There are three races each year which are a little grander than all the rest. The Giro, Tour and Vuelta are responsible for many of our favourite moments and the great stages have been documented countless times. Nevertheless, it’s unrealistic to expect every stage to capture the imagination and even the most ardent fans won’t be able to recall every winner from the last decade. Here are five current pros you probably forgot took success on the big stage; cycling’s very own one-hit wonders.
Kristian Sbaragli – Vuelta Espana Stage 10, 2015
Sbaragli was one of the few Europeans on MTN-Qhubeka’s opening roster at Pro Continental level. He was a pretty handy sprinter – who could climb a bit – and one of those riders you might be tempted to pick up for cheap in your favourite fantasy cycling game (no seriously Kristian, please score some points soon). Donning black and white Juventus stripes, Qhubeka began to turn heads at the 2015 Tour de France courtesy of a Steve Cummings stage win.
They headed to the Vuelta full of confidence and Sbaragli offered a threat on the flatter finishes. Stage 10 was John Degenkolb’s to lose and Giant-Alpecin hauled back attacks to set up the final sprint. Sbaragli got the jump on the German and went on to take victory by a fine margin. He was an extremely happy figure on the podium and you can understand why; he hadn’t tasted victory for over two years.
Unbelievably, Sbaragli hasn’t won anything since that day. He’s now at Israel Cycling Academy and I’m not sure he’ll break his winless streak in 2018. He should be heading to the Giro where you’ll be able to find him back in ninth on the opening stage.
Kenny Elissonde – Vuelta Espana Stage 7, 2013
Okay – let’s be honest – there’s no way that Elissonde’s small but diehard following will have forgotten this one. But has it really been five seasons? Elissonde was just 22 and riding his first Grand Tour. He had the sort of power-to-weight ratio you’d pick if you were designing the ideal climber. Nevertheless, he hadn’t made a big enough splash to be burdened as the next ‘saviour of French cycling’. Warren Barguil had emerged alongside Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet, and the trio were shouldering that particular moniker.
Perhaps it was 41-year old Chris Horner grinding through Spain and raiding Vincenzo Nibali’s Grand Tour double party that took the spotlight away from Elissonde’s victory. It should be remembered as a stunning ascent of the mythical l’Angliru but will forever be associated with the freakish Horner stunning a talented field to confirm a shock Vuelta win.
After a short alliance with veteran Paolo Tiralongo, Elissonde went solo into the fog and held on for a huge victory. Clearly a fan of the Vuelta, Elissonde went close to the mountains jersey in 2016 but lost out in a thriller to Omar Fraille. Is he a one-hit wonder? No! He’s too good to not win another stage.
Marcus Burghardt – Tour de France Stage 18, 2008
Ah, the 2008 Tour. Who can forget Cadel Evans taking on Team CSC, Mark Cavendish being brilliant and Marcus Burghardt outfoxing Carlos Barredo in Saint-Etienne. Okay, maybe you won’t remember that last one.
One day after Carlos Sastre had destroyed Evans’ Tour dream on Alpe d’Huez, the race headed for a comparatively easy stage to Saint-Etienne. The GC boys took a well-deserved break allowing the day’s gamblers to sneak off the front. An initial attack was caught but Barredo’s counter-punch prior to the first climb looked far more promising. Burghardt set off in pursuit and caught the Spaniard on the descent. The two worked together despite their differences; Barredo was the stronger climber, Burghardt the more powerful on the flat.
The big German knew Barredo would try every trick to shake him and swatted away late attacks with his superior flat speed. Burghardt happily accepted his role as leader of the sprint and had no trouble winning the final dual.
The 34-year old has been a tremendous servant in both Grand Tour and one-day racing. He tasted success again last year but this time at his National Championships. He showed off his new colours a week later when the Tour visited Dusseldorf.
Iljo Keisse – Giro d’Italia Stage 20, 2015
Iljo Keisse has struggled to find the spotlight during his time with the various Quick-Step guises but who can blame him? He’s clearly a respected rider having been selected for Paris-Roubaix in each of the last six seasons but he’s no cycling megastar. And that’s what might have helped him back at the 2015 Giro.
With the GC wrapped up, attention turned to the rivalry between Sasha Modolo and Giacomo Nizzolo ahead of the flat finale in Milan. The latter was the favourite for the points jersey but had yet to take a stage win. Lampre’s Modolo had two to his name but trailed his rival by 17 points. The fastmen had endured the mountains for this last opportunity. They wouldn’t mess it up now, eh?
Modolo’s Lampre had mastered the art of showing pretty much no interest in helping out with any chase leaving Nizzolo’s Trek to make most of the pacesetting. Perhaps Trek decided they didn’t want to bring things back together only to be hijacked.
The result? Iljo Keisse and Luke Durbridge escaped 30km from home and still hovered off the front on the final lap. Several teams emerged to give support but with no real urgency. Durbridge looked eager and Keisse used his experience to force the Australian to give him a leadout. The pair embraced at the finish as a toast to their successful escapade.
Marco Canola – Giro d’Italia Stage 13, 2014
Marco Canola is everyone’s favourite 29 year-old, ex-UnitedHealthcare, Nippo–Vini Fantini rider who might sprint but could also get into a break. Fact.
Bardiani had a lot to celebrate at the 2014 Giro d’Italia and their hat-trick of victories was kicked-off by Marco Canola on Stage 13. Whilst you’ll likely remember Enrico Battaglin’s success in Oropa and Stefano Pirazzi’s escape in the final week, Canola’s smash and grab might be somewhat of a blur.
Cofidis had hoped the stage would be another for Nacer Bouhanni but Canola – with equally obscure breakaway buddies Jackson Rodriguez and Angelo Tulik – built up an unassailable advantage (though the peloton did get within 11 seconds by the time the race hit the streets of Canavese). Canola negotiated the final corner best and set off on a long sprint to best his companions.
Battaglin developed into a tidy World Tour rider whilst Pirazzi cycled straight into a doping suspension. Canola took an alternative route and headed for the US-backed UnitedHealthcare. He was lively for his two years with the team before arriving at Nippo at the start of last season. He had some fun in Japan last year but will be disappointed with the recent Giro d’Italia wildcard announcement.