After a strong start to the year, part two of our review focuses on an intense period of racing as Team Sky tackled two Grand Tours, writing a few more pages of British cycling history in the process.

The Giro d’Italia kicked off the month of May with the Italian Grand Tour traveling to Israel for its Big Start. Chris Froome headed into the race as team leader with the ambitious aim of winning the race, and with it the Grand Tour triple crown and consecutive victories. Yet it proved to be an inauspicious start for Froome, who hit the deck before a pedal had been turned competitively. A tricky tightening right-hander saw Froome go down hard during a pre-stage reccy of the opening Jerusalem time trial. Froome took to the start but was already 37 seconds back on chief rival Tom Dumoulin following the opening stage. Despite pain in his knee Froome was back in the top 10 by stage six on Etna, but crashed again on a slick uphill hairpin two days later.
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As Froome rode his way into the race there would be further time losses in the mountains, but with a strong and committed squad around him the team’s collective head did not drop. Far from it, with Froome taking a famous stage victory on the infamous Monte Zoncolan climb. Despite that he still lay over three minutes back on race leader Simon Yates heading into the third week of racing. The 184km 19th stage from Venaria Reale to Bardonecchia will long live in the memory. The team set out an ambitious plan, backed by a meticulous nutrition strategy, to vault Froome into contention. Not only did he ride his way back onto the podium – by the end of the day he was stood on stage in the maglia rosa. Yates had cracked on the Colle delle Finestre, eventually dropping over 35 minutes. Froome’s teammates played their role to perfection, stringing it out on the brutal ramps to provide a perfect launchpad for their leader. The comeback was complete! One final day in the mountains stood between Froome, Rome and pink, with the new leader marking Dumoulin to make sure of a 46-second winning margin. With victory Froome became the first British winner of the Giro and only the third rider to hold all three Grand Tour titles at the same time.
Stage 19 highlights - Giro d'Italia

Stage 19 highlights - Giro d'Italia

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While the Giro was being fought out the team were also in America at the Tour of California. The race represented another fantastic step forward for Egan Bernal. Backed by a young team of riders the Colombian picked up two stage wins on the way to a magnificent GC victory in the Golden State. Tao Geoghegan Hart was among those riders to play a key role in the race and also came home fifth overall.
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June began with the Criterium du Dauphine and a huge Tour de France build-up race. Team Sky dominated the event, leading from almost start to finish, with Michal Kwiatkowski and Gianni Moscon both wearing the yellow and blue jersey before Geraint Thomas took it home. Kwiato won the opening prologue in Valence, with an impressive team time trial victory on stage three helping provide the foundations for victory. For Thomas that success, which came after four tough days in the mountains, proved to be a key confidence boost ahead of the Tour. It also bolstered an already impressive record for Team Sky in the prestigious stage race, with the team claiming a sixth victory in nine attempts.
Criterium du Dauphine highlights

Criterium du Dauphine highlights

Pavel Sivakov showed some potential among elite company at the Tour de Suisse, eventually coming home 14th. Kenny Elissonde also finished third on GC at the renamed La Route d’Occitanie before the month was rounded out with a double weekend of national championships. Jonathan Castroviejo (Spanish time trial), Michal Kwiatkowski (Polish road race), Dylan van Baarle (Dutch time trial), Geraint Thomas (British time trial) and Vasil Kiryienka (Belarusian time trial) all picked up victories during a successful period.

With July came the Tour de France and a chance to create yet more Grand Tour history, all while supporting Sky Ocean Rescue. Chris Froome arrived at the race targeting a fifth Tour title but was immediately thrust onto the back foot after a crash on the opening test. Coming home in a group 51 seconds down, it was a tough start for the Brit but plenty of racing lay ahead.
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A strong second place in the stage three team time trial helped bump Geraint Thomas up into third spot overall. After stage six and the Mur de Bretagne the Welshman was up to second. Stage nine provided a massive test as the Tour returned to the Roubaix cobbles. Froome was briefly held up by another crash on a bruising day but held firm to finish in an elite group with G. With crashes and bad luck so often blighting his career at key moments, Thomas had kept his nose clean through a nervous opening week and found himself in a prime position ahead of the mountains.
 
The first big climbing day saw a GC showdown on La Rosiere on stage 11. After superb setup work from his teammates Thomas made no mistake, jumping clear early to win the stage by 20 seconds and pull on the yellow jersey in the process. He backed that up with a thrilling victory a day later on Alpe d’Huez, pushing his lead out to 1:39 in a commanding display of strength. With Froome also up to second, the team had multiple cards to play as the race wore on. 
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With teammates stepping up in a major way the team were able to tick off two further days in the mountains ahead of the second rest day. As he proved at the Giro, Tom Dumoulin had again emerged as a major challenger and hung tough in the Massif Central. Yet so did Thomas, who took third place on the 65km stage 17, extending his lead with an emphatic performance. Froome came within a whisker of winning the stage 20 time trial but catapulted himself on to the overall podium on the eve of Paris. Thomas crossed the line and punched the air in victory, before being met moments later by wife Sa at the finish. There wasn’t a dry eye left in Espelette! The third Brit and first Welshman to win the Tour, G made it yellow jersey number six for Team Sky.
Champagne in Paris

Champagne in Paris

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If you missed part one in our season review you can read it here. And make sure you stay tuned for part three as we wrap up 2018.

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