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Penny Pinching 2021: Aviva vs Astana
July 2018: Tour de France (3/4)

Stage 13 was reserved for Damuseau, after six peaks of varying sizes the final 15 km were more or less flat and our Frenchman has a suprisingly decent SPR 70. But it was never likely that he'd get to show off his sprinting skills, the group of 13 riders included guys like Spilak, Herrada and Bouet. But even worse, it included Barguil (MON 81), 14th in the GC, though over 19 minutes behind. Barguil received no support from the other riders and pretty much had to ride the whole stage from the front. Damuseau sacrificied himself a bit for Grmay's polkadot jersey, claiming top points on the first three climbs. Spilak and Bouet went for the rest and that spelled doom for Damuseau, who was dropped every time. But he really did Grmay a favour, who remained in the lead with 27 points, while Barguil, Spilak and Bouet all collected 26.

Barguil shook off his other opponents and won the stage ahead of Bouet and Herrada, Damaseau was 5th. With 50 km to go the GC fight started and once more Kwiatkowksi came out top, 70 seconds ahead of Quintana, his lead has grown to 3'29''. Froome arrived with Dan Martin and Betancur another minute behind. Barguil's ride was 12 minutes faster than any of them and he's now representing Sky in 4th place, just behind Astana's Froome.

Grmay was able to strike again the following day, a stage to Font-Romeu across two HC peaks and then up a final 10 km climb. When he attacked from the front of the peloton the first rider to make the jump with him was Cancellara who set a blistering pace and the other 8 riders who joined the escape group had to work hard to catch up. The group included four riders who are as good at climbing as Grmay, old Nibali, Bennett, Rubiano and Coppel as well as the also respectable Serry, Silin, Ormad and Zardini. Grmay set a high tempo in the final 5 km of the first HC climb and dropped everybody except Silin and Bennett. On the next cat. 1 the others decided to sprint for the points, too, and Grmay was only 3rd.

The speed of the E1 group was low between that climb and the next big one, Cancellara had no trouble staying with the rest and even took turns at the front. Pretty much the whole HC climb was into a 48 kmph headwind ‚Äď have I mentioned before that it seems to be windy on just about every stage this season? Grmay hid behind the others and had to dig deep in the final 4 km to win top points. Nibali then attacked on the way to the final climb, but into the headwind it was a useless endevour.

Grmay decided to follow Nibali's second and last attack, but it went nowhere quickly. The final km was pretty flat and knowing how badly Aviva riders sprint Grmay had to force a decision sooner. He attacked as much as he dared with the energy he had left, 4 km from the top, creating a gap of 15 seconds and prayed the others wouldn't work together in the headwind. They didn't, it was all up to Rubiano and he was unable to close the small gap, Grmay won his second stage by 13 seconds, Bennett was 3rd. We had dawdled so much that the favourites arrived less than 4 minutes behind, Kwiatek showed a little weakness and the others gained all of 19 seconds on him. Barguil was up there after his near-solo ride the day before. Grmay added 61 points on the day and increased his total to 88, Bennett is now 2nd with 40 points. The Ethiopean will wait for stage 19 for his third and final attack to secure the polkadot jersey. Also worth noting, Silin's 4th place was rewarded with 4 WT points, the first points for Garmin all season.

Stage 15 was officially flat but featured a few nice unclassified lumps in the finale. De Vreese, finally getting his turn, was in a strong group of riders but felt this one would be up to the right tactic. The peloton was closing in, but those bumps should slow it down sufficiently... and then Sagan himself attacked with 10 km to go. With 62 more riders in tow he closed the gap with one long attack and then even had the energy to win the stage ahead of Matthews and Betancur.

After the final rest day came what could be called an easy mountain stage, the hardest climb was still a long way from the finish and followed by three climbs which barely broke the 5%. Manaia was going to go to bat for us, but he was poorly positioned while Foetz was there to follow the attacks. He tried his best to manage his energy, set a high pace up the steepest climb, recovered well on the descent, easily following the others. But he still had too much energy left for the finale and so would his opponents. He attacked with 5 km to go but this time Rubiano closed the gap again. The final kilometre was so flat, Foetz should have tried to win from the front, instead he let three riders overtake him, having seen a small kick inside 100 metres on the map, but there was a tight corner of 90 degrees first and Foetz was only 5th, Meintjes won ahead of Rubiano and Dennis.

There were attacks from the favourites and, surprisingly considering earlier stages, Quintana came out top, closing the gap to Kwiatkowski by over a minute, it's now 2'06'', not that comfortable anymore.
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July 2018: Tour de France (4/4)

On stage 17 we tried our luck with Damuseau. It was nominally a flat stage, but with a very long irregular climb in the middle followed by a long descent and 20 km flat roads. Nominally the Frenchman was the best sprinter in the group, but a guy like Ignatiev might easily distance him earlier. But it wasn't to be, the group was caught and Degenkolb won ahead of Matthews, another German was on the podium, not Kittel, who disappointed again as 13th, but Ciolek. Maybe the escapees would have stood a chance if not once again a strong headwind up to 70 kmph was blowing, that really cramps my style. Damuseau was hoping to lead all the way up the climb as the best climber in the group, tire everyone out and keep a nice gap to the peloton, but it would have been a waste. Roman Kreuziger got dropped in the end, he wasn't on top form in the Giro and he isn't here, he's just 9th in the GC, over 19 minutes behind.

The next stage was supposed to be hilly, but the final climb was over 8 km long, so De Vreese may not have been the wisest choice for the breakaway. And indeed, Mohoric and Serry dropped him easily on that final climb. The favourites were approaching fast, too, and swallowed De Vreese. Mohoric survived and won the stage just as Kwiatkowski was about to overtake him, Serry was 5th.

Grmay secured the polkadot jersey on stage 19, adding 65 points on a stage with two cat. 1 climbs followed by two HC climbs followed by a long descent and then 8 km up to Auron. A PCM nuisance prevented him from finishing better than 4th, though. He was squeezed out on the descent, suddenly three riders got a slight gap, Grmay tried to take no chances, attacked to close it but it just wouldn't happen even though the three were riding side by side. At the foot of the final climb he was still 20 seconds behind and mostly exhausted and ended 2 minutes behind Ion Izagirre, who won ahead of Kelderman and Zoidl. None of them great downhill, by the way, no idea why Grmay just couldn't close that gap.

The GC battle was on, and Quintana proved irresistable. However, Kwiato was able to hang onto Froome, another great achievement, distancing the rest of the top 10. Quintana didn't gain enough time to take the lead, he was still 48 seconds behind. So the GC would be decided on stage 20, a mountain time trial. Quintana is fastest and finally wins a stage, ahead of Betancur and Froome. And Kwiatkowksi? Is a good sixth, only 28 seconds behind. So he does it again, he defends his title, by just 20 seconds ahead of Quintana.

Thierry Hupond wins the final stage with a solo breakaway, Mezgec wins the bunch sprint ahead of Sagan and Matthews. This was not totally irrelevant, though Sagan had won four stages and Matthews just one the gap between them was only 15 points before the final stage. But it's another green jersey for Sagan, Degenkolb is third in the points ranking. The white jersey goes to neo-pro Albiol, who finishes a good 18th overall. Sky is the best team despite the disappointing performances by two of the three captains. Barguil at least ends 5th thanks to that breakaway appearance, behind Froome and Betancur.

1Michal KwiatkowskiTeam Giant - Shimano
2Nairo QuintanaOmega Pharma - QuickStep Team+00'20''
3Chris FroomeAstana Pro Team+07'04''
4Carlos Alberto BetancurTrek Factory Racing+10'03''
5Warren BarguilTeam Sky+12'12''
6Daniel MartinTeam Katusha+12'35''
7Thibaut PinotMovistar Team+14'44''
8Rui CostaLotto - Belisol+16'11''
9Roman KreuzigerOrica - GreenEDGE+21'23''
10Pierre RollandAg2r La Mondiale+24'59''

Another great TdF for Aviva, three stages in the most important race of the season, that's more WT stages than the spring stage racing team collected in total. And the polkadot jersey for Grmay. His reputation reached stardom with that performance and the sponsor loves him, after not liking anybody at the start of the season. We're very happy that Grmay will stay with us for another season.

