From cycling’s monuments to its grand tours, there is little downtime for the world’s elite pro racers. And sometimes there is even less for those that cover the professional peloton throughout the year. PELOTON Magazine’s photojournalists Yuzuru Sunada and James Startt were on hand for virtually every major race as well as some of their own personal favorites in 2017. Here are 20 of their preferred images.
The ever-popular Peter Sagan showed off his second world champion’s jersey at the Tour Down Under in January. Although he did not manage to win a stage, he was constantly in the mix and showed that he would be ready to make his rainbow stripes prominent throughout the year. His first win came barely a month later at the coveted Kuurne–Brussels–Kuurne semi-classic—and he would go on to score 12 victories in the season including an unprecedented third consecutive world road title.
#2: Boonen’s Long Good-Bye
As he did so often in years past, Belgian superstar Tom Boonen started his season in Argentina, this time at the Tour of San Juan. But while his season-opening race fit an established pattern, the classics king knew that this would be a very special year, because he announced that he would retire at the finish of Paris–Roubaix in April. Speaking about the race otherwise known as the Hell of the North, Boonen told PELOTON: “It’s the race that made me,” and he could not imagine finishing his career anywhere else. Looking fitter than ever, Boonen got off to a tremendous start, winning a stage in Argentina. It would prove to be his last career win. And while he finished no better than 13th in his final Paris–Roubaix, he left the velodrome with a smile. After all, his was one of the greatest careers in modern cycling!
#3: Long Break, Early Season
There was a day not so long ago when the cycling season always started in the South of France. But while the peloton now ventures to far off lands for their first races, Provence still offers a vast selection of races from the historic Étoile de Bessèges to the more recently minted Tour de Provence. What better place to jump into an early breakaway for some solid race miles to carry you into the season?
The Tour of Abu Dhabi is one of the youngest races on the calendar but it is quickly growing as a prime early-season stage race. Coming off a strong Tour Down Under, Australian Caleb Ewan proved hard to beat on the final stage. Soaked by showers, Ewan simply dissed many of the world’s best sprinters, including Mark Cavendish and Andre Greipel, around this impressive racetrack.
#5: Alaphilippe Comes of Age At Paris-Nice
Up-and-coming Frenchman Julien Alaphilippe raced into the yellow jersey at this year’s Paris–Nice after winning the stage 4 time trial to Mont Brouilly in the French Beaujolais region. The amiable 25-year-old racer held the lead until the mountainous final weekend around the Côte d’Azur. And while a crash took him out of the spring classics and the Tour de France, he came on strongly at the end of the season. Look for the Quick-Step Floors rider to return in full in 2018.
They call it the Primavera, and Italy’s Milan–San Remo remains one of the most coveted classics in the sport of cycling. And the fact that it is the first monument of the season makes it one of the most visible events of the year. During the final kilometers this year, it appeared as though world champion Peter Sagan was finally on his way to scoring victory in a race that has often eluded him. But Poland’s Michal Kwiatkowski came out on top in the final kick toward the line, besting not only Sagan but also French rider Julien Alaphilippe. Some considered it an upset. Kwiatkowski, after all, does not win as many races as Sagan. But he is a master tactician and is always most dangerous in the big races. Already the winner of classics like the Amstel Gold Race and Strade Bianche, Kwiatkowski also has a world championship title all his own. And it should come as no surprise that he has now added the Primavera to his collection.
Countless conversations have already focused on this moment in the Ronde Van Vlaanderen—and they will likely continue for years to come. Peter Sagan and Greg Van Avermaet were gaining ground on Philippe Gilbert in the final 20 kilometers of Belgium’s craziest classic. But then, midway up the legendary Oude Kwaremont climb, disaster struck. The world champion was suddenly on the ground, taking Van Avermaet with him. For many, the race ended there, as Gilbert sailed to victory. But the questions were only just beginning….
#8: GVA in Roubaix!
Only a week after a crash killed his chances in the Tour of Flanders, the race he most wants to win, Belgian star Greg Van Avermaet stormed back to win Paris–Roubaix. Riding flawlessly throughout the day, GVA dusted rivals Zdenek Stybar and Sebastian Langeveld in the sprint to the finish on the legendary Roubaix velodrome, winning one of cycling’s most coveted monuments. Needless to say, victory here was more than a small consolation to his frustrations in Flanders.
