Ah, the UCI. Not only did they tear up the Olympic rule book and remove the Individual Pursuit from the program having removed the Kilo TT as well, they also decided that the most important things to do in the sport were to stop overshoes going more than halfway up people’s calves and that saddles could only have a degree of tilt in them, as well as deciding to mess us the last Track Worlds and Olympic Women’s team sprint by just disqualifying everyone…heaven knows the carnage that’s going to turn out once the sprint gets underway and they demote everyone for moving an inch out of their line.
Away from the track, the UCI decided that for reasons as yet unexplained, teams were only allowed to announce transfers from the 1st of August, were as previously, teams did it when they wanted, usually during the Tour de France. Combined with their marvelous points system which ruins the whole season and just makes it so that whichever team has the best budget succeeds as they can buy all the talent, and of course the riders want the security and money those teams can provide, this makes everything quite a pickle, although hypocrite Jonathan Vaughters can’t quite decide whether he loves it or not – the result is what he’s been campaigning for, yet he still moans about it somehow. Weird.
Anyway, now that the date has passed, we can finally start to see who is going where. Personally however, I think the more interesting thing is to think about who should go where, and consider what the teams actually need. To anyone who has played the frighteningly addictive ProCycling Manager, they’ll know this is the best part of the season really – trying to lure those riders you see potential in away from other teams, preferably with very low salaries, whilst simultaneously trying to ensure your big star doesn’t move to FDJ for reasons unknown. So here’s some thoughts on where riders should be going, although baring in mind that many of the deals will already have been done:
Team Nucleus: Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, Mark Cavendish, Geraint Thomas, Edvald Boassen Hagen
It’s tricky to see where Sky can really improve. They will probably lose Michael Rodgers to GreenEdge, Flecha to Vacansoleil and have already lost David Appolliono to Ag2R, but will they lose Cavendish as well? If the rumours are true, its certainly possible, and if we’ve learnt anything over the last couple of years, it’s that rumours usually have some substance behind them. If they keep Cavendish, it’s unlikely they’ll do too much business – the core of their team is so strong, with Wiggins, Froome and Porte for GC and Thomas, Boassen Hagen and Stannard in the classics. Even if they do lose him, they’ll probably simply concentrate on developing what they have.
Suggested buys: Jens Voigt (RadioShack)
Dream buys: Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack)
Team Nucleus: Cadel Evans, Tejay Van Garderen, Phillipe Gilbert, Greg Van Avermant, Taylor Phinney
BMC continued the super team trend that showed that money doesn’t always buy you success, something that Sky discovered in their first year and Leopard-Trek discovered (and still are) through out their existence. With the defending Tour de France champion, the most successful rider of the previous year in Gilbert and Thor Hushovd on their roster, everyone was expecting BMC to destroy everything in sight and take most of the classics. Instead, they’ve so far taken none, with only one Tour stage win in their history. So what to do? Van Garderen and Evans will be powerful contenders in grand Tours, but Hushovd was already looking a bit past it in the classics in his year at Garmin, let alone BMC. You get the feeling they’d be better off developing Phinney, a double U23 winner of Roubaix, now that he has got the Olympics behind him, and working to get Gilbert back to form. Van Avermant may be keen to move away from the man he left OmegaPharma to avoid anyway mind. The classics squad needs some boosting despite the big names, and if Cavendish is free, they’d probably go for yet another past World Champion, although he wouldn’t get in their Tour squad.
Suggested buys: Gregory Rast (RadioShack), Alexander Kristoff (Katusha, no idea why they got rid of him in the first place!)
Dream buys: Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack), Mark Cavendish (Sky)
Team Nucleus: Peter Sagan, Ivan Basso, Elia Viviani, Moreno Moser, Daniel Oss
With Nibali gone, Liquigas will, if the team continues anyway, be left with arguably the worlds best rider, Peter Sagan, who can essentially ride for himself as well. That leaves the team free to build around the aging Basso’s last chance saloon ride in the Giro. Elsewhere, the team has very strong young talent avaliable to develop in Viviani, Oss and especially Moreno Moser. It would be nice to see them buy in some talent however, and although my dream of them merging with Lampre to create an Italian super team would be a strong move, they are still probably just going to go for a couple of young Italians. Some more sprinters would be good, as would bringing back a past classics star…
Suggested buys: Andrea Guardini (ISD), Sacha Modolo (Colnago), Fillipo Pozzato (Farnese-Vini)
Team Nucleus: Matthew Goss, Simon Gerrans, Sebastian Langeveld, Leigh Howard, Luke Durbridge
The Aussies look like they’re on a similar plan to Sky, building a team over a few years to get the team they want. Whilst they’ve missed out on Porte, Michael Rodgers would be a good buy off Sky, whilst they could try to lure Matthew Hayman away as well to boost their classics squad. With Rabobank in a bit of crisis, it wouldn’t be a suprise to see Michael Matthews make the move across at some point as well. The teams youth, coming out of the Olympics, will be key to their success in years to come.
Suggested buys: Matthew Hayman (Team Sky) , Michael Rodgers (Team Sky) , Michael Matthews (Rabobank), Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Sharp)
Dream buys: Cadel Evans (BMC), Richie Porte (Team Sky)
Team Nucleus: Tom Boonen, Sylvain Chavanel, Tony Martin, Niki Terpstra, Peter Velits
We can safely say that OPQS’s classics team needs little reinforcement, but the forever pesky Grand Tour team continues to be a nail in their side. Over the years, they’ve tried Jose Rujano, Michael Rodgers, Juan Manuel Garate, