Tour de France 2012: Team analysis

Teams come to the Tour with a range of different goals. For the select few, overall victory is the target, whilst for others, a ‘mere’ stage win is sufficient success to take back home. So how did the teams do against both the public’s and their own targets?

Team Sky – A

Stage Wins – 6. Number of Jerseys – 1. Highest placed rider – 1st, Wiggins. Tour Prize Money rank – 1st. Podiums – 31. Finishers – 8. Best result – Wiggins, 1st Overall.

Sky clearly were the best team of the Tour, even if the team classification didn’t reflect it. Nearly a third of the stages, including a time trial, a mountain top finish and a sprint, showed how wide a breadth of talent the team possesses. Whilst signs of possible fractures appeared, with Cavendish seen as unhappy by his Omega Pharma suitors and Froome claiming it was hard not to ride for himself, the team played the team game expertly (aside from Froome’s little flourish on the final mountain stage) and the team can’t be any more pleased with what they have achieved. The only failure was the inability to get both yellow and green – a jersey that looks like it’s going to be very hard for Cavendish to reclaim as long as Peter Sagan is around. Can he be satisfied playing second fiddle to the GC guys whilst racking up those Champs-Elysees wins? An Olympic gold might help somewhat…

Liquigas – A

Stage Wins – 0. Number of Jerseys – 1. Highest placed rider – 3rd, Nibali. Tour Prize Money rank – 2nd. Podiums – 24.  Finishers – 9. Best result – Nibali, 3rd Overall/Sagan, Green jersey.

The mean lime green machine will be pleased with their outing, managing to complete yet another Grand Tour with all 9 riders whilst placing Nibali on the podium and as the only rider within 10 minutes of Wiggins bar his own teammate. More impressively, they made the race, frequently setting up Nibali’s attacks, although a new tactical coach may be required – just like in the Giro, riding your team into the ground before the final climb by sitting on the front has been shown, predictably, to not be that good a tactic. It looks good, but when it doesn’t deliver…Elsewhere, Peter Sagan was the phenomenon everyone predicted. Whilst he apparently doesnt get the Porsche he was promised anymore, three stage wins with increasingly entertaining celebrations, wearing the green jersey everyday but the prologue and taking 141 more points then his best placed rival in the points competition with 421  and his no handed wheelies up mountain stages showed why he is not only brilliant physically but also in terms of entertainment. At just 22, Erik Zabel’s green jersey record looks shaky already – how can you stop a man who can beat the best sprinters but climb Hors Categorie mountains in the front group?!

RadioShack – B

Stage Wins – 1. Number of Jerseys – 0 (Team Prize). Highest placed rider – 6th, Zubeldia. Tour Prize Money rank – 5th. Podiums – 23. Finishers – 6.  Best result – Prologue and week in yellow, Cancellara.

You’re probably asking why RadioShack have got such a good grade, despite losing Frank Schleck to doping allegations and the like. It’s all because we have to look at their results through what they were aiming to do. Of course, with they younger Schleck out the picture, the team was never really aiming for the overall win, or indeed the podium once elder Schleck declared he couldn’t hold the form and the rest of the team got dropped on the first mountain stage. The team essentially had two goals – defending Cancellara’s yellow jersey for as long as possible and the team classification. They succeeded on both, and their commitment to getting on the Paris podium was evidenced when no one dropped back to help Zubeldia, who arguably had a chance if 4th place, when he got dropped on Peragoudes. Still, a week in yellow and the Paris podium is something many other teams would give their children to have, and so in fairness, when not assessed against what might have been, RadioShack deserve plaudits for what they managed to achieve.

Lotto-Belisol – A

Stage Wins – 3. Number of Jerseys – 0. Highest placed rider – 4th, Van den Broeck. Tour Prize Money rank – 3rd. Podiums – 3. Finishers – 9. Best result – Greipel, 3 stage wins.

The Lotto boys, initially panned at the end of last year for splitting up the successful OmegaPharma team, have recorded a great deal more success at the Tour then their Belgian rivals. Andre Greipel, once simply the purveyor of ‘shit small races’, has now taken 4 tour stage wins, and beaten Cavendish in doing so. Indeed, he laid a good claim to being the best sprinter of the race. Van den Broeck was meanwhile the principal animator of the race, attacking feverently to try and move up to the podium after losing 90 seconds to a puncture. Whilst a bad bay on Peragoudes and an out of form Jelle Vanendert put paid to that, the team will be very happy with their prizes.

