In June 2013, current UCI President Brian Cookson released his manifesto which ultimately succeeded in helping him get elected at the UCI congress later that year.
In that manifesto in the section entitled ‘Overhaul the structure of elite road cycling’ Cookson wrote the following:
“The structure of elite cycling needs to provide a clear and compelling narrative that is easy for spectators, sponsors and broadcasters to follow. “
In its context, Cookson was writing specifically about the organisation of events throughout the year into a cohesive and coherent calendar. But if we cherry-pick a phrase from that campaign pledge, that cycling needs to be easy for spectators to follow, this is in rather stark conflict with the news which has been emerging from various UCI teams over the last few weeks.
As it is the beginning of a new season, existing teams and brand new teams have gradually been releasing photos of their new team kit for the year. It has been incredibly noticeable that there is going to be one dominant colour in the peloton this year – black.
When two football teams play each other, there are rules in place to ensure that the jerseys of the opposing teams do not clash. This is to ensure that the players and the fans can distinguish between the two teams – simple and obvious. When a non-football fan flicks on a match and doesn’t know which teams are actually playing, it is still obvious that there are two separate groups of players.
Cycling is a more complicated case because there can be upwards of 20 different teams competing at once rather than just two, but there are similar rules in place in the UCI’s regulations.
Rule 1.3.035 states:
‘Each team may use different clothing for one full event each year. The clothing must be submitted for approval to the President of the UCI WorldTour for UCI ProTeams, or the President of the Road Commission for other UCI-registered teams, at least 21 days before the event in question. The application may be rejected for reasons considered valid for the case in question, in particular any similarity to the clothing of another team.’
The rule might exist, but as so often with UCI rules, it doesn’t appear to ever be enforced as team after team release similar kits for 2015.
There is another rule relating to rider apparel pertaining to rain jackets. Rule 1.3.030 states:
‘Rain capes must be transparent or made to look like the jersey’
It doesn’t state in the UCI’s official documents on their website what the reasons are for this rule, but in a letter distributed to teams by the UCI, their reasoning was stated as follows:
‘Riders should be able to identify their rivals at all times during a race in order to respect absolute equity and regularity between athletes.
Commissaires must also be able to recognise the riders in order to make appropriate decisions regarding the sporting management of the event.
TV directors and commentators can find it very difficult to identify riders; this is harmful to the image of professional cycling for spectators and fans who are following the race live.’
If the UCI recognises that generic rain capes can cause serious problems for riders, commissaires, TV directors, commentators, spectators and fans, why is the same logic not extended to the jerseys themselves?
The rules state that the person responsible for approving or disapproving kit design is the ‘President of the UCI WorldTour for UCI ProTeams’. A check on the UCI website of the various roles assigned to the members of the UCI Management Committee reveals that currently nobody has been officially assigned to this position. So is it any wonder that so many professional teams next year will be in dark kit?
It’s hard enough to explain to those new to the sport what is going on in races as it is, without all the riders looking alike. That helmets are now compulsory and many riders choose to wear sunglasses while riding makes it all the more difficult to determine rider identities. The commentators on 2015 races will certainly have an unenviable job of picking apart who is who.
If experts are going to struggle, what chance does the new fan have in trying to ‘engage’ with the ‘product’?
We saw with the recent Astana case of whether the team should be issued a WorldTour license or not that the UCI were hamstrung by their current set of rules and ultimately had little chance but to award them a license.
Here is a much simpler case, where rules actually already exist to take action. The colours of team jerseys may seem like a trivial matter when compared to doping, but a more generic looking peloton is also harming the image of the sport and dissuading potential viewers from immersing themselves in cycling.
The rules are there. Why are the UCI not utilising them?
The lack of racing in the winter months inevitably means that the news and discussion emerging from the cycling world comes from other corners of the sport that don’t involve turning pedals. Doping is the usual off-season topic to revert to, but as we are currently in a lull between the USADA report and the outcomes of the various other investigations that are taking place (UCI, Mantova, Padua), the current hot topic seems to be that of the UCI points system.
There are three stories which have emerged in recent weeks which highlight the various unwanted side affects caused by the current UCI points system which rewards riders rather than teams (a thorough breakdown of the system has been provided by The Inner Ring who highlights the fact that it may in fact be misunderstood by many riders). There are a number of facets to the application process in getting a team into the World Tour, of which the points scored via racing is just one, but it is the one which receives the most focus.
Steve Houanard of AG2R-La Mondiale was told the following by his team manager Vincent Lavenu told before the recent Tour of Beijing:
I told him we do not keep him in the team. I had told him that the door is not 100% closed, but he knew it would be difficult to change our mind.
Houanard translated this statement as a requirement to score some UCI points in China to help the team with its application for ProTeam status for 2013. Having achieved no top 10 finishes at all in 2012, Houanard decided to up his game by taking EPO. He subsequently tested positive and is now facing a two year ban from the sport.
Then there’s Matt Brammeier of OmegaPharma-QuickStep. The triple Irish champion came to the Belgian team having had a successful year as a domestique at HTC-Columbia. He has had an unfortunate year which was hampered by a knee injury. His lack of points has rendered him officially worthless according to the UCI and has left him without a contract at OmegaPharma-QuickStep and, thus far, teamless for next season.
Finally, Gianni Meersman has been making the news recently as he decided to leave Lotto-Belisol because they have still not yet received confirmation that they will be part of the UCI World Tour next year. Meersman’s situation is complicated by the fact that he will leave his points behind him at Lotto-Belisol because a particular deadline has passed, but nevertheless, Lotto-Belisol are now one (successful) rider down coming into next year because of the UCI points system.
The points system itself is difficult to come to terms with. The UCI have applied an (arbitrary?, subjective?) points system races which rewards individuals and yet when it comes to issuing licenses, it is teams that are examined. The problem boils down to one of the major quirks of cycling, in that it is a team sport where events are won by individuals.
Consider the English Premier League. Teams maintain their top tier status by gaining points which they earn by winning individual matches. Three points for a win, one point for a draw. The three teams with the least points at the end of the season loses their top tier status.
Now imagine if the Premier League reverted to rewarding individuals instead of teams. Isn’t it goals which decide football matches anyway? What if teams were awarded a place in next year’s Premier League based on the accumulated amount of goals the players on their current squad scored throughout the previous season? The three teams with the least amount of goals scored amongst the players on their team are relegated.
What would that spell for individual Premier League fixtures? Strikers become the major commodity and the players less inclined to score goals become expendable. The art of defending would be abandoned, everybody would want to score goals and nobody would care if they win or lose the game. Just as riders who win races are precious and domestiques are becoming expendable.
But where cycling and football differ is that in football the league table is ultimately the thing that matters. Individual matches are important of course, nobody wants to lose to their closest rivals for instance, but the points tally at the end of the season is paramount. Teams are judged by their league position.
But in cycling, each individual race is infinitely more important than the UCI’s contrived ranking system. A team would rather win the Tour de France, than finish ‘top of the league’.
