Since the season ended, I’ve been wondering what 2018 was the year of. And when I look back to the most memorable moments for me – Tiesj Benoot winning Strade Bianche, Vincenzo Nibali winning Milan-San Remo, Peter Sagan winning Paris-Roubaix and Chris Froome winning the Giro – I can’t help thinking that it was the year of the long-range attack. (OK, so Nibali’s Poggio attack was hardly long-range, but it made a change from the race being settled on the Via Roma in San Remo.) You could also cite Niki Terpstra in Flanders, Bob Jungels in Liège and Thibaut Pinot in Il Lombardia. Or even Steven Kruijswijk on the Alpe d’Huez stage or Mikel Landa in the final Pyrenean stage of the Tour de France. These last two ambitious sorties eventually came to nothing, even if they’d looked dangerous.
Of course, long-range attacks are nothing new in cycling. We’ll talk for years of Philippe Gilbert’s 50km solo effort in the 2017 Tour of Flanders, or the modern original – Fabian Cancellara in the 2010 Paris-Roubaix. But I just had a sense that the tactics of the WorldTour were loosened ever so slightly this year. Yes, Team Sky stifled the Tour again, but teams are starting to show a bit more inventiveness over attacking them. Maybe the smaller team sizes are making a difference, or maybe there’s no trend at all - things could go the opposite way in 2019, with more controlled races.
Beyond the headlines, 2018 was a fantastically varied year. We saw the emergence of Elia Viviani as the best sprinter – or was it Dylan Groenewegen or Fernando Gaviria? We saw Quick-Step winning over 70 races. We saw a rivalry between two riders who are absolutely at the top of their game – Anna van der Breggen and Annemiek van Vleuten. And we saw a new winner of the Tour, even if the team was familiar.
This is the Procycling review of the 2018 season. We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed putting it together.