By Simon Collis published
Giro d'Italia: Chris Froome (Team Sky)
Chris Froome (Team Sky) made history twice here - becoming both the first British rider to win the Giro, and adding his name to a select trio of riders who have held all three Grand Tour titles at the same time - along with Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault.
Up until stage 19, the race looked lost for Froome, who was in fourth on GC and 3 minutes 22 behind leader, Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) - who had held the honour since stage six, winning on stages nine, 11 and 15.
On the slopes of the Colle delle Finestre, however, Froome made his intentions clear, riding away from the bunch with 80km to go and extending a lead which he held until Rome.
The stage was significantly less successful for Yates, who had appeared so unbreakable in the first two weeks, but struggled to hold the pace and dropped well out of the top ten.
Defending champion Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) spent much of the race in second, only wearing the maglia rosa following a victory in the opening time trial. Though he tried to eat into Froome's margin on the penultimate stage, he later admitted he simply could not shift the Brit.
Podium: Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) at 46s, Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) at 4-57
KOM: Chris Froome (Team Sky)
Points: Elia Viviani (Quick Step Floors)
Vuelta a España: Chris Froome (Team Sky)
Chris Froome (Team Sky) took his first victory at the Vuelta, ahead of Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin).
On stage 11, he added to his time gap with second place, whilst his rivals where not able to follow him towards yet another gruelling uphill finish line. The Brit had to work hard the following day, when two crashes in quick succession over the final 10km almost scuppered his lead, but he was able to retain his red jersey.
Froome faced hot competition from Vincenzo Nibali, who claimed a few seconds on him over stage 14, but a long 40.2km time trial on stage 16 allowed him to build up a buffer, winning by 29 seconds. He gained yet more time in the coming days, eventually winning with a margin of 2-15 over Nibali.
Podium: Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) at 2-15, Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) at 2-51
KOM: Davide Villella (Cannondale-Drapac)
Points: Chris Froome (Team Sky)
Tour de France: Chris Froome (Team Sky)
Despite going into the race on less than top form and without a win in 2017, there were times when Chris Froome's fourth Tour de France victory looked like something of a canter. He didn't win a stage en route to Paris, but nor did he need to.
Team-mate Geraint Thomas was the surprise winner of the yellow jersey in the opening time trial, and thereafter Sky were in the lead for all but two days of the race.
Working in Froome's favour were the early withdrawals of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Richie Porte (BMC Racing). Nairo Quintana (Movistar) looked fatigued after his tilt at the Giro, Alberto Contador (Trek Segafredo) appeared to be a fading force, and Sky's rivals never really looked capable of putting Froome's squad under genuine pressure.
Margins were small throughout a largely cagey Tour, but stage 20's time trial always looked likely to work in Froome's favour – and so it proved as he thrashed his rivals to establish some more substantial time gaps ahead of the race's arrival in Paris.
Among the other big stories of the Tour was Warren Barguil's excellent ride, as the 25-year-old Frenchman claimed the mountains jersey to the delight of the home fans. Early on, the clash between Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), which led to a broken shoulderblade for the Manxman and a controversial disqualification for the Slovak, cost Sagan the chance to win a record-equalling six successive green jerseys, and prevented Cavendish from edging closer to Eddy Merckx's all-time Tour stage win record.
Podium: Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac), 54s; Romain Bardet (AG2R), 2-20
KOM: Warren Barguil (Team Sunweb)
Points: Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb)
Giro d'Italia: Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb)
Beginning the day in fourth position behind Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), the time trial specialist blasted to the GC victory around the 28km course from the Monza F1 circuit to the streets of Milan in an effortless display of power against the clock, becoming the first Dutchman to win the Giro.
Earlier in the race, Dumoulin put in the performance of his life to throw down the gauntlet in the first TT on stage ten, opening up a gap of 2-23 over Quintana.
That lead would be tested again and again through the mountainous latter half of the race, especially on the 222km Queen stage, when Dumoulin was forced to stop for an emergency natural break in the run-in to the final climb. His rivals took full advantage, and at the end of stage 16, the race lead was down to just 31 seconds.
As the race approached its climax, the improvised alliance of Quintana and Nibali tested Dumoulin to breaking point, as both riders knew that the Dutchman would hold all the aces on the final day's TT. Quintana seized pink on stage 19 and extended his lead to 53 seconds the following day – but ultimately Dumoulin had enough left at the climax of a thrilling race.
Away from the GC, sprinter Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) proved his talent with four stage wins on his debut Grand Tour, claiming the points jersey by a huge margin.
Podium: Nairo Quintana (Movistar), 31s; Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), 40s
KOM: Mikel Landa (Team Sky)
Points: Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors)
Vuelta a España: Nairo Quintana (Movistar)
Quintana took victory on the big mountains of stage 10 to take the race lead, and it was his all the way to Madrid, despite spirited challenges from Froome, Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff).