Today, the UCI WorldTour co-ordinator Javier Barrio has come out and defended the UCI points system:
The key word is league. Now everyone can talk about something that starts with 18 teams in January and by October there is a classification that determines who is the top rider, which is the best team and which is the strongest nation… Now in every race there is something in play, there are crucial points at stake that ensure teams always take the races seriously.
But everyone does not talk about this ‘league’. The only reason it is news-worthy now is because the future of riders and teams relies on the outcome of the league. It has no inherent sporting value, unlike football where winning the league is the ultimate achievement for the athletes. To further highlight the absurdity of the UCI placing importance on their league is the riders who finished first and second this year, Joaquim Rodriguez and Bradley Wiggins raced against each other just once, at the Worlds Road Race, which isn’t even part of the World Tour.
Barrio goes on to say:
We have generated interested in a more consistent way.
Does anybody follow the Tour Down Under or the Tour of Beijing because they can’t wait to see how the outcome shapes the resulting league table? People follow these races because they are on television, the league table matters not. Barrio persists:
That is another problem…people have to understand that there would be no World Tour without a points system.
With the exceptions of the Tour of Beijing and the two Canadian one day races which are all recent inventions, every one of the other 26 races on the World Tour calendar has managed capably without the presence of the World Tour points ranking.
Barrio does admit that there are flaws in the system, such as the weighting of points for races on the lower tier tours (UCI Europe Tour, UCI Asia Tour etc.) is not perfect. He also addresses the issue of points being awarded to riders and not to teams but says no changes to this approach have been confirmed during discussions thus far.
The process of creating a system where teams have an avenue to reach the top tier of cycling teams and where the threat of relegation looms for under-performing teams is a complicated one. No system will be perfect, but the fact that riders are awarded points rather than teams seems such an obvious flaw in the system it is alarming that this is not being addressed as a matter of urgency.
Cycling has many problems, some related to doping others relating to the weird team sponsorship model that the sport has adopted. But unlike drugs and global finance, the UCI has complete control over the points system that they use and it is something that they can sort out now.
To have a UCI representative publicly declare that the UCI World Tour and its point system has “contributed a great deal” and has “revitalised cycling” is insulting to riders like Matt Brammeier, Steve Houanard and Gianni Meersman. Fans don’t care about a cycling league table. The sooner the UCI realise this, the better.
Leopard-Trek are due to merge with RadioShack to form yet another ‘superteam’ in the world of pro cycling. While it’s exciting times for all the major players in the merger such as Johan Bruyneel and the Schleck brothers, many riders are being left in the lurch.
Consider RadioShack rider Fumiyuki Beppu’s coy tweet on the day that the merger was announced:
They Don’t Care About Us”..Music By Michael Jackson
Another rider left to sort out his future is Philip Deignan, who had this to say in an interview with cyclingnews.com, who I hope will forgive me for the extensive quote:
We’re all pretty shocked about it… It wasn’t something that we were expecting. We know that it was strange that there were no signings in August… So we were expecting changes but I don’t think anyone was expecting the team to stop. We’re shocked and disappointed that the management have left it this late to tell everyone about it.
We haven’t heard from them and we’ve not had any explanation. We’re all pretty disappointed. We had no explanation but the obvious reason seems down to money. But the riders are in the dark the whole time, we’re the last ones to know about these things.
I’ve had a really bad season. I had an injury and viral infection all season…We’re all just trying to cope as best we can. We’re all trying to stay focused but it’s difficult. A lot of the staff here have families and mortgages and there’s over 50 people involved.
What is the most depressing thing about these quotes from Deignan is that these comments weren’t made in the wake of the Leopard-Trek/RadioShack merger. These comments were made almost exactly a year ago when it was announced that Deignan’s Cervelo Test Team would cease to be and would eventually ‘merge’ with Garmin-Transitions to form the ‘superteam’ Garmin-Cervelo. Deignan was not made a part of that merger and was left to find a team for himself and ended up at RadioShack for the year.
Yes, this is the second year in a row that Deignan has had to deal with the same shit. But this year could be far worse for the man from Donegal.
Teams need riders with UCI points in order to ensure that the accumulation of their rider’s points places the team in the top 17 in the world on the points scale. This is to ensure that the team qualifies for a ProTeam license. Riders keep their points with them for the results of the previous two years, so it’s not just this year’s results that are taken into account when determining next year’s Pro Teams, the results from the previous year are also still attributed to the riders in the form of these precious UCI points.
This time last year, Deignan could still rely on his results from the 2009 Vuelta (a stage win and ninth overall) in order to sell himself as an attractive rider (with plenty of UCI points) to potential suitors.
But another year has passed, and now Deignan is forced to deal with the same situation but without the comfort of those UCI points.
His comments in the cyclingnews article that he “had a really bad season. I had an injury and viral infection all season” also pretty much apply to this year. The past two years have been torrid for Deignan with no real results of note. He currently has no UCI points.
So although Deignan has proven he can perform in a Grand Tour, perform domestique duties and is an excellent rider to have in a team, the way the UCI system works means that on paper, Deignan is now essentially worthless.
The Leopard-Trek and RadioShack press releases announcing this upcoming merger contain phrases such as:
a further milestone in the development of this exciting young project
the bright future of our athletes
a great milestone for our team and our global sport
our sponsors’ continuing commitment
will dominate cycling for years to come
I’m sure all the riders and staff that have been left without jobs find this spoon-fed PR shite as nauseating as the rest of us.
This is not a merger. It is a cull. And the fact that it is being dressed up as a triumph for cycling is insulting to cycling fans. But most of all, it is insulting to all the riders who will now struggle to earn a living next year in the sport that they love because of the gross mismanagement of that sport.
One thing about the recent Tour Down Under which is apparent when reviewing the results is just how Australian they all are. Cameron Meyer won the overall prize and a stage, Matthew Goss finished runner up overall, took the points classification and won two stages (if you count the warmup crit race), Michael Matthews won a stage and finished 4th overall and finally, Luke Roberts won the mountains classification. In the races history, Australians have won overall more often than not, winning seven of the 13 editions. Even after the race was granted Pro Tour status (now World Tour status), and the peloton swelled with far more quality international riders, Australians have won two of the four editions overall, as well as taking 12 stage victories via nine different riders.
Riders who take part in races in their home country will naturally be more motivated to win than a non-native. This results in the fact that the Tour Down Under has maintained plenty of indigenous victors, despite not taking place in the cycling motherland of mainland Europe. So, are other races as conducive to home grown winners as the Tour Down Under?
If all of the World Tour races are considered, the older ones anyway, throughout their beginnings many decades ago, it was very rare for a non-native to win. This was simply due to the fact that Italians tended to race in Italian races, Spaniards tended to race in Spanish races etc. To illustrate, in the first 31 editions of the Tour of Flanders, there was one non-Belgian winner (Heiri Suter in 1923). The Giro d’Italia was first raced in 1909, but it wasn’t until 1950 that the Swiss Hugo Koblet put an end to the Italian monopoly on the race. But as the sport developed, so did the diversity of nationalities winning races and home grown winners were no longer a guarantee.
