Cyclingnews has closely examined the performances of the sprinters over the 2018 season, looking at not just the number of victories but the quality of the races won, the number of placings and overall consistency, and picked the 10 best sprinters of the year. Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) came away as the clear winner after a stellar season that brought in 18 victories, including four stages of the Giro d'Italia and three at the Vuelta a España.
About the ranking: Cyclingnews looked only at top-three finishes, weighting the Grand Tour stages and Monuments at 200, 100 and 60 points for first, second and third, respectively. Other WorldTour races were awarded 100, 60, 30 for the top three. Hors categorie event podium finishes were given 70, 35, and 21 points, while category 1 races earned podium finishers 40, 20 and 12 points. Riders were ranked by quantity of placings, quality of placings, and a combination of both to find the overall best sprinter. While breakaway race wins were counted, time trials and placings in general or other classifications were not.
The Italian was by far and away the stand-out sprinter of the season, racking up the most victories of any rider with 18 individual race wins plus the Giro d'Italia points classification and the overall Dubai Tour. From his Tour Down Under stage to the last stage of the Vuelta, Viviani was a consistent performer for his new team and earned himself a fresh new look in June when he claimed the Italian road title.
It wasn't all success, as Viviani had several painful defeats, namely to Peter Sagan in Gent-Wevelgem and a frustrating Milan-San Remo, where he was Quick-Step's best finisher in 19th.
Viviani benefited from the confidence and support of his Quick-Step Floors teammates to have his "best season ever", their train only coming seriously unglued on one occasion - when they botched a roundabout on stage 6 of the Vuelta a España and Nacer Bouhanni claimed the win. All this came in addition to Viviani's team pursuit title at the European Track Championships and his silver in the Omnium. It will be hard to top a year like that.
What Viviani achieved in sheer volume of victories, Sagan made up for in quality, with his Paris-Roubaix title being the most valuable win of the year. The 2017 World Champion made the most of his rainbow bands, racking up three Tour de France stage wins and victory at Gent-Wevelgem, plus a Tour Down Under stage.
Although Sagan had to pass on his rainbow jersey to Alejandro Valverde after a hilly Innsbruck Worlds road race circuit, he earned the Slovakian national title for the sixth time in June, and so will continue to wear a distinctive kit.
Speaking of jerseys, Sagan also won his sixth green jersey at the Tour de France, tying the record of Erik Zabel. He also ensured his future, inking a contract extension that will keep him with Bora-Hansgrohe through 2021.
Although Sagan had only eight wins to Viviani's 18, he made up for it in quality and consistency, with four second places in the Vuelta, three in the Tour, and other placings at Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour Down Under that added up. The only thing his season lacked was a single stage win in the Tour of California, which is the first year the race's most prolific rider has come away empty handed.
Sagan's teammate Sam Bennett was the next-best sprinter of the bunch, and although the Irishman only raced one Grand Tour this year, he made it count. Bennett won not one, not two, but three Giro d'Italia stages, including the final day in Rome. He also racked up five other stage podiums and could well have won the points classification had he not been going up against the superior Viviani.
Bennett carried that form into the Rund um Köln and, after a mid-season lull, he roared back in the Tour of Turkey, taking three stage wins and the points classification.
Dylan Groenwegen was another start-to-finish season stand-out, taking the victory in his first race of the year - stage 1 of the Dubai Tour - and continuing on with wins at the Volta ao Algarve, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, Paris-Nice and the Tours of Norway and Slovenia.
But it was the Dutchman's pair of stage wins at the Tour de France that pushed him up the pecking order in our rankings.
Such was Groenewegen's power in his victories on stage 7, over Fernando Gaviria and over Sagan the next day in Amiens, that it looked as if he could be a green-jersey contender. The only problem was the Alps - and the trio of severe stages and stingy time limits put Groenewegen out of the race along with a handful of other fast men. He was not helped by a nasty crash on stage 9 to Roubaix.
Groenewegen quickly returned to winning form, taking out the Veenendaal-Veenendaal Classic and the Kampioenschap van Vlaanderen before closing out the season with a stage win in the Gree-Tour of Guangxi.
The third Bora-Hansgrohe rider on the list, Pascal Ackermann came into the team from the Continental Rad-net squad in 2017, but in his second year in the WorldTour he really hit his stride. After placing in the Abu Dhabi Tour, the Handzame Classic and the Driedaagse De Panne, Ackermann was edged out by Fabio Jakobsen at Scheldeprijs.
His first professional win would come on a stage at the Tour de Romandie, and he continued the momentum at the Critérium du Dauphiné before winning the German national championships.
Wins at RideLondon and a pair of stages at the Tour de Pologne followed, plus two days in the leader's jersey there, before Ackermann won the Brussels Cycling Classic and the GP de Fourmies before ending his season with a stage win over Jakobsen and Groenewegen in the Tour of Guangxi.