The key moment came on stage 15, when Quintana put himself into an escape group with Contador and team-mates to gain over two and a half minutes on Froome, who found himself without team support and perhaps suffering from a gruelling season that had taken him from France, to the Rio Olympics, and then to Spain.
Froome clawed back over two minutes as he convincingly won the key time trial stage to set up a thrilling final day in the mountains on stage 20. He repeatedly attacked Quintana on the final climb, but the Colombian held firm, actually gaining a couple of seconds on Froome on the line.
Podium: Chris Froome (Team Sky), 1-23; Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange), 4-08
KOM: Omar Fraile (Dimension Data)
Points: Fabio Felline (Trek-Segafredo)
Tour de France: Chris Froome (Team Sky)
The 2016 Tour de France was a strange mix, in parts compelling and unpredictable, but at other times lacking in drama.
On the one hand, there were some unforgettable images. Chris Froome (Team Sky) confounded his rivals by attacking on a descent, and teamed up with Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) to form a successful break on a flat sprint stage. Perhaps most memorably of all, he found himself jogging up Mont Ventoux when his bike was damaged in a collision with a motorbike.
Elsewhere, Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) proved his critics wrong when he won four stages – and his first yellow jersey – despite having focused his pre-Tour preparation on the Olympics rather than the road. Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) was hit by a falling inflatable. And Sagan was once again at the heart of everything, competing in sprints, launching breaks and ultimately winning three stages, as well as his fourth successive green jersey.
In the general classification, however, Froome and Sky never looked like losing. A team packed full of capable climbers such as Wout Poels, Mikel Landa, Geraint Thomas and Mikel Nieve were utterly dominant, and none of his rivals could match Froome in the two time trials.
The likes of Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Fabio Aru (Astana) and Richie Porte (BMC Racing) were unable to make a mark on an individual stage, never mind the race. Froome was simply a step above as he claimed the third Grand Tour of his career.
Podium: Romain Bardet (AG2R), 4-05; Nairo Quintana (Movistar), +-21
KOM: Rafal Majka (Tinkoff)
Points: Peter Sagan (Tinkoff)
Giro d'Italia: Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)
For the second Grand Tour in succession, Astana pulled off a classic smash-and-grab.
With 18 stages complete, Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) looked virtually unbeatable and set for an unlikely first Grand Tour win – before the next two days turned the whole race upside down. Vincenzo Nibali was all but written off, placed in fourth and 4-43 behind Kruijswijk.
Then everything changed. The race leader lost control on the icy descent of the Colle Dell'Agnello, crashing hard into a snowdrift. Now it was the turn of Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge) to eye a debut win, with a 44-second advantage over Nibali going into the final mountain stage. But the Italian proved his class with a dominant ride that turned the GC on its head, turning his deficit at the top into a 52-second lead.
Nibali wore the maglia rosa for just one day – but it was the day that counted.
Podium: Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge), 52s; Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), 1-17
KOM: Mikel Nieve (Team Sky)
Points: Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo)
Vuelta a España: Fabio Aru (Astana)
A nail-biting Vuelta looked set to go down to the wire, and it was all set for a shock win for Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin), considered up to this point a time trial specialist lacking the legs for a mountainous Grand Tour.
Rated 1,000-1 by the bookies before the start of the race, Dumoulin established a three-second lead over Fabio Aru in the stage 17 time trial. That advantage extended to nine seconds on the cobbled climb at the end of stage 19, but the Dutchman's ambitions came crashing down on the penultimate stage of the race. Astana put in a clinical display, turning the screw in the mountains to crack Dumoulin and leave Aru celebrating his maiden Grand Tour win.
Podium: Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), 1-17; Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo), 1-29
KOM: Omar Fraile (Caja Rural)
Points: Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)
Tour de France: Chris Froome (Team Sky)
Bouncing back from the disappointment of the previous year, Chris Froome sealed his second Tour de France victory in style.
In yellow by stage four, Sky's leader was never out of the top two from that point, and with support from the outstanding Geraint Thomas and Richie Porte, he always seemed in control.
There was a memorable climax to the race as Nairo Quintana (Movistar) attacked on the Alpe d'Huez to shave more than a minute from Froome's lead, but the Kenyan-born Brit still had 1-12 in the bank for the finish in Paris.
Instead, the defining moment of the 2015 Tour was Froome's solo win on La Pierre-Saint-Martin, which delivered almost three minutes of breathing space in the general classification – but also launched a flurry of innuendo from critics suggesting that his clear dominance could only be the result of doping.