The most famous example of a nation unable to win their own race is of course the Tour de France. The last French winner of the Tour was Bernard Hinault in 1985. Of all 24 races which currently make up the World Tour calendar, this drought of 26 years is by far the longest any of the races have gone without producing a home grown winner.
The lack of French cycling greats in the past two decades makes it perhaps unsurprising that the two races that come next after the Tour de France in terms of suffering a home win drought are also both French. Both Paris-Nice and Paris-Roubaix have been waiting 14 years for a French winner. 1997 was perhaps the last truly great year for French cycling in terms of results. Laurent Jalabert won Paris-Nice for the third year in a row, Frédéric Guesdon won Paris-Roubaix and Richard Virenque finished runner up and won the polka dot jersey at the Tour de France. In addition to those successes, Jalabert added Fléche Wallonne, the Tour of Lombardy and the World Time Trial Championships, Christophe Agnolutto won the Tour de Suisse and Philippe Gaumont won Ghent-Wevelgem.
Since then it has most certainly been downhill for the French riders. Since Jalabert finished second in the 1998 edition of Liége-Bastogne-Liége, no French rider has even finished on the podium of a monument classic. For those counting, that’s 61 races and 183 podium places with no French presence.
In 1999, the year after Jalabert’s final monument podium place for the French, Franck Vandenbroucke won the same race, Liége-Bastogne-Liége. He was the last Belgian rider to do so, which makes this Ardennes classic fourth on the list of races waiting the longest amount of time for a home winner. Philippe Gilbert will no doubt be aiming to correct that this year, having finished third and fourth in the past two years.
If the French are having trouble winning their own races, seemingly the opposite is true of the Italians. Ivan Basso’s win in last year’s Giro d’Italia reclaimed the Italian Grand Tour from the foreigners who had invaded for the past two years through Denis Menchov (2009) and Alberto Contador (2008). Before that, an Italian had won the Maglia Rosa every year since 1996. It’s a similar scenario with the Tour of Lombardy. Before Gilbert took over in 2009, the previous eight editions were all won by Italians. At Milan San Remo there has been four different Italian winners in the past ten years, Mario Cipollini, Paolo Bettini, Alessandro Petacchi and Filippo Pozzato. Even Tirreno-Adriatico has been won by Italians in the past two years through Stefano Garzelli and Michele Scarponi.
The Spaniards have also proven fairly adept at winning their own races. The Volta a Catalunya has been won by a Spanish rider ten out of the last twelve years. Chris Horner stopped a four year Spanish run on the Tour of the Basque Country with his victory last year. And the Vuelta a Espana itself has seen a home victory in seven of the previous 11 editions.
Other races on the World Tour calendar not previously mentioned that haven’t seen a home winner in the past ten years are the Tour of Romandie and despite being ‘home’ to three nationalities, the Eneco Tour.
Sadly for the French, the drought of winning their own biggest races shows no signs of abating. Their best hope lies with Sylvain Chavanel who finished eighth in Paris-Roubaix as recently as 2009. But with rivals like Boonen, Hushovd and Cancellara to contend with, Chavanel doesn’t really have a genuine chance of victory. More likely for him would be success at Paris-Nice, a race in which he finished third, and held the leader’s jersey in 2009 and where rider goals are less defined. As for the Tour de France, their best hope for as much as a top 10 finish lies with a rider who is no longer French, for he is now Irish, Nicolas Roche!
Continuing on from last week’s post on how each cycling team fared when their stated top three goals for the year are considered, here’s the remainder of the teams:
1. Cavendish to win the Tour green jersey and lots of stages.
There were a lot of what ifs raised by the green jersey competition this year. What if Cavendish hadn’t crashed on Stage 1? What if Petacchi’s doping investigation catches up with him and his results from the Tour are expunged? What if the green jersey points on Stage 2 hadn’t been declared void? What if Cavendish had contested a few intermediate sprints?
At the 2008 Tour, Cavendish was only interested in winning stages, but since then, for the past two years, the Green jersey has been a major goal for Cavendish and he has come up slightly short on both occasions. I would imagine he will be going bananas to win the jersey next year.
As for lots of stage wins? Just the five this year.
2. Cavendish to win Milan San Remo or Ghent-Wevelgem.
If we’re to believe Cavendish’s comments toward the end of the season, the Spring classics were never a major goal, as his training was designed toward peaks at the Tour and the Worlds, which makes it seem odd that Stapleton should declare these goals for Cavendish. The defending champion finished 89th in Milan San Remo as he was still recovering from a dentist-induced layoff and he did not take part in Ghent Wevelgem.
3. Integrating the new youngsters into the team.
A tricky goal to evaluate. A trend that has become apparent in Bob Stapleton’s teams is that he snaps up lots of supremely talented young riders, he then finds he cannot cater for the ambitions of all his riders and ultimately is forced to let many great riders leave at the end of the year. At the end of 2008, Bradley Wiggins, Linus Gerdemann and Gerald Ciolek all left the team. Last year saw the departure of Michael Barry, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Marcus Burgahrdt, Greg Henderson, George Hincapie, Kim Kirchen, Thomas Lofkvist and Morris Possoni. That’s a decent Tour de France team right there. This year sees the departure of André Greipel, Maxime Monfort and Michael Rogers amongst others.
As for integrating youngsters, the highest profile case of the failure of a young rider to integrate into a new team this year is HTC-Columbia’s Rasmus Guldhammer, who became so disgruntled with being a professional cyclist, he quit the top level of the sport altogether, choosing instead to go home to Denmark to ride for a local team. Other young riders which did seem to integrate well and make the grade were Leigh Howard, who in his first season as a pro, won a stage of the Tour of Oman, and Peter Velits who took a remarkable time trial victory in the Vuelta a Espana on his way to 3rd place overall (which may be bumped to 2nd, following the positive test of Ezequiel Mosquera).
In general HTC-Columbia is a hot bed of young talent, let’s not forget Cavendish himself is still only 25 years old. Also riding for the team next year will be John Degenkolb, who is one of the most exciting young riders in the world, and the Irish road race champion Matt Brammeier.
1. Ride a strong classics season with Pozzato, Ivanov and Kirchen.
Filippo Pozzato, who was blasted this Autumn by Philippe Gilbert for his negative racing tactics, didn’t have a good spring classics campaign. His best result was 7th in Paris-Roubaix and he also came 4th in the E3 Prijs. Serguei Ivanov animated the Amstel Gold as the defending champion but ultimately finished 12th which was his best classics result. Kim Kirchen, sadly, suffered a heart attack during the Tour de Suisse and hasn’t raced since. He insists he is not retiring but is yet to announce his plans for next season.
Funnily enough, it was to be two other riders who were to achieve Katusha’s best classics results of the season. Joaquim Rodriguez finished second in the Fléche Wallonne, behind Cadel Evans and just ahead of Alberto Contador while Alexandr Kolobnev also finished as runner up in Liége-Bastogne-Liége.
2. Tour GC with Rodriguez and Karpets.
Vladimir Karpets only lasted until Stage 9 after falling and breaking a bone in his hand during that messy stage to Spa. Joaquim Rodriguez, who was surprisingly riding the Tour for the first time, won the stage to Mende and finished a creditable 8th overall.
