Vuelta a España team report: Who failed, who excelled?
We assess the relative performances of each of the teams taking part in the 2017 Vuelta a España, which concluded on Sunday
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Ag2r La Mondiale 2/10
There was to be no repeat of their Tour de France success for Ag2r La Mondiale, as Domenico Pozzovivo abandon half-way through having failed to make an impression and Romain Bardet failed to mount a GC challenge.
The latter did put in a spirited attempt to salvage the race with a stage win, but failed to finish any higher than the fourth-place he managed in Andorra.
Aqua Blue Sport 7/10
A stage win ensured that this Irish wildcard team exceeded expectations in its first ever Grand Tour.
And it wasn’t just any stage win, either – Stefan Denifl triumphed on Los Machucos, one of the hardest summit finishes of the race.
Astana looked reinvigorated this Vuelta, unleashing their young Colombian sensation Miguel Angel Lopez to win two mountain stages, after Alexey Lutsenko had opened their account on stage five.
They also wrapped up the team classification, leaving Fabio Aru’s late capitulation out of the top-10 on the final mountain stage as the only blot.
Try as he might, Vincenzo Nibali simply couldn’t dislodge Chris Froome’s place at the top of the general classification.
His second overall and stage win in Andorra nonetheless make for a successful debut Vuelta for Bahrain-Merida.
It all started so well. Following on from a dashing victory in the opening team time trial, BMC came out of the first week with both Tejay van Garderen and Nicolas Roche well-poised in the top five, only for both riders to tumble down the rankings when the race reached the serious climbing.
There must have been fears within Bora-Hansgrohe that luck was abandoning them when Pawel Poljanski frustratingly missed out on a stage win on two consecutive days in the first week, but Rafal Majka - whose GC bid was scuppered by a bout of illness early on - rose to the challenge and pulled off a characteristic stage win on La Pandera.
Caja Rural-Seguros RGA 4/10
Although another winless Vuelta means it’s now five years since Caja Rural-Seguros last scored a victory at the race, this Pro-Continental outfit can at least point to Sergio Pardilla’s 15th place overall and Jaime Roson’s third place on stage 10 as moderate successes.
While news centred on the team’s anxious but ultimately successful quest to find a sponsor for next season, Cannondale-Drapac provided two of the race’s surprise packages - Michael Woods, who clung on against expectations to finish seventh overall, and Davide Villella, who rode cannily and aggressively to win the Mountains Classification.
Cofidis finished last in the team time trial and their Vuelta didn’t really improve thereafter. They populated breakaways, and took home three combativity awards courtesy of Luis Angel Mate (stages 7 and 14) and Daniel Navarro (stage 19), but never came close to winning a stage.
Dimension Data 3/10
Misfortune plagued the Dimension Data camp as an outbreak of sickness meant only three of their riders were able to make it to Madrid.
They were also unlucky not to win a stage early in the race with both Merhawi Kudus (stage five) and Omar Fraile (stage 12) managing runner-up finishes.
You’d be forgiven for having forgotten that FDJ were competing at the Vuelta up until Lorenzo Manzin emerged to finish second on the final day’s sprint in Madrid, such was their anonymity.
The team selected an inexperienced roster of riders, none of whom left much of an impression.
Katusha-Alpecin might have been expected to have a quieter Vuelta than usual following the retirement of local star Joaquim Rodriguez, but Ilnur Zakarin stepped up impressively to fill that void and finish third overall.
The team rallied behind the ever-improving Russian rider’s GC bid, and were successful in propelling him onto the podium after the stage to the Angliru.
It was a quiet race for LottoNL-Jumbo. Juan Jose Lobato narrowly missed out on a sprint win in Tarragona, while Steven Kruijswijk, despite again failing to attain the form of last year’s Giro, crept his way into the top-10 overall.
A Grand Tour favouring breakaways was always likely to suit Lotto-Soudal, whose squad is full of escape artists.
But the success they achieved must have exceeded even their most optimistic hopes, with Tomasz Marczynski, Sander Armée and Thomas de Gendt sharing four stage wins between them - all, of course, from breakaways.
Manzana Postobon 4/10
This Colombian wildcard team was hard to miss what with their bright pink jerseys, but in truth they didn’t animate the race much.
Their highlight of the three weeks arguably occurred on stage seven, when Jetse Bol briefly held the virtual red jersey.
Despite the best efforts of José Joaquin Rojas (who was second once and third twice) and Marc Soler (one of the race’s most prolific of breakaway frequenters), Movistar sorely missed their star duo of Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde, and endured a home Grand Tour well below their usual standards.
What had looked set to be a deadly three-pronged attack disintegrated rapidly, when first Simon Yates, then his brother Adam, and finally Esteban Chaves each capitulated out of overall contention.
With no rider able to salvage the situation with a stage win, it was a disappointing Vuelta for the Aussie team.
Quick-Step Floors 10/10
Continuing their extraordinary season, Quick-Step Floors amassed a huge total of six stage wins, with Yves Lampaert surprising the sprinters on stage two, Julian Alaphilippe triumphing on the stage to Xorret de Cati, and Matteo Trentin shining brightest of all with four wins to himself.
Not even David De La Cruz’s penultimate day abandonment or Trentin’s missing out on the green jersey could dampen the mood.
Team Sky 10/10
Team Sky were utterly indomitable throughout the Vuelta from start to finish, perpetually surrounding Chris Froome with an army of loyal domestiques, with Gianni Moscon, Nikel Nieve and Wout Poels – who himself finished sixth overall – the stand-out performers.
That Froome won by what was ultimately a comfortable margin was as much a testament to the team’s strength as a whole as it was his own.
Team Sunweb 7/10
Given the furore surrounding the team’s decision to kick Warren Barguil off the race for refusing to stick to the team’s plan, Sunweb ended the Vuelta remarkably well, with their leader Wilco Kelderman putting the best performance of his career to date to finish fourth overall.
For Trek-Segafredo, the Vuelta was the Alberto Contador Show, with the retiring superstar attacking up virtually every climb, cheered along all the way by adoring fans on the roadside.
Fifth place overall could have been higher had Contador not lost so much time in the first week, but a stage win on the Angliru helped ensure a fairy-tale ending for him and satisfying race for the team.
UAE Team Emirates 6/10
With a line-up assembled mostly of stage-hunting climbers, it would have been disappointing if UAE Team Emirates had come away from the Vuelta winless.
That scenario was quickly rendered impossible on stage seven, when young talent Matej Mohoric soloed into Cuenca to claim a stage victory.
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Stephen Puddicombe is a freelance journalist for Cycling Weekly, who regularly contributes to our World Tour racing coverage with race reports, news stories, interviews and features. Outside of cycling, he also enjoys writing about film and TV - but you won't find much of that content embedded into his CW articles.
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