Stage by stage
1Michal KwiatkowskiMichal KwiatkowskiMichal KwiatkowskiMichal KwiatkowskiPatricio Gonz√°lez Albiol
2Zdenek StybarMichal KwiatkowskiMichal KwiatkowskiVyacheslav KuznetsovDenny van der Woude
3Peter SaganPeter SaganMichal KwiatkowskiVyacheslav KuznetsovDenny van der Woude
4Michal KwiatkowskiPeter SaganMichal KwiatkowskiVyacheslav KuznetsovHugues Piton
5Peter SaganPeter SaganPeter SaganVyacheslav KuznetsovHugues Piton
6Roland FiedlerPeter SaganPeter SaganBob JungelsHugues Piton
7Tsgabu GrmayPeter SaganPeter SaganTsgabu GrmayPatricio Gonz√°lez Albiol
8Peter SaganPeter SaganPeter SaganTsgabu GrmayPatricio Gonz√°lez Albiol
9Peter VelitsMichal KwiatkowskiPeter SaganTsgabu GrmayPatricio Gonz√°lez Albiol
10Fabian CancellaraMichal KwiatkowskiPeter SaganTsgabu GrmayPatricio Gonz√°lez Albiol
11Michael MatthewsMichal KwiatkowskiPeter SaganTsgabu GrmayPatricio Gonz√°lez Albiol
12Niki TerpstraMichal KwiatkowskiPeter SaganTsgabu GrmayPatricio Gonz√°lez Albiol
13Warren BarguilMichal KwiatkowskiPeter SaganTsgabu GrmayPatricio Gonz√°lez Albiol
14Tsgabu GrmayMichal KwiatkowskiPeter SaganTsgabu GrmayPatricio Gonz√°lez Albiol
15Peter SaganMichal KwiatkowskiPeter SaganTsgabu GrmayPatricio Gonz√°lez Albiol
16Louis MeintjesMichal KwiatkowskiPeter SaganTsgabu GrmayPatricio Gonz√°lez Albiol
17John DegenkolbMichal KwiatkowskiPeter SaganTsgabu GrmayPatricio Gonz√°lez Albiol
18Matej MohoricMichal KwiatkowskiPeter SaganTsgabu GrmayPatricio Gonz√°lez Albiol
19Ion IzagirreMichal KwiatkowskiPeter SaganTsgabu GrmayPatricio Gonz√°lez Albiol
20Nairo QuintanaMichal KwiatkowskiPeter SaganTsgabu GrmayPatricio Gonz√°lez Albiol
21Thierry HupondMichal KwiatkowskiPeter SaganTsgabu GrmayPatricio Gonz√°lez Albiol

July 2018: Tour of Austria
** goal: Stage Win

Race squad: Bugge, Formolo, Koloda, Köszegi, Skujins, Thys

Since it is a goal race we left Köszegi out of the TdF squad so he can participate in his home race and hopefully fulfil the objective for us. However, the two mountaintop finishes come in the first two stages, we can't expect the breakaway to survive on either.

On stage 1 to K√ľhtai we did not send anybody into the breakaway and the five team mates protected K√∂szegi. With Kruijswijk there was one MON 78 rider in the peloton, with any luck he wouldn't be on form, already having raced 53 days. Nobody else had more than MON 76 and K√∂szegi was in as good a form as anybody ever is in our team.

It was a long final climb into a moderate headwind and Köszegi's confidence grew as he could stay behind the Movistar riders leading the race without losing much energy. With 8 km to go he increased his effort and went into the lead himself without any of the favourites directly on his wheel. His ACC is pretty poor, but 6 km from the finish line he dared an attack.

There was no immediate reaction, Nerz was still leading the main group, apparently working for the nominally weaker Kirchmair. Though we know how good he is, having won three stages and the KOM rankings in last year's Vuelta for us. When the gap reached 30 seconds, victory became certain, Köszegi could keep up the speed until the end. Trofimov attacked, but too late, Köszegi won by 20 seconds, a group of 26 riders finished 31 seconds behind, Kirchmair was 3rd, another Austrian, Denifl, 4th.

So we already fulfilled our 2-star goal, but K√∂szegi lost the leader's jersey a day later. For once, it was up to Aviva to control the breakaway, we used three of our six riders but the gap grew to nearly 8 minutes as we neared the final climb up to the Kitzb√ľheler Horn. We were caught by surprise when a group of 8 riders including Trofimov and Kirchmair jumped away before even reaching the climb. It was survival of the fittest, only one rider, young Toni Focardi, from the breakway survived to win the stage by 38 seconds ahead of Trofimov , who had left the rest behind. K√∂szegi didn't quite catch up to the next group, he's now 2nd in the GC, 1'18'' behind Trofimov and 18'' ahead of Kirchmair.

Frustration for Formolo a day later: The nominally hilly stage featured a huge HC climb in the middle and even without good fitness Formolo dropped everybody, built up a nice lead, but then crashed on the descent. Though he kept up with his breakaway companions he was unable to win the stage. Trofimov gained a few more seconds on Köszegi.

I restarted stage 5 due to one of PCM's quirks. Koloda made the breakaway, that was good, but then it was time to fetch drinks in the peloton, Skujins was tasked with the job. But he takes forever and ever and then everybody decides to get his own drinks. Sure, why not? Oops, all my five riders magically drop behind the peloton as a group, nobody is doing anything and within seconds (at 4x speed) they have lost 5 minutes. Maybe they could have made it back with a hard relay, but I deemed it inacceptable and quit.

Second time's the charm: Koloda iniated a 6-man breakaway, all were far back in the GC except for Russian champion Firsanov, but even he was 8 minutes behind. Once again they were riding into a 48 kmph headwind, just like nearly every day this season. Koloda wasn't very cooperative in the first half of the stage and may have been a reason for the constant attacks among breakaway riders at that point, though others happily brought back attackers, too.

It was looking very good for the uphill finale, Koloda clearly being the strongest. There were more attacks, but thankfully, Koloda had support reeling them back in and the six men were back together at the foot of the final 4 km climb. Koloda reaped the rewards, winning by a minute. Trofimov again gained time on Köszegi.

Köszegi beat Trofimov in the ITT, in fact, he was an excellent 3rd only behind Haga and Ludvigsson. We hadn't expected that. But Trofimov wasn't far behind, 10th on the day, and comfortably wins the Tour of Austria, 1'49'' ahead of Köszegi, Kruijswijk completes the podium. With Denifl and Konrad two more Austrians finished in the top ten, while Kirchmair faded to 14th.

Top 10: Trofimov, Köszegi, Kruijswijk, Ruben Fernandez, Haga, Berhane, Mestre, Denifl, Konrad, Edet
Good work, even though you just missed out on the win in Austria...
@croatia: Winning the stage from the pack and 2nd overall is fantastic, HIL 71 prevented Köszegi from beating Trofimov.

July 2018: Prueba Villafranca de Ordizia

Race squad: de Jong, Koloda, M. Lammertink, Singh, Skujins, Tewelde, Valgren, Wojtasik

I don't normally report on (or play) minor races. We often have trouble booking races ahead of San Sebastian to get our riders into rhythm, but this season we were able to book two one-day races in the Basque Country.

Wojtasik was once again our man for the breakaway, he was the strongest puncheur in the group and dropped the others in the finale, but the peloton was already closing in. Our other riders missed an attack by four men and relayed hard to catch up with them ‚Äď which they did just before they had reached Wojtasik, the gap was down to 20 seconds. And since the others now expected our riders to work, we didn't, and allowed Wojtasik to win the race, despite his tank being empty.

Movistar's Egoitz Garcia won the sprint for 2nd place ahead of Skujins, all our 8 riders made the top 13, looking good for the upcoming races. But I'm writing this to celebrate Wojtasik once again, AVG 71 and yet currently our best rider in the CQ rankings, 48th with 487 points. HIL 76, he can't climb or ride a time trial, but all his other stats are ok, FLA 70 and the rest just below 70. He's an excellent choice for breakaways and he can do well in hilly one-day races from the peloton, too.

Here is his full palmares so far, he's in his third professional season, all of them riding for Aviva:

1stGeneral classification Poland championships
1stGeneral classification Tour International du Haut Var-matin
1stGeneral classification Prueba Villafranca-Ordiziako Klasika
1stMountain classification Tour de Pologne
1stYoung classification Tour de Pologne
1stStage Tour de Pologne
1stPoint classification Tour Cycliste International du Haut Var-matin
1stStage Tour Cycliste International du Haut Var-matin
2ndGeneral classification Vattenfall Cyclassics
2ndYoung classification Eneco Tour
3rdGeneral classification Poland championships
4thGeneral classification Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal
4thGeneral classification Tour de Pologne
4thGeneral classification Poland championships
4thGeneral classification De Brabantse Pijl
4thStage Paris - Nice
4thStage Tour Cycliste International du Haut Var-matin
5thGeneral classification Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal
5thGeneral classification Tre Valli Varesine
5thGeneral classification GP du canton d'Argovie
5thGeneral classification GP Industria & Commercio di Prato
5thStage Eneco Tour
5thStage Tour of Beijing
6thGeneral classification G.P. Camaiore
6thGeneral classification Memorial Marco Pantani
6thGeneral classification Roma Maxima
7thGeneral classification Clasica de Almeria
7thGeneral classification De Brabantse Pijl
7thGeneral classification Roma Maxima
8thGeneral classification GP Ouest France - Plouay
10thGeneral classification Gent-Wevelgem In Flanders Fields
10thGeneral classification Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec
11thGeneral classification Milano - Torino
14thGeneral classification Gent-Wevelgem In Flanders Fields
14thGeneral classification Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec
15thGeneral classification Clasica Ciclista San Sebastian
16thGeneral classification E3 Harelbeke
17thGeneral classification Ronde van Vlaanderen
17thGeneral classification Amstel Gold Race
18thGeneral classification La Flèche Wallonne
18thGeneral classification Paris - Nice
20thGeneral classification Eneco Tour
21stGeneral classification Milano - Sanremo
22ndGeneral classification Ronde van Vlaanderen

August 2018: Clasica San Sebastian

Race squad: de Jong, De Vreese, Fiedler, Lammertink, Skujins, Tewelde, Valgren, Wojtasik

We decided to make Singh our captain for the Tour de Pologne, which is why he missed San Sebastian. But apart from him we have brought our best riders for this terrain. However, it was the classical route which usually ends in a reduced bunch sprint and the competition couldn't have been stronger, the whole TdF top 10 was in attendance. Fraile, Boswell and a young British rider formed the break of the day which was never likely to succeed. We kept all our riders near the front of the peloton, taking the lead going into the Jaizkabel to use as little energy as possible up the climb as the speed increased.

