Friday Group Ride #7

Andrei Greipel has laid down a marker. As the season cranks up and folks begin thinking about who is going to win what, the German sprinter, with three stage wins and an overall at the Tour Down Under, has reminded everyone that the Manx Missile isn’t the only show in (Columbia) sprint town. In the US, the media focus last season was on Tyler Farrar’s attempts to best Mark Cavendish, though Thor Hushovd showed that there is more than one way to skin that particular cat (Get it? Manx? cat? Alright, whatever.)

The standings from 2009 look like this: Cavendish – 23 wins; Greipel – 20 wins; Hushovd – 9 wins; Farrar – 9 wins; and just for excrement and giggles, Edvald Boasson-Hagen had 9 wins (B-H isn’t a sprinter, really, yet, but he’s fast).

So this week’s Group Ride looks at the flats. So many of the season’s tune up races are fodder for the faster fellows.

Who do you think has the best shot at toppling Cavendish? His teammate, Greipel? Hushovd? Farrar? Boasson-Hagen? Or perhaps a dark horse like Gerald Ciolek (Milram), Matti Breschel (Saxo Bank),Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Robbie McEwen (Katyusha), Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) ?

Who is the next, next thing, or the old, next thing or the right now thing? Who will save us from Cavendish’s inane victory celebrations? Who has the best shot at being the fastest man in the peloton in 2010?

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  1. dave1949

    That’s simple the best sprinter will be the one on best lead out team.
    Cavendish is probably unbeatable 1 on 1 right now but it takes a lot of horsepower at the front of the line to bring him in in good position. If Columbia can still do that this year then Cav is going to win a whole bunch of races again.

  2. matty

    Well, with Hincapie to BMC, even Cavendish says that the leadout train is weaker – despite HTC-C’s media-friendly reassurances that the train is just as strong. Cav is fast, no doubt, but he owes some to his leadouts (remember the Champs-Elysees…). I don’t know who’s going to beat him, but somebody will.

  3. George

    If you can disrupt the train, you should be able to beat Cavendish.

    But that’s far easier on paper than in real life. I don’t quite see Garmin using riders like Zabriske or Vande Velde to set up Farrar. Hushovd can probably out smart Cav, but not out power him.

    I’m afraid Cav might be unbeatable at the line.

    The best way I can think to beat him would be to go at the 1K mark or further.

    I’m looking at you Fabian.

  4. Champs

    I call it gamesmanship. Cavendish may be undefeatable with a solid leadout train, but he didn’t do so badly in 2008 as a McEwen-style free agent. With Boonen power and a lot less drag, you can’t ever rule him out.

  5. grolby

    I see a lot of talk about how disrupting or weakening that Columbia train will make Cav stop winning. How easily we forget that Cavendish was winning sprints before that huge lead out train was given to him. Before that powerful and talented train, he was winning a lot. With the train, that changed to winning almost every time. Cav with a merely good leadout train (instead of great) is still the preeminent road sprinter in the world, period. Your team gives you a train like that because you’re fast. You don’t become fast because you get a train.

    I think that Greipel would be the biggest threat if they weren’t on the same team. Practically everyone else… well, they’ll pick off a few wins from him here and there, but I don’t see a really serious challenge in pure sprint finishes.

  6. Aaron Hawkins

    I’ll be the optimistic one, and say that Thor will come back and win more sprints this year. He has a great team behind him, and because he has good sprinters with him, I think they’ll have a lot of opportunistic sprint wins. Jeremy Hunt is a strong finisher, with some respectable wins in the past few seasons. Haussler is always an option too, with Rollin backing it up too. But, the most powerful sprint weapon? Theo Bos. He is simply a beast. So, Thor will have more wins this year.

    All the teams also have the Columbia train figured out to a degree. Cav and the Gorilla are going to be hard to handle, so timing will be essential. I think Cav lost a lot of his train with Burghardt and Hincapie joining BMC, so it may be a year of “bar fight” sprints.

    My main Picks:
    1 Hushovd (w/teammates filling in occasionally)
    2 Cavendish(If Greipel doesn’t beat him to it)
    3 Farrar
    4 Boonen (Please come back old Tommeke!)

  7. Christopher

    Cavendish is very close to unbeatable. I love the kid and his heart (or arrogance depending on which side of the aisle you are on). He talks and talks but backs it up. I can only see Garmin and Sky really battling for any wins this year. Both teams have to make the last few km and lead out hectic enough to cripple HTC and then pounce on the opportunity. I think that Hayden will play a larger part than we think in the HTC train. Losing Hincapie is a big blow to Cavendish as George was a close friend, the “old experienced rider”, and an accomplished former sprinter himself.

  8. Jurgen

    As to other teams trying to disrupt the Columbia train, the Champs Elysees finish demonstrated that alone is a Herculean task.

  9. Alex Torres

    I can only place my bets on Cavendish. He´s not just super-strong but also got the “eye of the tiger”. His desire to win is also incredibly animal, and that counts a lot in a sprinter – leadout or not. Not that Fahar, Thor & Co. lack that desire or support, of course not. They sure do, but I feel that Cav has this kinda primitive side of him that makes the kid hard to beat on the line whenever he really wants it. And he seem to really want it quite often, so my money´s on him!

  10. souleur

    I agree with the sentiment shared by some, that Cav is a slick cat.

