Let’s be honest. It’s hard enough remembering who won some Grand Tours in the past, let alone the stage winners. As well as that, we are more likely to remember the individual rider then their team – Alberto Contador has won Grand Tours on three different teams, whilst arguing over whether Andy Schleck and Oscar Pererio are winners instead of Contador and Floyd Landis can make it all the more unlikely that teams are remembered. However, during the race, it is stage wins that are a teams vital currency. Winning stages is the building block of success in all competitions (with the slight exception of the King of the Mountains competitions) and also can be highly memorable, and for the many teams who do not have a contender for one of the jersey competitions, a stage win is the epitome of success and indeed all they can aim for. So rather than looking at simple jersey wins, this is about stages – but not simply who has won the most, but who has won the most efficiently.
So now that’s settled, back to the stages. To do this, I built a table of all the teams who had competed in Grand Tours from 2004 to 2014 – a total of 33 Grand Tours. This encompasses the beginning of the ProTour era, whereby the three Grand Tours – The Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana – became obligated from 2005 to invited the ProTour teams, which have varied in number somewhat depending on the year, although in reality, there have been exceptions when teams such as Euskatel pointed out they didn’t much care for exposure at the Giro, or in 2009 when the Columbia-HTC team forfeited their Vuelta place to ride other races.
The table thus takes the following form…
Click on it to expand.
So what to take from that higgle piggle of stats? Well, here’s a brief explanation of what the hell is going on.
– Teams are listed down on the left hand side, and are named according to their historical sponsors. At the top we then have a timeline from 2004-2014, with each year having three columns for each of the years Grand Tours.
– If the space where a team and a Grand Tour intercept is WHITE, then the team rode that Grand Tour, and if there is a number inside the box, that is how many stages the team won that year in that Grand Tour.
– If the space where a team and a Grand Tour intercept is BLACK, then the team was not invited to or did not ride that Tour.
– The PINK, YELLOW and RED boxes represent the team that won the corresponding Grand Tour that year. Obviously, a team does not necessarily have to win a stage to have the winning rider, so this box may not have a number in it. They are simply there to provide context.
– Some triplets of boxes have a GREEN box around them. This is to highlight a year where a team won stages in all three Grand Tours, which as you can see, is quite rare.
– Over on the right, we have two lists that shows the number of total rides a team had in each Grand Tour over the 11 years, and the number of stages they won in total.- We then have a third column with some highlighted green spaces. This is the conversion rate of teams in a Grand Tour. This demonstrates which teams are the best value for stage wins in particular races by dividing the number of stage wins they have had by the number of Grand Tours they entered. For example, if a team had entered a Grand Tour 10 times but only won 2 stages, their conversion rate would be 2/10=0.2. Meanwhile, a team that only entered 5 Grand Tours but won 10 stages would get 10/5 =2. In other words, a conversion rate of 1 is equal to taking one stage for every year of entry, and the higher the number, the better.
– The GREEN highlighted boxes elucidate which teams have a conversion rate of 1 or higher.
– The final column is the total conversion rate – ie the total number of stage wins over the total number of grand tours entered. This helps round out teams that only entered one of two grand tours but had a high conversion rate, and helps show which teams have been consistently best over time.
-Finally, at the bottom, we have some running stats on the participants. We have:
– The number of teams that entered the Grand Tour. Helpfully, all teams were allowed 9 riders.
– The number of teams that won a stage in the Grand Tour.
– This number expressed as a percentage.
– The total number of riders who entered a grand Tour.
– The number of individual riders who won a stage of that Grand Tour. For instance, if Rider A wins 10 stages and Rider B 11, then only 2 riders won stages, whilst if 21 different riders win, the number is 21.
– The number of individual riders who won a stage of that Grand Tour expressed as a percentage of the total number of riders who entered the Grand Tour. So if 15 riders won stages out of a field of 200, the % is (15/200)x100= 7.5%
– There is then a total of the number of teams who won stages in all three Grand Tours in that year.
So what’s interesting out of all that? Well…
In the premier competitions in the sport, which invite only 21.5 teams on average (so 22…), a 62 different teams have taken part in 11 years, which sounds high but probably isnt really when you consider how turbulent cycling has been in recent years. It would be interesting to see how many football teams have been in the champions league during the same time.
