Analysing the Tour de France teams – Part 1

A look at the good and bad performances at the Grande Boucle

The ebb and flow of racing at the Tour de France each year means that some teams head home from Paris thrilled with everything they've achieved, while others slope off with their metaphorical heads bowed, vowing – but, ultimately, only hoping – to do better the following year.

This is part 1 of Cyclingnews' round-up of the highlights and low points of each of the 22 teams that participated in this year's Tour. Part 2 will be published on Wednesday.  

Team Sky

Highlights: Winning the Tour de France with Geraint Thomas, who also claimed two stage wins, Team Sky were practically flawless and in control for the entire race. Chris Froome's final time trial, overtaking Primoz Roglic to seal the final podium spot behind Tom Dumoulin was a further boost and confirmed their dominance of Grand Tour racing.

Team Sky controlled the race as usual, using their numerical strength to steamroll and suffocate their rivals' attacks in the mountains. However, it was fascinating to observe the dual-leadership dynamic after Froome's misfortune on the opening stage. A four-time Tour winner putting in softening attacks in the Alps and chasing down moves for Thomas in the Pyrenees showed Froome's loyalty and humility. It was also interesting to see Egan Bernal's stellar performance protecting and helping Froome as Thomas went on the attack.

Low points: The team started the build-up to the Tour de France with Froome's salbutamol case being suddenly closed by the UCI. The confusion turned to anger, with spectators hurling derision, epithets and more at the team throughout the race. Spectators attempting to physically assault both Froome and Thomas proved unsuccessful, but things could have turned out much worse. Gianni Moscon being ejected from the race for hitting Fortuneo's Elie Gesbert is a different story altogether. Team Sky need a public relations boost, and having Thomas take the win, and not Froome, was probably the best result for the team in that regard.

Team Sky line up in front of Geraint Thomas at the Tour de France

Team Sunweb

Highlights: Tom Dumoulin's win by one second over Froome and by 14 seconds over Thomas in the stage 20 individual time trial was the high point for Team Sunweb, but the race as a whole carried a lot of positives for the German team.

Team Sunweb came into the race saying they were in France on a learning expedition for future endeavours with Dumoulin, but the team's steady ship and Dumoulin's business-like demeanour brought him within two minutes of the overall win. It bodes well for Team Sunweb's and Dumoulin's future in France.

Low points: Losing sprinter Michael Matthews after stage 4 due to illness was an obvious low point for the team, but the worst came on stage 6 to Mûr-de-Bretagne, where Dumoulin suffered a mechanical in the crucial part of the finale and lost 53 seconds to stage winner Dan Martin and 50 precious seconds to Thomas.

LottoNL-Jumbo

Highlights: Dylan Groenewegen's back-to-back wins on stages 7 and 8 were just a taste of the good things to come at this Tour de France for the Dutch team. Slovenian strongman Primoz Roglic revealed himself as a Grand Tour contender with fourth overall in Paris, briefly flirting with the overall podium after his daring stage 19 win. Four-time Tour champion Chris Froome slipped past the Slovenian during the final time trial, where Roglic finished eighth, but his overall performance bodes well for the former ski jumper who turned pro in 2013.

More good news for LottoNL-Jumbo came in the performance of Steven Kruijswijk, fifth overall, and in the efforts of Robert Gesink in setting up his teammates in the mountains. They also finished with seven of their eight starters, losing only sprinter Groenewegen in the Alps. They've clearly put together a formidable team for the Grand Tours.

Low points: Finishing 13th from 22 teams in the stage 3 team trial, losing 1:15 to stage winners BMC Racing, was probably not the best way to put their GC contenders into the mix. Losing Groenewegen was a blow, but it was not unexpected. His two stage wins more than made up for the early exit. Roglic's fourth-place overall finish was a revelation, but getting knocked off the podium the day before Paris in a discipline in which he excels still has to hurt. 

Movistar Team

Highlights: Nairo Quintana's stage 17 victory on the Col du Portet was a big boost after Movistar's strategy of supporting three different contenders failed to pay dividends. Alejandro Valverde was the team's best-placed rider at the first rest day, taking third on the Mûr-de-Bretagne, but the Spaniard sacrificed his position in the Alps, attacking repeatedly on the way to La Rosière only to see Mikel Landa and Quintana unable to match Geraint Thomas.

