It took Britain the best part of a century to produce a Grand Tour winner, but since Bradley Wiggins took the yellow jersey at the 2012 Tour de France, the floodgates have well and truly opened.
British cyclists have now won 9 of the last 20 Grand Tours, and this year made history by became the first country to win all three races with three different riders.
Chris Froome’s dramatic win at this year’s Giro d’Italia ensured that he not only became the first Brit to win the prestigious race, but also became only the third man in history to hold all three titles at the same time. Since winning the 2013 Tour de France, ensuring that Britain – and Team Sky – would achieve back-to-back successes at the race, Froome has gone on to win six Grand Tours.
It took Geraint Thomas a little longer to add his name to the list, but after enduring some dreadful luck during races in which he looked in contention for overall victory, Thomas performed brilliantly at this year’s Tour de France to claim a race win ahead of Tom Dumoulin and teammate Chris Froome.
The latest Brit to join the list of major winners is Simon Yates, who succeeded Froome as winner of La Vuelta.
Yates’ victory came after a strong performance in May’s Giro d’Italia, where he spent 13 days in the leader’s jersey, before a dramatic collapse during stage 19 saw him lose almost 39 minutes to stage winner Chris Froome, and destroyed any hopes of lifting the trophy in Milan.
With two separate spells occupying the Vuelta’s red jersey, Yates this time finished the job and became only the second British winner of the gruelling race. Given what had happened at the Giro, it was an impressive show of character by the 26-year-old, and bodes well for further British success over the next few years.
It also sets up a fascinating 2019 season for British riders, with Yates already stating that he has “unfinished business” at the Giro d’Italia; a feeling which Geraint Thomas may relate to after his own quest for victory was cruelly ended by a collision with a police motor bike in 2017, when occupying second place in the standings.
Having targeted a Giro-Tour double this season – at a time when he was also publicly fighting to clear his name from any wrongdoing following the leaked news of an adverse finding during a drug test – Chris Froome’s focus will undoubtedly be on achieving a record-equalling fifth Tour de France.
However, there’s no guarantee that there’ll be any Brits on the top step of the podiums in Rome, Paris or Madrid next year. Promising riders such as Miguel Angel Lopez has finished on the podium in both of the Grand Tours he has competed in this year, while Enric Mas showed the enormous potential he possesses by taking the overall second place at the age of just 23. With Tom Dumoulin certain to be among the favourites for any race in which he competes, there will be strong competition for any rider with ambitions of winning one of the three-week long races.
But for now, British cycling can enjoy its recent successes, safe in the knowledge that there is no longer such reliance on one man to compete for further honours in road cycling’s toughest events.