The first ‘Rider of the Week’ installment falls between the two spectacular races occurring alongside each other at the moment, La Vuelta a Espana and the Tour of Britain. As expected many riders could be named the top rider this week, many have put in startling performances, that in other weeks, would put them into contention. With such a tight week, the four riders that have made this shortlist have all demonstrated unbelievable strength on multiple occasions, they have lit up the races they’re riding and they have provided us with some very entertaining racing.
It would be impossible to discuss the four best riders this week without the mention of La Vuelta leader, Nairo Quintana. It’s not his red jersey that has earned him a place on this week’s shortlist, it’s been his aggressive and unrelenting attacking that have propelled him into the shortlist. The Quintana we all grew to love in his remarkable 2012 and 2013 seasons is back; if anything he is climbing better than ever. Putting time into both Froome and Contador on daily basis, he is without a doubt the strongest stage racer in the pro peloton currently.
The accolades that lifted him onto this week’s shortlist began when he took an impressive stage win on stage 10. His first stage win in a Vuelta he did it in style, dropping all of his nearest rivals before soloing onward to the finish line with 3.5km still remaining. Breaking the heart of breakaway Robert Gesink, Quintana crested the summit solo and snatched a healthy chunk of bonus seconds, demonstrating that this was his stage, his time, and possibly his tour.
A strong performance to stick on the wheels of Chris Froome on stage 11 to Pena Cabarga also showed the resilient strength of Quintana. Froome tried and tried to crack the Colombian, but both his legs and his will would just not give up on the leader’s red jersey. Froome took the stage win but inevitably finished on the same time as Quintana, only taking 4 seconds on him due to bonus seconds.
Then came Quintana’s performance on stage 15, a stage that is likely to go down in Vuelta history. It was this performance that really solidified his place in this week’s shortlist. Alongside Contador and his team, Quintana and Movistar made the race winning move that the whole Vuelta had been waiting for, the surprising thing was that they chose to conduct it on a stage that was not supposed to yield much drama.
Not letting his team do all the work for him, Quintana also helped with the pace-making. When his team mates finally faltered all eyes fell to Quintana to take the front, like a true gent he did, and he didn’t relinquish this front position until 200m from the line when Gianluca Brambilla overtook him for the stage win. Even though he didn’t take the stage, his statement on this year’s Vuelta was still incredibly powerful; taking over two and a half minutes on Froome, it looks like Quintana may be safe come Friday’s time trial test. Stage 15 possibly saw Quintana take the 2016 Vuelta title.
This week’s shortlist isn’t necessarily about the riders that have claimed individual glory in the form of stage wins, continuous fearless and resilient performances are infinitely more admirable. Kenny Elissonde is one of these riders, he has made countless breaks this week and has regularly been seen sporting his FDJ jersey at the front of La Vuelta. Currently in a two-way battle between him and Omar Fraille for ownership of the KOM jersey, Elissonde has been rocking and rolling up steep ascents to salvage as many points as possible.
Unlike Fraille, Elissonde has managed to keep up his amazing rides all the way up to stage finishes, being a real contender for the win on a few occasions. He narrowly missed out on a stage win on stage 14, La Vuelta’s Queen stage that spent all day on his home French soil. He did his nation proud by cresting the summit in second place, taking enough KOM points to don the jersey at the end of the day.
A very graceful and humble rider, he is a firm favourite of many fans. Here’s to wishing good luck to Elissonde in his further pursuits in the KOM competition. He’s going to need to grit his teeth, but if he can replicate the courage and sheer determination to crest the climbs first as he’s been doing this week; then we will very likely see a much deserved winner of the KOM jersey come Sunday’s final stage in Madrid.
After his twin brother’s incredible exploits in this summer’s Tour De France, La Vuelta was the race where Simon was going to have to step up to the plate. Absent from racing for the past six months due to a technical issue within his team, many did not expect him to come to this Vuelta and bulldoze over the main favourites as he has since proven.
Yates firstly demonstrated his incredible form in the early parts of this Vuelta, taking a stage win on stage 6’s summit finish from a solo attack further down the climb. Unmarked by any other riders he was allowed to ride away and take a spectacular stage win. He carried the confidence from this win into stage 14’s Queen stage where he very suddenly became the rider to blow the whole stage apart.
Orica’s plan was an elaborate one, a dream-like tactic very unlikely to pay off in an actual race. They managed to place three of their riders in the 40 man strong breakaway, establishing their ambitions for a solid day’s performance, perhaps even a stage win. The genius behind this plan came when Yates attack the main group of favourites, still with 40km to go and the infamous Aubisque still to climb. The rest of the favourites initially treated the attack as some kind of joke, this was until Yates quickly gained a minute and was now an immediate threat to many riders in the Top 5 of the GC.
Sky and Movistar drove the front of the peloton in pursuit of Yates and his three teammates that had dropped back from the break to assist in the masterminded plan. As both teams exhausted all their riders, it was down to their leaders, Froome and Quintana to do the chasing; none of them able to peg back a rapidly climbing Simon Yates. Then came the attack of Chaves which saw Orica’s master plan finally achieve what it set out to do at the start of the day. Both Yates and Chaves rocketed up the GC, Chaves to 3rd and Yates to 4th, equaling the finish of his brother Adam in the Tour De France.
The only rider to be chosen for this shortlist due to his exploits in the Tour of Britain stage race, he is also the only rider seemingly competing in this year’s Tour of Britain. A masterful performance on today’s stage 3 saw him come home 5 minutes ahead of a peloton that seemed to give up chasing the British classics specialist.
Stannard didn’t just win today’s stage, he obliterated it; joining a three man break early in the day, it looked like the peloton may have their way and sprint for a stage win come the climax of the race. The peloton may have been planning this, catch the break later on in the day and then reap the stage win rewards. However, Stannard had a different idea. He attacked his other two breakaway companions and quickly gained a minute and a half, the chasers almost giving up after hearing this news.
A chasing peloton was no match for Stannard today, at points he actually gained time on a peloton that was going full tilt to try and catch him. A truly remarkable performance on home British soil, he has really carved a place for himself on this week’s shortlist. Someone really needs to go and check that he hasn’t destroyed his bike in powering it to the finish line.
Voting will commence as soon as this article is released and will be live until Wednesday evening when the winner of the first Rider of the Week will be announced. Make sure you keep checking to see how your favourite rider is fairing in the polls throughout the day! Poll will be released on twitter, search @insidepeloton96.