Europcar – A

Stage Wins – 3. Number of Jerseys – 1. Highest placed rider – 8th, Rolland. Tour Prize Money rank – 6th. Podiums – 13. Finishers – 7. Best result – King of the Mountains, Voeckler.

It was all looking so bad in the first week. Voeckler was on the verge of going home with his ill knee, Rolland was a way down the standings, and a couple of most aggressive rider prizes was all the team had to show in comparison to last years heroics. However, Voeckler recovered, and took probably the most exciting stage of the race into Bellegarde-sur-Valserine with a slow motion sprint, taking the mountains jersey and most aggressive rider prize. He would repeat the same prizes a few days later over the most mountainous stage, winning over the Tourmalet, the Aubisque, Perosauyde and Aspin to tighten his grip on the jersey. And this was after an incredible show of team work on the day after his first victory had catapulted Pierre Rolland to victory at La Toussuire after sterling work by Christope Kern. 3 Stage wins, a jersey, and a top 10. Not bad given their first week.

BMC – B

Stage Wins – 0. Number of Jerseys – 1. Highest placed rider – 5th, Van Garderen. Tour Prize Money rank – 4th. Podiums – 19.  Finishers – 9. Best result – 5th and White jersey, Van Garderen.

A B might be being kind to BMC’s effort given the richness of their resources. Whilst the team was adept at keeping its leaders out of trouble, you can’t help thinking that men like Gilbert should be given some free reign to go for stage wins. BMC have won one stage in their three year existance – not exactly amazing for a team that features more then enough talent to lead various other teams single handedly. Mirroring a trend this year, Evans clearly wasn’t at his best, and though we may have been expecting too much from the defending champion, the teams tactics leave a bit to be desired in hindsight. What if, for instance, Van Garderen, then sitting in 10th place at 5’31, had been allowed to plough on when Evans couldn’t hold his pace? No one appeared to be chasing, and the mind wanders to scenarios of Tejay gaining enough time to haul himself into podium contention. Dreams aside, two men in the top 10 is a solid return, is not  a little underwhelming for the team who came with the aim of winning the title and had bought up talent which had won 4 stages and hauled in 9 days in the yellow jersey between them.

FDJ-BigMatt – A

Stage Wins – 2. Number of Jerseys – 0. Highest placed rider – 10th, Pinot. Tour Prize Money rank – 7th. Podiums – 4. Finishers – 8.  Best result – 10th, Pinot.

FDJ got some Karma after last years valiant effort, where they were in breaks on 16 stages but failed to net a stage win. This year, 22 year old Thibaut Pinot was the race revelation, attacking the favourites by the last week after a fabulous stage win that showcased not only his but boss Marc Madiot’s undying love for the sport. A solid time triallist, Pinot looks a better bet then Pierre Rolland for France given his age, although he still has some developing to do. A fit Pierre Fedrigo was able to double up for FDJ as well, giving their glorious kit the coverage it deserves.

Astana – C

Stage Wins – 0. Number of Jerseys – 0. Highest placed rider -9th, Brajkovic. Tour Prize Money rank – 8th. Podiums – 10.  Finishers – 8. Best result – 9th, Brajkovic

Whilst a top 10 was their goal for Brajkovic, a team with the amount of money Astana possess should really be aiming at some stage wins. Whilst they tried with Vinokourov and Kivierlovski, the team couldn’t pull it off. Kessiakoff tried valiantly to defeat Voeckler for the King of the Mountains, but couldnt drop the plucky Frenchman, or take a stage. For a team featuring Bozic, Grivko and Iglinsky as well, the team will be dissapointed – perhaps this is why either the Schlecks or Nibali are coming next year.

Garmin-Sharp – C

Stage Wins – 1. Number of Jerseys – 0. Highest placed rider -35th, Martin. Tour Prize Money rank – 13th. Podiums – 2.  Finishers – 6. Best result – stage win, Millar.