After Quintana's stage win moved him to fifth overall in the Pyrenees, it was Landa's turn to go on the attack. The team pulled out all the stops to set up Landa on the final mountain stage, putting Andrey Amador up the road to give an assist. But, once again, Team Sky proved to be too strong, and with counter-attacks from LottoNL-Jumbo, Landa's move was nullified. Their podium bid might have failed, but with their three leaders in the top 15 overall, Movistar at least nailed the teams classification.

Low points: The team time trial performance of Movistar was sub-par, with the squad giving up 50 seconds to Team Sky – not a disaster, but they've done better. Losing José Joaquin Rojas on the stage to Roubaix meant there were only four workers left for Movistar's leaders. Quintana's crash on stage 18 ruled out any chances of him challenging on the final mountain stage, and he eventually faded to 10th overall. Landa was sixth overall until the time trial, but, in a performance not nearly fitting of a Grand Tour contender, he was surpassed by AG2R's Romain Bardet.

Nairo Quintana (Movistar) on his way to winning stage 17 at the Tour de France

Astana

Highlights: Omar Fraile's solo stage win on the airstrip in Mende was a definite highlight of the Tour de France for the Astana squad. The Spaniard played off an attack by breakaway companion Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) to slingshot up to Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) and then shoot away for the victory on the climb formerly known as the Montée Laurent Jalabert.

The following day, Magnus Cort Nielsen followed suit, out-sprinting Ion Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida) from the breakaway into Carcassonne. Tanel Kangert's exploits in the breakaway in the 65km stage to the Col du Portet looked set to make it a triple until Nairo Quintana sped past and broke his spirit.

Low points: The GC hopes of Jakob Fuglsang took a hit on stage 2 when key domestique Luis Leon Sanchez crashed out with a broken elbow. His absence hurt the squad in the TTT, where they gave up 43 seconds to Team Sky. Fuglsang rode well in the cobbled stage to Roubaix and on Le Grand-Bornand, but lost almost four minutes on La Rosière and had equally bad days in the Pyrenees, finishing outside the top 10 overall.

AG2R La Mondiale

Highlights: Whereas the Tour de France did not go the way of Romain Bardet, his AG2R La Mondiale team could at least celebrate a final podium for Pierre Latour, who was crowned the race's best young rider.

Bardet's mechanical on the way to the Mûr-de-Bretagne and a bad day in the short, intense stage to Col du Portet hurt his hopes of a final overall podium, but his attacks on Alpe d'Huez and on the final mountain stage over the Col d'Aubisque livened up the race, even if they came to nought.

Low points: The team lost Axel Domont on stage 4, Alexis Vuillermoz after stage 9 to Roubaix, and Tony Gallopin on stage 12, so Bardet was at a distinct disadvantage in the mountains with only four teammates left and one, Latour, in a protected position.

Quick-Step Floors

Highlights: Basically the entire first week was a highlight for Belgian squad Quick-Step Floors. Tour de France debutant Fernando Gaviria won the opening stage and the first maillot jaune and green jersey, and then picked up another win in Sarzeau on stage 4. The hopes were high for multiple stage victories from the talented Colombian sprinter.

The second half of the race was the domain of Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe, whose attack to claim the first Alpine stage to Le Grand-Bornand that earned him the maillot à pois as best climber, which he would not relinquish. He even took a second stage win for good measure. Bob Jungels, meanwhile, came to the first rest day in fourth overall, looking like a genuine GC contender.

Low points: Gaviria crashed on stage 2, losing both the yellow and green jerseys to Peter Sagan. The Colombian's subsequent relegation on stage 8 for a clash with André Greipel dashed his hopes for the points classification battle. It was moot, anyhow, as Gaviria suffered on the third mountain stage to Alpe d'Huez and, facing elimination due to the time limit, climbed into the team car.

Philippe Gilbert looked set to win the stage to Luchon thanks to an audacious attack, but crashed over a stone wall on the descent of the Col du Portet d'Aspet. He finished the stage but was diagnosed with a broken kneecap and spent several days in the hospital after leaving the Tour. Jungels' GC hopes ended in the Alps, where he lost almost nine minutes.

Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) wins stage 16 at the Tour de France

UAE Team Emirates

Highlights: Dan Martin certainly earned the Tour's most-combative rider award as he was one of the few riders willing to risk it all to try to break the grasp of Team Sky on the race. It didn't quite work out – Martin finished eighth overall – but he scored a fine stage victory on the Mûr-de-Bretagne and his dogged attack on the Col du Portet showed some real fire, even if it only earned him 19 seconds on Thomas. That he was able to keep attacking on the Col d'Aubisque showed strong third-week form, which will give Martin confidence for future Tours.

European champion Alexander Kristoff struggled in the early sprints, clearly lacking the speed of the likes of Quick-Step's Fernando Gaviria, but his persistence in the mountains paid off with a superb sprint victory on the Champs-Elysées.

Low points: Martin spent much of the race trying to dig himself out of the hole left by UAE Team Emirates' team time trial performance, where they gave up a minute and a half to Team Sky. A heartbreaking second place on stage 13 to Valence might have been Kristoff's best, had Sagan not crashed in the Pyrenees and all but ruled himself out of the sprints for the rest of the race.

Trek-Segafredo

Highlights: John Degenkolb's victory on the stage to Roubaix – and his emotional post-stage interview – was a highlight of the entire Tour de France. It was great to see the German back to his best two years after being hit by a car, and we learned that the death of a close friend caused additional trauma that he used as personal motivation.

Bauke Mollema never had a hope of a podium after a so-so TTT and massive time losses in the Alps, but that also meant he went on the attack throughout the Pyrenees. He came close to a stage win in Carcassonne and Luchon. It was also entertaining to watch Latvian Toms Skujins taking the polka-dot jersey from the breakaway on stage 5. With his outgoing personality and sardonic sense of humour, he gained a lot of new fans.

Low points: Trek-Segafredo lost Tsgabu Grmay on stage 2 to illness, their TTT wasn't anything to cheer about, and their GC hopes fizzled. They continued to attack in the third week but had no luck from the breakaways despite concerted, repeated efforts. They will be hoping for far better results in 2019 when Richie Porte is expected to lead the team. 

John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) showed his old form on the cobbles

BMC Racing

Highlights: The stage 3 team time trial victory and Greg Van Avermaet's subsequent eight-day run in the yellow jersey made the 2018 Tour de France a success for BMC Racing despite losing team leader Richie Porte to a stage 9 crash. But the high point for the team didn't actually happen on the road. It came during the second rest day when team manager Jim Ochowicz announced that Polish shoe and bag manufacturer CCC would step in to save the team for 2019. With BMC bicycles not renewing as the team's primary backer, Ochowicz had been searching for a new title sponsor, and he landed a big one at the Tour. Porte and Rohan Dennis are already set to leave the team next year, so the new squad will be built around Van Avermaet.

Low points: The team's lowest point came during Van Avermaet's time in yellow, ironically, just as the Olympic champion was set to fight for the stage win in Roubaix. Long before the dreaded cobblestone sectors entered the picture that day and Van Avermaet made the final three-man move, Porte crashed just a handful of kilometres into the day. The Australian was caught up in a typical early mass fall as riders piled up in the road. He left the race with a broken shoulder.

Mitchelton-Scott

Highlights: The Australian team's fourth place in the stage 3 team time trial, just nine seconds behind stage winners BMC Racing, put team leader Adam Yates in the GC running. Yates rode consistently over the next handful of stages, with sixth on the first GC test up the Mûr-de-Bretagne and 13th in Le Grand-Bornand to move into the top 10 overall after 10 stages. Unfortunately, the wheels came off Yates' GC ambitions from there.

Low points: Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but, given how the race played out, it's fair to say Mitchelton-Scott's low point came weeks before the race when they decided to leave sprinter Caleb Ewan at home and go all-in on the GC fortunes of Adam Yates. Ewan would have been a good candidate to make it over the mountains that decimated the rest of the sprint field and may have collected a stage win or two.

After Yates' podium hopes slipped away in the Alps, his best chance for a stage win slipped away on the descent to Bagnères-de-Luchon at the end of stage 16 when he crashed and was passed by eventual stage winner Julian Alaphilippe. Yates then lost the sprint for second place to Gorka Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida).

Adam Yates leads the breakway during stage 19 at the Tour de France

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