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  • Broken ducks: 2017’s first-time Grand Tour stage winners

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    There’s nothing quite like crossing the line, arms in the air, at the biggest events in cycling, to confirm a rider’s ability

    Words:
    Photographs: ASO / Offside / L'Equipe

    Whatever previous results they may have, to take a first individual stage win in a Grand Tour is something of a rite of passage for a professional cyclist. Even if you’ve won a handful of week-long stages, a classic or shown promise on GC, it will be a career defining moment.

     

    In 2017, 18 out of 63 Grand Tour stages were won by riders who’d hadn’t previously taken a Grand Stage win before. And if you include all four of Fernando Gaviria’s four Giro wins, a notable 11 out of 21 victories in Italy went to riders who started the race without a previous Grand Tour triumph.

     

    We take a look back at all the riders who this year confirmed their promise on the biggest stages in cycling.

     

    Lukas Pöstlberger
    Race: Giro d’Italia stage one

     

    Pöstlberger delivered arguably the biggest Giro opening day triumph since Slipstream won the 2008 TTT curtain-raiser with his bold late attack into Olbia. By denying the sprinters on a finish favourable to Gaviria, Greipel, Ewan et al, the 25-year-old Bora rider became the first man since Oscar Freire at the 2000 Vuelta to win the first Grand Tour road stage that he ever raced.

     

    Fernando Gaviria
    Race: Giro d’Italia stage three

     

    Just over two years on from his headline grabbing defeat of Mark Cavendish in the Tour de San Luis opener, the Colombian produced sprinting full of swagger and speed akin to the Manxman in his HTC days during the opening half of the Giro. His four stage victories, the first of which came by a bike length in Cagliari, saw him replicate Bernard Hinault’s 1978 Vuelta feat of claiming a quartet of wins in his first Grand Tour.

     

    2017 Giro d’Italia comment: Southern Comfort

     

    Silvan Dillier
    Race: Giro d’Italia stage six

     

    Both Dillier and his coach, former Gewiss and Festina rider Armin Meier, have two Swiss titles to their name. However, the BMC pro’s palmarès became notably better than his advisor’s when he won a three-up sprint in Terme Luigiane at the end of the 2017 Giro’s first mainland stage. Completing the podium that day: Lukas Pöstlberger.

     

    Gorka Izagirre
    Race: Giro d’Italia stage eight

     

    Gorka Izagirre

     

    While his younger brother Ion started 2017 with Giro and Tour individual stage wins to his name, Gorka’s most notable Grand Tour accomplishment was forming part of the Movistar squad who collectively won the Vuelta’s opening team time trial in Jerez three years ago. This win actually owed more to his role as a domestique for Nairo Quintana as opposed to him having a free role; he was sent up the road to mark Giovanni Visconti, one of Vincenzo Nibali’s key helpers, in case of a Trek-style hijack. How smart.

     

    Omar Fraile
    Race: Giro d’Italia stage 11

     

    The Spaniard’s Bagno di Romagna breakaway win lives long in the memory thanks to Eurosport commentator Rob Hatch’s fine pronunciation of his surname (rhymes with Kayleigh would be the best description). Fraile, who used to watch the Giro as a child with his grandmother, is Astana-bound for 2018: a move no doubt helped by him claiming Dimension Data’s first stage victory in the Italian race.

     

    Bob Jungels
    Race: Giro d’Italia stage 15

     

    Bob Jungels

     

    The long-time possessor of our favourite surname in cycling has a blossoming record in the Giro. Sixth in 2016 after leading the race for three days in the Veneto, this year he became the first Luxembourger to win a stage of the race since Charly Gaul in 1961. The Quick Step rider’s triumph in Bergamo followed a somewhat unconventional sprint against his GC rivals (most – not Jungels – stayed seated for the finish).

     

    Tejay van Garderen
    Race: Giro d’Italia stage 18

     

    One touted as America’s heir to Lance Armstrong and Greg LeMond, the BMC rider rode a solid opening week of the Giro before his habit of having a shocker immediately after a rest day returned to haunt him in the stage 10 time trial. Although he went on to finish 20th – at the time his third best Grand Tour result – he took the biggest win of his career after outwitting Sky’s Mikel Landa with a flawless performance on a technical run into Ortisei. Now 29, will this be the direction the Washingtonian turns to going forward?

     

    Jos van Emden
    Race: Giro d’Italia stage 21

     

    Poor Jos van Emden. In his 10th season as a pro, the Dutchman finally took his first Grand Tour stage victory in the Giro’s final day time trial from Monza to Milan. Unfortunately his ride (average speed: an impressive 53.058km/h) was largely overshadowed by the race’s GC battle.

     

    Geraint Thomas
    Race: Tour de France stage one

     

    A long time coming, this. Before July, the Welshman’s most notable Grand Tour success was helping Chris Froome to his 2013, 2015 and 2016 Tour wins. All that changed in rain-soaked Düsseldorf, as he surprised many (including the Tour TV director who barely showed him out on course) to claim a yellow jersey that many predicted would go to home favourite Tony Martin. Rivals and critics protested against his vortex skinsuit, however the result stands as the 31-year-old’s best moment in a season marred by high-profile crashes.