3. Send a strong team to the Vuelta and be all-rounders in the other Historic races.
Rodriguez flew the Katusha flag again at the Vuelta a Espana where he won a stage, wore the leader’s jersey for two days and ultimately finished 4th. Thanks to his consistency across the whole year, 1st Volta a Catalunya, 3rd Vuelta al Pais Vasco, 6th Paris-Nice and 9th Tour de Suisse along with his aforementioned results in Fléche Wallonne and the Tour, he ended the year as the World’s number one ranked rider. Katusha’s only other wins in the Historic races were two stage wins at the Giro d’Italia by Filippo Pozzato and Evgeni Petrov.
1. Cunego to win Liége-Bastogne-Liége or another Ardennes classic.
‘Average’ seems the best way to sum up Cunego’s Ardennes campaign. For many other riders, 6th in Amstel Gold, 5th in Fléche Wallonne and 20th in Liége-Bastogne-Liége would be results to be proud of. But Cunego has won the Tour of Lombardy three times and is also a former winner of Amstel Gold, he would have been expecting a lot better. Cunego ended the season with no wins for the first time in his career.
2. Milan San Remo victory for Petacchi.
As a former winner, Petacchi is an annual favourite at the first monument of the season, and at aged 36, his 3rd place this year was pretty good. However, he may have ridden La Primavera for the last time, as he’s currently being investigated for doping which took place before the Tour de France. If he ends up being suspended, we won’t see him on a bike again.
3. Tour and Giro stage wins from Cunego and Petacchi.
Petacchi, for various reasons, rode the Tour de France for the first time since 2004 and he performed better than anyone expected winning two stages and winning the points classification, thus, completing his set of Grand Tour points jerseys. The closest Cunego came to a stage win in either the Giro or the Tour was a 2nd place behind Cadel Evans in the muck infused stage to Montalcino in the Giro.
Other performances of note were Simon Spilak who retrospectively won the Tour de Romandie after Valverde was suspended and Grega Bole who won a couple of stages in the Tour de Slovenie and finished 2nd overall in the Tour of Poland.
1. Pellizotti or Basso to win the Giro.
Big tick. On the eve of the Giro, Pellizotti was informed that his biological passport was looking dodgy and he was provisionally suspended, he has since been cleared and is now loooking to sue the UCI for loss of earnings. Thus, he was blocked from riding the Giro, which meant Vincenzo Nibali was drafted in late in the day. Nibali proved to be an invaluable domestique for Basso’s second Giro d’Italia win. Both riders won a stage and Nibali eventually finished 3rd capping a hugely successful home Grand Tour for the Liquigas team.
2. Basso and Nibali to do well at the Tour.
The Giro took a lot out of Basso, and his quest to become the eighth rider to do the Giro-Tour double didn’t materialise as he finished a lowly 32nd. Liquigas’s best performer at the Tour was Roman Kreuziger who finished 9th.
Due to Nibali’s participation in the Giro, he missed out on selection for the Tour but was designated team leader at the Vuelta, which he won in splendid fashion. For me, it was the most exciting Vuelta I’ve ever watched. The final mountain stage battle between Nibali and Mosquera was fantastic (although it has since been sullied by Mosquera’s doping positive). Basso and Nibali have proven to be a formidable Grand Tour tag team. They have announced that Nibali is targeting the Giro next year while Basso will focus on the Tour. I can’t see Basso beating Andy Schleck around France, but I find it hard to see past Nibali for the Giro win.
3. Grand Tour stage wins for Bennati.
Dismal. He was hampered by injury throughout the year and did not start either the Giro or the Tour. He took a 2nd and a 3rd place in sprint finishes at the Vuelta but in general it was a poor year for the Italian. He won a stage at the Tour of Oman and the Tirreno-Adriatico but he was largely outshone by team mate Francesco Chicchi all year. He will ride for Team Schleck next season where he will hope to bounce back with some Grand Tour wins.
Liquigas in general had a great year, 2nd only behind HTC-Columbia in terms of race wins, with 40. The team won stages in Qatar, Oman, Tirreno-Adriatico, Paris-Nice, Turkey, California and Slovenia amongst others. Peter Sagan was one of the stars of the year, in his first year as a professional he won stages in Paris-Nice, the Tour of California and the Tour de Romandie. A hugely exciting prospect for next year.
1. Ciolek to take a Grand Tour stage.
The only Grand Tour that Ciolek ended up riding in 2010 was the Tour de France, in which his best result came on Stage 5 to Montargis when he finished 2nd to Mark Cavendish. Edvald Boasson Hagen rounded out the podium that day, which incidentally, was the first time that the first three finishers on a Tour stage were all eligible for the young rider competition since the 8th Stage of the 1987 Tour when Jean-Paul van Poppel, Michel Vermonte and Johan Capiot finished in that order.
2. Gerdemann to win the Tour of Germany.
The Tour of where? This race hasn’t been contested since 2008. This was obviously wishful thinking on behalf of Gerrie van Gerwen that Milram’s home Tour would be resurrected for 2010. Gerdemann has never lived up to the promise he showed in winning a mountains stage and wearing the Maillot Jaune in the 2007 Tour de France. His best result this year was a stage win in the pissing rain in Tirreno-Adriatico.
In other German races, Ciolek won a stage of the Bayern Rundfahrt, Niki Terpstra won Sparkassen Giro Bochum and Christian Knees won the German national road race title.
3. Wegmann to do well at the Ardennes Classics.
Wegmann finished 25th in Amstel Gold, 16th in Liége-Bastogne-Liége and didn’t finish Fléche Wallonne. Not exactly results to get excited about. Wegmann’s best result of 2010 was a 3rd place finish at a stage in the Tour de France, but that was the stage where everybody rode in together at the behest of Fabian Cancellara. Milram’s best result in the Ardennes was in fact Wegmann’s 16th in Liége. In general it was a forgettable season for Milram and the lack of major results makes it hardly surprising that the team is disbanding at the end of the year.
1. Philippe Gilbert to win a Spring Classic.
Success! Gilbert won the Amstel Gold Race, becoming the 3oth different rider to win the race in the last 30 editions. He also won the final classic of the season, the Giro di Lombardia, in foul conditions. These two victories were the highlights of a remarkable year for Gilbert in the classics. 9th Milan San Remo, 3rd Ghent-Wevelgem, 4th Tour of Flanders, 1st Amstel Gold, 6th Fléche Wallonne, 3rd Liége-Bastogne-Liége, and 1st Giro di Lombardia, a truly sensational set of results.
2. Gilbert to win throughout the year.
In addition to his major classics victories, Gilbert added a stage of the Tour of Belgium, two stages of the Vuelta a Espana and the Giro del Piemonte which meant he celebrated victory in April, May, August, September and October, mission accomplished. But it’s a good thing Gilbert was this prolific as only two other riders on the team managed to win this year. Matthew Lloyd won a stage and the mountains prize at the Giro d’Italia and young British sprinter Adam Blythe had a storming end to the season with two stage wins and the overall in the Circuit Franco-Belge along with the Nationale Sluitingprijs one day race.