In the finale, attacks came from all the big guns, Betancur, Quintana, Gilbert, Kwiato, but only three riders eventually got a gap 10 km out: Dan Martin, Rui Costa and Bob Jungels. We lined up our riders in a long sprint train which has often proven useful. Sadly, the last three somhow lost contact in the line, including the only two who have some kind of sprint, de Jong and Valgren. De Vreese sacrificed himself, starting the sprint as soon as we hit the 3 km mark.

It was enough for Tewelde to win the sprint from the second group, finishing 4th behind Dan Martin, Rui Costa and Bob Jungels, who managed to stay ahead. And directly behind Jesus Herrada we placed four more riders, Fiedler, Wojtasik, Lammertink and Skujins.

Top 10: Dan Martin, Rui Costa, Bob Jungels, Tewelde, Jesus Herrada, Fiedler, Wojtasik, Maurits Lammertink, Skujins, Egoitz Garcia

What a result. Rafael Silva was 5th in 2016, Hoem, Silva and Lammertink were 8th, 9th and 10th last year and now we have five riders in the top 10. Beating riders like Kwiatkowski, Quintana and Gilbert. A bit too easy, I guess.
August 2018: Tour de Pologne

Race squad: de Jong, De Vos, Singh, Skujins, Tewelde, Wojtasik

The 2018 Tour de Pologne consists of 4 flat stages, 2 hilly stages and a mountain stage on day 5 up to the vowelly challenged Szczyrk. As readers will know, this isn't ideal for our lazy season planning, all our climbers are currently resting. We activated Gertjan De Vos (MON 73 HIL 73) who didn't get a chance to show himself in the TdF. Ivan Singh (MON 69 HIL 78) is the nominal captain, we'd have to see how much he suffers on the mountain stage. The other four riders come from San Sebastian, lacking a little freshness.

Jetse Bol won the first two stages. Wojtasik got his chance to repeat last year's stage win on day 3, a fairly simple hilly stage to Jakuszyce. He won top points on the first two climbs, but the favourites easily caught him on the final ramp. Pinot won ahead of Porte, Ion Izagirre and Mollema were 36 seconds behind, Singh finished with Zoidl, their gap was 1'27''. Only 35 riders were within 5'30'' of the stage winner, the rest lost around 12 minutes. This included De Vos, our man for the mountain stage two days later.

Stuyven beat Bol on stage 4, then it was time for De Vos to make his breakaway appearance. He started stage 5 near the front of the pack and his attack provoked 9 riders to follow him. A nice, big group plus none of them are as good on hills let alone mountains. But that came with bad news, too. De Vos had to go slower than he wanted to to not drop everybody and so the distance to the peloton never became comfortable. The situation turned gloomy when Porte attacked. De Vos was alone by then and he started the final climb with only 2 minutes to spare.

But thankfully, Pinot caught Porte, the Frechman was ahead in the GC by 2 seconds and that produced a temporary stalemate. Porte attacked once more on this short climb, but De Vos survived and won the stage by 25 seconds. Nicely done, that didn't seem likely at the foot of the climb. Pinot caught Porte again and took 2nd, increasing his gap to 4 seconds.

Sadly, I was too focussed on De Vos and wasn't watching what was happening further back. Singh completely missed the attacks by the rest of the top 15 and finished 18th, 9 minutes behind. That was the end of our top 10 bid. But we got our stage win, so we shan't complain.

And the next chance would be a day later, the last hilly stage was waiting. We selected Skujins for the breakaway, but the group just wouldn't get away, even after a prolonged fight. So we played another card, Tim de Jong.

The main threat in the escape group seemed to be De Gendt, but it became clear that he has no fitness, he was really struggling uphill. It was a good fight between breakaway and peloton, but de Jong is a decent puncheur and kept the gap high enough. He won the stage 49 seconds ahead of Faucon and 1'15'' ahead of the group of favourites led by Izagirre.

We gave the final flat stage a try, the circuit included a small steep hill, and Wojtasik still really wanted to win a stage in his home country. He left the rest of the breakaway behind with 25 km to go and fought well, but the peloton was stronger. Five Belgians took the top 5 on the day, Quickstep's young Vangronsveld won the stage. Aviva takes home two stage wins and two jerseys, De Vos was king of the mountains and Singh the best young rider. Pinot beat Porte by 4 seconds.

Top 10: Pinot, Porte, Ion Izagirre, Mollema, Zoidl, Ulissi, Majka, Duarte, Machado, Ligthart
August 2018: Eneco Tour

Race squad: Bugge, Kuznetsov, Singh, Thy, Valgren, Wojtasik

Lars goes Boom and beat Cancellara by a hair in the prologue of the Eneco Tour. Matthews won stage 2, Sagan stage 3, which put him in the leader's jersey.

Stage 4, starting and finishing in Ronse, was the cobblestone stage this year. Our first choice for the breakaway was, of course, Wojtasik. But it wasn't to be, his group was caught, and so Bugge got his chance, riding with a trio of riders who hate cobblestones, so Bugge would be the man to beat.

He gave it a good shot, but eventually he was caught by group of 20 riders 8 km out. The group contained all his team mates, for once we had everybody riding for the GC, if they survive today they all have a chance at a top 10 finish.

The group was reduced to 14 riders after Sagan slipped in a corner and went down with 5 km to go. Our riders managed to avoid the crash and barely hung onto the group to finish in the same time as Demare, who won the stage. Sagan lost 2'54'' and is out of contention for overall victory.

The pancake flat stage 5 went to Matthews and he is the new leader, separated by less than a second from Demare and Boom. How would the decisive hilly stage go? Aviva stayed unusually passive, no attempt to join the breakaway, just keeping near the front, even taking turns pulling the pack and so the escapees didn't stand a chance.

Our tactic negated many late attacks from the favourites, except for Rui Costa's with just 7 km to go, including the steep final climb. It worked out for him, he won the stage by 20 seconds. Behind him we tried to time our sprints, but Stybar was 2nd, Simon Yates 3rd. Then Matthews and De Clerq, Singh was 6th. Would there be time gaps, because there certainly were some small gaps? No, the jury decided, the next 18 riders were all awarded the same time as Stybar. That includes all our riders except for Thys, who faltered and lost 4 minutes.

Matthews secures overaqll victory by winning the final stage ahead of the Quickstep duo Demare and Rick Zabel, he also wins the points classification. Boom and Cancellara complete the podium, then come Stybar, Van Avermaet and Degenkolb. The top 6 look realistic, but they are followed by a bunch of Aviva riders. If Sagan hadn't crashed and taken a few riders down with him (or our riders) we might not have had anybody in the top 10, so there was definitely some luck involved.

Top 10: Matthews, Boom, Cancellara, Stybar, Van Avermaet, Degenkolb, Valgren, Kuznetsov, Singh, Wojtasik
August 2018: Hamburg Cyclassics

Race squad: Damuseau, De Vreese, Fiedler, Inacio, Kuznetsov, Lammertink, Skujins, Thys

You've all been dreading this, I'm sure, I'll keep it short. All we wanted was to win from the breakaway with Inacio or, after his group was caught, Damuseau, our SPR 70 climber. He was riding with Howes, Keizer, Guillemois and neo-pro Gert Kemph.

One rider tried a lone late attack after the second and final climb of the Waseberg with 12 km to go, Jan Bakelandts. All our riders except for Inacio followed, trying to quench the attack. But Bakelandts couldn't be deterred, he stubbornly pulled our guys along, caught the breakaway, and attacked again to win the race. Our men were 2nd through to 7th. And the peloton? Arrived 3'25'' behind. What a joke! Zabel won the sprint for 13th.