     

    Maciej Bodnar

    Race: Tour de France stage 20

     

    Bodnar decided to win his first Tour de France stage in Marseille on a day overshadowed by a Brit, boos and Bardet. Oops. Truth is, it was a stunning time trial ride (and a notable Polish stage one-two, as Michal Kwiatkowski trailed him by a second) by the possessor of one of cycling’s laziest nicknames – “Matty”, presumably to avoid saying his first name incorrectly. Fact: Although he came very close on an earlier stage of the Tour, Bodnar has only ever won one road race in his 10-year professional career (compared to six time trial victories, national titles included).

     

    Tour de France: final day time-trials and the legacy of Greg LeMond

     

    Dylan Groenewegen
    Race: Tour de France stage 21

     

     

    Promising LottoNL-Jumbo rider who took the biggest win of his career to date on the Champs-Élysées. Not only did Groenwegen (24) become the fourth Dutch rider (after Gerben Kerstens, Gerrie Knetemann and Jean-Paul van Poppel) to win on the famed Parisian street, the victory doubled his career WorldTour race win tally to two.

     

    Yves Lampaert
    Race: Vuelta a Espana stage two

     

    Arguably the best GoPro race footage this year came from day two of the Vuelta. With strong winds splitting the peloton on the approach to Gruissan, Matteo Trentin’s on board camera recorded him deliberately losing the wheel of his Quick Step team-mate Yves Lampaert while sitting second in the group. The Belgian can then be seen attacking following Trentin’s calls to do so, a result that gave Lampaert only his fifth professional victory after a kilometre-long effort.

     

    Alexey Lutsenko
    Race: Vuelta a Espana stage five

     

    Probably Astana’s second-most promising rider at present, the 25-year-old Kazakh gave another indication that he’s an Ardennes contender in the making five days into the Vuelta. Lutsenko, who won the under-23 world title four years ago on the Amstel Gold finish in Valkenburg, looked unflustered riding solo to the top of the third category Ermita Santa Lucia climb following a day in the break across undulating terrain through the El Maestrazgo and La Plana regions.

     

    Tomasz Marczynski
    Race: Vuelta a Espana stage six

     

     

    The oldest rider on this list (he turned 33 in March), Marczynski ended a career of near obscurity by winning two Vuelta stages with a week of each other in August. Possibly inspired/intimidated by being part of a Lotto-Soudal team containing the connoisseur of the unsuccessful breakaway, Thomas de Gendt, the second of the Pole’s wins in Spain saw him solo over 20 kilometres into the finish at Antequera.

     

    Julian Alaphilippe
    Race: Vuelta a Espana stage eight

     

    For all of his talent, it could be argued that the Quick Step rider doesn’t win as much as he should: six career victories in four years somewhat belies his natural talent. Although 2017 brought him a Paris-Nice and Vuelta stage win (the first a time trial, the second after out-manoeuvring Jan Polanc and Rafal Majka at Xorret de Cati), he finished in the top 10 at the worlds, San Remo, Lombardy and Paris-Nice. Surely more big wins aren’t far away for the 25-year-old Frenchman?

     

    Miguel Angel Lopez
    Race: Vuelta a Espana stage 11

     

    So who is Astana’s most-promising rider at present if it’s not Lutsenko? The smart money is on Miguel Angel Lopez, the peloton’s latest Boy from Boyaca (with apologies to Paul Sherwen). A solo stage win at Calar Alto on stage 11 was followed by him out Contador-ing Alberto with a long-range attack en route to Sierra Nevada five days later. We’re not exactly at the “move over Nairo Quintana” point, but, still only 23, Lopez’s eighth place in his first Grand Tour suggests he may soon become Colombian’s brightest Grand Tour hope.

     

    Stefan Denifl
    Race: Vuelta a Espana stage 17

     

     

    Just when – somewhat unfairly – it seemed like Aqua Blue’s maiden Grand Tour was going to be overshadowed by an arson attack on their team bus, Denifl managed to hold off a surging Alberto Contador to win on the likely-to-become-a-Vuelta-regular, wall-like climb at Los Machucos. It capped a memorable month off for the 30-year-old Austrian: he became a dad shortly before the race started.

     

    Larry Warbasse blog: The lows and highs of La Vuelta

     

    Sander Armée
    Race: Vuelta a Espana stage 18

     

    A victory à la Roglic: the Lotto-Soudal rider completed his transition from former speed skater to Grand Tour stage winner four days from Madrid. The genesis of Armée’s win was similar to the Slovenian’s Tour triumph, too: while the GC contenders were saving themselves, the Belgian got into a large and talented breakaway group before he attacked the remnants on the finishing climb to Santo Toribio.

     

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