Grand Tours clear favourites with Giro second, Vuelta third
For the second year running and 11th year in total, Cyclingnews readers have voted the French grand tour the best stage race of the year. The 100th edition of the Grand Boucle was a clear winner in the poll while the other grand tours of 2013 rounded off the podium.
After dominating the traditional pre-Tour stage races, Chris Froome became the first rider born in Africa to win the Tour de France. In a show of strength, Froome won three stages and became the first rider since Eddy Merckx to win atop Mont Ventoux wearing the maillot jaune.
While the race also saw an exciting GC battle between Froome, Nairo Quintana and Joaquim Rodriquez, there were several highlights scattered across the three-week race.
One of the defining images of the 100th Tour was the Orica-GreenEdge bus wedged underneath the gantry of the stage one finish line. With a flat stage opening the race, sprinters such as Mark Cavendish and André Greipel were chasing the yellow jersey and a stage win. The race was thrown into chaos with the finish line moved then moved back to its original place, causing a mass pile-up and derailing the favourites.
Marcel Kittel won the depleted sprint for the first of four stage wins as he mounted a serious challenge to Mark Cavendish's title as the world's fastest man. The sprint classification was an exciting affair with Kittel, Cavendish, Greipel and Sagan all taking stage wins. Sagan lacked the top end speed of Kittel but rode a tactical race to win his second consecutive green jersey.
While many would have looked at Stage 13 and thought an afternoon nap was more exciting, it proved to be one of the most decisive days of racing in a grand tour in recent memory. Saxo-Tinkoff, Belkin and Omega Pharma-Quick Step all put the hammer down in the crosswinds to form a break. Alejandro Valverde was the biggest loser on the day as Belkin capitalised on the Spaniard's ill-judged wheel change.
Valverde's teammates sacrificed themselves to get back into the peloton to no avail. Rui Costa may have seen his GC hopes similarly disappear, it allowed him the opportunity to chase stage wins and he duly obliged by taking two.
With his team leader's hoped dashed, Quintana became the weapon of choice for Movistar. He lit up the cols of the Tour and was the only climber to seriously challenge Froome on the ascents. The Colombian revelation ended his debut Tour by finishing second overall and winning both the young rider and mountain classifications.
Joaquim Rodriguez added a Tour podium to his palmarès but it was the performances of Froome and Quintana that attracted the most coverage and interest. Alberto Contador showed glimpses of his best at various points as he threatened to dance away on his pedals.
With Froome wresting control of the race by taking yellow after Stage 9, it appeared the race was a foregone conclusion although cracks would appear in Team Sky's armour in 2013. The Sky-controlled peloton of 2012 didn't quite eventuate with Movistar and Garmin regularly testing the strength of the 'Sky bots.'
One of the most exciting stages in 2013 occurred in the Pyrenees on the road to Bagnères-de-Bigorre with Garmin attacking from the moment the flag dropped. The stage was won by Dan Martin with Richie Porte cracking and Froome having been isolated as his team fell around him. Porte was sitting in second place on the morning of the stage but lost 18 minutes having looked like he was in top form the previous day.
The second most popular stage race as voted by readers was the Giro d'Italia. A seriously weather-affected race saw a dominant Vincenzo Nibali blow away the competition for his second grand tour win. Bradley Wiggins entered the race with aspirations for the overall but abandoned midway through with a knee injury. Rigoberto Uran became the Sky leader and finished the race in second palce overall.
Having only announced that he would race the Giro five weeks before the start in Naples, Cadel Evans completed a grand tour podium clean sweep as he finished third overall.
The third race overall on the readers' poll was last grand tour of the season, the Vuelta a España. Chris Horner's overall win was a surprise to many due to his age. A tussle with Nibali went the way of the American who also won two stages and the combination classification. Although Horner is still trying to find a team for 2014, he was a main protagonist in the Spanish mountains in creating dramatic racing.
||Tour de France
||Vuelta a España
||Amgen Tour of California
||USA Pro Challenge
||Giro d'Italia Internazionale Femminile
||Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco
||Volta Ciclista a Catalunya