Top 10: Bakelandts, Damuseau, Lammertink, De Vreese, Fiedler, Kuznetsov, Skujins, Howes, Keizer, Thys

August 2018: GP Quest

Race squad: Damuseau, de Jong, De Vreese, Fiedler, Lammertink, Singh, Skujins, Tewelde

While the GP Quest wasn't as easy or weird as Hamburg, the result was very similar. Despite a very high effort our men weren't quite at the front of the peloton when we hit the last climb, Stybar and Gilbert were working hard.

We dared the briefest of team attacks, which nearly emptied the sprint bar, and lined up our riders for the final sprint. Sagan was right behind our men but even he doesn't have unlimited energy reserves. I could have sworn Skujins crossed the line first, but victory went to Sagan. His 24th win of the season. The other sprinters had suffered too much, so Aviva placed six riders in the top 10.

Top 10: Sagan, Skujins, Lammertink, Singh, De Vreese, de Jong, Vallee, Fiedler, Kwiatkowski, Gilbert

With that result Aviva overtook Belkin and is now 12th in the WT team rankings. Thanks to Sagan BMC leads the table, just two points ahead of Sky, while Giant-Shimano and Quickstep are currently battling for 3rd position.
August 2018: Vuelta a Espana (1/2)

Race squad: Bugge, Foetz, Grmay, Köszegi, Manaia, McLean, Valgren, Waeytens, Wojtasik

This year we faced what must be the most boring Vuelta variant of them all, with few hilly or mountainous stages. There probably wouldn't be much GC action until the final week and breakaways will be closely watched until stage 16 or 17.

Of course Aviva riders escaped whenever there was a chance. Waeytens got pretty far on stage 6, he was able to drop Zeits and made it over the last hill ahead of the pack. But Slagter had jumped away from the rest, caught Waeytens 4 km out and easily outsprinted him. A day earlier Manaia crashed and was out of the race with a fractured coccyx (or tailbone, as we commonly call it).

Stage 8 was a 42 km long ITT. Quintana, who has reached TTR 76 along with MON 85 in this career, was a great 6th, only 17 seconds behind Phinney, who beat Dowsett by a second. He was 3rd in the GC after that, well ahead of his main competitors. Navardauskas was still in the lead, thanks to a successful breakaway on the (simulated) flat stage 3. He'll spend 10 days in the red jersey.

Stage 9 was mostly flat except for a small climb which needed to be tackled twice. Bugge made the breakaway of six riders, but the group contained Ignatiev. As we feared, he attacked with 25 km to go and despite the rest working together, he just couldn't be caught again. Bugge left the other behind to claim a good 2nd place. 152 riders were still within 10 minutes of Navardauskas. Points leader Matthews had to abandon on the first rest day after catching a virus.

Stages 10 and 11 were completely flat and Kittel, after a disappointing Tour de France, won his third stage of this Vuelta and with Matthews out of the race he has an excellent chance to win the points classification. Grmay had a sinusitis but we kept our captain in the race and he was able to recover on these flat stages.

Stage 12 was officially flat, but going from Sevilla to Marbella it contained a late, long irregular climb, a fast descent and then just 10 flat kilometres. It seemed like a chance for our top descender Foetz, but he started in the very last position in the peloton and so instead Wojtasik became part of the breakaway. He wouldn't win in a sprint, so he tried everything to drop his opponents on the climb and again on the descent, but Vandousselaere couldn't be dropped and despite Wojtasik forcing him to lead in the final flat part he had enough energy left to win the sprint from the front. So three second places so far from Waeytens, Bugge and Wojtasik. No changes in the GC, except for Köszegi losing 15 minutes and now carrying the latern rouge. He should safely be allowed into the breakaway on the first mountain stage, though the chances of the breakaway making it should be very close to zero.

Not only would that prediction turn true, the riders who escaped with Köszegi were too strong anyway, like Mohoric and Dyachenko. So Köszegi pretty much refused to share the work load, it wouldn't have helped anyway, Mohoric was the best from the breakaway as 31st, 4'21'' behind the winner, who could only be Quintana. König, Majka and Ulissi were only 27 seconds behind.

The GC had cleared up, Quintana had taken the lead, 1'14'' ahead of König and 1'35'' ahead of Kelderman. Grmay decided to fight for the GC, a top 10 finish might be possibly. He was 12th on the stage, 2'47'' behind, and moved up to 21st overall.

We didn't like the profile of stage 16 and our doubts were confirmed. Wojtasik was in the breakaway, a good rider for hills, but the competition was tough and the finale a flat section leading to a final climb just 1 km long and we never get those sprints right. Wojtasik was 6th out of 6 riders, Finello won. There were some late attacks from the favourites Grmay didn't follow. Others were not attentive enough, either, Quintana was a big winner on the day, more than a minute faster than Kelderman, nearly 90 seconds faster than König, Majka also lost time. An easy way to increase the gap, now nearly 3 minutes.
September 2018: Vuelta a Espana (2/2)

Stage 17 was the 4th time that we had to settle for 2nd place: Foetz was in the breakaway and he mostly feared Rubiano, a slightly better climber. But the stage was pretty flat until hitting a HC climb, a fast descent and then a shorter climb to the finish. The breakaway didn't have a convincing advantage on the HC climb, on which the favourites attacked.

At the very top, Quintana alone caught Foetz, while Rubiano and Volchok were slightly ahead. Foetz could recover a fair bit in Quintana's slipstream. The man in red attacked at the foot of the final climb, the rest of the favourites weren't far behind. But to our surprise Foetz held them off, he overtook Rubiano and Volchok and finished 2'05'' behind Quintana and 15 seconds ahead of König, Ulissi and Arredondo. Majka wasn't far behind and moved past Kelderman in the GC into 4th position. Quintana's lead is up to 5 minutes, the Vuelta victory seems certain.

We reached the queen stage of this year's Vuelta. Grmay donned the mountain jersey after the stage. Surprisingly (or not, knowing the game), there was no contest for the mountain points. However, his margin is quite small because one rider had to pull the group all on his own and was second on every climb: Dan Martin. He was 17th in the GC before the stage, 17 minutes behind Quintana, he'd make it all the way onto the podium only to drop off again with the final ITT. The gap became quite comfortable, but Quintana himself attacked on the penultimate, HC, climb and had reduced the gap from 10 minutes to 2 minutes when the escapees crossed the summit, an impressive solo ride.

Dan Martin attacked as the group reached the bottom of the climb to Luz Ardiden and eventually won the stage. Grmay was 5th, behind Silin and ex-Aviva rider Schmäh as well as Quintana. Kittel just managed to stay inside the time limit, unlike Groenewegen and 26 other riders.

By the time I realised how stage 20 would turn out, it was already too late. Köszegi would have won the stage had the breakaway survived, but the gap always looked too small considering the Angliru waited at the end. After a flurry of attacks on the previous climb had been negated, Quintana attacked once again at the foot of the Angliru and the first rider to follow him was, sadly, Dan Martin.

Grmay picked the highest pace he could, under the flamme rouge he had caught up to the trio Aru, Olivier and König and was hoping he could leave them behind, but they had saved up energy for a sprint Grmay couldn't follow. Quintana won easily ahead of Martin, Majka was third, Köszegi crossed the line in fourth. He should have come to a standstill and let Grmay overtake him, that would have been enough to secure the jersey but I hadn't done the maths. Grmay lost the mountain jersey by a single point to Dan Martin.

The final GC was decided with a time trial slightly over 40 km long. Phinney won again, ahead of Cancellara, Quintana was third. Three stages and overall victory for the 28-year old Colombian. Once again beaten by Kwiatkowkski and the TdF, once again consoled with a Vuelta victory. Dan Martin was the big loser of the day, slipping back off the podium into 5th position. Majka was runner-up, König failed to knock Ulissi off the podium, the Italian rode a decent enough time trial to hang on. Grmay ends 11th, he had made it into the top 10 on the Angliru but his TTR 63 wasn't good enough to keep the position. A slightly disappointing Vuelta, no stage win, not the GT mountain jersey triple, and not a top 10 finish, either.