After the retirement of Tom Boonen, nobody can come close to Belgian Philippe Gilbert when it comes to winning classics. With no less than 13 classics wins to his name, including four monuments, the 35-year-old is now the most versatile single-day racer in the peloton (oh, yeah, he’s won the world road title too), and he only reinforced his reputation by winning not only this year’s Tour of Flanders but also his fourth Amstel Gold Race.
Dutchman Tom Dumoulin rode what can only be described as the perfect race to win the Giro d’Italia, snagging his first grand tour victory. Exploiting his strength in the time trials and minimizing any weakness in the mountains, Dumoulin defeated previous Giro winners Nairo Quintana and Vincenzo Nibali in spectacular fashion.
#11: Drama at the Dauphiné!
The Critérium du Dauphiné is considered by many to be the most telling warm-up race to the Tour de France. After all, several top riders put the final touches to their condition in this weeklong French race just weeks before the Tour. And this year was no exception, because Chris Froome, Richie Porte, Romain Bardet, Fabio Aru and Dan Martin were all on hand. Porte, who had raced brilliantly all season, appeared set for an impressive victory after grabbing the yellow jersey late in the race. But he was ill prepared for the onslaught of attacks that marked the final day of racing. Quickly isolated, he could only watch as one rider after the other attacked him on the Col de la Colombière. And while he finished strongly he could not reel in Danish rider Jakob Fuglsang, who powered away to his biggest career victory.
#12: King Kittel!
The giant German sprinter Marcel Kittel dominated the opening week at the Tour de France, consistently overwhelming his competition in the many early sprint stages. And although a late-race crash stopped him from making it all the way to Paris, Kittel racked up a total of five stage wins in the Tour, his best showing yet.
#13: Decisive Day in the Pyrénées!
In what many considered to be the most decisive day in the Tour de France, Frenchman Romain Bardet powered away to grab a memorable stage win while Italian national champion Fabio Aru raced into the yellow jersey. Meanwhile three-time defending champion Chris Froome faltered badly on the steep final pitches to the ski resort in Peyragudes. But many wondered what would have happened if Froome’s challengers had attacked on the day’s penultimate climb, the Col de Peyresourde. Could he have lost minutes instead of just seconds?
#14: The Tour on Exhibit!
To top off a memorable Tour de France, the race organizers routed the peloton through the magnificent Grand Palais, built for the 1889 World’s Fair, only moments before riding onto the Champs-Élysées for the Tour’s final traditional laps.
#15: A Colombian Future
Only weeks after the Tour de France, the world’s best under-23 riders set off on the Tour de l’Avenir, a sort of mini Tour de France that showcases the stars of tomorrow. Greg LeMond, Miguel Induráin, Nairo Quintana, Esteban Chaves and Warren Barguil have all won this weeklong stage race. And if history repeats itself, Colombian Egan Bernal could be a world-beater in years to come. The Colombian climber dominated the field in the Alps, and while still on the victory podium after the final stage news came that he had signed to ride with Team Sky in 2018.
With few obvious sprint stages in this year’s Vuelta a España, many of the world top speedsters avoided the Spanish tour. But the versatile Matteo Trentin capitalized on the situation, winning no less than four stages, including the final stage into Madrid.
The Vuelta a España has long been one of Chris Froome’s favorite races. It was here back in 2011 where he first demonstrated his potential as a grand tour rider. But since he has become a Tour de France winner, he has struggled to maintain his condition into August and September. That changed this year when he powered to victory on the heels of his fourth Tour title. But an adverse analytical finding in a urine test has now put that victory into question.
#18: Sagan Hits 100!
Only weeks before defending his world road title, Peter Sagan waltzed to his 100th career victory in the Grand Prix de Québec, making victory look easy on the long false flat to the finish in the historic Canadian city.
Writing history, Peter Sagan powered away from the other sprinters in the final meters of the 2017 worlds in Bergen, Norway, becoming the first rider in history to win the rainbow-striped world champion’s jersey in three consecutive years.
After finishing third in the Giro d’Italia and second in the Vuelta a España, Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali finished the season on a high note by winning the Tour of Lombardy, the final monument of the cycling season, for the second time. And his victory in the race known as “the race of the falling leaves” underscored the fact that he remains one of the sports most consistent champions.