DNF.

    • I would imagine that without a rider to support he was given more freedom to take it easy. And it’s his first GT at the end of the season so he probably did tire towards the end which blunted any stage / breakaway attempts.

  22. Very surprised given the contempt for Froome and Wiggins’ asthma to find so little discussion of Yates’. Especially as he’s the only one who’s served a ban for the medication for it, as so many people hoped Froome would. 4 GB riders have won Grand Tours and only one doesn’t have asthma.
    Yates has been much less up-front about his medication than Froome has, his TUEs only came out when the anti doping guys were looking for him. Why do I read endless bile about Froome and Wiggins but crowing about Yates?

    • Kit-Most of those (us) who have issues with this have been kind of driven away by the nasty attacks of various UK cycling fans here. That’s why I coined the TTCBCH moniker but it probably should be ABCBCH (Anyone British Can’t Be Criticized Here) instead. Spaniards and Italians can be vilified all day long for some reason as you no doubt have noticed?
      When the level of s–t gets too high I take a break from Inner Ring for awhile to regain some optimism that xenophobia and jingoism are not as prevalent as I think. Then I come back to find same s–t, different day with English-speaking pro cycling fans. I won’t claim it’s different on Italian-language cycling forums because I don’t read or write the language well enough to participate in those. But there are just enough intelligent comments here to get me back time and again and I’ll scroll past the screeds of the usual suspects most of the time unless I see my name in them, and sometimes even then. While I think the situation here is deteriorating, it’s still by far the best forum of this type that I know about, so I can’t seem to give it up entirely, much to the seeming dismay of certain other commenters I figure if/when Mr. INRNG gets tired of me I’ll find out when my comments fail to show up here. 🙂

      • Being the only Asian and non-English speaking here, I can sense and feel that specific atmosphere as well. I was suffering from asthma since a small kid (probably due to my deceased father being a smoker himself) but turning stronger as I grow older towards 60 yrs. Then there was a term (not sure the exact wordings in English) ‘exercise induced asthma’ ? which always perplexed me!

      • “Xenophobia and jingoism” remarks the man who regularly talks about “Anglos”. I don’t know which “Italians and Spaniards” you are referring to in your comment Larry but even a casual acquaintance with the sport would suggest numerous riders from each of these countries who have actually been found guilty of doping offences. Valverde, Contador, Sammy Sanchez, Ricco, di Luca? Any bells ringing? In contrast, British riders, whom you seem to single out, have, in the main, not been.

        So perhaps the bias here is against people found guilty of doping and in favour of those who have not. Isn’t that how it should be? It cannot be the fault of commenters if, according to the judgments of Larry T, the wrong people are found guilty and the right people are not. It only serves to illustrate, once again, your interested need in impugn those you don’t like and redeem those you do. You should come into the real world where it seems several people from the countries you name are genuine, bona fide cheats.

        Operacion Puerto was not a British investigation old bean.

        • It’s more that some British riders – e.g. Wiggins, Froome – have, in many people’s views possibly/probably got away with cheating. But when one suggests this, one is routinely accused on this forum of being anti-British.
          We all know the riders you mention who have been caught cheated – and they were punished.
          For me – and I think for most – nationality is not the issue. At all.
          The ‘not been found guilty’ argument is, therefore, besides the point – because the point is that they’ve got away with it – probably, in my view.

    • Froome and Wiggins’ apparent misuse of TUEs was discovered *after* they had become household names. Yates’s ban came before most people had heard of him, certainly as a GC contender. So to that extent, Froome’s and Wiggins’ TUE use “explained” performances that people were already sceptical about, while with Yates there was nothing to explain.

      It’s also much easier to explain: new doctor prescribed a new medication, Yates wrote the name of the wrong medication on the form, got caught. Whereas Wiggins’ “preventative TUEs” look like more of a scam, and Froome’s eventual acquittal for his AAF relies on fairly complex science and what looks like a system rigged in favour of the wealthy teams/riders. So Yates’s circumstances “smell” better than the others’.

      Plus of course there’s the fact that he doesn’t ride for “The Team Who Can’t be Complimented Here”, as Larry puts it.

      • The conflation of Froome and Wiggins here is disturbing. Froome has not been accused of MISUSE of TUEs. Indeed, he has only ever had two and as far as I’m aware the last one was in 2014. He has never used a TUE in a grand tour and his asthma drugs are not under the TUE regime.

        • I’m surprised you haven’t seen Froome and Wiggins being conflated, or criticism of Froome’s TUEs before. You don’t have to dig too deep to find people criticising the 2014 TUE, which was signed off on the same day by 1 Doctor rather than the required panel of 3.

  23. And initially I never really checked if this site is based in UK/Europe/Australia/US … or even his/her nationality. (Probably answered in FAQs already) maybe English speaking mostly here ( not necessarily from UK) I suppose.
    But I can live with/out certain discussions as such knowing I have a choice to come back/skip/read or not anytime as I feel like. (For the record I READ a lot on exercise doings) That’s the thing with blog/comments, you face the scrutiny of hundreds and in reality getting a 6-pack from gym, a boot camp enthusiast, a spartan winner, a worldwide participant in triathlon events won’t survive one .25 bullet in the center heart if close enough. Fragile as life can be… so I thought always a good thing to let/allow sensible thoughts flow, not with guns/poison gas and harsh comments equally having the same magnitude.

  24. Reply to Mark H

    Well… “The Isle of Man is an internally self-governing dependency of the British Crown and its people are British citizens”. This is from the Isle of Man’s government website.
    Of course, an individual’s status is further complicated by their historic relationship with the UK. Some can claim Islander status and some cannot. By virtue of his mother being born in England, Cavendish cannot claim Islander status. By that yardstick I would say Cavendish is British but, then again, I wouldn’t want to speak for him.
    (I come from a different Crown dependency and, likewise, I cannot claim Islander status. I carry a [slightly different] British passport).

    • Yeah, fair enough, I suppose people from the various islands and crown dependencies would define themselves as British and others wouldn’t, based on both legal status and personal preference.

      From a sporting/cycling perspective there was some controversy about the UK Olympics team, which also includes people from non-UK British islands, being called “Team GB”. Is there a correct collective for that group? Since “British isles” also includes the republic of Ireland, which is a different nation state entirely, it can’t be that.

  25. Thank you BigSigh for sharing this. THis is what I like about this site. you learned something new here each time I logged in. We used to be crown dependency. Those born before 1997 also carry (slightly different)passport. Likewise WE cannot claim to be Br citizens with the boarding rights.

  26. According to Michael Morkov, roommate of Enric Mas during the Vuelta, Enric told him after stage 19 that he should have followed Yates instead of Valverde. Morkov was thinking that the young man was just lying or just stupid. Morkov found out after Stage 20 that Mas was indeed stupid since he could really drop Yates. With Enric’s achievement this year, and Yates’ Vuelta win, races next year where they could race together would be predictably raced differently.

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