Top 10: Quintana, Majka, Ulissi, König, Dan Martin, Kelderman, Olivier, Arredondo, Simon Yates, Silin

Stage by stage:
1Alex DowsettAlex DowsettAlex DowsettAlex DowsettOliver Reynolds
2Michael MatthewsAlex DowsettMichael MatthewsMarcel KittelOliver Reynolds
3Michael M√łrk√łvRamunas NavardauskasRamunas NavardauskasCl√©ment KoretzkyOliver Reynolds
4Tom Jelte SlagterRamunas NavardauskasRamunas NavardauskasTom Jelte SlagterOliver Reynolds
5Marcel KittelRamunas NavardauskasRamunas NavardauskasTom Jelte SlagterOliver Reynolds
6Tom Jelte SlagterRamunas NavardauskasMichael MatthewsTom Jelte SlagterAlexis Gougeard
7Marcel KittelRamunas NavardauskasMichael MatthewsTom Jelte SlagterAlexis Gougeard
8Taylor PhinneyRamunas NavardauskasMichael MatthewsTom Jelte SlagterAlexis Gougeard
9Mikhail IgnatievRamunas NavardauskasMichael MatthewsTom Jelte SlagterAlexis Gougeard
10Marcel KittelRamunas NavardauskasMarcel KittelTom Jelte SlagterAlexis Gougeard
11Kevin RezaRamunas NavardauskasMarcel KittelTom Jelte SlagterAlexis Gougeard
12Sven VandousselaereRamunas NavardauskasMarcel KittelSven VandousselaereAlexis Gougeard
13Nairo QuintanaNairo QuintanaMarcel KittelNairo QuintanaMatej Mohoric
14Prparin FernandesNairo QuintanaMarcel KittelNairo QuintanaMatej Mohoric
15Marcel KittelNairo QuintanaMarcel KittelNairo QuintanaMatej Mohoric
16Mauro FinettoNairo QuintanaMarcel KittelNairo QuintanaMatej Mohoric
17Nairo QuintanaNairo QuintanaMarcel KittelNairo QuintanaMatej Mohoric
18Daniel MartinNairo QuintanaMarcel KittelTsgabu GrmayMatej Mohoric
19Johan Esteban Ch√°vesNairo QuintanaMarcel KittelTsgabu GrmayMatej Mohoric
20Nairo QuintanaNairo QuintanaMarcel KittelDaniel MartinMatej Mohoric
21Taylor PhinneyNairo QuintanaMarcel KittelDaniel MartinMatej Mohoric

September 2018: Tour of Britain
** goal: Stage Win

Race squad: de Jong, Fiedler, Formolo, Koloda, Kudus, Lammertink, Singh, Tewelde

The final goal race of the season, after we forfeited the GP de Fourmies. The stage preview on day 3 was very unusual, we saw lots of Aviva riders among the favourites. Not Formolo, though, so he created the breakaway. But the other two riders were incredibly weak, he had to wait for them after every hill, until he decided to just ride alone, but he was swallowed a long way out.

There was a very steep climb 30 km from the finish line and some of our riders attacked at the top, causing a select group. Rohan Dennis was prepared to pull the group the rest of the way ‚Äď and despite that effort he went on to win the stage by 14 seconds, very impressive and slightly disappointing.

The next chance would come the next day, a tough stage with a very steep final climb. Formolo was in the break again, this time with five other riders, but once again they were hopeless on the hills. At least they were useful in the flat parts and when Formolo finally reached the finale with three climbs in a row, he left the rest behind. But the peloton wasn't far behind, either.

The directeur sportif didn't quite know what do do, the Aviva riders remained behind the Movistar men working for Dennis. But they went on free effort as the climb started and Kudus pushed to the front, this was more a mountain than a hill. So he attacked, 10 minutes back in the GC there should be no reaction. And there wasn't, Dennis didn't make any use of his superior climbing skills.

Kudus overtook poor Formolo inside the final 500 metres and Koloda would complete the all-Aviva podium. He was awarded the same time as Dennis, Singh, Mazzi and Tewelde, so we now have three riders directly behind Dennis in the GC. Lammertink, de Jong and Fiedler retired during the stage to travel to Canada for the WT races.

Rohan Dennis proved he is the best rider in the race when he attacked at the foot of the final climb on the last tough stage and left everybody else in the dust. Our riders managed their energy well and arrived ahead of the rest. We won a stage and completed the last sponsor goal and Singh and Tewelde make the podium behind Dennis, who won fair and square, 3'35'' ahead. Koloda and Kudus also make the top 10, while Formolo is awarded the mountain jersey. A fine performance all around.

Top 10: Dennis, Singh, Tewelde, Mazzi, Koloda, Goncalves, Durasek, Mannion, Rafael Silva, Kudus
September 2018: GP Quebec

Race squad: Damuseau, de Jong, De Vreese, Fiedler, Sebastian Henao, Lammertink, Skujins, Zilioli

Several top stars had made the way across the ocean. Three of our riders crashed on the penultimate lap, which put Sebastian Henao and Skujins out of contention, but incredibly Damuseau managed to get back into the peloton and bully his way to he front just as the final attacks started. We followed them smartly and then a few of our men tried their own attacks, but they were unable to shake off Sagan and Kwiatkowski. No chance to beat them in the final sprint, either. Sagan won in convincing fashion, Kwiatek was 2nd, Sergio Henao was 3rd. But the next four riders all wore Aviva jerseys, another great result. Damuseau was among them as 7th despite his crash, I find that especially noteworthy.

Top 10: Sagan, Kwiatkowski, Sergio Henao, M. Lammertink, Fiedler, De Vreese, Damuseau, Betancur, Ion Izagirre, Rui Costa

September 2018: GP Montreal

Race squad: Damuseau, de Jong, De Vreese, Fiedler, Kuznetsov, Maurits Lammertink, Skujins, Thys

The startlist and the main protagonists were nearly identical to the Quebec race. Sagan and Kwiatek didn't miss a beat, the Polish superstar launched his attack 10 km from the finish line, but he never got a gap. Then Sagan dared to attack into the headwind with just 4 km to go. Aviva had lined up a sprint train with Damuseau (SPR 71) in 3rd position, but he lost too much energy staying in position. We caught Sagan in the final two 90 degree corners but then Sergio Henao had the final say, outsprinting De Vreese and Lammertink. We love these Canadian races.

Top 10: Sergio Henao, De Vreese, Lammertink, Sagan, Damuseau, Gilbert, Bakelandts, Fiedler, Kwiatkowski, Adam Yates
Mass presence in top ten and even a podium - not bad Banana
@tomcat: Thanks! A win would have been even nicer, but it wasn't to be.

September 2018: WC in Bogota, Colombia

The 2018 ITT crown goes to Dumoulin, he was 39 seconds faster on the hilly course than Talansky, last year's champion Castroviejo was 3rd, another 10 seconds slower. No Australian on the podium, but 4 in the top 10: Dumoulin, Talansky, Castroviejo, Durbridge, Kwiatkowski, Dennis, Porte, Cancellara, Howson, Thomas

The road race went up and down for 241 km, always the same tough hill which had to be tackled 9 and a half times. Going into the finale only 18 riders remained in contention, Aru was best of the rest, 12'58'' behind the winner. Soon, we were down to 7 riders and soon everybody was on his own in a race opf attritition. Kwiatkowski is the new World Champion, he was nearly 90 seconds faster than Betancur, who secured a silver medal for the home country. Slagter completes the podium. He was followed by Sagan, Bakelandts, Ulissi, Bardet, Arredondo, Ponzi and Gallopin.

13 Aviva riders were nominated for the road race, here are their results: 28th Sebastian Henao, 30th Singh, 34th de Jong, 38th Valgren, 43rd Fiedler, 47th Grande, 57th Kuznetsov, 63rd De Vreese, 68th Wojtasik, 73rd Lammertink, 98th Köszegi, 99th Inacio, 119th Kolada
October 2018: Il Lombardia

Race squad: de Jong, De Vreese, Sebastian Henao, Kudus, Lammertink, Singh, Skujins, Tewelde

As always, Il Lombardia was a brutal and unforgiving race. The pace really picked up on the penultimate climb, our riders had to work hard to not lose contact with the best riders. Singh, who was named a 1-star favourite for the race, had nearly run out of energy already and would soon drop off and only finish 46th. Sebastian Henao also couldn't keep up, he had expended all his energy in the WC race, it seems.

BMC set up defending champion Gilbert beautifully, he attacked at the foot of the final climb and would hold onto a small gap until the finish line and win the race. Every man for himself was our motto and one rider emerged the strongest, De Vreese, and he just about managed to stay with the chasing group on the final descent.

Ulissi attacked and claimed 2nd place, Jungels was 3rd. De Vreese was the last rider of the group to cross the finish line, totally exhausted, but he was 9th ahead of great riders, even Kwiatkowski, who'd missed the group. So once more he was our best rider and recorded the first top 10 result for Aviva in this prestigious race. Well done! The 5th Lombardia for Gilbert, that equals the record by the legendary Fausto Coppi.

Top 10: Gilbert, Ulissi, Jungels, Betancur, Slagter, Adam Yates, Talansky, Sergio Henao, De Vreese, Arredondo
Ripley wrote:Singh, who was named a 1-star favourite for the race

Is Singh Indian? Smile His surname is similar to Indian.
@tomcat: His full name is Ivan Singh and he's Australian. So he's probably of Indian descent. See: https://en.wikipe...ustralians Smile

October 2018: Tour of Beijing

Race squad: de Jong, De Vreese, Inacio, Koloda, Lammertink, Singh, Skujins, Tewelde

The final WT race of the season. The hilly variant of the Tour of Beijing is a little tame. Among the eventual top 14 there was only one time gap of 9 seconds by one rider and three more riders gained bonus seconds. Overall winner is Sergio Henao, he took stages 2 and 3 and was the man to gain 9 seconds on the rest on that third stage. Slagter was on the podium on those two stages and won the final stage. Tewelde finished right behind Henao on stage 2, while De Vreese was 3rd on stage 3.