Podium: Nairo Quintana (Movistar), 1-12; Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), 5-25
KOM: Chris Froome (Team Sky)
Points: Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo)
Giro d'Italia: Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo)
It wasn't the closest Giro in history – at times it felt like a man against boys as Alberto Contador crushed his opposition day after day – but it was a thrilling race nevertheless. The first 14 stages saw 14 different winners, and there was even a surprise breakaway win in Milan.
The general classification was a different story, however, as Contador took a stranglehold on the race and squeezed mercilessly. At times he barely even needed the support of a team – on stage 15 he found himself surrounded by four Astana riders on the final climb of the day and yet, incredibly, still managed to extend his lead over Astana's leader, Fabio Aru. El Pistolero was simply unstoppable, and a seventh Grand Tour win was in the bag.
Podium: Fabio Aru (Astana), 1-53; Mikel Landa (Astana), 3-05
KOM: Giovanni Visconti (Movistar)
Points: Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek)
Vuelta a España: Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo)
The Tour de France's loss was the Vuelta's gain, as Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Chris Froome (Team Sky) looked to rescue their seasons after disappointment in La Grande Boucle.
There was a stirring fightback from Froome in the final week, and some thrilling head-to-head racing in the blistering Spanish heat, but the Brit ultimately fell short.
Podium: Chris Froome (Team Sky), 1-10; Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), 1-50
KOM: Luis Léon Sanchez (Caja Rural)
Points: John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano)
Tour de France: Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)
To critics, it was a win by default. A tough parcours that began in the Yorkshire sunshine and took in the cobbles of northern France claimed Vincenzo Nibali's rivals one by one, until the Italian was the last man standing.
Astana's leader took the yellow jersey as early as stage two and he relinquished it for just one day between Sheffield and Paris. Defending champion Chris Froome (Team Sky) crashed on stage four, then hit the deck twice on the cobbles of stage five, forcing his retirement from the race.
Stage 10 claimed Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), who fractured his tibia in a nasty fall. Nibali was two minutes clear and never looked back, eventually winning four stages on his way to completing the Triple Crown of Tour, Giro and Vuelta.
Would he have won against a full field? We'll never know – but it was a seriously impressive ride.
Podium: Jean-Christophe Peraud (AG2R), 7-37; Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), 8-15
KOM: Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo)
Points: Peter Sagan (Cannondale)
Giro d'Italia: Nairo Quintana (Movistar)
It was a race that began on the streets of Belfast and ended with a Colombian standing on the top of the podium in Milan for the first time.
The race hinged on dramatic (and somewhat controversial) racing on the slopes of the Stelvio on stage 16. With rain, fog and snow causing chaos, some teams believed the race to have been neutralised due to safety fears, but Nairo Quintana (Movistar) powered on to transform the GC. Starting the day in fifth place, 2-40 behind race leader Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick-Step), the Colombian climber was in control of the race at the day's close, 1-41 ahead of the pack.
Podium: Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick-Step), 2-58; Fabio Aru (Astana), 4-04
KOM: Julián Arrendondo (Trek Factory Racing)
Points: Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ)
Vuelta a España: Chris Horner (Radioshack-Leopard)
Few surprise winners come quite as surprising as Chris Horner (Radioshack-Leopard), the 41-year-old veteran who had never finished higher than ninth in 10 previous Grand Tours. Following a see-saw battle with Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Horner produced a series of outstanding performances in the Vuelta's mountainous final week to seal a win that no one saw coming.
Twice Nibali seized the red jersey from the American, but a late surge by the veteran on stage 19 saw him turn a six-second deficit into a three-second lead. Despite ferocious attacks from the Giro d'Italia winner on the penultimate stage, Horner somehow hung on, and even found the strength to extend his lead.
Podium: Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), 37s; Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), 1-36
KOM: Nicolas Edet (Confidis)
Points: Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)
Tour de France: Chris Froome (Team Sky)
The 100th edition of the Tour de France saw a repeat of the unthinkable: a British rider on the top step of the Paris podium. This time, however, Bradley Wiggins was left at home as Team Sky instead picked Chris Froome to lead their effort – and the 28-year-old's imperious performance paid back their confidence in spades.
Taking the lead through a stunning ride to Ax 3 Domaines on stage 8, Froome was unstoppable as he ground his rivals down time after time. Two further stage wins, one in a hilly time trial, gave him a 4-34 advantage going into stage 18's ascent of Alpe d'Huez.
Then came the wobble. Despite looking strong during the stage, Froome miscalculated his feeds and was seriously struggling with 5km to go.
Team-mate Richie Porte was sent back to the team car to pick up an energy bar, and his leader was given a 20-second penalty for an illegal feed. It was a price worth paying, however, as he put another 37 seconds into his chief rival Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff), building the luxury of a five-minute lead in the process.
Podium: Nairo Quintana (Movistar), 4-20; Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), 5-04
KOM: Nairo Quintana (Movistar)
Points: Peter Sagan (Cannondale)
Giro d'Italia: Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)
An attritional Giro saw riders battle through cold, wet weather as Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) became the first Italian rider to win the home Grand Tour since 2010.
