Happy at Home

With Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico marking the return of the World Tour, I’ve been looking into which riders have been racking up stage victories since the turn of the decade. What started as a rummage through www.procyclingstats.com ended up as a fixation on answering the question – which races have the greatest number of ‘home’ wins?

For the years 2010 – 2015 (plus the 2016 Tour Down Under) I collected the stage winners of each of the World Tour’s current stage races; the Tour Down Under, Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico, Volta Pais Vasco, Volta Catalunya, Tour of Romandie, Giro d’Italia, Tour of Switzerland, Criterium du Dauphine, Tour de France, Tour of Poland, Eneco Tour, and the Vuelta a Espana. My interest had been sparked by Australia’s clean-sweep at their home race in January. This would be very unlikely to occur elsewhere whether down to the length of the race or a comparatively low strength in depth of the home nation. With just eight home riders (excluding the Polish national team) starting the 2015 Tour of Poland, they were never going to dominate the honours list. Below is the table of Home/Away win counts in the thirteen races from 2010.

Race Stages Home Wins Away Wins Home Win %
Tour Down Under 42 19 23 45.24%
Pais Vasco 36 15 21 41.67%
Giro d’Italia 115 38 77 33.04%
Vuelta Espana 119 31 88 26.05%
Paris-Nice 48 11 37 22.92%
Tirreno-Adriatico 38 8 30 21.05%
Tour of Romandie 34 6 28 17.65%
Criterium Dauphine 47 7 40 14.89%
Volta Catalunya 41 6 35 14.63%
Tour De France 123 18 105 14.63%
Eneco Tour 42 4 38 9.52%
Tour of Poland 42 4 38 9.52%
Tour of Switzerland 54 5 49 9.26%

Let’s start by stating the obvious. Despite their best efforts, there are simply not enough Swiss riders to lift the Tour of Switzerland off the bottom with star Fabian Cancellara’s efforts only going so far. The race is the longest outside of the Grand Tours and has been dominated by the likes of Rui Costa and Peter Sagan. It is therefore strange that May’s Tour of Romandie has seen a 17.65% home win percentage, largely thanks to Michael Albasini. Switzerland went winless between 2010 and 2013 but the Orica man has picked off five of the last eleven stages.

Whilst the situation in Poland hinges on the participation of Rafal Majka and Michal Kwiatkowski, the Netherlands have less of an excuse at the Eneco Tour. The 2015 race was competitive but there was nothing to suggest the Dutch couldn’t excel. They had harder times back when the race was made for bunch sprints, however, with no premier sprinter to compete against the likes of Marcel Kittel and Andre Greipel.

Races Pais-Vasco and Catalunya both have a typically Spanish flavour to them but it’s Pais-Vasco that’s been the more heavily dominated by home wins. Oscar Freire, Sami Sanchez and Joaquim Rodriguez helped Spain to 11 of the decade’s first 18 stages. The race sits second in the table with 41.67% home wins, but was top before this year’s Tour Down Under.

When it comes to the Grand Tours, the Giro d’Italia boasts the greatest percentage of home winners – something most cycling fans would have predicted. The Italians always pick up a steady stream of victories with the nation’s best riders often sticking to their own shores. Therein lies the problem with the above table – does home advantage exist, or just increased home participation? The figures are biased dependant on the size of the population of participating riders and the Giro always attracts a large core of Italians. Both Vincenzo Nibali and Ivan Basso have won the race since 2010, with the likes of Giovanni Visconti, Paolo Tiralongo, Diego Ulissi, Enrico Battaglin and Fabio Aru all escaping for multiple victories.

Similarly, the Vuelta brings the best out of the Spanish and in particular Alejandro Valverde and Joaquim Rodriguez; no race this decade has passed without either claiming a stage win. In contrast, the Tour de France props up a large part of the table with just 18 French wins in the last 123 stages. Whilst this is certainly a cause of concern for the French, they are hosting the greatest and most popular spectacle in pro cycling.

