The Summer of Sunweb

Six Grand Tour stage wins. Maglia rosa. Maillot vert. Maillot à pois. What a season Team Sunweb is having.

You expect teams like Team Sky, BMC, Quick-Step & Astana to dominate the cycling world, but this year has been all about a team that went pro in 2013: Team Sunweb. Marcel Kittel brought excitement to the team in 2013 and 2014, but they have moved on to another level this year. Other than Kittel’s sprint wins, Sunweb only had three Tour de France stage wins before 2017. This year, they have won four.

The dramatic car accident

This is all happening just one and a half years after the dramatic car accident that took out half the team. On 23rd of January 2016, a car drove into on-coming traffic, and smashed into the Sunweb cyclist who were training in Spain. Ramon Sinkeldam, Chad Haga, Fredrik Ludvigsson, Max Walscheid, John Degenkolb & Warren Barguil were all hit.

– I’m starting to realize we could all have died. And when I think that, it sends a shiver down my spine, Barguil said after the accident.

The now-Trek-Segafredo sprinter Degenkolb has struggled to recover from the accident. Warren Barguil wasn’t badly injured, but he didn’t win a race for the entire 2016 season. He didn’t have any wins in 2017 either. Until now.

King of the Mountains

Barguil was one of the names being mentioned for the polkadot jersey, but we wasn’t even close to being the favorite. We were saying all along, that the winner of the jersey would have to be in the break-away on Stage 9. Barguil was, took a bunch of climber classification points, and eventually lost the sprint by a few inches to Rigoberto Uran.

Four stages later, on the French national day, he would finally get his first win since the accident in Spain. Barguil beat Nairo Quintana, Alberto Contador and Mikel Landa in the sprint, and could celebrate his first Tour de France stage win ever, just a few days after the heart-breaking loss to Uran.

But Barguil wasn’t done. Half-way through the 18th stage, it was confirmed that the 25 year old had won the polkadot jersey, barr any accidents. Apparently, that was a moral boost for the Frenchman, who went on to win the stage up to Col du Izoard.

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The New Peter Sagan

Warren Barguil wasn’t the only Sunweb rider with great success in France. Michael Matthews has been a dark horse for the green jersey for several years, but was unlucky when he crashed in 2015. In 2016, without any accidents, he was 3rd in the points classification, but still almost 300 points behind Peter Sagan. When the Slovak was kicked out of the race this year, Matthews realized he had a shot at the jersey, and went full–Sagan for the rest of the Tour. He’s been in breaks, he’s been in mass sprints, he’s been in mountain sprints. He’s won two stages. He’s done it all, and is a well deserved winner of the jersey.

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It’s a shame that Marcel Kittel had to quit, because that would be a fight until the finish line in Paris. Even though Kittel is better in mass sprints, Matthews was only 9 points behind the German when he had to abandon the race. I still think the Australian would’ve won it if Kittel stayed in the race.

I would love to see a battle between Matthews and Peter Sagan next year. It should be really, really close.

The Pink Panther

Sunweb has never been a great general classification team, but that changed in 2017. Warren Barguil’s top 10 finish in the Tour de France is impressive, but Tom Dumoulin’s achievements in Italy was beyond what I thought was possible for the Dutch time trial specialist.

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Nairo Quintana and Vincenzo Nibali was the two big favorites to win the Giro d’Italia. Nobody counted on Tom Dumoulin to follow them in the mountains. But he did, and he did marvelously. The two time trials definitely helped, but without an unfortunate toilet break, Dumoulin would’ve won the Giro without the TT’s too. He won the time trial on Stage 10, but he also got a stage win four days later, a summit finish on Oropa. That is impressive, and Dumoulin has proved to the cycling world that he is a rider to look out for in the general classification for years to come.

In just three months, Team Sunweb has won six Grand Tour stages, the green jersey, the polkadot jersey and the pink jersey. It simply is amazing.

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WRITTEN BY MATTIS HOLT, SPORTS AND BETTING WRITER FOR VALUEWINS

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