Pre-race favourites included Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky), Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp), Cadel Evans (BMC) and Nibali himself, but ultimately only the 36-year-old Evans made it to the finish. Nibali seized the leader's jersey as early as stage eight and grew increasingly dominant as the race went on, claiming victories on stages 18 (a time trial) and 20 to finish close to five minutes clear at the top of the podium.
A staggering five stage wins for sprinter Mark Cavendish (Omega-Pharma Quickstep) allowed the Manxman to complete the full set of Grand Tour points jerseys, following on from his victories at the 2011 Tour de France and 2009 Vuelta.
Podium: Rigoberto Uran (Team Sky), 4-43; Cadel Evans (BMC), 5-52
KOM: Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox)
Points: Mark Cavendish (Omega-Pharma Quickstep)
Vuelta a España: Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank)
A stone-cold classic Grand Tour delivered Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) his second Vuelta a España, and his first major win following his doping suspension.
The race looked set to belong to Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), who took the lead in the crosswinds of stage four and extended it with three stage wins to establish a 28-second advantage over Contador by the final rest day.
Stage 17 had all the hallmarks of a breakaway win, and attentions were focused on the final days in the mountains – but Contador had other ideas.
He exploded off the front with 50km to go and Rodriguez was powerless to respond, trailing by more than two and a half minutes to leave Contador in complete control. Despite attacks from Rodriguez and compatriot Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) in the final days, Contador had enough in the tank to complete a memorable win.
John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) was the pick of the sprinters with an astonishing five stage wins, although the points jersey ultimately went to Valverde in a successful race for the home nation.
Podium: Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), 1-16; Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha), 1-37
KOM: Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEDGE)
Points: Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)
Tour de France: Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky)
It was the moment they said would never happen, as Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) kicked off Britain's greatest ever summer of cycling to win the Tour de France.
A track cyclist turned time triallist turned GC contender, Wiggins dominated the race from start to finish in a near-faultless performance, ably supported by his lieutenant and compatriot, Chris Froome.
After placing second behind Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack) in the opening prologue in Liege, Wiggins kept himself out of trouble in a crash-festooned first week. He then took charge of the overall classification after stage seven to La Planche des Belles Filles, and then took his first Tour stage win in the time trial two days later.
Wiggins’ grip on the yellow jersey tightened in the Alps and Pyrenees, where the combined effort of the two Brits dispensed their rivals with an air of cool calm.
Any doubt of which of the two talented riders should be leading Sky was dispelled on the final time trial, when Wiggins obliterated the field, winning by well over a minute over Froome, who himself had put in a stellar ride to place well ahead of Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank).
And to cap it all off for Great Britain and Sky, Mark Cavendish took his fourth consecutive victory on the Champs-Élysées, his third stage win of the 2012 Tour and his 23rd in total.
Podium: Chris Froome (Team Sky), 3-21; Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale), 6-19
KOM: Thomas Voeckler (Europcar)
Points: Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale)
Giro d'Italia: Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda)
A nip-and-tuck battle between Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) ultimately led to the closest Giro finish for almost 40 years, as Hesjedal became the first Canadian – and only the second non-European – to win the Italian Grand Tour.
The lead changed hands between the two rivals four times as they battled for supremacy, with the Garmin-Barracuda rider snatching the lead on the final day time trial, overturning a 31-second deficit in the process.
It was a race of seconds from day one in Herning, Denmark, with neither rider able to put any significant time into the other, but the three time trials (two individual, one team) were ultimately enough to give Hesjedal the edge.
The race was a disaster for the home nation, who failed to place a rider on the podium for the first time since 1995, but it was a huge success for the Giro itself, which successfully bounced back from 2011's disastrous edition.
Podium: Joaquin Rodriguez (Katuhsa), 16s; Thomas de Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM), 1-39
KOM: Matteo Rabattini (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia)
Points: Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha)
Vuelta a España: Juan José Cobo (Geox-TMC)
Despite starting the race as a domestique for Denis Menchov (Geox-TMC), Juan José Cobo was the surprise winner of the 2011 Vuelta – though the highlight for British fans was second and third place for Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins (both Team Sky). It was the first time a Brit had stood on a Grand Tour podium since Robert Millar in the Giro d'Italia 24 years earlier.
Wiggins was team leader for Sky and led the race going into stage 15, but Cobo's brilliant attack on the Angliru proved too much for British hopeful.
In fact, it was Froome who looked the stronger and, like Cobo, he was soon to move from domestique to GC contender. A win on stage 17 proved the Kenyan-born rider's Grand Tour credentials, but he couldn't shake the Spaniard and was left 13 tantalising seconds adrift of the race lead – a margin that remained all the way to Madrid.