All our other riders except for Inacio were among the top 14, but only Singh made the top 10, the others finished 11th to 14th. Inacio was in the breakaway on the two hilly stages and claimed the mountains classification. A nice finish to the season.

Top 10: Segio Henao, Slagter, Tewelde, De Vreese, Vichot, Chernetckii, Finetto, Ion Izagirre, Singh, Pinot

That was the last race report of 2018, next week I'll present a season summary, the development in the off-season and then a look at the new team, the lofty sponsor goals and more.
The 2018 season in review

Before we get to our own team, here is a summary of the whole World Tour 2018. Let us start with PCMCE's excellent overview:


Team Sky's Rafal Majka was on two GT podiums this year, but he didn't collect a single victory all season and is only 17th in the WT rankings. Sagan and Gilbert won two monuments each. The Hulk recorded 28 victories, the only stage race he didn't walk away with a win from was the Dauphine. As a team Quickstep dominated with 71 victories, including 18 from Quintana, 13 from Demare and 12 from Nizzolo.

1Nairo QuintanaCOLOmega Pharma - QuickStep883
2Michal KwiatkowskiPOLTeam Giant - Shimano746
3Peter SaganSVKBMC Racing Team737
4Richie PorteAUSTeam Sky605
5Daniel MartinIRLTeam Katusha572
6Rui CostaPORLotto - Belisol566
7Chris FroomeGBRAstana Pro Team489
8Roman KreuzigerCZEOrica - GreenEDGE451
9Carlos Alberto BetancurCOLTrek Factory Racing436
10John DegenkolbGERMovistar Team424
11Philippe GilbertBELBMC Racing Team379
12Warren BarguilFRATeam Sky352
13Bauke MollemaNEDBMC Racing Team339
14Zdenek StybarCZETrek Factory Racing329
15Tom Jelte SlagterNEDTinkoff - Saxo324
16Diego UlissiITAOrica - GreenEDGE299
17Rafal MajkaPOLTeam Sky272
18Sergio HenaoCOLTeam Sky267
19Rigoberto UranCOLBelkin Pro Cycling Team266
20Lars BoomNEDTeam Giant - Shimano250
21Michael MatthewsAUSOrica - GreenEDGE234
22Laurens De VreeseBELAviva Cycling224
23Thibaut PinotFRAMovistar Team216
24Greg Van AvermaetBELOmega Pharma - QuickStep211
25Bob JungelsLUXTeam Katusha206
26Maurits LammertinkNEDAviva Cycling201
27Pierre RollandFRAAg2r La Mondiale193
28Fabian CancellaraSWITrek Factory Racing158
29Ion IzagirreESPTeam Katusha157
30Adam YatesGBROmega Pharma - QuickStep146
31Alexander KristoffNORTeam Katusha141
32Andrew TalanskyUSATeam Sky141
33Leopold KönigCZEMovistar Team135
34Romain BardetFRAAstana Pro Team134
35Niki TerpstraNEDTeam Sky126
36Roland FiedlerLUXAviva Cycling126
37Ivan SinghAUSAviva Cycling122
38Daan OlivierNEDBelkin Pro Cycling Team122
39Jani TeweldeERIAviva Cycling114
40Marcel KittelGERTeam Katusha108
41Julien El FaresFRAAg2r La Mondiale106
42Thomas DamuseauFRAAviva Cycling106
43Jan BakelantsBELCannondale103
44Daniel OssITACannondale101
45Wilco KeldermanNEDMovistar Team94
46Tejay Van GarderenUSATeam Sky92
47Damien HowsonAUSBelkin Pro Cycling Team90
48Jur KulpakaPOLAstana Pro Team90
49Maxime BouetFRAAg2r La Mondiale86
50Simon SpilakSLOTeam Katusha84
51Tsgabu GrmayETHAviva Cycling83
52Matthew GossAUSTeam Sky82
53Jakob FuglsangDENBMC Racing Team80
54Toms SkujinsLATAviva Cycling80
55Nacer BouhanniFRATeam Giant - Shimano75
56J√ľrgen RoelandtsBELOmega Pharma - QuickStep74
57Gerald CiolekGERTeam Katusha71
58Giacomo NizzoloITAOmega Pharma - QuickStep70
59Michael Valgren DENAviva Cycling70
60Fabio DuarteCOLAg2r La Mondiale67
61Tim WellensBELLotto - Belisol65
62Julian ArredondoCOLTeam Katusha64
63Vyacheslav KuznetsovRUSAviva Cycling62
64Peter VelitsSVKLotto - Belisol60
65Riccardo ZoidlAUTAg2r La Mondiale58
66Jesus HerradaESPMovistar Team58
67Isaurindo ManaiaPORAviva Cycling56
68Jens DebusschereBELTrek Factory Racing56
69Wout PoelsNEDTeam Giant - Shimano56
70Sam BennettIRLTeam Giant - Shimano54
71Dominik NerzGERMovistar Team52
72Arthur VichotFRAAg2r La Mondiale51
73Simon YatesGBRAstana Pro Team50
74Tanel KangertESTCannondale49
75Arnaud DémareFRAOmega Pharma - QuickStep48
76Mauro FinettoITAOrica - GreenEDGE47
77Egor SilinRUSGarmin - Sharp46
78Be√Īat IntxaustiESPTeam Katusha42
79Tim de JongAUSAviva Cycling41
80Vladimir KolodaKAZAviva Cycling40
81Sergey ChernetckiiRUSTrek Factory Racing40
82Sacha ModoloITABMC Racing Team37
83Taylor PhinneyUSAOmega Pharma - QuickStep37
84Alexander PorsevRUSOrica - GreenEDGE36
85Janier AcevedoCOLTeam Sky36
86Prparin FernandesLUXOrica - GreenEDGE35
87Yoann OffredoFRAOmega Pharma - QuickStep34
88Edvald Boasson HagenNORBMC Racing Team30
89Jonathan CastroviejoESPTeam Katusha30
90Pieter SerryBELLotto - Belisol30
91Kevin SeeldraeyersBELBMC Racing Team30
92Jelle VanendertBELOmega Pharma - QuickStep28
93Vegard Robinson BuggeNORAviva Cycling28
94Zdzislaw WojtasikPOLAviva Cycling28
95Manuel BellettiITAAstana Pro Team26
96Mikhail IgnatievRUSIAM Cycling26
97Michael M√łrk√łvDENIAM Cycling25
98Elia VivianiITAIAM Cycling24
99Michel KochGERAstana Pro Team24
100Luka MezgecSLOTrek Factory Racing24
101Roland FoetzLUXAviva Cycling24
102Alex DowsettGBROrica - GreenEDGE24
103Delfí GrandeESPAviva Cycling23
104Geraint ThomasGBRBMC Racing Team23
105Eduardo SepulvedaARGAndroni Giocattoli - Venezuela22
106Johannes FröhlingerGEROmega Pharma - QuickStep21
107Miguel Angel RubianoCOLIAM Cycling20
108Louis MeintjesSARGarmin - Sharp20
109Matej MohoricSLOTinkoff - Saxo20
110Thierry HupondFRAFDJ.fr20
111Rohan DennisAUSMovistar Team19
112Dylan GroenewegenNEDOmega Pharma - QuickStep19
113Joseph DombrowskiUSATrek Factory Racing19
114Francesco MasciarelliITABMC Racing Team18
115Sven VandousselaereBELIAM Cycling18
116Ramunas NavardauskasLTUAg2r La Mondiale18
117Vincenzo NibaliITABMC Racing Team18
118Mikel LandaESPCaja Rural - Seguros RGA18
119Tobias LudvigssonSWDMovistar Team18
120Tom DumoulinNEDAstana Pro Team17
121Blel KadriFRATrek Factory Racing16
122Gorka IzagirreESPCannondale16
123Oleg√°rio In√°cioPORAviva Cycling16
124Clément KoretzkyFRATeam Giant - Shimano16
125Patricio Gonz√°lez AlbiolVENOrica - GreenEDGE16
126Jetse BolNEDTeam Giant - Shimano16
127Kevin RezaFRABretagne - Séché Environnement16
128Kristijan KorenSLOBelkin Pro Cycling Team16
129Johan Esteban Ch√°vesCOLCannondale16
130Tony MartinGERCaja Rural - Seguros RGA15
131Tiago MachadoPORAstana Pro Team15
132Toralf MéndezGERLampre - Merida14
133Peter KennaughGBRIAM Cycling14
134Jasper StuyvenBELTrek Factory Racing14
135Boris ValléeBELLotto - Belisol14
136Angel FigaresESPAviva Cycling12
137Simon GeschkeGERCannondale12
138Zico WaeytensBELAviva Cycling12
139Fabio AruITAOmega Pharma - QuickStep12
140Alexandre GeniezFRAOmega Pharma - QuickStep11
141Hughes VangronsveldBELOmega Pharma - QuickStep10
142Jesper HansenDENTeam Sky10
143J√©r√īme CoppelFRAAg2r La Mondiale10
144Alex HowesUSABretagne - Séché Environnement10
145Elias SchmähSWITrek Factory Racing10
146Simone PonziITABMC Racing Team9
147Rick ZabelGEROmega Pharma - QuickStep9
148Tim DeclercqBELLotto - Belisol9
149Caleb EwanAUSBelkin Pro Cycling Team8
150Davide MalacarneITAAstana Pro Team8
151Alexsandr DyachenkoKAZAstana Pro Team8
152Mattia CattaneoITAAndroni Giocattoli - Venezuela8
153Colbert SalaunFRAAg2r La Mondiale8
154Ignatas KonovalovasLTUTeam Sky7
155Yury TrofimovRUSTeam Sky7
156George BennettNZLTinkoff - Saxo7
157Sep VanmarckeBELOmega Pharma - QuickStep7
158Ben SwiftGBRMovistar Team7
159Nikias ArndtGEROmega Pharma - QuickStep7
160Julian AlaphilippeFRATeam Giant - Shimano6
161Omar FraileESPCaja Rural - Seguros RGA6
162Javier MorenoESPTinkoff - Saxo6
163Alberto ContadorESPAstana Pro Team6
164Davide CimolaiITABMC Racing Team6
165André CardosoPORTeam Sky6
166Romain HardyFRABretagne - Séché Environnement6
167Egoitz GarciaESPMovistar Team6
168Gertjan De VosBELAviva Cycling6
169Martijn KeizerNEDTeam Sky6
170Andrey ZeitsKAZIAM Cycling6
171Adriano MaloriITAAstana Pro Team5
172Gianluca BrambillaITANeri Sottoli5
173Kristof VandewalleBELTinkoff - Saxo5
174Thomas DegandBELLotto - Belisol5
175Jan PolancSLOTeam Sky5
176Marco BandieraITABelkin Pro Cycling Team4
177Enrique SanzESPMTN - Qhubeka4
178Enrico PeruffoITALampre - Merida4
179Sonny ColbrelliITAAstana Pro Team4
180Maurizio ToniniITACannondale4
181Thomas De GendtBELLotto - Belisol4
182Merhawi KudusERIAviva Cycling4
183Cristiano SalernoITABMC Racing Team4
184Nicolas EdetFRAMTN - Qhubeka4
185Irek VolchokRUSTinkoff - Saxo4
186Wouter WippertNEDBelkin Pro Cycling Team4
187Guillaume FauconFRABretagne - Séché Environnement4
188Pim LigthartNEDTeam Giant - Shimano4
189Luc SpijkersNEDBelkin Pro Cycling Team4
190Salvatore MancusoITACannondale4
191Edmund SantlGERTeam Giant - Shimano4
192Barry MarkusNEDBelkin Pro Cycling Team4
193Luke DurbridgeAUSTrek Factory Racing3
194Jan DieterenGERMovistar Team3
195Kris BoeckmansBELTopsport Vlaanderen - Baloise3
196Bart De ClercqBELTeam Katusha3
197Manuel Alberto MachacaCOLFDJ.fr2
198Sergey AndreevKAZAstana Pro Team2
199Alessandro De MarchiITAAstana Pro Team2
200Carlos BarberoESPTeam Katusha2
201Raymond KrederNEDMTN - Qhubeka2
202Angel MadrazoESPTeam Katusha2
203Sebasti√°n HenaoCOLAviva Cycling2
204Florian VachonFRALampre - Merida2
205Sander ArméeBELLotto - Belisol2
206Lars Petter NordhaugNORTeam Katusha2
207Stefano PirazziITAOmega Pharma - QuickStep2
208Stefan KirchmairAUTMovistar Team2
209Sean DowneyIRLLampre - Merida2
210Michael SchärSWIIAM Cycling2
211Nikolas MaesBELLotto - Belisol2
212Rasmus Christian QuaadeDENTinkoff - Saxo2
213Pier ThysBELAviva Cycling2
214Oliver ReynoldsGBRTeam Giant - Shimano2
215Fernand StamperBELBMC Racing Team2
216Antonio PiedraESPCofidis, Solutions Crédits2
217Hannes KöszegiAUTAviva Cycling2
218Gianni MeersmanBELLotto - Belisol1
219Daryl ImpeySARIAM Cycling1
220Kristian SbaragliITAAstana Pro Team1
221Oscar GattoITATeam Europcar1
222Julio Enrique Gait√°nCHLOFM - Quinta da Lixa1
223Kenny ElissondeFRACannondale1
224Nathan HaasAUSBelkin Pro Cycling Team1
225Andrea ZordanITAAg2r La Mondiale1
226Fabio FellineITALampre - Merida1
227Moreno HoflandNEDOrica - GreenEDGE1
228Davide FormoloITAAviva Cycling1
229Matteo RabottiniITACannondale1
230Juan José LobatoESPTeam Katusha1
231Tony GallopinFRAAg2r La Mondiale1
232Jonathan HivertFRAFDJ.fr1
233Gregor M√ľhlbergerAUTFDJ.fr1
234Yukiya ArashiroJPNTeam Katusha1
235Alexey LutsenkoKAZAstana Pro Team1
236Moomba WatersUSACannondale1
237Yauheni HutarovichBLRLampre - Merida1
238Jonas VangenechtenBELGarmin - Sharp1
239Bert De BackerBELLotto - Belisol1

