Vuelta a España Teams Reviewed
Lotto's race was one of both expected and unexpected results, but far from what I would see in the begining of the race. For a start Thomas de Gendt took the toll on his third GT of the season, he clearly lacked the legs here but also chose all the breakaways to take part of which severed his chances of a stage win. There was Tosh van der Sande who did good, what was expected of him but the real surprise was Carl Fredrik Hagen who at 27 had his debut in a GT and it couldn't have gone any better. With little or no expectations for the overall, he snuck onto a breakaway in Igualada jumping into the Top10 and resisted time-trials, mountains and crosswinds to finish a convincing 8th, the first GT Top10 since Jurgen van den Broeck in the Tour of 2012.
From Movistar their race took a huge blow before it even began as Richard Carapaz failed to align in the race, and afterwards signed with INEOS after what looks like a bad relationship with the team. Overall, Movistar did very good, the crosswind stage was proof where they raced brilliantly, the issue is that when it came to climbing they just weren't fighting for the win there, they were conservative. Valverde shone finishing second, was consistent and strong as he has struggled to ride in recent GT's, Quintana shone in two days, but his ride through the mountains was very inconsistent, with some strong days but then real bad days, he finished 4th but in reality a very distant 4th. Still two wins, the team's classifications and Soler finishing 9th whilst purely in support, Movistar go home with a strong result.
Coming to the winner team early on. This race, well in the Giro everyone complained Roglic had no support, it was even said he was about to leave the team due to that lack of support. That was proven wrong (literally as he also signed a new contract), Jumbo, despite having Kruijswijk abandoning early on due to a crash in the opening TTT, supported Roglic perfectly, Kuss/Bennett/Powless were great in supporting him when needed. As for Roglic, flawless race. His lost time came from crashes including in Andorra aswell, in the mountains he never lost time and never even looked in distress, he was composed, consistent throughout every mountain and formed alliances with all his rivals in at least one stage until he took time on them all. First of many, I'd say.
AG2R La Mondiale
From AG2R I had the expectations pretty much only to see Pierre Latour perform here, and after a promising set of opening days, he slowly faded until he completely cracked in Andorra which came to me as a big surprise. It was a bad day however, as in the next days he put on very strong performances including third on Los Machucos, but then he seemed to have fell ill as he disappeared after that stage, and just remained very absent from the show. The upcoming performance of Geoffrey Bouchard is what saved their race, like in the Tour they took the KOM classification home after what was quite an impressive performance, confirming the potential he showed early in the season in what is his first year as a pro. The rest of the team wasn't very present but that jersey was enough to consolidate their spot in the race.
Astana Pro Team
Astana came in to fight for the win and they entered the race perfectly with a surprise win in the TTT. That was quite the ideal start, but in Calpe a tactical mistake was made, and then a tragic crash in the Andorran gravel. With that, another GT was marked by some sort of bad luck for Lopez, who was really strong in some mountain stages but had a couple of bad days which dictated his final 5th place. Other than him the team was quite strong, classic Astana, they left with an aditional win by Fuglsang which was quite motivating, so overall not a bad race but not what they had hoped for.
Bahrain is a dificult team to judge. With so much quality in the team it was quite a modest squad coming here. Phil Bauhaus never truly performed in the sprints, the team's results came from Dylan Teuns who spent a day in the lead and finished 12th overall, but then there was Pernsteiner who would easily make it to the Top10 but lost his chances on the crosswinds, so it's definetely a race of ups and downs. Still a day in the lead meant they had something to take home.
BORA - hansgrohe
Bora came with two goals as in the Giro and their plan worked very well, as in the Giro. Even with Formolo's premature abandon, Rafal Majka did brilliant and consistent once again and finished 6th after a successful season. On the other side there's Sam Bennett and likeminded he performed to expected, he took two stage wins and was unlucky in Toledo where it would've become three. Still it was a very successful run and Bora had major success in this Vuelta despite three abandons.
CCC came after a season marked by bad luck, which with a still minimalistic squad is something hard to take on and here it was no exception. I can talk about Patrick Bevin's abandon but he seems to have done it in order to prepare for the worlds, but Victor de la Parte's abandon was another big blow to the team. There was no real goal besides stage wins afterwards but the remaining riders struggled to be in the fight for them which wasn't a surprise as there were some debutants gaining experience, although Szymon Sajnok had quite an impressive run that included third on the final day.
Deceuninck - Quickstep
The team came with no real ambitions for the GC, with Jakobsen and the classics men on the team it came as a team targeting the stage wins. And sure they did, Jakobsen nailed a sprint finish early on and fullfiled his goal, and then the stages started pouring as Phillipe Gilbert nailed two stage wins from breakaways and the same yet even more impressive win from Remi Cavagna, and the final win in Madrid by Jakobsen was the cherry on top. After even all of that James Knox rode into form on the second week and really burned through into the Top10, only to loose it on the final day due to a crash but nonetheless a very good 11th place.
Groupama - FDJ
Groupama is another team that came with very limited ambitions. None of their leaders were present so it was a team on the attempt of gaining experience and well, getting Marc Sarreau. There were some abandons in the team, but besides Sarreau nailing some Top5's there wasn't really anything worth for the team to showcase from here.
