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Fermoselle - Spain - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - illustration - scenery - carte postal scenic shot - postcard sfeerfoto - sfeer - illustratie start pictured during 73rd La Vuelta ciclista a España (2.UWT) Stage 10 from Salamanca. VIII Centenario Universidad de Salamanc to Fermoselle. Bermillo de Sayago (177 KM) - photo Miwa iijima/Cor Vos © 2018

VUELTA’18: The PEZ Crew Low-Down!

The PEZ Crew Vuelta: The PEZ Crew all agree that the Vuelta a España was again the best Grand Tour of the season, those (mostly) short fast stages with a tough finalé brought out the best of the peloton. History in the making with Simon Yates taking his first GT win to top of a first one nation/three rider clean sweep. Here are the best of the PEZ Crew thoughts on this years Spanish three week tour.

Those Basque fans are the best!

Chuck Peña, DC Bureau
Once again, the Vuelta was a breath of fresh air. A Grand Tour not dominated by the March of the Skybots! Not that Sky didn’t try in the first week with Michal Kwiatkowski snagging the maillot rojo on Stage 2. But Sky also didn’t have their ace riders, Froome and Thomas, or their full complement of A-team support riders — which created a bit of a more level playing field (or at least a more wide open playing field). The result? Much more fun and unpredictable racing to watch (BTW, I once again have to thank having the NBC Sports Gold package to be able to watch the Vuelta). I mean, Rudy Molard leading a Grand Tour? Ditto for Jesus Herrada. Definitely a breath of fresh air. You certainly wouldn’t expect riders such as them to be wearing the maillot jaune at the Tour de France. And how many stages were won by breakaways or solo escapes at the finish? Another breath of fresh air. This year’s Vuelta was also different because riders who might otherwise be considered favourites — such as Vincenzo Nibali and Richie Porte — were using the race to ride themselves into form for the Worlds in Innsbruck after suffering injuries at the Tour de France. Sagan too.

Peter Sagan – Four 2nd stage placings, two 3rds and 2nd on the Points Classification

My British friends will never let me hear the end of the fact that guys who speak English with a funny accent have now won the last four Grand Tours. While three of them have been Sky, at least the last two weren’t Froome. Chapeau to Simon Yates! Compared to his collapse at the Giro, he rode more conservatively but still channeled his inner Hinault: “As long as I breathe, I attack!” Panache!

A solo Simon Yates – With panache

As a Yank, my hat is off to Ben King and his two stage wins — first atop Alfaguara on Stage 4 and then surviving the slog up la Covatilla on Stage 9. In so doing, he single-handedly pretty much salvaged what was otherwise a dismal season for Dimension Data. But my ride of the race goes to Michael Woods and his win up the seemingly endless brutal climb of Bizkaia on Stage 17. Vintage Vuelta — 7.3 km at 9.7% average gradient, but with double digit grade in the middle section, one stretch of nearly 24%, and the finish at 13%. Biggest disappointment? Nairo Quintana. He came in as a favourite but — except for Stage 13 when he put a handful of seconds on Yates — was never really a factor and hardly rode like a former winner of the Giro and Vuelta. And I have to admit it was little strange watching a Vuelta without El Pistolero, but Contador’s prediction last year that Enric Mas would be the next big thing in Spanish cycling appears to be true.

Finally, the best moment of the Vuelta? Fabio Aru calling a Colnago a “shit bike”.

Simon Yates looks good in the maillot rojo, but those sunglasses with that helmet? Can you say “bobblehead”?

Matt McNamara – Toolbox Contributor
Great racing nearly everyday for three weeks? Who can expect such a thing! I am happy to say that the “other” two grand tours have managed to spoil us again this year with day after day after day of interesting, exciting, and vibrant racing. As a “work from home” full time coach I am afforded the luxury of watching the full daily coverage of every stage and for me that is where the essence of a grand tour resides. Indeed, the last few kilometres of any of the nine summit finishes made for a compelling thirty or forty minutes, enough to get your daily dose and know what’s going on, but for me it is the ebb and flow of the individual riders throughout that keeps me coming back. Watching Thomas De Gendt make the break day after day along with Bauke Mollema or Dylan Teuns.

An on/off Vuelta from Vincenzo Nibali

The on again/off again efforts of Vincenzo Nibali as he clearly looked to pique his form for Worlds. The thrill of watching my friend Omar Fraile ride out of his head stage after stage, enjoying a few moments off the front of the break in his home region on one stage, and tirelessly working for Miguel Angel Lopez, yet another of the endless torrent of Spanish talent that rise at the Vuelta.