Garmin are meant to be the producers of the ‘suprise of the Tour’, having placed a different rider in the top 10 the last 4 years. After last years annus mirabilis, where they won the team time trial, a sprint with Tyler Farrar, two stages with Tour Hushovd and the team classification as well Tom Danielson’s top 10, this year was poor. Farrar’s win last year was his last win full stop – not exactly a great return for a sprinter, and Farrar seems increasingly likely to finish outside the top 5. Dan Martin was massively overhyped by the team and press, when even at last years Vuelta he looked awful (not just through his style) in taking a stage win. 35th at a hour and 25 minutes isn’t brilliant for a rider who favours the lumpy stages this Tour had in abundance.

Orica-GreenEge – D

Stage Wins – 0. Number of Jerseys – 0. Highest placed rider -72nd, Weening. Tour Prize Money rank – 10th. Podiums – 0.  Finishers – 8. Best result – 2nd on various stages, Goss

Whilst GreenEdge as we continue to call them made no bones about how they didn’t care about the GC, there team was packed with stage winning talent – the on form Albasini, the super fast Goss, the breakaway specialists O’Grady and Langeveld, the lover of lumps Gerrans. And yet the team barely featured in breaks, choosing instead to lead out Matt Goss to win intermediate sprints as they targeted Green, only to then lose when they did the same at the finish. Even in the third week, no one seemed keen to go in a break. A la Sky in their first year, the expectations were perhaps too great, but this team was arguably more talented.

Movistar – B

Stage Wins – 1. Number of Jerseys – 0. Highest placed rider -18th, Costa. Tour Prize Money rank – 14th. Podiums – 2.  Finishers – 8. Best result – Stage Win, Valverde.

Valverde rescued his and the teams tour after a series of near misses. Having pronounced he was going for the win all year, an odd statement given how awful he is on a time trial bike, Valverde quietly revised that to the podium after a couple of days, although even that was laughable. A stage win was about the best they could hope for as Cobo and Valverde failed to keep up with the front groups. But now they have their talisman back and he hasn’t delivered as planned, what now for the team?

Katusha – D

Stage Wins – 0. Number of Jerseys – 0. Highest placed rider -15th, Menchov. Tour Prize Money rank – 19th. Podiums – 0.  Finishers – 7. Best result – 15th, Menchov.

Katusha continue to flatter to deceive. Menchov had another bad year, failing to get into the podium/top 5 slot that would have made the Tour a success. He is now surely finished as a Grand Tour contender. What was more dissapointing was that the team apparently didn’t want to salvage to Tour with a stage win once their leader had collapsed, choosing to have a bit of a sulk instead. Sure, they’d lost Freire and Gusev, their best bets for stage wins, but they could have at least given it a go.

Euskatel-Euskadi – E

Stage Wins – 0. Number of Jerseys – 0. Highest placed rider -17th, Martinez. Tour Prize Money rank – 15th. Podiums – 0.  Finishers – 5. Best result – 17th, Martinez

Euskatel completely failed after last years good show. After losing Sanchez, they only attacked in the Pyrenees, and didn’t even net a most aggressive rider prize or a day on the podium.

Lampre-ISD – E

Stage Wins – 0. Number of Jerseys – 0. Highest placed rider -24th, Scarponi. Tour Prize Money rank – 18th. Podiums – 0.  Finishers – 4. Best result – 24th, Scarponi

One of a couple of teams you wouldn’t have noticed were in the race if you weren’t looking carefully. Scarponi tried some decent digs to take a stage, but that was all.

AG2R – C

Stage Wins – 0. Number of Jerseys – 0. Highest placed rider -12th, Roche. Tour Prize Money rank – 12th. Podiums – 0.  Finishers – 8. Best result – 12th, Roche

Ag2R have yet to get back to the dizzy heights of Rinaldo Nocentini’s week in Yellow in 2010, but 12th with Roche is a reasonable return, even though it probably is the riders limit. Oddly, Roche had talked about going for stages last year, saying the GC had little reward, and whilst he did try to take a win that Cavendish was to take with a late attack, the rest of the team were just as poor in getting anywhere near the front. Still, better then Cofidis.