Mitchelton - Scott
My first thought look at Mitchelton's squad was of disbelief, I could understand the Yates' absence but not of Jack Haig and Lucas Hamilton, who shone outside of the race, the picking was underwhelming and that resumed their race too. Well, not completely, Mikel Nieve had a couple of good days backending the race but never looked at his best, he was however consisted and thus managed to finish a solid 10th. Chaves, well I didn't expect much from him, however he entered the race quite well, but he early on started to fade and didn't perform much in the final two weeks. On the other side there was Luka Mezgec in quite some form, he looked good in the sprints but a nasty crash took him out of the race. There were some minimal good performances at points from other riders but it never came together.
Team Dimension Data
Dimension Data had an horrible season, however came August came some signs of form throughout multiple riders in the team and such I got some hope, but in reality the team was never up to case, which was well, the normal. There's almost nothing to recall from their race, Meintjes' performance in Navacerrada was good and that's the only thing I remember but the results sheet back me up, as Boasson Hagen's 5h place in the final stage was their best result.
EF Education First
EF's race was mostly marked by bad luck, in the same day the least lost Uran, Carthy and van Garderen. With Martinez far from his best the race was almost completely ruined. Only Higuita could save it pretty much, Craddock had some good performances but didn't get the win he was looking for, however after some dificulties in the mountains Higuita came back in the third week and took a win with a big 50Km solo win which was the make-up they needed.
Team Katusha Alpecin
I've heard something about Katusha and it was totally accurate, as in the Tour with Pollit, there was one side of the team here which was Ruben Guerreiro and another that was everyone else. Now I can't blame, there were some debutants and a lack of experience, I'm not nationality biased but Guerreiro was the only rider in the team that was active and competitive for the classifications and stage wins.
Well INEOS didn't come with the ambition to do great things here, having Thomas prepare for the worlds and Sivakov/Sosa on a long-term plan that consisted only in a single Grand Tour this year, the team wasn't left with many options but then with those, Tao Hart failed as he was ill on the opening week and Poels was never in top form. They tried to go for stage wins, weren't far but also didn't get any and for a team of this level that should be the minimum.
Sunweb is a hard team to rate, overall they had a very good race but if you think of it a lot you won't recall many special moments. However they did happen, Roche started off the race very strong and lead it for three days before having to abandon due to a crash, Wilco Kelderman showed a spark of his consistency back and took a strong 7th place and a great move in the crosswinds, and from the rest of the team there was a stage win to take from Nikias Arndt.
Trek - Segafredo
Trek, another team hard to rate. No top climber, no top sprinter, no top anything pretty much. However with their leadouts they got great results this season and here was no exception, Edward Theuns finished second to Bennett in the first sprint. But other than that, there were some really good performances by Brambilla but he didn't capitalize on them, and then the rest of the team is a mix of young and other experienced riders that in reality didn't add much to the team, no other rider really stood out in any way.
UAE - Team Emirates
UAE had completely different different GT's until the Vuelta, the Giro was a success and the Tour a disaster, and the Vuelta was the swing of the pendulum. Coming with Gaviria and Aru they had some high expectations, however none of them gave reasons to celebrate. But the rider who came in as the youngest in the race Tadej Pogacar saved and made their race. Three stage wins, a final place in the podium and the under-25 jersey. It was perfect, he did the race for the team when all others failed.
Cofidis, Solutions Credits
Cofidis was a story of success and disaster. Well, not that disastrous when you look at the overall picture, the team came with ambitions to take a stage, they did so, Jesus Herrada took a big stage win in Maestrat and then in Igualada Nicolas Edet took the lead of the race. Despite loosing it the next day, Edet was riding superb, well within the Top10 until the crosswind stage. There that GC was lost, he still finished 18th but could've gone higher, but overall their race went very well.
Euskadi Basque Country - Murias
Euskadi came with Oscar Rodriguez and Mikel Bizkarra in to fight for stage wins and a possible GC or KOM tilt, however sickness first took out Bizkarra then Rodriguez. After that they fought for stage wins, they were present but didn't manage to, however they did get what they were looking for, and so unexpectedly, it was in stage 11 that Mikel Iturria took an opportunity and took with it a big stage win. The race was made there, and despite being a different way of getting it they had a good race.
Burgos - BH
Burgos, the sensation team of the opening week. Well, there's different ways of looking at them, after Madrazo lost the KOM jersey Burgos blacked out pretty much, but in the first week, having riders in the break everyday and Madrazo in the lead, and then in Javalambre they had a special moment where Madrazo won in front of Jetse Bol, a 1-2 that completely made their race, and from there on everything else was an extra.
Caja Rural - Seguros RGA
And the final team was Caja Rural, I've seen different opinions on their performance, but on my side I rate them high. With a stronger team than last year they came in with good expectations and they fullfilled it. The climbers didn't perform much but that was expected, Serrano also struggled, but Lastra had a second place from the breakaway, Alex Aranburu hit the post twice with two second places and Jon Aberasturi was a constant presence in the sprints, so I think they did just what was expected of them.
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