Podium: Chris Froome (Team Sky), 13s; Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky), 1-39
KOM: David Moncoutié (Cofidis)
Points: Bauke Mollema (Rabobank)
Tour de France: Cadel Evans (BMC)
A memorable race saw Cadel Evans (BMC) become the first Australian to win the Tour de France, while Mark Cavendish (HTC) became the first Brit to win green.
Fan favourite Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) held the lead from stage nine, successfully defending it through the Pyrenees and even into the Alps.
Cycling Weekly commented after the race that "seldom has the yellow jersey been defended with such rigour and worn with such pride". He held on until stage 19, when the big contenders upped their game with Paris in sight.
Andy Schleck (Leopard-Trek) took yellow from Voeckler on Alpe d'Huez, with his brother Frank in second, but that left the penultimate day's time trial – and with Evans just 57 seconds off the lead, a win for BMC looked highly likely. Sure enough, the Australian blew the Luxembourgers away, and the race was in the bag. All that remained was the now-standard win in Paris for Cavendish, as he claimed his third successive win on the Champs-Élysées.
Podium: Andy Schleck (Leopard-Trek), 1-34; Frank Schleck (Leopard-Trek), 2-30
KOM: Samuel Sánchez (Euskatel-Euskadi)
Points: Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad)
Giro d'Italia: Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD)
A race that began in farce and hit a tragic low in its first week, the 2011 Giro was ultimately decided in the Court of Arbitration for Sport. It was, in short, every cycling fan's worst nightmare.
Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank) began the race despite the prospect of a suspension following his positive drug test after the previous year's race. His win – by a margin of more than six minutes – was overturned in 2012. In Milan, Cycling Weekly predicted that his eventual suspension would render the race "a huge waste of time", and so it proved.
Unfortunately not everything that happened in the 2011 Giro could be as easily undone as removing Contador from the record books. A horrific crash on the Passo del Bocco descent on stage three cost Belgian rider Wouter Weylandt (Leopard-Trek) his life. Numerous tributes took place during the race, including the neutralisation of the following day's stage, which became a procession in Weylandt's memory.
Podium: Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale), 46s; John Gadret (AG2R), 3-54
KOM: Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone)
Points: Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD)
Vuelta a España: Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas)
Aged 25, Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) stepped up from a rider of great potential to the real deal, as he became the first Italian to win the Vuelta a España for 20 years.
A fabulous race looked to be a three-way battle between Nibali, Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobea-Galicia), with the three tussling for position with only seconds to spare across the second half of the race.
Rodriguez, who held the lead by 33 seconds going into stage 17's time trial, couldn't keep up against the clock, which left Nibali in red and narrowly ahead of Mosquera.
Spaniard Mosquera wasn't going down without a fight, however, and the Vuelta came to every Grand Tour's perfect climax – a head-to-head battle between the two race leaders on a diabolically steep summit finish.
Mosquera attacked with five kilometres to go seeking to gain the 50 seconds he needed to take the race lead, but Nibali closed the gap to leave the two riders locked in combat as the road tipped ever steeper. The Spaniard accelerated again, stretching around a dozen seconds ahead, before the Italian hit back to catch him with 100m to go.
Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) followed up his outstanding Tour de France with three stage wins, securing the points classification in the process.
Podium: Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobea-Galicia), 41s; Peter Velits (HTC-Columbia) 3-02
KOM: David Moncoutie (Cofidis)
Points: Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia)
Tour de France: Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank)
Luxemboug's Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank), twice a runner-up in the Tour de France, benefitted from Alberto Contador's positive drugs test to claim the first Grand Tour win of his career.
A close-fought race had came down to the penultimate day's time trial as Contador (Astana) looked to defend the narrowest of leads over Schleck. Just eight seconds separated the two riders going into stage 19, and though the Spaniard was always the better rider against the clock, the margin was too small to take anything for granted. Schleck gave it one hell of a go, posting a two-second advantage at the first time check, but he ultimately faded over the 52km stage, leaving Contador with a 39-second gap in Paris.
Sprinter Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) once again had a Tour to remember, posting five stage victories including a win on the Champs-Élysées, although the green jersey went to Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Farnese).
Denis Menchov (Rabobank) finished third, but was later disqualified due to irregularities in his biological passport.
Podium: Samuel Sánchez (Euskatel-Euskadi), 3-01; Jurgen Van den Broeck (Omega Pharma), 6-15
KOM: Anthony Charteau (Bbox Bouygues Telecom)
Points: Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Farnese)
Giro d'Italia: Ivan Basso (Liquigas)
A thrilling, rollercoaster race ended with a win for Ivan Basso (Liquigas), claiming his second Giro d'Italia victory four years after his first.
