Ag2r La Mondiale 4/10
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Although they came close in some of the season’s biggest races, with podium finishes at Paris-Roubaix (Silvain Diller), Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Worlds (both Romain Bardet), Ag2r La Mondiale didn’t actually register a WorldTour win until late August courtesy of Oliver Naesen at the Bretagne Classic-Ouest France, after which two Vuelta stage wins quickly followed.
Overall it was a solid season, exemplified by Bardet’s ride for sixth place at the Tour – respectable, but short of some of the highs of recent years.
Not only did Astana manage to both significantly improve their Classics line-up (Michael Valgren’s wins at Amstel Gold and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad being the highlights) and partially reinvent themselves as a team of stage-hunters (with Magnus Cort’s and Omar Fraile’s Tour stage wins backed up by many more in other stage races); they also reinforced their status as a GC Grand Tour team thanks to the continued development of Miguel Angel Lopez, who took podium spots at both the Giro and the Vuelta.
The likes of Sonny Colbrelli, Domenico Pozzovivo and the Izagirre brothers performed reliably throughout the season, but again it was Vincenzo Nibali who brought the team their biggest success with a glorious victory at Milan-San Remo.
The Italian’s second half of the season was derailed by a crash at the Tour de France, but young talent Matej Mohoric (who had earlier won a stage at the Giro) stepped up with overall victories at the BinckBank and Deutschland Tours.
In the team’s final season before merging with CCC-Sprandi-Polkowice, BMC didn’t exactly go out with a bang, but neither did they go out with a whimper. The total of 24 wins was the lowest since 2012, and is half of what they managed last year, while Richie Porte crashed out during the first week of the Tour.
But Porte did at least win the Tour de Suisse, and there was success at the Tour de France in the team time trial, while Rohan Dennis proved himself to be the world’s best time triallist with wins at the Giro, Vuelta and in Innsbruck.
Through Peter Sagan’s three stage haul at the Tour and Sam Bennett’s hat-trick of sprints at the Giro (as well as the emergence of Pascal Ackermann), Bora-Hansgrohe were the only team able to seriously rival Quick-Step Floors in the biggest bunch sprints.
Add to that Sagan’s usual extraordinary exploits, which this year included victory at Paris-Roubaix and a record-equalling sixth green jersey, and it was another very successful season for the German squad.
Dimension Data 2/10
Without their star rider Mark Cavendish, who missed virtually the entire season through illness, Dimension Data lacked an identity or any real quality.
Their other star name, Edvald Boasson Hagen, was considerably short of his best, and no rider stepped up to deliver big results until Ben King’s double-stage success at the Vuelta.
EF Education First-Drapac 3/10
After an encouraging 2017, this year was a regression back to the underwhelming returns of previous seasons for EF Education First-Drapac. Rigoberto Uran was unable to replicate the form he showed at last year’s Tour, leaving Michael Woods as their best performing rider with star turns at the Worlds and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
His and Simon Clarke’s stage victories at the Vuelta were badly needed, but even then only managed to extend their overall season total of wins to a meagre six.
Groupama-FDJ continue to improve with each passing season, this time collecting a haul of 33 wins that was there biggest since 2013.
As ever sprinter Arnaud Démare contributed the most to that total, including an invaluable stage win at the Tour, but it was Thibaut Pinot’s late-season flourish culminating in the Il Lombardia victory that made this an especially fruitful year for the French squad.
2018 was nothing short of a disaster for Katusha-Alpecin. Their big investment in Marcel Kittel backfired spectacularly as the German struggled for form all season and failed to gel with his new lead-out train, while Ilnur Zakarin fell well short of his 2017 performances in the Grand Tours.
Only five wins were registered all season.
The revelation of the year was LottoNL-Jumbo, who have rapidly transformed from one of the peloton’s perennial underachievers to one of its best performers.
Dylan Groenewegen won loads of sprints, including a couple at the Tour de France, while Steven Kruijswijk and (Romandie and Basque Country winner) Primož Roglič led a much improved squad of climbers. The only thing missing was a Grand Tour podium or big Classic win.
Lotto-Soudal did not lack for wins in 2018 – they collected 26 in total, with major contributions coming from Tim Wellens early in the season and, inevitably, André Greipel.
But, with the exception of a couple of Grand Tour stage wins and Tiesj Benoot’s success at Strade Bianche, a large proportion of those results came in smaller, less prestigious races, and the team continue not to challenge for GC at Grand Tours.
This was the year that Mitchelton-Scott finally came of age.
It looked as though their long-targeted first ever Grand Tour overall victory was to come at the Giro, before a hitherto remarkably dominant performance from Simon Yates unravelled in the final few days. Instead, Yates licked his wounds and recovered to ride a perfect race at the Vuelta and achieve the team’s biggest result in its history.
Nairo Quintana’s bafflingly underwhelming form and a late collapse from Alejandro Valverde at the Vuelta means it’s now been over two years since Movistar last won a Grand Tour, but that disappointment was alleviated when Valverde was crowned World Champion in Innsbruck.
The team will also have been heartened by a new generation of talent that came through last year, with Marc Soler winning Paris-Nice and Richard Carapaz finishing fourth overall at the Giro.
Quick-Step Floors 10/10
Even by their own seriously high standards, this was a stunning season for Quick-Step Floors, which produced an enormous 73 wins – the most in the team’s long history.
They perfected the art of bunch sprinting (with Elia Viviani winning more races than anyone in the peloton, were untouchable in the Classics (Niki Terpstra’s and Bob Jungels’ wins at the Tour of Flanders and Liège-Bastogne-Liège being the highlights), and continued to develop the peloton’s hottest prospects. Most notably Julian Alaphilippe, who lit up the Tour de France and won many more races, and Enric Mas, who, aged 23, became one of the youngest riders to make a Grand Tour podium
It doesn’t matter whether they’re supporting Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas or Giro d’Italia winner Chris Froome – Team Sky possess the formula for winning Grand Tours, and there appears little anyone else can do to stop them.
That Thomas emerged as their yellow jersey champion typified a year in which success has been spread around, with the likes of Michal Kwiatkowski (Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour of Poland), Gianni Moscon (Tour of Guangxi) and the supremely talented Egan Bernal (Tour of California) all achieving overall victories in other stage races.
After the highs of last year, 2018 was a unceremonious bump back down to earth for Team Sunweb.
Tom Dumoulin continues to be a priceless asset, and could, if things had gone slightly differently, have won the Giro, Tour and the Worlds. Instead he had to settle for just two wins and a whole load of second place finishes, while Michael Matthews didn’t really get into his groove until the autumn.
A potentially tricky season became at least a somewhat palatable one, as the team rallied following the departure of star Alberto Contador to claim 21 wins, with nine different riders all contributing.
The downside was their displays in the biggest races, particularly at the Grand Tours – without Contador they were unable to mount any successful GC bids, and managed just one stage win (John Degenkolb at the Tour).
UAE Emirates 4/10
Despite Fabio Aru’s disastrous Giro d’Italia, UAE Emirates seemed to be finding their feet earlier in the year, with new signings Alexander Kristoff picking up numerous wins, and Dan Martin riding a good Tour de France.
They failed to follow through on that momentum, however – the team have remained winless since Kristoff triumphed on the Champs Élysées way back in July.