3. Young riders to improve at the Tour de France.
Omega Pharma-Lotto had three riders aged 25 or under at the Tour de France, Jurgen Roelandts, Francis de Greef and Mickael Delage, only one of whom had ridden the Tour before. Delage had previously finished 116th and 100th at the Tour but couldn’t improve on that this year as he was forced to abandon on Stage 2. As for the two debutants, Roelandts finished 120th but did manage a fourth place on the Champs Elyseés while De Greef finished 72nd overall.
But as a team, they all supported Jurgen van den Broeck on his way to a superb 5th place in Paris, the first Belgian to finish in the top 5 at the Tour since Claude Criquielion in 1985.
1. Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix
Quick step’s spring classics campaign was a failure for one reason and one reason only…Fabian Cancellara. The Swiss rider powered away from Tom Boonen to solo home in both of the cobbled monuments. At the Tour of Flanders, Boonen soldiered on to finish on his own, a minute behind Cancellara and a minute ahead of the bunch. In Paris-Roubaix however, Boonen didn’t react well to his breakaway companions’ attitude when Cancellara attacked, saying “I’m obviously disappointed. But if Cancellara attacks and I can’t follow him that’s fair enough. But I’m angry with the other guys. At no time did any of them try to race and some of them, including (Juan Antonio) Flecha, had already resigned themselves to racing for second“. Subsequently, Boonen didn’t really commit to racing properly in the final few kilometres and ended up in 5th place. A 2nd and 5th in these two races for any other rider would be excellent, but this wasn’t satisfactory for a five time winner of these races. Indeed, it was the first time since 1989 that a Patrick Lefevere team did not win a spring classic of some description.
2. Win Tour stages with Tom Boonen
Unfortunately, due to a crash in the Tour of California in May, a persistent knee injury prevented Boonen from starting the Tour de France. Consequently, Quick Step’s hopes of Tour success lay primarily on the shoulders of Sylvain Chavanel who didn’t disappoint. Two stage wins for the Frenchman also led to two separate stints in the yellow jersey. After Stage 2, Quick Step also had the honour of holding all three major jerseys, yellow, green and polka dot. Chavanel held both yellow and green, while Jerome Pineau wore the polka dot jersey. This is the first time one team has led all three competitions at the Tour since R.M.O. in 1992 through Pascal Lino and Richard Virenque.
3. Do well in the Giro with Seeldraeyers/Chavanel and in the Ardennes.
Chavanel didn’t ride the Giro and of the Ardennes classics he only rode the Amstel Gold Race where he finished 16th. Seeldraeyers didn’t start the Giro but did manage to finish the Tour, but with no top tens to speak of for the whole year, it was a year to forget for the young Belgian. Despite these two non-starters at the Giro, Quick Step shifted their focus and ended up with two stage wins through Jerome Pineu and Wouter Weylandt. Carlos Barredo also won a stage of the Vuelta, making it a Grand Tour stage win hat-trick for Quick Step, this in stark contrast to last year, when they didn’t win any Grand Tour stages.
1. The Spring Classics.
Rabobank’s classics campaign got off to a perfect start when Oscar Freire won Milan San Remo for a third time. Freire book-ended the season nicely by winning Paris-Tours as well (the first rider ever to win both races in one year), but everything in between for Rabobank was rather mediocre. Rick Flens managed a 2nd place in the Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne raced in horrific weather, and Lars Boom finished 5th in the E3 Prijs, but that’s about it. The loss of Juan Antonio Flecha to Team Sky was a blow, while Nick Nuyens, Sebastian Langeveld and Joost Posthuma didn’t perform to the standard expected of them this year. Posthuma and Nuyens will be moving on next year, but Matti Breschel has been drafted in to try and improve the team’s results in the cobbled classics.
2. Robert Gesink to finish as high as possible in the Tour de France.
Gesink did as well as could be expected in the Tour de France, finishing 6th. For a rider who’s not yet 25, this is a great result. With Andy Schleck finally too old to win the White Jersey anymore, Gesink should be favourite to win that competition next year while challenging for a place on the podium. Gesink also won a stage of the Tour de Suisse as well as two one day races toward the end of the season, the inaugural GP de Montréal and the Giro dell’Emilia where he pipped Dan Martin for the win. Gesink was approaching the Tour of Lombardy as a huge favourite before he returned to Holland to be with his father after he was involved in a mountain biking accident. Tragically, his father died as a result of his injuries. Hopefully, Gesink will bounce back next year and we’ll see him race his hands in a victory dedicated to his father.
3. Vuelta a Espana and the Giro d’Italia.
Rabobank failed to win a stage in either of these Grand Tours. Denis Menchov finished 2nd in the final time trial of the Vuelta behind surprise winner Peter Velits, and Graeme Brown came second in a bunch sprint in the Giro but that was the closest they came. As for G.C. positions, highest in the Giro was Bauke Mollema in 12th, which is encouraging as he is only 23 and is a former winner of the Tour de l’Avenir. The highest in the Vuelta was former winner Denis Menchov in 41st, which is excusable considering his excellent 3rd place finish in the Tour.
1. Win the Tour de France.
If the doping investigation currently surrounding Lance Armstrong ultimately doesn’t manage to soil his reputation, he did a pretty good job of soiling it himself on a sporting level this July. Although a plethora of crashes didn’t help, he was never up there with the top riders when it mattered most, he ended up finishing his final Tour de France in 23rd place.
There was much debate before the Tour over which elderly Radio Shack rider would fare best – Armstrong, Leipheimer or Kloden? As it turned out it was Chris Horner, who finished tenth. Horner had a fantastic year in which he won the Tour of the Basque Country and also finished in the top 10 of the Criterium International, the Giro di Sardegna, all three Ardennes classics, the Tour of California and the Dauphiné. Not bad for a 39 year old.
2. Win the Tour of California.
Leipheimer was aiming to win this race for the fourth year in a row but fell just short, finishing third only 25 seconds behind eventual winner Michael Rogers, with David Zabriskie finishing 3rd.
3. Armstrong to do well in the Classics.
Illness put paid to any goals Armstrong had of performing well in the Spring classics, he was forced out of races in March and April citing sickness both times. The only classic he ended up racing was the Tour of Flanders where he finished a not-too-shabby 27th. He did manage to recover to finish 3rd in the Tour of Luxembourg and 2nd in the Tour de Suisse. His form coming into the Tour looked ominous before bad luck and old age seemed to finally catch up with him. RadioShack’s best classics result was Sebastian Rosseler winning Brabantse Pijl. Their best result of the season was Sergio Paulinho winning a stage of the Tour de France.
1. Win the Tour de France with Andy Schleck.
Still a possibility if Contador is found guilty, although Schleck has said he doesn’t want to win the Tour this way. But if Contador does receive a two year ban, Schleck will find winning the Tour next year considerably easier, and if he does win, whether he likes it or not he will suddenly become a two time Tour winner.
2. Do well in the cobbled and Ardennes classics with Cancellara and the Schlecks.
Cycling fans this year were witness to probably the most dominant cobbled classics performance by a rider ever. Fabian Cancellara dominated the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix so much so that his bike was tested for the presence of a motor, that says it all. For good measure, he won the E3 Prijs too.
Although neither of the Schlecks finished on the podium in any of the three Ardennes races. Frank finished 7th in Amstel Gold, Andy finished 8th in Fléche Wallonne and they both managed a top ten in Liége-Bastogne-Liége. So not too bad, but Cancellara’s performances in the preceding weeks more than made up for it.
3. To be competitive in any race.
A vague goal but it seems to have been achieved nonetheless. Saxo Bank won races each month from February right through until September. They won a total of 37 races, a tally only bettered by HTC-Columbia and Liquigas. They won one day races – Paris-Roubaix, Tour of Flanders, E3 Prijs, Dwars Door Vlaanderen, GP Herning. They won short stage races – Tour of Oman, Tour de Suisse, Tour of Denmark, Tour du Limousin. They won Grand Tour stages – Chris Anker Sorensen and Gustav Erik Larsson in the Giro and Andy Schleck and Fabian Cancellara won two stages each at the Tour. They also won the World Time Trial Title and (maybe) a Grand Tour as well.
1. Win the Tour with Bradley Wiggins.
Probably the most widely reported failure of the season. Wiggins, trying to improve on his 4th place finish in 2009, ended up in 24th place. Unlike his rather aloof and disinterested comments he gave in the direct aftermath of the Tour, he gave a rather engaging interview which appeared in November’s Pro Cycling magazine, in which he says “In hindsight, riding the Giro d’Italia was perhaps not the best thing to do. Or the way we raced the Giro was a mistake anyway. It was a brutal race. The guys who did the Giro all seemed to fall by the wayside at the Tour – myself, Cadel Evans and Ivan Basso had a shocker“.
Let’s not forget though that Wiggins finished the Giro in a lowly 40th, whereas Evans and Basso finished 4th and 1st respectively. Accordingly, Wiggins offers further reasons for his lack of fitness in July, “The next mistake was not racing at all between the Giro and the Tour, which I didn’t do last year…but this year [I didn’t race] because we had our heads up our own arses over the Tour de France“.
He goes on, “I was in really good form early in the year in Murcia and finished third and instead of moving on from that and going to other races like the Criterium International and using that form, it was more a case of backing off, of saying: ‘Let’s have a week off now and come down a bit and then start building again‘. It was always done with a view to the Tour whereas the year before, because I didn’t have any grand scheme of doing well at the Tour de France, I was doing all of the races I love doing like Paris-Roubaix, the Three Days of De Panne. I was just enjoying racing, and racing for results”.
Wiggins insists that he can repeat his performance of 2009. His boss at Garmin, Jonathan Vaughters has said that the 2009 Tour route was particularly suited to Wiggins. If the 2009 Tour route suited him, and the 2010 route didn’t, then I would say the 2011 route suits him even less.
2. Win a Spring Classic with Edvald Boasson Hagen.
Boasson Hagen was unable to repeat his Ghent-Wevelgem success of last year, his best result was 6th in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. But fortunately for Team Sky, it was his team mate Juan Antonio Flecha who finished 1st, winning the first classic of the cycling season. Flecha also managed a podium place in both Paris-Roubaix and the E3-Prijs.
3. Allow riders to fulfil their potential.
For a team that relies on statistics and data as much as Team Sky do, this is a strikingly undefined goal for the year. Russell Downing certainly progressed a level, he won a stage of the Criterium International having previously raced only on the British domestic scene. Greg Henderson followed on from his first Grand Tour stage win at the Vuelta in 2009 and had a great season, winning a stage each in Paris-Nice, the Eneco Tour and the Tour of Britain. But otherwise, the team’s main riders punched below their weight. The team did win Het Niuewsblad, the Giro Prologue, stages in the Dauphiné, the Tour of Oman, the Tour Down Under and the Tour de Wallonie, however, amongst all the hype, the big guns failed to deliver. Bradley Wiggins, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Juan Antonio Flecha and Thomas Lofkvist seemed to stagnate, while Simon Gerrans went positively backward. Team Sky’s grade for 2010 – could do better.
I picked up the March 2010 issue of Cycle Sport the other day, it was the season preview issue. In it, each of the major cycling teams, via one of the team managers, laid down three major season goals which the team would aim for over the coming year. The following is a breakdown of how each team fared in achieving their three goals:
1. Win more races than last year.
Not that hard considering the team only racked up five victories in 2009. This year they managed to almost quadruple that haul with 19 wins, the most prolific rider was Anthony Ravard who won five races.
2. Go for Tour stages and the overall.
They must be happy with their Tour performance as they won a stage through Christophe Riblon. Nicolas Roche finished in 15th position, the highest overall placing of any rider on any of the French teams, and in John Gadret in 19th place, they had the all-important highest French finisher at the Tour.
3. Win more races outside France, especially at Pro Tour level.
Of their 19 wins in 2010, only five of them were at races outside of France. Also, the only Pro Tour level victory was Riblon’s stage at the Tour. Compared with other years, this isn’t great. Each year from 2006-2008, the Ag2R won at least four Pro Tour races. There has also been a sizable drop in their wins column since the departure of Jan Kirsipuu who used to win sprint finishes regularly and would boost the team’s wins outside France up towards double figures. But compared to last year, everything has been an improvement.
1. Win the Tour with Alberto Contador.
Eh, sort of…..
2. Give the younger Kazakh riders a chance to improve.
If by young Kazakh riders he means 25 and under, that would include Roman Kireyev, Yevgeni Nepomnyachsniy, Bolat Raimbekov, Sergey Renev, Andrey Zeits. Of these five riders, none started the Tour but three of them did get a ride in one of the other Grand Tours. Kireyev rode and finished the Giro, no mean feat considering the toughness of the route this year. While Renev and Zeits both completed the Vuelta. The only rider of the five to manage a podium placed finish this year was Roman Kireyev who finished second in his national time trial championships.
3. Have a straightforward season.
Failed miserably. Astana are now embroiled in the biggest controversy of the season as Alberto Contador, although now signed with Bjarne Riis’s Saxo Bank, faces doping charges after testing positive for Clenbuterol. The wish for a straightforward season stems from last year, when there was an ongoing feud between team mates Armstrong and Contador in addition to reports that blood doping kits were found and linked to the team at the Tour. There were also reports that the Astana team was being given favourable treatment by the anti-doping folk at the Tour. The previous year, Astana had been banned from partaking in the Tour altogether after the team had been involved in even more doping controversy at the 2007 Tour. It has not been a good few years for Astana in terms of ‘having a straightforward season’ and with their Tour winner testing positive, this year has probably been the worst.
1. A good Classics result, centred around George Hincapie.
Hincapie managed a couple of good classics results by finishing 4th in Gent-Wevelgem and 6th in the Tour of Flanders. But BMC’s best result in the spring classics was the World Champion Cadel Evans’s win in the Fléche Wallonne. Evans had finished 9th, 5th and 2nd in this race before finally winning it this year with a perfectly timed, borne-of-experience sprint for the line. He also finished 4th in Liége-Bastogne-Liége.
2. A good Grand Tour result, centred around Cadel Evans.
Winning a stage, the points competition and finishing 4th at the Giro while also managing a day in the yellow jersey at the Tour, on paper, is a good Grand Tour result by any standard. However, Jim Ochowicz probably had an overall victory or a podium place in mind when setting this goal for the year. Evans was thoroughly unfortunate at the Tour to fall and break a bone, otherwise he may well have challenged Menchov for the third place finish.
3. A strong end of season at the Worlds.
This seems an odd goal considering the riders aren’t technically riding for BMC at the Worlds. Nevertheless, defending champion Cadel Evans put in a more than worthy defense of his title, but ultimately only managed 17th place. Evans was BMC’s only finisher in the top 40, although Alexander Kristoff was a team mate of eventual winner Thor Hushovd.
1. Win Tour stages with Fedrigo and Voeckler.
Done and done. Fedrigo and Voeckler won back to back stages in the Pyreneés. Even better, Voeckler did so while wearing the French champion’s jersey, even though he managed to morph the jersey into some kind of belly top as he crossed the finish line. Anthony Charteau also pulled off a surprise win in the King of the Mountains competition. Overall a hugely successful Tour for Bbox.
2. Win stages at the Dauphiné and Paris-Nice.
In the words of Ned Boulting of Real Peloton fame, another big box ticked for Bbox. William Bonnet won stage 2 of Paris-Nice into Limoges and Nicolas Vogondy won the 4th stage of the Dauphiné. Vogondy also finished 6th overall at the Dauphiné while Pierre Rolland finished 8th.
3. Win a stage at the Giro and Vuelta.
The Giro stage was nabbed by the Swiss rider Johan Tschopp who won the final road stage of the race. It was also the stage where Tschopp, at the top of the Passo di Gavia, nipped past Gilberto Simoni to deny the Italian the Cima Coppi prize in his last ever road race, but hey, that’s bike racing. It was only in Bbox’s final goal of the season, a stage win at the Vuelta, that they fell short. The closest they came was again through Tschopp who finished 3rd on Stage 8 behind David Moncoutié. I doubt Jean-Réné Bernaudeau is too bothered with the Vuelta stage though, after the fantastic season they had before the Spanish Grand Tour.
Perhaps the greatest success for Bbox in 2010 has been the confirmation of a new sponsor for 2011. Although Fedrigo has moved on to join FDJ for next season, the ever loyal Thomas Voeckler will remain to try and ensure more Tour success for Bernaudeau’s team.
1. A sponsor for 2011!
Success! Mobile phone company Movistar will sponsor the team next year.
2. Keep up the same level of previous years across the board.
A rather vague season goal. See below.
3. Depending on what happens in his two cases with CAS, go all out in the Tour with Alejandro Valverde.
Well, obviously this didn’t happen. Valverde’s appeal against his worldwide ban was rejected in May and he is now suspended until the end of next year. All his results before May 2010 dating back to January 2010 have been expunged. This left the Caisse d’Epargne with 12 victories for the year, the highlights of which were two stage wins at the Vuelta through David Lopez and Imanol Erviti and Luis Leon Sanchez winning the Clasica de San Sebastian. David Arroyo also managed an impressive 2nd place finish at the Giro d’Italia. For a team as big as Caisse d’Epargne, 12 victories isn’t great. For each of the previous four years, the team had managed at least twice that many wins (thanks in no small part to Alejandro Valverde). Valverde’s suspension in addition to seeing Joaquim Rodriguez blossom into the World’s number one ranked rider at Katusha has been hard to take for the Spanish team.
1. Win one from: Milan San Remo, Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix.
They won zero out of three, thanks largely to Fabian Cancellara’s insane performances over the cobbled classics. Heinrich Haussler finished as runner up in Het Niuewsblad before a knee injury wiped out the rest of his classics campaign. Thor Hushovd won a Tour stage, a Vuelta stage, finished 6th in Milan San Remo, 2nd to Cancellara at Paris-Roubaix and of course won the World Road Race at the end of the season whilst riding for Norway. Roger Hammond also managed a 4th place in Paris-Roubaix.
2. Giro d’Italia win with Carlos Sastre.
Aiming to win two Grand Tours with any rider is a tall order, even more so with a rider who is 35 years old. This is three years older than the oldest rider to ever win two Grand Tours in one year (Fausto Coppi, 32, Giro and Tour 1952). Even so, Sastre managed to finish in the top 20 of all three Grand Tours this year. He finished 8th in the Giro, 20th in the Tour and 8th in the Vuelta, but he didn’t win a stage in any. In fact, he didn’t win a race all year, the closest he came, unusually for him, was in a one day race when he finished 3rd in the Clasica de San Sebastian.
3. Tour de France win with Carlos Sastre.
He made a valiant run for glory on the Tourmalet stage where he spent most of the day on his tobler in no man’s land between the peloton and the breakaway, but ultimately was caught before the foot of the final climb. He never really threatened the overall, and as the years keep passing by, he seems to be fading more and more as a genuine Grand Tour threat.
Apart from the team’s stated goals, they won stages at Paris-Nice, Volta a Catalunya, Vuelta a Castilla y Leon, Tour of California and the Tour de Suisse through Xavier Tondo, Theo Bos, Brett Lancaster and Thor Hushovd. Altogether, they totalled 14 victories, considerably less than their 2009 tally of 25. Mid season injuries to both Hushovd and Haussler didn’t help.
1. A Tour de France stage win.
The Tour was a disaster for Cofidis. They were the only one of four French teams who didn’t win a stage. In fact, they only managed one measly top ten stage place in the whole Tour when Remi Pauriol finished 8th on Stage 10. They’re highest ranked rider on G.C. was Julien El Fares in a lowly 28th place. Not good.
2. Dauphiné with Pauriol and Moncoutié.
It’s not explicitly stated, but I presume Eric Boyer was referring to stage wins and not the overall. Either way the Dauphiné did not work out well for Cofidis. Their top G.C. finisher was again Julien El Fares, this time in 26th. Pauriol finished 30th and Moncoutié didn’t take part. The closest they came to winning a stage was Rein Taaramae’s 5th place on Stage 4. Again, not good.
3. Paris-Nice with Pauriol.
Remi Pauriol didn’t win a stage of Paris-Nice, but fortunately for Cofidis Amael Moinard did. He also won the mountains classification. Taarame also managed 7th on G.C.
Apart from the lack of success in the major races, Cofidis did rack up plenty of early season victories. Samuel Dumoulin won a stage and the overall of the Étoile de Bességes, a stage at both the Volta a Catalunya and the Circuit de la Sarthe as well as the GP dell’Insubria. Julien El Fares won a stage at the Tour de Med. Jens Keukeleire won Le Samyn, Nokere Koerse and a stage and the overall at the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen. Finally, Leonardo Duque won the GP Cholet-Pays de Loire. So although they didn’t perform in the big races, they still took 23 victories, their most since 2007.