It all means that 75% of the teams that have ever entered a Grand Tour in the last 11 years have won a stage. Every team that has been in the Pro/WorldTour has also won a stage at some point. However, over each year, the interesting thing is that an given there are an average of 22 teams invited to each Grand Tour, an average of only 28 teams are invited to Grand Tours each year, with a high of 35 in 2004 and a low of 24 in 2006. The interesting this is that across the year, if you get invited to a Grand Tour, you have a near 3/4 chance on average of winning a stage, although that has dramatically dropped off in recent years – only 16 teams won a Grand Tour stage in 2014, meaning 12 teams went home empty handed, the most since 14 did the same in 2004. However, the totals have been generally consistent. The individual Grand Tours are harder to crack however…
The Giro has perhaps been the most consistent of the Grand Tours, with generally level %s of individuals winning, even if the team data has a few swings, with 2009 being a year where only 32% of the teams who entered won stages. Surprisingly, the Giro is the hardest Grand Tour for a team to win a stage at, with 47.7% of teams picking up a win compared to the Tours 48.1%.
The Tour de France has seen a downward trend however. Whilst the number of teams have been consistent, both the number of teams and individuals winning have been dropping off. Perhaps this is due to the increased specialisation and targeting of the Tour, as well as a lack of competition. For instance in 2014, Mark Cavendish, Chris Froome and Alberto Contador’s crashing out of the race left one rider head and shoulders above the rest in terms of their specialties. Whatever it is, it is something worth looking at if the trend continues – nobody particularly wants 3-4 “super teams” dominating all the stages. It seems that the Tour is indeed the hardest event to win at, in terms individuals. Only 7.71% of riders win a stage on average.
It turns out you are most likely to win a stage if you enter the Vuelta – more individuals win stages by 1 compared to other Tours. Its pretty consistent as well, although again, a downward trend has began to creep in. The Vuelta is the only race where you have over a 50% chance of winning a stage on average though, and also has a slightly higher percentage of individual winners.
So which teams are the best? I’ve judged this on conversion rate rather than sheer number, and these pretty much correlate anyway. A teams rating is thus their conversion rate multiplied by the number of grand tours they have entered. I did this for each individual Grand Tour, as well as for the total. Here are the results: The top ranking is a combination classification, and the bottom three are for each Grand Tour.
The mighty T-Mobile/High road take the win in two of the three Grand Tours as well as in the overall ranking, which given their total of 59 stage wins, 14 more than second placed Quick Step, is not a surprise. They also narrowly won the Giro ranking as well as the Tour de France ranking, no doubt thanks to the prolificy of riders such as Mark Cavendish and Andre Greipel, who also moved them to a strong third in the Vuelta ranking. Quick Step and CSC make up the podium, and indeed all the teams in the overall ranking have been ProTour teams. A special mention to Fassa Bortolo, who were only around for 2 of the 11 years investigated yet were so good at winning (mainly thanks to Alessandro Petacchi) that they managed to get themselves into 8th on the overall ranking and equal 5th on the Giro ranking thanks to their 26 stage wins across 6 Grand Tours in 2 years.
The Giro ranking is notable for the influence of two Pro-Continental teams – the now Androni team and the now CSF Bardiani team. It is worth pointing out that the initial ranking includes stage wins that have since been attributed to doping – reassessing everything would have taken forever – and these teams do have somewhat of a history at this. However, they show that wildcard entries can be very good, and are worth a look in.
That said, none really appear in the Tour. It is all the big established teams that take prominence, with Sky managing to sneak in, which given their poor 2010 and 2014 showings, is pretty impressive. Bouygues Telecom are the best French Team in 10th, and given the publicity they’ve had with Thomas Voeckler and the winning of a couple of KOM jerseys and the white jersey, they will be pretty pleased with their Tour performance. US Postal and Discovery sneak in for their strong efforts from 2004-2007.
The Vuelta has been a happy hunting ground for Astana and Movistar, who have won 4 of the 11 editions between them. They take the top spots, but impressive is the influx of Giant Shimano after having entered only 4 editions – they have however won 12 stages. The now defunct Euskatel operation also gets 7th, with Lampre’s impressive last couple of seasons at the race hauling them into the top 10.
How about riders then? Here’s a list of the top 50 riders for stage wins, although there are 25 riders on 3 stage wins.
Cavendish is of course on top, with he and Petacchi way in front of the field. Interestingly, those two have changed times at least thrice in the period under investigation, and only Valverde has been at the same team all his career in the top 10. 12 riders have managed to win stages of all three Grand Tours as well, with 4 having won more than two stages in each Grand Tour.
This is also a bit of a rogues gallery however – because I included riders as they crossed the line, with a couple of exceptions if riders had retroactive bans, people like Leonardo Piepoli, Menchov and so one who have stage wins attributed to them that they perhaps shouldnt, but its better then censoring them all out of history I guess.