After more than 3,000km of arduous racing through France, Andorra and Spain, UAE Team Emirates wrapped-up their first Vuelta a España on Sunday, marking the culmination of a successful debut for the new team at the three historic Grand Tours.
The third and final of the three most prestigious races on the UCI WorldTour, the 2017 Vuelta provided 21 challenging stages and saw UAE Team Emirates achieve a stage victory, several top five and top ten finishes, as well as a 12th place General Classification (GC) finish for South African rider Louis Meintjes.
The Vuelta a España was the final showdown of the season and is the youngest of the three Grand Tours, starting in 1935. The Giro d’Italia began in 1909 whilst the Tour de France was established in 1903.
In the video above, watch video highlights provided by UAE Team Emirates, from the final Grand Tour event of the season.
UAE Team Emirates’ Diego Ulissi claimed a stunning victory at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal on Sunday following a hectic sprint that saw him cross the finish line just ahead of Jesus Herrada (Movistar) and Tom-Jelte Slagter (Cannondale-Drapac).
Ulissi, together with team-mate Marco Marcato, made sure that he was part of a breakaway that began on the penultimate lap of the top tier UCI WorldTour race.
That breakaway was then whittled down to just six remaining riders by the time the race approached the last curve of the final uphill stretch, where Ulissi out-sprinted his rivals to seal a famous win.
Commenting on his win, Ulissi said: “I’m really very happy with this victory. After the Tour de France I continued working hard because I really wanted to try and win this race, which is particularly suited to my skills. Last year I finished third behind Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe).
“This year I told myself that if I arrived with them then there was no chance I could win, so I decided to race on the attack. My teammates were fantastic, especially Marcato and Conti, who worked the flanks and looked out for any adversaries, helping me to push to the limit in the main break. Sometimes to win you have to risk losing it all, and I was determined to achieve success today.”
The race was Ulissi’s second in Canada this season, with the Italian having already earned a creditable 11th place at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec on September 8.
Both one day races are part of the top tier of road racing, the UCI WorldTour, and, unlike most Classics, they are both long circuit races, with the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec totalling a distance of 200km and the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal 205.7km.
Together, they represented the final opportunity for top riders to get some competitive racing under their belts ahead of the World Cycling Championships which take place in Bergen, Norway from September 17-24.
Riding alongside UAE Team Emirates’ Ulissi at both races were Valerio Conti, Kristijan Durasek, Vegard Stake Laengen, Marco Marcato, Simone Petilli, Edward Ravasi and Ben Swift.
Chris Froome has become just the third man to win the Tour de France and La Vuelta in the same year, and the first since the Vuelta moved from the early part of the season to the latter in 1995.
In almost a carbon copy of his fourth Tour de France win earlier this year, Froome built an early lead in Spain and Team Sky were able to fend off the attacks of his rivals to see it home, with Froome able to extend his advantage on the penultimate stage.
Despite only a 27-day gap between the end of the Tour and start of the Vuelta, Froome proved too strong for his rivals and joined the company of Frenchmen Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault as Vuelta-Tour winners in the same year.
Here are the men Froome has joined in this piece of cycling history.
Anquetil’s chances of the first Vuelta-Tour double ended in 1962 when he pulled out of the Spanish race two days before its finish after losing to team-mate Rudi Altig in the final time trial.
But his wait would only last 12 months as, in 1963, he completed the feat no man before him could accomplish.
Anquetil, or ‘Monsieur Chrono’ as he became known, was the first man to win the double in the same year as just a couple of months later he would go on to win his fourth Tour crown.
The 1963 Vuelta course played right into the Frenchman’s hands, with only four first-category mountains and an opening time trial, his speciality.
It was the mountainous Tour later that summer which would provide a stiffer test of Anquetil’s ability as a climber, though he was able to hold off competition from Spanish rider Federico Bahamontes to take the yellow jersey.
Anquetil would not conquer the Spanish terrain again but he won the Tour again in 1964 and jointly holds the record of five Tour wins alongside Hinault, Eddy Merckx, and Miguel Indurain.
In addition to his five Tour wins and one Vuelta crown, Anquetil also won the Giro d’Italia twice, making him one of six men to have won all three grand tours to date, with Merckx, Hinault, Felice Gimondi, Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali the others.
‘The Badger’ needed little time to follow his compatriot in doing the double, completing the feat at the first attempt aged just 23 in 1978.
However, his Vuelta win was tinged with a little controversy, as the final stage was cancelled after riders had been pelted with debris and rocks and nails were spread over the roads as part of the fight for Basque independence.
Hinault held the Vuelta lead for three days after the opening prologue, then took it back with victory on stage 11b and carried it home.
He would leave his Tour victory late. He entered the stage 20 time trial 14 seconds behind Dutch rider Joop Zoetemelk, but soon wiped that out and would end the race with a winning margin of almost four minutes.
Hinault would also win the Vuelta in 1983 and finished his career with five Tour crowns, those two Vueltas and three Giro d’Italia victories.