It started with Froome at the Giro, continued with Thomas at the Tour de France and was signed, sealed and delivered by Yates at the Vuelta. Each of the Grand Tours won by a Briton in a season of exceptional cycling, but there were plenty of other moments worth mentioning. Below we pick some of our favourites, including those three corkers.
April: Peter Sagan wins Paris-Roubaix
He is one of the most charismatic riders in the peloton and capable of incredible feats, but Sagan surprised even himself with his Paris-Roubaix win. He didn’t do things by halves, either – attacking 50km out and winning the sprint against Silvan Dillier. The fact he did it in the Rainbow Jersey was the icing on the cake.
May: Chris Froome’s astonishing comeback in the Giro
If anyone ever wondered if it was worth doing a gel, they need look no further than Chris Froome’s comeback on stage 19 of the 2018 Giro d’Italia for proof. In a moment that would leave Rocky Balboa staring in disbelief, Froome recovered from what appeared to be an astonishing lack of form in the early stages of the Grand Tour to snatch the lead back from Simon Yates in an incredible attack on the Colle della Finestre and power on to overall victory. The secret to this success? Gels, according to Dave Brailsford. After riding most of the tour without any, when he was given some it was like rocket fuel.
July: ANNEMIEK VAN VLEUTEN’S La Course win.
The one-day race that is the women’s version of the Tour de France saw Dutch rider Annemiek van Vleuten nibble away at the lead of friend and fellow countrywoman Anna van der Breggen after a high speed chase down the Col de la Colombière. Van Vleuten, riding for Mitchelton-Scott, finally caught her with less than 50 metres to the finish line. By this point van der Breggen (Boels Dolmans) was spent and van Vleuten powered through to snatch victory. It was a finale as gripping as any men’s race and one of the most exciting moments of the entire 2018 cycling calendar.
July: Phillipe Gilbert crashing off the road on stage 16 of the TDF.
In a moment that will send shivers down the spine of any cyclist who has descended a mountain, Gilbert disappeared over a low wall after overcooking a corner on his way down the Col de Portet d’Aspet. The whole episode seemed to unfold in slow motion. Gilbert unclipped as he attempted to regain control but was too late. Even more stomach churning than the sight of Gilbert disappearing over the wall for viewers was the sight of what was on the other side – a 10 metre sheer drop. Somehow Gilbert landed on a ledge and managed to claw his way back up, but his injuries put an end to his tour.
July: Geraint Thomas wins the Tour de France.
The Welsh wonder had long been mooted as a potential Grand Tour winner and 2018 was to be his year. Previous Tours de France had seen G involved in minor crashes, riding with major injuries and receiving more than a fair share of sheer bad luck, but the planets aligned for G in 2018. The Alpe D’Huez stage win will go down in many people’s minds as the defining moment of his TDF but for us it has to be his victory speech on the Champs Elysees, almost forgetting to mention his wife, and that mic drop. Ledge.
August: Simon Yates’s Vuelta victory
Yates wasn’t about to let another grand tour slip away from him at the Vuelta. Following his dramatic fall from grace at the Giro he was back on form at the Vuelta and he chose the steep slopes of the Alto Les Praeres on stage 14 to demonstrate just what that meant. All the big boys were on that slope and he powered away to take the stage and set the wheels in motion for his first grand tour win, and complete the hat-trick of grand tours for British cyclists. Now Yates has his sights set on the 2019 Giro, where he says he has “unfinished business.”
September: Anna Van Der Bregen at the Cycling World Championships
A 40km solo break to the line in Innsbruck topped off a stellar year which started at the very beginning of the Women’s WorldTour with a Strade Bianche victory, followed by a win at the Tour of Flanders after a long-range attack, before re-running her Ardennes double with wins at Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
September: Alejandro Valverde takes the Rainbow Jersey
It has taken 15 years of trying and in 2018, Alejandro Valverde finally realised his ambition of winning the Cycling World Championships and taking the Rainbow Jersey aged 38. Valverde has visited the Worlds rostrum no less than six times, more than any other rider in the 91-year history of the road race. Valverde outsprinted Romain Bardet and Michael Woods for the win, then promptly burst into tears. In a mark of true sportsmanship and in a gesture that could well become tradition, he was handed the Rainbow Jersey by outgoing champion Peter Sagan.
December: Sky announcing the end of pro cycling sponsorship.
All good things, they say, must come to an end, but few would have predicted that Sky would pull out of pro cycling sponsorship after the 2019 season. Since their inception in 2010, Team Sky have dominated the sport, with multiple one-day and grand tour wins and 2018 has been no exception. Points might mean prizes in cycling but they don’t equate to hard cash and the new owners of Sky PLC have decided a cycling team that costs £31m per year is an expense too far. The news has saddened many but delighted some, mainly in France, where Team Sky’s domination of the sport was regarded as, well, unsporting.