    Its like comparing apples to say, brussel sprouts though, in asking who can best him. HTC-columbia’s team really is centered around Cav as their GC’r, whereas the other teams have a dog in the fight for the podium ( Robot) for the maillot-jaune or the maglia rosa. HTC doesn’t, I don’t think they even make any bones about it. But they wear green and wear it by drinking jet fuel instead of espresso in the morning.

    So, with that, is there others who can oust Cav. Greipel, not a chance, unless Cav gives the blessing. Hushvold, gets thrashed like a rag doll when Cav is in the zone. Ferrar…now Ferrar is fast, and perhaps shows he is coming to task, so Ferrar is a very possible candidate due to the fact Garmin last year taught him how to ride the rear wheel of Cav and take him, so he has learned a lot last year.

    But my fave has to be Boasson-Hagen, he exudes power and tact. He pulled Cav to the line, and knows the train, and knows it is possibly his now. He inflicts his will at the right time, and to me looks to be a very very tenable rider this year, especially given that on Team Sky, I think there will be considerable sifting out of roles, and Boasson-Hagen may very come to terms.

    Dark horses, boy here is one, José Joaquín Rojas. He’s fast, he has won, & he’s on a team that I am not sure has incentive and young with hunger. So if opportunity rises, at age 24, he may just prove that he deserves another big team? odds 1000:1.

  11. Adam

    I pick EBH. I was really impressed with Sky’s organization in Oz, but it makes sense seeing as half the team come from a track background. Looking forward to the Worlds with Cav and Greipel on different teams (will Ciolek lead out his countryman?), Boonen’s already proved that he’s still fast after 300k and Pozzato who also handles the distance.

  12. rich_mutt

    columbia has both renshaw and greipel? does that mean those 2 are going to be the last 2 in the train for cav? if that’s true, no one is going to beat the manx missle.

  13. James

    I don’t care…I don’t like the sprinting stages much. I don’t know why. Maybe because the sprinters just sit on wheels until the last second and then do their thing. BORING. Climbers and breakaway artistes have their faces in the wind most of the time so it seems they work “harder” for their victories. The flat races just seem so anticlimatic…ooh, ooh there goes Joe and here comes Bob and, ooh, Bill pips them at the line. Does anyone watch flat stages over and over? Maybe it’s just me…

  14. cthulhu

    Who shall beat Cav? He can as mentioned before, win with and without the train. And missing experience is made up by Zabel’s advise.
    I guess, the only one who can beat him in a bunch sprint is Greipel, if he gets the chance, speak he is the lead out and Cav can’t get past him.
    And maybe Henderson from Sky, their train is working already very well, and the boys are fast.
    Hushovd, Boonen, EBH, need a hard race with a hard finish, when it’s kind of last man standing à la Roubiax or Vlaanderen.
    Ferrar. I guess not, Champs Élysées last year is the best prove. I mean I don’t doubt Cav would have won anyway, but that “dominating” finish was thanks to Garmin, those boys rode the last corner like they were lowest level amateurs, actually I haven’t seen such a bad sprint setup by any amateur yet, and stopped the whole peloton. He needs luck to win if Cav is in the field, though he is a promising sprinter.
    McEwen, I fear he is too old and handicapped thanks to his injuries and not as fresh as he once was, but he is a trickser, maybe he can still pull something out of his sleeves.
    I personally hope Ciolek “awakes” this season, ’cause that man is fast, but unfortunately not very clever (at least has been last season). Also he has no train or anything, but maybe Luke Roberts can teach him a thing or two and set him up where he needs to be in the bunch sprint.

  15. Phat Boye Rouleur

    2002 Gent-Wevelgem is an exception to the above…Cippollini bridges up solo like a Moto. One of the Best Ever

  16. Lachlan

    I’ll go a bit further than James… flat sprint stages are ONLY interesting if you have a super dominant fav. (ie Cav) Otherwise there’s no real challenge: no can they / will they / wont they find a way to beat him… just a random lottery among the 5 or so bests sprinters every day, with the only excitment a 2 second bit at the end when you see who actually won in the replay. :o))

    Still watch ’em, but as James says, only ever rewatch the mountains.

  17. CK

    Cavendish will still have a great year but it won’t be as good and others will rise through. The shelf life of a sprinter’s dominance does not last very long before others can match him. I think Greipel will be good but he is still unproven against Hushovd and he won’t race with Cav much. The guy who I think will improve the most is Ciolek. He finally has a proper leadout with Roberts, Kluge, Forster, etc. and he is one that needs it because he really cranks a big gear instead of Cav’s high speed bullet like moves.

  18. R Sager

    Cavendish will continue to pick his victories in 2010 if he and his train continues to have the respect from the peloton as they had in 2009. They got room and time to organize all the sprints. And more than often the other teams ruined their own chances by competing for the spot behind Cav or HTC-Columbias wheel (Champs-Élysées was a perfect example of Garmin doing this as cthulhu mentioned above).

    This year Sky might have the organization to compete, and the Theo Bos/ Thor Hushovd constellation for Cervelo will be exciting. But in the end HTC will collect most of the winnings.

  19. Big Mikey

    I don’t see much changing from last year, frankly. Cavendish is the fastest, with Greipel second, but he’s on the same team. Hushovd isn’t going to win a straight up sprint against Cavendish, and Farrar, while close, ended last year with a gap to close. The other contenders (McEwen, Haussler, Ciolek, etc.) can only hope for an interesting finale (300k classic, uphill finish, crash, etc.) to have a chance.

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