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The Lessons We Learned from the 2018 La Vuelta

By Christopher Ashley

Froome won the Triple Crown – Le Tour (2017), La Vuelta (2017), and the Giro (2018). The Team Sky’s embarrassment of riches resulted in another Briton winning the next big prize – Geraint Thomas winning Le Tour earlier this year.

And now, Simon Yates has made this five wins in a row for British cyclists. As a cycling fan who is a Brit, I have to confess that I’m enjoying the glow of victory…

Great teams pick their battles

Team Sky were conspicuously absent, opting to pour their talent into the Tour of Britain. Geraint Thomas couldn’t help but comment that he felt a “little jealous” of Simon Yates’s opportunity not just to race in, but also to win La Vuelta. And what a victory it was…

It’s all the sweeter for Yates, who won stage 20 in Andorra, his home turf. The cynics among you may say he only won because Brailsford changed his priorities. Personally, I think Team Sky noticed something the rest of us missed – that if Yates had the talent to challenge the best away from home, he should be favourite to win at home.

Reconnaissance or renaissance?

The absence of Froome and Thomas provided an opportunity for other riders to shine. Talents like Viviani, Kruijswijk, Valverde, Pinot, Uran, Quintana, and Mollema fought a race that was rich in tactics that wouldn’t have seemed out of place in the 90s. As a cycling fan, I was thrilled.

Team Sky will certainly pick over each stage result as they plan their tactics for next year’s Grand Tours. Just look at Enric Mas who not only finished within two minutes of the lead, he did so at just 23 years old. Winning the best young rider classification is an understatement of Mas’s potential.

Family first

Speaking of youth, Simon Yates is only 26 – just three years older than Mas. In 2013, Team Sky were rumoured to have been interested in signing Simon after winning the World Track Championships in Belarus. But the deal fell through, amidst whispers that Team Sky weren’t interested in offering Simon’s twin, Adam, a deal at the time.

Team Sky’s loss may be Mitchelton-Scott’s gain, and Sir Bradley Wiggins certainly thinks that’s the case. Rather than become another super-domestique, Simon Yates has risen above Team Sky’s temptations and, unlike Richie Porte and Mikel Landa, reaped the benefits with a major tour win.

Mitchelton-Scott could beat Team Sky

Cadel Evans’s win with BMC Bikes in 2010 was a moment of magic, and BMC will be sorely missed. Richie Porte’s career alone has been a tragedy of errors, risks, and unfulfilled potential. I will very much miss the team that should have been Team Sky’s greatest threat these last few years. Chapeau BMC…

But Mitchelton-Scott have rattled Team Sky – no one can doubt that Team Sky’s absence from La Vuelta is more than just a note of caution. You’d think that a team with two leading men could afford to compete in the most important tours of the season. But Simon Yates has given Mitchelton-Scott something Team Sky don’t have. A clearly defined race leader, with youth on his side…