Rabobank – C

Stage Wins – 1. Number of Jerseys – 0. Highest placed rider -28th, Ten Dam. Tour Prize Money rank – 11th. Podiums – 2.  Finishers – 5. Best result – Stage Win, L.L. Sanchez

Rabobank had their best riders wiped out by crashes and illness – witness the loss of Gesink, Mollema and Renshaw. Still, Sanchez set around single handedly salvaging the race with his now annual stage win, before taking 3rd in the final time trial. In between, he took time out to moan about Sky wanting to win everything when he tried some late breakaways. Rabobank will be hoping the curse that seems to befall Gesink whenever he enters the race will lift soon.

SaxoBank-TinkoffBank – B

Stage Wins – 0. Number of Jerseys – 0. Highest placed rider -50th, Paulinhio. Tour Prize Money rank – 9th. Podiums – 10.  Finishers – 9. Best result – Week in KOM Jersey, Morkov

Whilst they wanted to win stages, SaxoBank still did reasonably well at the Tour. They were evident in most of the breaks, and the die hard spirit of Chris Anker Sorenson was deserving of the super combativity prize.Not that his own team mate, Michael Morkov, was probably that pleased – the Dane spent 841km, some 24% of the race, in breaks, and wrapped up the King of the Mountains competition for the first week of the Tour. Their attacking endeared them to the public, and Riis will be pleased this was just a year if transistion before he gets Contador back. But with few WorldTour points taken, the team still languish at the bottom of the league…

Cofidis- E

Stage Wins – 0. Number of Jerseys – 0. Highest placed rider -36th, Taarame Tour Prize Money rank – 17th. Podiums – 3.  Finishers – 7. Best result – Early promise of Taarame and day in White.

After a week, Cofidis must have been salavating. Rein Taaramae looked good to challenge for the podium, or at least the top 10. But this illusion quickly fell apart, and the mood of the tour was summed up when David Moncutie crashed out in his final tour, having tried a break away to save the race for the team. Dumoulin tried valiantly for  a stage win, but the team simply isn’t good enough at this level.

Omega Pharma Quick Step – D

Stage Wins – 0. Number of Jerseys – 0. Highest placed rider -32nd, Leiphemier. Tour Prize Money rank – 16th. Podiums – 0.  Finishers – 7. Best result – 3rd, Prologue, Chavanel.

OPQS just can’t seem to catch any luck in the Tour recently. Ever since 2007, where Boonen took the Green jersey, the team have struggled. This year though, with Chavanel, Leiphemier and Tony Martin, they were surely hoping for great things. But they never materialised. Martin punctured in the prologue when he’d had the best time, giving the Specialised mechanics who’d made him use their new tyre look uneasy, and even more so when the same thing happenned in the long TT. Chavanel took 3rd, but the team missed the team lead, and that was how things would continue. Martin and Chavanel would leave, broken and injured, whilst Leipheimer clearly couldn’t cut it. Next year maybe?

Saur-Sojasun – E

Stage Wins – 0. Number of Jerseys – 0. Highest placed rider -21st, Coppel. Tour Prize Money rank – 21st. Podiums – 0.  Finishers – 8. Best result – 21st, Coppel.

Yes, they were in the race. The plan supposedly fell apart when the leader Coppel got ill, but they were barely even noticeable. History will record they were there, but no one will remember them. Time to stop inviting them

Vacansoleil-DCM – E

Stage Wins – 0. Number of Jerseys – 0. Highest placed rider -41st, Valls. Tour Prize Money rank – 22nd. Podiums – 0.  Finishers – 4. Best result – 41st, Valls.

After such a successful Giro, Vacansoleil must have had high hoped for the Tour. Most of their stage winning talent got injured however, and left just 4 riders to limp into Paris to under 10,000 euros of prize money. It speaks volumes that the team is still best remembered for Hoogerland’s crash last year. Not exactly what they want their place in Tour history to be, but they should get a stage in next year.

Argos Shimano – D

Stage Wins – 0. Number of Jerseys – 0. Highest placed rider -103rd, De Kort. Tour Prize Money rank – 20th. Podiums – 0.  Finishers – 6. Best result – 3rd, Stage, Veelers.

Having lost Marcel Kittel, Argos were effectively ruined, as the ill sprinter was what they had built the team around. Tom Veelers got a podium finish on a couple of stages, and Patrick Gretsch led the final TT for a while, but the loss of Kittel meant the team was basically just trying to finish the race.

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