Were it not for numerous injuries, Fernando Gaviria could have been the stand-out sprinter of the season. The Colombian showed he was the absolute fastest of the bunch, overcoming nerves and enormous pressure to win the opening stage of the Tour de France and taking the first maillot jaune.
But for every victory, there was a problem. First, after his season-opening win at the Vuelta a San Juan there was a crash that left him too banged up to continue. He scored a trio of stage wins in the Colombia Oro y Paz, but struggled upon arriving in the cold northern European Classics. Then, a crash at Tirreno-Adriatico left him with a broken hand, putting him out of Milan-San Remo.
The Tour of California proved to be just the reboot Gaviria needed, and the Colombian dominated the sprints there, taking out all three bunch sprints and the green jersey. But then he went win-less at the Tour de Suisse, missing out to Sagan, Sonny Colbrelli and Arnaud Demare.
The uncertainty over his future could have contributed to his lack of success after the Tour, and although the Quick-Step Floors team was rescued by the arrival of sponsor Deceuninck, Gaviria ultimately moved to UAE Team Emirates where he will team up with Alexander Kristoff in the sprints.
The 2017 French champion might have lost his stripes to Anthony Roux this season, but Arnaud Demare had plenty to be satisfied with this year. After his podium at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, Demare scored a stage win at Paris-Nice on the opening day, getting to wear the leader's jersey for two stages.
His third place at Milan-San Remo just behind Caleb Ewan and lone escapee Vincenzo Nibali was a confirmation for the 2016 race winner, who denied accusations he took a tow from his team car on the Cipressa that year.
After being disqualified from Scheldeprijs for ignoring a level crossing, Demare scored another third place at Gent-Wevelgem. After taking out the final stage of the Tour de Suisse, Demare headed to the Tour de France where he had little luck in the sprints before Andre Greipel accused him of hanging onto the team car in order to make the time cut.
The German had already left the race after falling behind the time limit in the Alps, and Demare hit back, telling Greipel that the GPS timing was off, and that he'd send him his data files to prove his innocence. Greipel apologised but Demare's revenge came in Pau, where he scored the stage victory that Greipel had failed to achieve.
Demare's other remarkable achievement of the year was winning all five stages - including a time trial - and the GC at the 2.1-ranked Tour Poitou-Charentes.
Despite being left off Mitchelton-Scott's Grand Tour squads, Caleb Ewan still had plenty to show for his 2018 season, making our top 10 list thanks to a slew of top placings, including three victories - a stage in the Tour Down Under, the Clasica de Almeria and the final stage of the Tour of Britain.
In between, Ewan was the season's nearly-man, taking the runner-up slot in Milan-San Remo - winning the bunch sprint behind Vincenzo Nibali's solo escape, and taking second six more times between the Tour Down Under, the Tour of California, the BinckBank Tour and the Tour of Britain.
After being snubbed for the Grand Tours in favour of the squad's GC ambitions, Ewan will move to Lotto Soudal along with lead-out man Roger Kluge, where he should have more chances to regain his status in the sprinters' pecking order.
Andre Greipel scored eight of Lotto Soudal's 25 victories for the 2018 season, but that wasn't enough for the big German to keep his job. After some contentious negotiations with the Belgian team's management, Greipel will leave for Fortuneo-Samsic, dropping out of the WorldTour for the first time in his professional career.
Although the German couldn't make the time cuts on the brutal Alpine stages of the Tour de France, he scored two WorldTour wins - both stages of the Tour Down Under - and pairs of victories in the Tour of Britain, Belgium Tour and 4 Days of Dunkirk, proving that his best days are not all behind him.
The Norwegian had what for many riders would be a stellar season - winning five times, including the final stage of the Tour de France on the Champs-Elysées. But when you have the palmarès that Kristoff has, it's hard to match performance with expectations, especially those of sponsors who are still relatively new to the sport.
Kristoff's victories came at the Tour of Oman and the Abu Dhabi Tour - important results in front of the sponsors - but he missed a little in the Classics. A fourth place at Milan-San Remo seemed to bode well, but Kristoff was missing a little at the Tour of Flanders, which he won three years earlier.
A win in Eschborn-Frankfurt, vicotry at the GP du canton d'Argovie and his Tour stage weren't enough to keep the squad from bringing in Fernando Gaviria for next year in an attempt to capture more Grand Tour stage wins.
Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis), Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida), Fabio Jakobsen and Alvaro Hodeg (Quick-Step Floors), and John Degenkob (Trek-Segafredo).
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Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Deputy Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. As former elite-level road racer who dabbled in cyclo-cross and track, Laura has a passion for all three disciplines. When not working she likes to go camping and explore lesser traveled roads, paths and gravel tracks.
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