At home with Omar fraile:

From Jesus Herada battling to hold the red jersey, to the improbably amazing summit finish ride of Euskadi-Murias’ Oscar Rodriguez, to the redemption of Simon Yates in taking the final jersey home from Madrid after his implosion at the Giro in May, this years Vuelta was a daily feast of what’s best about cycling.

Simon Yates did a lot of looking back

Mark McGhee – Special Correspondent
When we looked back at the 2018 Giro d’Italia Mark McGhee said:
“Whatever you feel about Team Sky’s seemingly miraculous resurrection of the roads of the Col de Finestre the fact is that Yates saw his Giro not just slip, but quite simply, landslide away. Despite that, it was a very mature performance from a rider who eschewed the Team Sky approach and went his own way…to think that only 5 years ago I was watching him take the Under-23 British Road Race title and now he very nearly claimed the greatest prize by a genuinely British-born rider.

He’ll be back!”

How right Mark was!

Stage 19 of the 2018 Giro d’Italia – The day it all went wrong for Simon Yates
Bardonecchia - Italië - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Simon Yates (GBR - Mitchelton - Scott) pictured during the 101st Giro d’Italia 2018 - stage 19 from Venaria Reale to Bardonecchia (184 KM) - photo LB/RB/Cor Vos © 2018

Ed Hood – PEZ Grand Tour Specialist
“GB wins all three Grand Tours – never thought I’d live to see that. . .”

You can read Ed’s round of WEEK 1, WEEK 2 and the FINAL WEEK 3.

Ed sums up the rider performances like this:

But before we sign off and think about the Giro 2019, let’s have a look at how our Vuelta preview tips performed, their position here is based on how the bookies saw it before the race:

Richie Porte (BMC and Australia): Stomach problems before the race even started – the ‘Nightmare on Grand Tour Street’ continues for the man from Tassie.

Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott and Britain): ‘The win is possible’ – we got that one right.

Nairo Quintana (Movistar and Colombia): ‘Doesn’t seem to sparkle like he used to’ – another one we got right but it gives us no pleasure.

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar and Spain): Fifth on GC, two stages, lead the winning team and won the points jersey – not a bad ‘failure’ if you ask us. . .

Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana and Colombia): We worried that maybe there had been too many stage races for him, this year – we needn’t have.

Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First-Drapac and Colombia): Finished seventh and the team took two stage wins so Mr. Vaughters should be happy enough?

Fabio Aru (UAE team Emirates and Italy): Hard to believe that this is the man who ‘mugged’ Dumoulin to win this race in 2015 – 23rd at an hour plus.

Wilko Kelderman (Sunweb and The Netherlands): He finished 10th, little else to say.

Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida and Italy): We think he’ll have more to say come the Tyrol in a fortnight.

We saw a quick glimps of Richie Porte in the stage 6 break – Even his team were surprised:

Alastair Hamilton – Editor and Spanish Office
The Vuelta a España is my ‘home’ race and so it was a disappointment to see that the 2018 course would give the Spanish east coast a big miss, but I did manage to the stage 6 finish in San Javier, Mar Menor to see Nacer Bouhanni take the win in a sprint that was made for Elia Viviani.

The stage 6 finish:

But what about the 2018 Vuelta? Two big facts came to light: The first was that when the Sky team can’t/don’t dominate a race, there is much more open, exciting racing and we see more from the ‘lesser’ riders. Ben King, Simon Clarke, Tony Gallopin, Alessandro De Marchi, Alexandre Geniez, Óscar Rodríguez, Michael Woods, Jelle Wallays, Rudy Molard and Jesús Herrada are all talented riders, but they were allowed to shine in Spain in a way that would never happen in the Tour de France.

Mas, Lopez and Simon Yates tear the Vuelta stage 20 apart:

Secondly: There is a lot of young talent on the way up. Obviously the top three; Simon Yates (26), Enric Mas (23) and Miguel Ángel López (24) are stars and young and have big futures ahead of them, showing that there is a new wave coming through, even Elia Viviani, Thibaut Pinot and Rohan Dennis are under 30 as are most of the other top riders of la Vuelta. Then there is Alejandro Valverde (38) – There has to be one exception to the rule.

Not a bad Vuelta for the ‘Old Man’ – 5th overall, two stage wins and the Points Competition:

Viva la Vuelta and roll on the 2019 Spanish Tour with more young riders and more excitement.

The best of la Vuelta a España 2018:

# The 2018 World championships start today, Sunday the 23rd of September, in Innsbruck with the team time trial – Stay tuned for all news from Austria. #

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