Friday Group Ride #37

As the transfer season churns and boils, riders lining up new teams and new plans for 2011, the landscape and traditional power centers seem to be shifting. Omega Pharma – Lotto’s paltry four wins in 2010 will surely be bolstered by the addition of German sprinter Andrei Greipel. The merger of Garmin – Transitions with Cervelo Test Team gives the already opportunistic boys in argyle even more strong horses in more races, the only piece missing a real grand tour GC threat. Movistar’s take over and cash infusion with the current Caisse d’Epargne team promises a bright new day for Spanish cycling, not to mention Geox’s takeover of Footon-Servetto.

Along with the advent of the Schleck’s new Luxembourg-based team and Bjarne Riis’ capture of Alberto Contador to replace Schleck, this may be the most active off-season in recent memory.

The question for this week’s Group Ride is: Who will come out of this battle royale with the strongest team? Who is on the rise, and who is on the wane?

You don’t get any points for predicting the slow demise of Team Radio Shack, but I am curious to hear what we think of the moves made by the Belgian teams, Quick Step and Omega Pharma – Lotto. The rain in Spain is also mainly on the plain with a group of teams, once looking on the verge of collapse, blundering into new pots of money. Which team will emerge as the new Iberian powerhouse? And is there any hope for the French?

No. Probably not.

Image: John Pierce, Photosport International

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  1. James

    There have been so many changes I can’t keep them all straight! I think Garmin will be a force in the classics with Haussler and Hushovd in the fold. I also think that Saxo is a wash with Contador and company in lieu of the Schlecks. Saxo’s classics strength will go down considerably if Cancellara goes away, obviously. I was happy to see Quick Step retain Chavanel. If he has a healthy spring this year he will be an asset to the team in the Classics. Other than those teams and riders I can’t remember who is going where…the ravages of old age! I can’t wait to see how the changes will all play out…

  2. Alex Torres

    I have the clear impression that Saxo is a winner for 2011. If not in the classics, certainly for Grand Tours (and the Tour de France in special). Heck, not only Contador remains as the strongest and most consistent GC rider of today, he now has a bunch of loyal, faithfull and strong team mates – and the guidance of one of the best DCs in the business. I´d guess he´d be even strong next year.

    Oh, and the backing of a seemingly new powerhouse, Specialized. Trek is now desperate to find a new GC rider/team capable to bring back their winning era, now that Lance & Co. are dawning (we knew it, but now the general audience knows too: it was NOT the bike :-p ) No wonder they closed with the Luxemburg squad.

    As for the other teams… it´s still not clear to me. Sure, Garmin-Cervelo should do better overall, as the other ones cited by Robot, HTC should remain winning lots of sprints everywhere with Cav, the like. Other than the likely GT dominance by Saxo, it´s hard to predict who´s taking the rest – at least for me. But then, I´ve never been good with this anyway so I´ll keep looking for other opinions and analysis.


  3. ryderider

    One team that continues to turn my head is Liquigas. While they are losing Kreuzinger, they have been solid in all three grand tours and have multiple GC threats with that Croatian kid, Nibs and Basso, if not stage snipers. Not sure if they can topple Contador/Schleck at the tour but the TTT this week shows they are a solid team and still have 2 guys not named Basso that could at least do some damage in any grand tour GC.

  4. grolby

    What’s most intriguing about the changes with Saxo Bank are that they leave us with a team that is all but entirely changed. Not that there’s any doubt of considerable success, but I think the balance of results are pretty clearly going to shift towards July. They may still have something considerable to say during the Ardennes classics, however. I hope that Contador’s participation in Fleche and Liege this year was the beginning of a regular participation. He’s not my favorite to win those races, but I think everyone has to admit that he did the races honor by racing to win. And of course, if Cancellara is still with Saxo next year, they’ll certainly still be an important force, especially if he decides to shift gears to Liege. He’s made no secret of his ambition to win all five monuments, and unlike the possibility of future Grand Tour GC success, it’s not “just a dream.” Cancellara might just be the most talented rider of his generation, full stop. Liege would be a reach, but after seeing him at the Worlds RR in Mendrisio last year, I have no doubts that he has the ability.

    As for Garmin, it’s bittersweet. In a way, it’s sad to see them transforming from the scrappy little team that could into a well-funded powerhouse. I worry a little bit about their losing sight of their development efforts. The signing of riders like Caleb Fairly and the continued interest in Holowesko Partners should make it clear that they aren’t abandoning those efforts, but it’s odd to see Vaughters buying his way into contention. It ought to be obvious that he would always have preferred to pursue both strategies in parallel, but lacked the cash, but it’s still odd to see. I just hope that the old core and ethos of the team aren’t overshadowed by the new crowd.

    Omega Pharma-Lotto’s signing Andre Greipel will help, but the team still has a serious lack of depth. Sure, 18-20 wins in a season is a huge improvement over four, but if those wins come from just two riders, well… that’s still not a great situation to be in. If Gilbert or Greipel become sick or injured or simply have a bad year, they don’t have any other credible threats. With the rise of Jurgen Vandenbroucke, maybe they hope to become a more Grand Tour-focused team. That didn’t go too great with Cadel Evans, but the fact that Vandenbroucke is Belgian could go some distance. It would help, though, if he actually won something.

    And the French… yeah, they’re pretty screwed. But they have done well in the Tour the last couple of years, so it’s not like there’s no hope at all. Still, things appear to be pretty status-quo with the French teams for this transfer season. No big changes afoot for them, positive or negative.

  5. michael

    The Inner Ring blog had a great article about the costs associated with running a team based in France using French staff awhile back. It is a brilliant read and really helps you understand why French teams are challenged (other than the general lack of modern training methods used by directeurs, coaches and athletes)

  6. Sophrosune

    It’s hard to say who will come out ahead, Robot, when we don’t know what we’re measuring. Is it winning the Tour de France, Grand Tours, the Classics, number of wins, including stages?

    In any event, here are my thoughts. The Vuelta is revealing that HTC does have some interesting stage-race contenders beyond Rogers, including Veltis and Tejay Van Garderen, for next year.

    Movistar coming in to save Caisse d’Epargne prevents a lot of teams coming in devouring one of the most talented group of riders in the pro peloton. Good for them not so much for the other teams.

    The Garmin-Cervelo merger brings the team on par with HTC Columbia, which as a US-based team in Europe is an important measurement, I guess. But we are likely only going to see some more stage wins at the tours and possibly a Classics victory that Cancellara decided not to contend.

    As far as who wins the Contador/Schleck(s) swap: Contador. The Schlecks I think must be realizing at this point given the length of time it is taking for them to formally announce the team just how difficult it is to organize a pro tour team. The energy they expend just keeping the ball rolling would have been better spent just finding a way to get Cancellara off their team so they wouldn’t spend the first week of every TdF defending the Yellow Jersey. Contador actually has something that almost seems like stability compared to the nonsense he has had to endure thus far. Problem is he know faces the Cancellara issue as well, but the TdF starts with a team time trial, I believe, next year.

  7. fausto

    What about SKY? If Wiggo can’t win the TDF, is the mission statement out the window? They proved they can do well in spring but now what?

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