British cycling celebrates historic triple of Grand Tour success

When Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) stepped up onto the podium of the Vuelta a España on Sunday for one last time, he was completing an unprecedented Grand Tour 'set' of success for Great Britain.

Prior to Chris Froome in the Giro d'Italia, Geraint Thomas in the Tour de France and Yates in the Vuelta a España, no nation had ever taken all three Grand Tours in the same year with different riders.

What makes those results even more remarkable is that before 2018, Britain had never won the Giro d'Italia, and before 2017, the country had never won the Vuelta a España – and that for Yates and Thomas, these are first-time Grand Tour successes.

There has been a run of more than five Grand Tour wins in the past by the same nation and it has been equalled, too, but it is not easy to compare.

The French won six straight Tour de France from 1903-08 on the trot, which is six Grand Tours, but that was before the Giro and Vuelta were held. Then in 1924-26 before the Vuelta started in the mid-1930s, Giuseppe Enrici, Octavio Bottechia, Alfredo Binda and Giovanni Bruneo won three Giros and two Tours for Italy.

The only time in the post-War era when all three Grand Tours were up and running where a single nation won all three Grand Tours five times in succession was in 1963-64. Jacques Anquetil won the Tour and Vuelta in 1963, then the Giro and Tour in 1964, and Raymond Poulidor took the Vuelta (then held in April) in 1964 as well.

It's not unknown for nations to win all three Grand Tours in one year, the most recent being Alberto Contador and Carlos Sastre taking the Vuelta, Giro and Tour, respectively in 2008, but it is extremely rare.

Only France, in 1964 with Anquetil and Pouldor, has done that in the post-1955 era, when all three Grand Tours were running regularly. Britain, therefore, is only the third nation to do that and the first with three different riders.

Curiously enough, whilst Britain has dominated in the Grand Tours, the country's track record in Monuments and one day Classics remains much less stellar.

Mark Cavendish's win in the 2009 Milan-San Remo remains the last victory for a Briton in one of the Monuments and his gold and silver medals in the World Championships Road Race are equally unparalleled achievements for Great Britain.

At World Tour level since then, Geraint Thomas has won the E3 Harelbeke, Adam Yates has won the Clásica San Sebastián and Ian Stannard has captured the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad twice, as well as making it onto the podium of Paris-Roubaix.

But in the Grand Tours, Britain has been much more consistently successful. The million dollar question is, of course, how long it can continue.

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Alasdair Fotheringham

Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The IndependentThe GuardianProCycling, The Express and Reuters.