An eventful opening week began with a stage win for Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky), not just his first Grand Tour stage win but the first ever by a British team.
Three stages in the Netherlands caused criticism after cluttered street furniture led to countless crashes, and it was a similar story on stage seven, where Wiggins, Carlos Sastre (Cervélo-TestTeam) and pink jersey holder Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) all lost time on treacherously muddy gravel roads.
Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) kept the lead until stage 11, when an epic 56-man breakaway turned the race upside down. With Astana playing a game of brinkmanship with Liquigas, the peloton allowed the break to stretch 17 minutes down the road, and the leading group finished with more than 12 minutes' advantage over the likes of Nibali and Vinokourov. It was enough to put Grand Tour rookie Richie Porte (Saxo Bank) into the pink, and the race was wide open.
Mountain followed mountain and David Arroyo (Caisse d'Epargne) took the race lead on stage 14's ascent of Monte Grappa, before Liquigas made their decisive move on stage 19. Riding hard from the off, Basso's team destroyed the peloton on the iconic Mortirolo until just him, Nibali and Michele Scarponi (Androni-Giocattoli) remained – and ultimately it proved enough for overall victory.
Podium: David Arroyo (Caisse d'Epargne), 1-51; Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas), 2-37
KOM: Matthew Lloyd (Omega Pharma-Lotto)
Points: Cadel Evans (BMC)
Vuelta a España: Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)
Perhaps it wasn't the most thrilling of wins, but 29-year-old Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) certainly wasn't complaining when he took his maiden Grand Tour victory after a defensive performance that saw him best compatriot Sammy Sanchez (Euskatel) by 50 seconds.
Valverde edged ahead of Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) to take the race lead on stage nine and doggedly defended his gold jersey all the way to Madrid.
Slowly extending his lead in seconds here and there rather than in any explosive big stage win, the Spaniard also benefited from some good fortune along the way. Evans, Valverde’s most dangerous challenger in the time trials, punctured at a critical moment on Sierra Nevada and lost over a minute. By the time he fought back in the time trial, the powerful Caisse D’Epargne team had a stranglehold over the race.
Others, like Sanchez, Robert Gesink (Rabobank), Ivan Basso (Liquigas) and Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo-Galicia) suffered from injuries and/or a lack of consistency.
In a supremely difficult yet somewhat peculiar Vuelta, none of the riders who finished in the top eight overall managed to win a single stage.
Podium: Samuel Sanchez (Euskatel), 50s; Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto), 1-32
KOM: David Moncoutié (Cofidis)
Points: André Greipel (Team Columbia-HTC)
Tour de France: Alberto Contador (Astana)
Alberto Contador's purple patch continued, as he completed his third Grand Tour win in two years with an emphatic victory in the Tour de France.
For British fans, the big story was an incredible performance by Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia-HTC), who won a staggering six stages during the race – including his first win on the Champs-Élysées. The green jersey went to Thor Hushovd (Cervelo-TestTeam) – partly thanks to a relegation for the Manxman on stage 14 for blocking the Norwegian in the sprint for the line. Nevertheless, Cav cemented his place as one of the biggest stars of the modern peloton.
In the GC, a tight race exploded into life on the first Alpine stage, where Contador attacked on the ascent of Verbier and left his rivals in tatters. Only Andy Schleck (Team Saxo Bank) looked to have any chance of keeping pace with the Spaniard in the mountains, but he was no match for Contador against the clock, and after the time trial on stage 18 he was more than four minutes behind.
Contador's Astana team-mate Lance Armstrong finished third but was later disqualified, promoting Bradley Wiggins (Garmin-Slipstream) to stand (in the record books at least) as the first British podium finisher on the Tour de France.
Podium: Andy Schleck (Team Saxo Bank), 4-11; Bradley Wiggins (Garmin-SlipStream), 6-01
KOM: not awarded (Franco Pellizotti disqualified)
Points: Thor Hushovd (Cervelo-TestTeam)
Giro d'Italia: Denis Menchov (Rabobank)
On the rain-soaked streets of Rome, as Denis Menchov (Rabobank) celebrated a nail-biting win on a last-day time trial, this seemed like a close-fought Giro that would be remembered for years. Menchov crashed in the final kilometre and scrambled to his feet, hoping to stave off a valiant charge from second-placed Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes). He did just enough – but ultimately his win would be overshadowed by further developments after the end of the race.
It subsequently transpired that Di Luca had failed two tests for a variant of EPO during the Giro; he was banned and stripped of his second place, promoting Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas-Doimo) from third. But a year later, an investigation into Pellizotti's biological passport resulted in his disqualification too.
The top-10 of the 2009 Giro would ultimately make grim reading. In addition to Di Luca and Pellizotti, Tadej Valjavec (AG2R) in eighth and Lance Armstrong (Astana) in tenth would also be disqualified.
