Team Sunweb wrapped up a successful Vuelta a España during an exciting final weekend to the three-week grand tour that included a mountaintop finish on the brutal Angliru climb and a hard-fought battle to the finish in Madrid.
The team’s general classification leader Wilco Kelderman put the finishing touches on a brilliant performance that saw him finish fourth overall. The 26-year-old Dutchman dropped from third to fifth on Saturday’s grueling penultimate stage to Angliru but, riding his TCR Advanced SL team bike and wearing the Giant Rev helmet, he fought to regain a spot in Sunday’s final stage in Madrid.
“I’m really satisfied with our Vuelta,” Kelderman said. “Before I started the race, I would have signed up for this result. I’ve never had such a stress-free three weeks, the team kept me going through it all and gave me the confidence I needed in the difficult moments. I’m proud of what we have achieved here.”
Kelderman’s top-five finish in the GC was one of many highlights for the team in the final grand tour of the season. In all, they scored an impressive 15 top-10 finishes over the three weeks of racing.
Søren Kragh Andersen added to the celebration by finishing third on Sunday’s Stage 21 in Madrid. The 23-year-old Dane’s primary job was to support Kelderman and make sure he stayed at the front and avoided any time splits. Once that task was successfully completed, Andersen turned his attention to the final kilometer, taking on some of cycling’s fastest sprinters.
“I’m really happy with the result,” Andersen said. “With even better positioning I could have delivered more, but I’m proud of third. We managed to deliver Wilco to the finish safe and he even moved up a place, which is great. My first grand tour was much cooler than expected, I’m super proud of myself and the team, and it’s a great feeling to have finished.”
Team Sunweb coach Marc Reef called the performance of his riders “a huge achievement.”
Throughout the race, Kelderman, whose previous best finish in a grand tour was seventh at the 2014 Giro d’Italia, fared well in both the mountain stages and the time trials. He proved that he has what it takes to compete with the world’s best stage racers such as Chris Froome, who eventually won the overall. Kelderman said he continued to gain strength throughout the three weeks, and he steadily climbed through the ranks gaining time on key mountain stages.
“Our goal was for the GC with Wilco and we did everything to achieve it,” Reef said. “We had a young team with some experienced guys, too. We dealt with some setbacks with sickness and crashes but we always believed in ourselves and kept going with the same target in mind. After finishing fourth, we are really happy and proud of this team of riders and staff. Our young guys gained experience and all made an important step in their career, which is brilliant.”