Team of the Year 2017

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The team of the year is often a difficult honour to bestow in the sport of cycling. All of the pitfalls which make the UCI World Tour points system so unworkable also apply when considering which team is better than any other. Is a Grand Tour stage win better than a victory in a one-day race? Is winning the Green jersey better than winning a classic? It’s all subjective so there can be no right answer.

Regardless, I’ve seen a few people make the case for Team Sunweb. Their highlights were the Giro d’Italia and the Worlds Time Trial via Tom Dumoulin, while also taking the Green and Polka-Dot jerseys at the Tour de France (with stage wins along the way) through Michael Matthews and Warren Barguil. A fantastic season for Team Sunweb, no doubt.

But I’m here to make the case for Quick Step. The Belgian team didn’t only beat their rivals regularly throughout the year 2017, if we consider certain statistics, they also took their place amongst the great teams in cycling history.

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The Problem with Rule 5

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Harden the fuck up.

That’s what we’re supposed to do isn’t? Stop whining. Stop complaining. Don’t even dare think about quitting.

Harden. The Fuck. Up.

Cyclists are supposed to be hard. You fall in the middle of a bunch sprint at 65 kilometres per hour and shave the skin off half of your back. You stumble over the line wheeling your bike beside you. You cry tears of self pity and pain when the cold water from the shitty shower in the flea-riddled ‘hotel’ hits your sticky bald flesh. But you are expected to take to the startline the next day, so you harden the fuck up, smile for the cameras and be thankful you are one of the privileged ones.

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Best Stage Winning Grand Tour Debuts

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The sprinting sensation of the recent Giro d’Italia was Fernando Gaviria. Still just 22 years old, the Colombian won four stages on his Grand Tour debut. He was also the only rider to win more than one road stage. His fourth and final win on Stage 13 to Tortona was incredible. With 100 metres to the line he still wasn’t even visible in the overhead shot of the front of the bunch. But he launched himself past everyone over the line and into the history books.

Gaviria is the first rider to win four stages on his Grand Tour debut for 38 years.

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Giro winners at the Tour de Suisse

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The recent Giro d’Italia winner Tom Dumoulin is set to take part in the Tour de Suisse which starts on 10th June. It was always part of his season plans which he announced back in March. But with the start in Switzerland coming just two weeks after his victory in Milan, it’s still a surprising decision. Not least because it’s 16 years since the Giro winner decided to take part in the Tour de Suisse.

Usually, the main contenders at the Giro tend to skip both the Criterium du Dauphiné and the Tour de Suisse in favour of a block of training before heading to the Tour de France, perhaps via their national championships the week before. Alternatively, Giro contenders just take a break from the bike altogether before returning to build form for the second half of the season which would likely include the Vuelta a Espana.

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Spread Out Giro Stage Winners

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This year’s Giro d’Italia was probably the closest battle between the top riders that we had ever seen in a Grand Tour. Before the final time trial to Milan, any one of four riders could still conceivably have won it. As it transpired, Tom Dumoulin, Nairo Quintana, Vincenzo Nibali and Thibaut Pinot performed as expected in the time trial. This led to a Dumoulin victory by a margin of 31 seconds over Quintana and 40 seconds over Nibali – one of the closest ever Grand Tour podiums as shown in the table below:

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Grand Tour Trebles

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Winning two Grand Tours in the same year has been achieved 17 times throughout cycling history. If we consider all of the years where this was actually possible, that’s an average of a Grand Tour double roughly every six years – a relatively common occurrence.

Despite Oleg’s Tinkov’s wishes, no rider has ever won all three Grand Tours in a single year. The best performance by a rider across all three in one year is a toss up between Raphael Geminiani in 1955 and Gastone Nencini in 1957. Geminiani finished the Vuelta, Giro and Tour in third, fourth and sixth overall respectively. Adding these finishing positions together gives a total of 13, which is the lowest total ever achieved. In 1957, Nencini managed ninth, first and sixth – a total of 16 which is not as good as Geminiani but since Nencini actually won the Giro, depending on your criteria, perhaps this should be considered a better set of results.

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