Podium: Carlos Sastre (Cervélo TestTeam), +3-46; Ivan Basso (Liquigas), +3-59 (Danilo Di Luca and Franco Pellizotti disqualified)
KOM: Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone)
Points: Denis Menchov (Danilo Di Luca disqualified)
Vuelta a España: Alberto Contador (Astana)
It was one for the record books. Alberto Contador (Astana) went one better than his legendary compatriot Miguel Indurain to become the first Spaniard to win all three Grand Tours. The fifth rider overall, he was also the youngest to achieve the feat, at just 25.
Just as in his Giro d'Italia win earlier in the year, Contador bided his time and took advantage when his rivals slipped up. Tour winner Carlos Sastre (CSC-Saxo Bank) blamed in-fighting with manager Bjarne Riis on a lacklustre performance. Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) went back for extra clothing at the base of a dangerous descent and lost three minutes when Astana upped the pace.
Contador's team were undoubtedly the strongest in the race. They delivered him to the right place on the race's toughest climb, the Angliru, to allow him to blast clear and take the leader's jersey. And the next day the Spaniard went again to win his second successive stage. There was a week still to go, but the race was effectively in the bag.
Podium: Levi Leipheimer (Astana), 46s; Carlos Sastre (CSC-Saxo Bank), 4-12
KOM: David Moncoutié (Cofidis)
Points: Greg Van Avermaet (Silence-Lotto)
Tour de France: Carlos Sastre (CSC-Saxo Bank)
It felt like it had been a long time coming. Carlos Sastre had already recorded three Grand Tour podium finishes and two fourth places before he finished on the top step at last.
He did, however, have a quiet start to the race, making few headlines as the Tour passed through the Pyrénées. In fact it was his teammate Frank Schleck who took the yellow jersey on stage 15, with Sastre placed fourth.
The Spaniard had his eye on the queen stage, however, attacking at the base of Alpe d'Huez to establish a 84-second advantage over Schleck, and – crucially – a further 10 seconds over Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto). Evans was expected to ride strongly in the penultimate day's time trial, but Sastre held him off to claim a Grand Tour at last.
Bernhard Kohl (Gerolsteiner) finished third in the GC and also topped the mountains classification, but his blood sample tested positive for a variant of EPO in October. He was stripped of his 2008 Tour results, and no riders were ever promoted to either the podium or the polka dot jersey.
Podium: Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto), 58s; third place not awarded
KOM: not awarded (Bernhard Kohl disqualified)
Points: Oscar Freire (Rabobank)
Giro d'Italia: Alberto Contador (Astana)
Alberto Contador (Astana) became the first non-Italian winner of the Giro d'Italia for 12 years when he claimed his second Grand Tour victory in 2008. Two TTs – including the final stage – proved decisive. The Spaniard went into the last day just four seconds ahead of Riccardo Riccò (Saunier-Duval - Scott), but he ultimately finished the race almost two minutes clear.
The race began to take shape when Italian road race champion Giovanni Visconti (Quick-Step - Innergetic) finished stage six in an 11-man escape group more than 11 minutes clear of the peloton. He held the leader's jersey until the race entered the high mountains, at which point Contador trailed Gabriele Bosisio (LPR Brakes) by just five seconds. Contador took over the lead when Bosisio blew up on the following stage, and he would ultimately claim the GC without winning a stage.
Podium: Riccardo Riccò (Saunier-Duval - Scott), 1-57; Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre), 2-54
KOM: Emanuele Sella (CSF Group–Navigare)
Points: Daniele Bennati (Liquigas)
Vuelta a España: Denis Menchov (Rabobank)
If you're looking for a dominant Grand Tour win, look no further than Denis Menchov, who in 2007 scooped the mountains jersey as well as the overall win – and only a final sprint win for Daniele Bennati (Lampre-Fondital) denied him the points jersey too. Although Menchov was awarded the 2005 Vuelta after Roberto Heras's doping disqualification, this was the Russian's first win on the road.
Following a strong time trial on stage seven, Menchov took the leader's gold jersey at the ski station in Cerler on stage nine, and from then on the race was in his pocket as he proved himself unarguably the strongest rider on show.
Podium: Carlos Sastre (Team CSC), 3-31; Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel), 3-46
KOM: Denis Menchov (Rabobank)
Points: Daniele Bennati (Lampre-Fondital)
Tour de France: Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel)
A race that began in London finished with the tightest podium ever on the Tour de France – and the arrival of a young rider by the name of Alberto Contador.
Once again it was a race blighted by doping controversies. Alexandre Vinkourov (Astana) failed a test indicating blood doping after his win in the individual time trial. His team was asked to leave the race by ASO president Patrice Clerc, and quit the following day.