Quintana wins the individual WT rankings with 883 points. He once more failed to win the Tour, but he won in the Basque Country, in Catalonia, in Switzerland and the Vuelta. Kwiatkowski and Sagan follow with a respectful distance.

1Team Sky1637
2BMC Racing Team1572
3Omega Pharma ‚Äď QuickStep1384
4Team Katusha1184
5Team Giant - Shimano1181
6Orica - GreenEDGE1067
7Trek Factory Racing1019
8Movistar Team927
9Astana Pro Team789
10Aviva Cycling787
11Lotto - Belisol735
12Ag2r La Mondiale510
13Belkin Pro Cycling Team502
14Tinkoff - Saxo362
16IAM Cycling113
17Garmin - Sharp67
18Caja Rural - Seguros RGA39

In the WT team rankings Sky won the fight against BMC for the spot at the top. Porte, Barguil, Majka, Sergio Henao and Talansky collected the points. BMC had a trio of excellent scorers, Sagan, Gilbert and Mollema, but the rest of the team didn't score much and only 14 riders scored at all. Aviva certainly has more depth, only 4 of our 30 riders finished without scoring at least one WT point.

Garmin, the last team to score any points, was eventually able to overtake Caja Rural, but those two teams will be relegated. In the CQ rankings Sky is 3rd behind BMC and Quickstep. MTN Qhubeka and Netapp will return to the World Tour, the top favourite FDJ was only 5th among the Pro Conti teams behind Topsport Vlaanderen and Androni Giocattoli.

Let's focus on Aviva's performance.

AVGWT PtsCQ PtsVictories
201469.372172 (23.)26 (11.)
201569.713929 (15.)35 (3.)
201670.22668 (11.)4694 (13.)22 (12.)
201771.16887 (9.)5591 (10.)28 (8.)
201871.84787 (10.)5273 (10.)24 (8.)

Altogether a little disappointing, despite improving the team we scored 100 points less than last year. We started so well with a great Tour Down Under but March, April and May were meagre. We have to do better. This is also reflected when we look back at our season goals:

Top 5 Tour Haut Var-matin*Wojtasik1st
Stage win(s) Paris Nice*****LammertinkStage, Top 10
Stage win(s) Tirreno Adriatico****
Top 10 Ronde van Vlaanderen*****BuggeTop 10
Stage win(s) Pais Vasco***
Top 10 Paris Roubaix*****ThysTop 25
Top 10 De Brabantse Pijl*WojtasikTop 5
Top 10 Amstel Gold Race****LammertinkTop 25
Stage win(s) Giro del Trentino**KöszegiStage Win
Stage win(s) Tour of California***DavisStage Win
Stage win(s) Critérium du Dauphiné***GrandeStage Win
Stage win(s) Tour de Suisse****ManaiaStage Win
Stage win(s) Tour of Austria**KöszegiStage Win
Top 10 GP de Fourmies*
Stage win(s) Tour of Britain**KudusStage Win

We didn't even get close to winning a stage in P-N, T-A or Pais Vasco, which was pretty disappointing and frustrating. We managed to complete 9 of our 15 goals, but only 3 out of 8 at WT level. And looking ahead, next season all 15 goals will be WT results, so we just have to do better or the sponsor will be annoyed.

