The 2022 edition of the Vuelta a Espana ended last Sunday in the streets of Madrid, after a final sprint which brought victory to Juan Sebastian Molano. Remco Evenepoel won the first Grand Tour of his career, while the Groupama-FDJ cycling team left the race with twelve top-10s, but without the much-sought victory. It wasn’t, however, for lack of trying over three eventful weeks.
After having covered more than 3000 kilometres, less than a hundred were remaining for the riders of the Vuelta, on Sunday, to complete the last Grand Tour of the season. The general classification winner was known since the previous day with Remco Evenepoel, but one last victory remained to be awarded in the streets of the Spanish capital. The race gradually livened up and eventually led to the expected bunch sprint, with the less expected victory of Juan Sebastian Molano. Fabian Lienhard, a lead-out man promoted to leading sprinter since Jake Stewart’s abandon, tried to join the fight for the last day of racing. However, he was unable to make his way to the top positions. “The final did not really suit the qualities of Miles, who is a strong time trialist, capable of riding very, very fast,” explained Philippe Mauduit. “He does, however, need things to be more linear. There were a lot of corners and accelerations, and I think that did not help him in approaching the final. We asked Fabian to trust Miles, given what the latter had shown in the previous sprints. Therefore, Fabian did not dare to leave his wheel. He waited, and when he started his sprint, it was a little too late. The race was also very fast, and the peloton even completely exploded on the last lap, which is quite rare on this circuit”. On the line, the Swiss rider then took thirteenth place to complete the Vuelta for Groupama-FDJ.
“The riders were beyond reproach”, Philippe Mauduit
This 2022 Vuelta was made of ups and downs for the team, but Philippe Mauduit was nonetheless very proud of his riders’ spirit. “It was flawless,” he said. “The guys were super combative despite the issues they faced. We are not going to look for excuses, but on the evening of the first real day of rest, we did not give much for the team’s chances. We had gastroenteritis and nasopharyngitis epidemics, we expected to lose our riders one by one, but they were super brave and held on tight. It’s a great mark of determination. As soon as they recovered, they got back to the fight. It was nice to live from the inside. They certainly lacked a bit of luck, but given their small health problems, it was also difficult to fight against in-shape riders at times. We are obviously disappointed not to have won a stage, but we are still very satisfied with the team’s spirit”. The record balance, on the finish, included twelve top-10s, including four for Quentin Pacher, as well as wearing the red jersey for one day through Rudy Molard. “These top-10s show that there was consistency,” added Philippe. “We would have needed a little more luck to finish it off, but that’s sport. It’s a mixed record but the riders were beyond reproach, and that’s also important. And then, the red jersey will remain a beautiful moment of this Vuelta for all of us. It was nice to experience.”