Confidis withdrew its squad (including Bradley Wiggins) after Cristian Moreni tested positive for exogenous testosterone on stage 11, and race leader Michael Rasmussen was suspended by his own team after winning stage 16. Rabobank said that the Dane had failed to notify the team of his whereabouts out of season, and had missed out-of-competition doping controls.
The scandals tarnished Contador's overall win, who at 24 became the youngest victor since Jan Ullrich in 1997.
The race culminated in a 55.5km time trial with Contador leading Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) by 1-50 and Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel) by 2-49 – both of whom were considerably better against the clock. The stage went down to the wire but Contador proved his will to win, eventually retaining a 23s lead over Evans, and 31s over Leipheimer.
Leipheimer was subsequently stripped of his result following the investigation into doping at US Postal Service.
Podium: Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto), 23s; Carlos Sastre (CSC ProTeam), 7-08
KOM: Juan Mauricio Soler (Barloworld)
Points: Tom Boonen (Quickstep-Innergetic)
Giro d'Italia: Danilo di Luca (Liquigas)
A dominant team performance by Liquigas gave Danilo di Luca the overall win in the 2007 Giro.
His previous best result was fourth in 2005, but from the moment Liquigas won the opening team trial, they were in control. Two more stage wins for di Luca followed, and the team held the pink jersey for all but four days of the race.
Alessandro Petacchi was utterly dominant in the sprints, winning five stages overall, but he was ultimately disqualified from the race. After his win on stage 11 he was found to have high concentration of salbutamol in his urine; he had an exemption to allow him to take asthma medication, but this was in excess of the permitted concentration. He received a year's suspension, and was stripped of his results from the Giro.
Podium: Andy Schleck (CSC ProTeam), 1-55; Eddy Mazzoleni (Astana), 2-25
KOM: Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval)
Points: not awarded (Alessandro Petacchi disqualified)
Vuelta a España: Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana)
A day after his 33rd birthday, Kazakh Alexandre Vinokourov bounced back from the disappointment of missing the Tour de France to claim the first Grand Tour of his career.
In what turned out to be a head-to-head battle with Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), the Astana man gradually turned the screw in the latter stages, turning around a 1-42 deficit to claim the yellow jersey on stage 17. A one-two with teammate Andrey Kashechkin the following day left Vinokourov with more than 50 seconds' advantage, and a peerless win in the penultimate day's individual time trial brought the Kazakh to Madrid in the leader's gold jersey.
Podium: Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), 1-12; Andrey Kashechkin (Astana), 3-12
KOM: Egoi Martinez (Discovery Channel)
Points: Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole)
Tour de France: Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne)
A chaotic yet thrilling Tour de France unfortunately ended just as it begun... with failed dope tests, acrimony, and a sport in disgrace.
The start list was decimated by the fallout from the Operación Puerto doping case, which caused 13 explusions the day before the first stage.
Direct casualties included Giro winner Ivan Basso (Team CSC), Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) and Alberto Contador (ONCE-Eroski). Alexandre Vinokourov wasn't part of the scandal itself, but was prevented from racing because his Astana-Würth team was left with fewer than six riders on the start line.
With Lance Armstrong retired, none of 2005's top five finishers raced in the 2006 edition.
The race itself went down to the wire, with less than 90 seconds separating Floyd Landis (Phoank) from Oscar Pereiro (Casse d'Epargne) and Andreas Klöden (T-Mobile). Most memorable of all were two epic mountain stages, the 16th and 17th of the race; first, in a 182km stage that included the Col du Galibier and Col de la Croix-de-Fer, Landis lost eight minutes and slipped from first to 11th place overall.
The following day, the American roared back, riding solo for 120km to finish almost six minutes clear and pull himself back to third place in the GC. Two stages later, he won the individual time trial and claimed a simply incredible overall win.
Unfortunately, however, it was all too good to be true. A blood sample taken from Landis after his solo win tested positive for testosterone. Within days of his Paris victory, his win was tarnished, and he was subsequently disqualified from the race, leaving Pereiro as the race winner.
Podium: Andreas Klöden (T-Mobile), 32s; Carlos Sastre (CSC), 2-16
KOM: Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank)
Points: Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto)
Giro d'Italia: Ivan Basso (Team CSC)
Grand Tour wins don't come much more crushing than this dominant performance by Ivan Basso in his home race. In pink as soon as the Giro hit the mountains on stage eight, he went on to win two more individual stages as well as the team time trial.
No rider came close as Basso cruised home with nearly 10 minutes over his nearest challenger to take his first Grand Tour GC victory.
Podium: José Enrique Gutiérrez (Phonak), 9-18; Gilberto Simeoni (Saunier Duval–Prodir), 11-59
KOM: Juan Manuel Gárate (Quick-Step-Innergetic)
Points: Paolo Bettini (Quick-Step-Innergetic)
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