Notable results 2018
Stage 5 Tour Down Under (Tim de Jong)
4th overall Tour Down Under (Ivan Singh)
Stage 1 Haut Var-matin (Wojtasik)
1st overall Haut Var-matin (Wojtasik)
8th E3 Harelbeke (Bugge)
8th Gent-Wevelgem (Valgren)
9th Ronde van Vlaanderen (Bugge)
Stage 1 Giro del Trentino (TTT)
Stage 2 Giro del Trentino (Formolo)
Stage 14 Giro d'Italia (Inacio)
Stage 7 Tour of California (Davis)
1st GP Plumelec (Skujins)
Stage 3 Dauphine (Grande)
Stage 7 Tour de Suisse (Manaia)
Stage 8 Tour de Suisse (Grmay)
Stage 6 Tour de France (Fiedler)
Stages 7 and 14 Tour de France (Grmay)
Stage 1 Tour of Austria (Köszegi)
Stage 5 Tour of Austria (Koloda)
2nd overall Tour of Austria (Köszegi)
1st Prueba Villafranca de Ordizia (Wojtasik)
4th Clasica San Sebastian (Tewelde)
Stage 5 Tour de Pologne (De Vos)
Stage 6 Tour de Pologne (de Jong)
7th overall Eneco Tour (Valgren)
Stage 4 Tour of Britain (Kudus)
2nd overall Tour of Britain (Singh)
4th GP Quebec (Lammertink)
2nd GP Montreal (De Vreese)
9th Il Lombardia (De Vreese)
3rd overall Tour of Beijing (Tewelde)

KOM: Tour Down Under (Tim de Jong), Basque Tour (Zilioli), Giro d'Italia (Figares), Tour of California (Davis), Tour de Suisse (Grmay), Tour de France (Grmay), Tour de Pologne (De Vos), Tour of Britain (Formolo), Tour of Beijing (Inacio)

NCs: Portugal (Inacio), Spain (Grande) and Germany (Schössler)

That's not to say there weren't some highlights. Though once more most of them came in the second half of the season. We're used to it by now, a lot of frustration followed by a string of races where we perform every time. Most of those results are too easy, of course, we can't take the team seriously until it reaps rewards throughout the season. And we need more wins at the WT level. In 2018, we had another great TdF winning 3 stages, but apart from that we won one Giro stage, two stages each in the Tours de Suisse and Pologne and one stage each Down Under and in the Dauphine. No wins in WT one-day races, but that's fine, can't rely on breakaways.

Laurens De Vreese2456
Bj√łrn Tore Hoem2386
Rafael Silva2376
Maurits Lammertink2313
Fredy Golem2258
Zdzislaw Wojtasik3239
Michael Valgren2210
Roland Fiedler2156
Ivan Singh1122
Jani Tewelde1114

Here's a little table I whipped up, our best performers so far. We started our WT journey with the excellent Hoem and Rafael Silva, our only two reliable scorers at first. But impressively De Vreese has outdone them both. He doesn't really stand out when looking at his stats, as mentioned before Lammertink's stats are virtually identical and Singh is already better than both of them.

So thank you, Laurens De Vreese, your two seasons with our team were brilliant, you were our top scorer both years. It's time to say goodbye, however, De Vreese will move all the way down to the continental division and join the Belgian team ColorCode. We also have to say goodbye to three other riders in that top 10, Maurits Lammertink (to FDJ), Michael Valgren (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Roland Fiedler (IAM).
Season 2019: Coach for Success

I'm very excited to present Aviva's 2019 squad. We may have lost some of our best scorers, but we were lucky on the transfer market and snapped up some very exciting young talents and really improved the quality of the team, too.

RiderAgeWageCont.Main StatAVGChgPot
Tsgabu Grmay2745002019MON 7774.31.85
Ivan Singh2445002019HIL 7874.12.27
César Augusto Marrou2142002020TTR 7674.11.46
Merhawi Kudus2445002020MON 7574.00.15
Fridtjof R√łinas2450002020SPR 7573.50.44
Noah Davis2430002019MON 7673.31.67
Isaurindo Manaia2645002019MON 7473.11.25
Töns Falkenmayer2550002020HIL 7673.10.26
Sebasti√°n Henao2545002019HIL 7773.00.24
Igor Sergienko2550002020HIL 7872.90.65
Delfí Grande2445002019HIL 7572.91.44
Arminas Morinas2550002019SPR 7772.70.04
Marino De Windt2550002019SPR 7772.70.05
Alexandr Polyakov2550002019COB 8072.60.45
Jani Tewelde2845002019HIL 7672.51.06
Roland Foetz2530002019MON 7572.40.54
Hannes Köszegi2450002020MON 7572.31.45
Mads Veiby2342002021COB 7372.30.87
Gianfranco Zilioli2845002020HIL 7572.20.24
Emile Denis2550002019HIL 7672.10.06
Vyacheslav Kuznetsov2945002019HIL 7472.10.13
Tjeu Heubach2335002020COB 7571.90.47
Blair Oughton2350002020HIL 7471.90.04
Theo Biello2135002021SPR 7371.90.07
Francisco Sequeiros2650002020HIL 7671.90.06
Jason McLean2435002019MON 7371.90.64
Rouven Schössler2440002019HIL 7271.70.44
Vladimir Koloda2530002020HIL 7671.60.55
Zdzislaw Wojtasik2645002019HIL 7671.30.04
Davide Formolo2635002019MON 7471.10.04
(Name: New signing Wage: Renewal)
(Chg: year-on-year change in AVG, Chg: for new signings since 1st of August)

A proof of just how much the quality has increased is that Wojtasik and Formolo are now our weakest riders by AVG, last season they were 13th and 16th out of 30 riders. Three riders overtook Kudus, who was nominally our best rider last season. Grmay, who has turned into a star, is our top climber and will again lead the team in the Tour and Vuelta, but he has reached his stat limits. Singh will captain the hilly one-day races and his HIL can still gain a point or two. New signing Cesar Augusto Marrou relies on his TTR (which is maxed out), MON and HIL can catch up which will make him an interesting rider for a race like Pais Vasco.

Three of the four new sprinters have just about reached their limits and will have a tough time on the World Tour stage. Arminas Morinas is stuck with SPR 77 ACC 74, Roinas with SPR 75 ACC 77, while Marino De Windt can improve SPR a little, but HIL 60 is a real handicap. The last of the four sprinters is the most exciting, Canadian Theo Biello with his potential 7. But he still has a lot to learn, in 2019 you'll see him in a lead-out role.

Speaking of potential 7, we now have five riders who qualify and I've complied this closer look at them. (Since I'm an idiot this took way too long and I can't promise I'll again make the effort.)


In the case of Noah Davis the potential is slightly misleading, I don't think he can reach MON 80. I don't think you'll see his name very often after he leaves our team. Ivan Singh should get to HIL/ACC/STA 80, which might not be enough to win a tough WT race. Both will be great riders for us this year, but you won't see their names very often once they leave us. But things are very different for the cobblestone specialists Tjeu Heubach and Mads Veiby. It'll be interesting to see just how well they can perform in the Aviva jersey, but they are set to dominate the cobbled monuments once they grow a bit older.

For now, Alexandr Polyakov will be our best hope for Paris-Roubaix. He is a direct replacement for Pier Thys, COB and nothing else. Thys was 12th in Paris-Roubaix last year, maybe Polyakov can break into the top 10, which would be nice, since that is one of the top sponsor goals.

Stage win Tour Down Under**
Stage win Paris-Nice****
KOM Tirreno-Adriatico*****
Stage win Volta a Catalunya**
Top 5 Gent-Wevelgem*
Top 10 Ronde van Viaanderen*****
Stage win Vuelta al Pais Vasco***
Top 10 Paris-Roubaix*****
Top 10 Amstel Gold Race****
Top 10 La Flèche Wallonne***
KOM Tour de Romandie*
Stage win Critérium du Dauphiné****
Stage win Tour de Suisse***
Top 10 Clasica San Sebastian**
Top 10 Vattenfall Cyclassics*

The training wheels are off: Last year was still an even mixture of WT and non-WT goals, now all goals are at the top level. We negotiated two stage wins to winning the mountains classification, it would probably have been wiser to do that more often, but we like the challenge.

A new coaching team

It's also time to reveal the last trump card we were able to play in the off-season: At the start of the last transfer window the prognosis was that our budget would drop slightly. But as expected, with our typical good results late in the season the budget does make another jump, from 260k to 328k. Our rider salaries increased from 116.5k to 130.4k, which means we have a lot of wriggle room.

And so I decided to make an aggressive change and fired all the coaches, who all had a coaching ability of 7 in their speciality, and replaced them with legendary coaches who have an ability of 10. Except for hills, there is nobody with 10 in the game. Their wages will cost us 129.3k per month, so the trainers will earn as much as the whole squad of riders. I didn't set any limits on the coaches, only on what the riders can earn, this will hopefully give us an extra edge. Good riders can never stay with us for more than three years, sometimes just one or two years, so training them quickly should be important. As a reminder, I don't do training camps, I don't even know how they work.
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