1. The races in the Basque Country.
The team again failed to win the overall prize at the Tour of the Basque Country, a race they have now not won since Iban Mayo won it for them in 2003. It wasn’t all bad though, Benat Intxausti finished 2nd (after Valverde’s result was wiped) and Samuel Sanchez won a stage and the points competition. Sanchez also won the Klasika Primavera one day race, a race Euskaltel hadn’t won for 10 years. The only other notable results in Basque races were Gorka Izagirre’s win in the Prueba Villafranca de Ordizia and Sanchez’s 9th place at the Clasica de San Sebastian.
2. Stages in the Tour de France.
They didn’t win a stage but Samuel Sanchez did very well, almost taking a podium spot only to be beaten to it by Denis Menchov in the final time trial. Sanchez came closest to winning a stage on the climb to Morzine-Avoriaz when he finished just behind Andy Schleck.
3. Stages in the Tour of Spain and, if Samuel Sanchez is up for it, to go for the overall as well.
As it turned out, Samuel Sanchez wasn’t up for it, but Igor Anton was. Anton won two stages of the Vuelta and by doing so, spent five days in the leader’s red jersey. On Stage 14 however, Anton’s luck turned as he crashed and was forced to retire while leading the race. It’s hard to tell how he would have finished the race, and how much time he would lose in the final time trial, but a podium place was certainly within his grasp. Very unfortunate.
Mikel Nieve also won a stage at the Vuelta. In total, Euskaltel won 17 races this year, which is the most they’ve ever won since their inception. Most of the victories came in Spanish stage races such as the Vuelta a Asturias and the Vuelta a Burgos but they also took stage wins in the Tour of Luxembourg, the Bayern Rundfahrt and the Tour de Suisse.
1. Build a young and clean squad for the future.
They seem to be achieving this goal nicely, although rumours of signing Danilo di Luca threatened to scupper both the ‘young’ and ‘clean’. On face value, the signing of both Carlos Sastre and Denis Menchov makes it look like the team’s focus is moving away from the young and toward the old. However, I don’t feel this is the case. Sastre and Menchov merely give the team a focus for the Grand Tours next year, instead of going through the motions as they seemed to do this year. The young core of Valls, Brandle and Felline is still there and has been added to with young signings like Daniele Ratto, Matteo Pelucchi and the exciting Colombian Fabio Duarte. The team’s average age in 2010 was 25.4, in 2011 as the roster stands, it only rise slightly to 25.76. As regards the clean, they don’t come much squeaky cleaner than Sastre. Although any team involving Mauro Gianetti, will always be likely to carry a question mark.
2. Secure the team’s future for next year.
A big tick, and how. The team will be called Team Geox-TMC next year and has been splashing the cash in the off season making two of the biggest signings in Grand Tour winners Carlos Sastre and Denis Menchov. Money does not seem to be a problem.
3. A Grand Tour stage win.
Needless to say, they did not win a Grand Tour stage. The closest they came was when Rafael Valls finished solo a minute behind Sylvain Chavanel on Stage 7 of the Tour, to take 2nd place. They also managed a third place on a stage of each Grand Tour through Iban Mayoz (Stage 13, Giro), Aitor Perez (Stage 15, Tour) and Manuel Cardoso (Stage 18, Vuelta).
When Footon-Servetto revealed their hideous team kit for the year, they were made somewhat of a laughing stock by fans and the media. But in the space of two days in January, Rafael Valls won a stage of the Tour de San Luis and Portuguese champion Cardoso won a stage of the Tour Down Under. Not so much a laughing stock anymore. But that’s where the success ended for the season as the wins dried up. Fabio Felline managed two stage wins and the overall at the Circuit de Lorraine in May and Matthias Brandle won the GP Judendorf Strassengel and his national championships road race in Liechtenstein. But that was it and they finished the year with only seven victories.
1. Stage wins and a higher top-10 finish in the Tour de France.
Sandy Casar won the Tour de France stage to St. Jean-de-Maurienne, but fell short when it came to the overall. He was nowhere near the top 10, finishing as FDJ’s highest rider on G.C. in 25th place.
2. Paris-Nice. Tour of the Basque Country and Romandy with Casar and Le Mevel.
Paris-Nice was as bad as the Tour for FDJ in terms of G.C. Their highest finisher was again Sandy Casar, this time in 30th place, Le Mevel finished in 36th and neither rider threatened to win a stage. The closest the team came to a stage win was a 3rd place on Stage 5 by Matthieu Ladagnous.
The Tour of the Basque Country went slightly better as Sandy Casar finished 6th overall and Le Mevel finished second on the first stage.
Finally, the Tour of Romandie wasn’t great either. Jeremy Roy and Sandy Casar finished 14th and 15th respectively, with the former finishing 3rd in the opening prologue time trial. Overall, no wins from these three stage races.
3. Cobbled Classics with Guesdon and Geslin.
Former Paris-Roubaix winner Guesdon finished in the top 20 of both cobbled monuments, finishing 18th in the Ronde and 19th in Paris-Roubaix. But that was the extent of the classics success for the French team. Geslin had no result in the cobbled classics, a 12th place in Milan San Remo his only classics result of note. Ever since Gilbert left for Omega-Pharma Lotto, his former team seems to be headless when it comes to the classics, and with Guesdon turning 40 next year and no obvious cobbly riders coming in, it doesn’t seem like things will be any better next year.
1. Win a stage of the Tour (we still haven’t done that, eh?).
Well, they still haven’t done it. A broken wrist sustained by Tyler Farrar in the opening week didn’t help. Although he still managed to finish second on Stage 6. Julian Dean also managed two second places. Next year, with Hushovd, Haussler and Farrar, they will surely overcome what now must be a psychological burden on the entire Tour team
2. Put a rider on the podium of the Tour, although top five would be good too.
I suppose Jonathan Vaughters had Christain Vande Velde in mind when stating this goal. But yet again, the American’s injuries prevented him from racing as competitively as he did when he took 4th in 2008. Instead, Ryder Hesjedal stepped up and finished 7th overall. Not quite the podim or top five, but still a remarkable performance considering he was plan B at best.
3. Win a classic or major one-week-stage race – Dauphiné or Paris-Roubaix.
Garmin-Transitions won both (if you can call Tour of Poland a major one-week race), but didn’t come close to winning either the Dauphiné or Paris-Roubaix. Their best finisher at the Dauphiné was Johan van Summeren in 37th, and their highest place in Paris-Roubaix was Martijn Maaskant in 22nd.
They did however win the Vattenfall Cyclassics with Tyler Farrar. Ireland’s Daniel Martin won the Tour of Poland in August which was Garmin’s first overall victory in a Pro Tour stage race. In total, Garmin won 27 races this year including the Scheldeprijs, Japan Cup, Tre Valli Varesine, Chrono des Nations and stages in the Tour of California, Three Days of De Panne, Tour of Benelux and the Criterium International. Tyler Farrar also won two stages in both the Giro and the Vuelta.
The rest of the teams to come next week…..