Each edition of the Tour de France sees a host of stages made for either the fastest sprinters or strongest GC contenders – neither category dotted with French names over the last six years. This leaves breakaways as France’s best option and their strike rare is somewhat saved by the likes of Tommy Voecklar, Pierre Rolland and Christoph Riblon. Taking into account the wildcard teams brought in, the Tour de France is never as home-heavy as the tours of Italy and Spain.

This leads on to another point; the Grand Tours don’t even stay exclusively within their own borders. The Grand Bouclé is particularly known for this, venturing into Spain and Italy frequently, plus Belgium, Holland and the even the United Kingdom.

Home advantage may exist to the individual but examining stage wins collectively simply comes down to who’s racing and, more importantly, who isn’t.

Across that same period, I took a look at which countries had claimed the most stage wins in total. Germany, a country without a prestigious home tour, ran Spain surprisingly close for top spot.

Country Wins Winning Riders
Spain 99 26
Germany 96 13
Italy 94 47
Great Britain 70 9
France 65 33
Australia 62 21
Belgium 41 17
Slovakia 39 2
Netherlands 32 16
Switzerland 23 5
Colombia 23 11
Norway 20 3

The Germans have taken 96 wins since 2010, split between just 13 riders. Marcel Kittel, Andre Greipel, John Degenkolb and Tony Martin have all filled their boots taking over 15 victories each. By contrast, Italy’s 94 wins cover 47 riders with many sharing turns in the spotlight.

tony martin

Great Britain and Norway owe to just a handful of riders, whilst Slovakia’s impressive tally would be a Peter Sagan monopoly if not for one Peter Velits win in the 2010 Vuelta.

Speaking of Sagan, he sits third in the table of wins across these races. His 29 successes are only bettered by rivals Mark Cavendish (34) and Andrew Greipel (32). Cavendish dwarves the entire peloton when it comes to Grand Tour stages, head and shoulders clear of surprise second place rider Joaquim Rodriguez. Interestingly, the Brit has added just five wins away from the big three, preferring to ride smaller races in Asia and America.

Name Wins Grand Tours Other Tours
Mark Cavendish 34 29 5
Andre Greipel 32 12 20
Peter Sagan 29 8 21
Joaquim Rodriguez 24 13 11
Tony Martin 21 7 14
Marcel Kittel 19 11 8
John Degenkolb 15 11 4
Chris Froome 14 6 8
Michael Albasini 10 1 9
Nacer Bouhanni 10 5 5
Fabian Cancellara 10 4 6
Philip Gilbert 10 8 2
Michael Matthews 10 5 5
Alejandro Valverde 10 5 5
Alberto Contador 9 3 6
Rui Costa 9 3 6
Vincenzo Nibali 9 8 1
Richie Porte 9 0 9

It’s also interesting to see the breakdown of wins for the likes of Nibali and Philip Gilbert. Both have been very successful at the Grand Tours and less so elsewhere. Gilbert’s schedule doesn’t always include many other stage races but Nibali’s been known to ride them at training pace.  The Sicilian is the master of making his mark when it matters and is known for saving his best performances for the biggest stages. Richie Porte has unfortunately become known for the opposite, sweeping through Paris-Nice, amongst others, before being called upon as a worker for the Grand Tours, or finding some other way to fall out of contention.

The German sprinters have had similar levels of success at the Grand Tours, but vary greatly at the other World Tour races. Ten of Degenkolb’s 15 victories have come at the Vuelta, a race he dominated in 2012. Another German who can’t go without a mention is Tony Martin. Though largely owing to time-trials, I was shocked to see he had racked up 21 victories in the last six seasons – across nine different tours.

graph

Returning to the Home/Away split, they’re few points of interest on the rider front; 15 of Joaquim Rodriguez’ 24 wins have come in Spain and Tommy Voecklar has 100% of his wins at home in France. On the flip side, Spaniard Luis Leon Sanchez excelled away from his home country, claiming his six wins since 2010 in France, Switzerland and Australia.

Lastly, five riders have won a stage of each Grand Tour in the last six years; the obvious in Mark Cavendish and Alessandro Petacchi, the less obvious with Joaquim Rodriguez, Phillip Gilbert and Marcel Kittel and the obscure – Tyler Farrar.

joaquim rodriguez

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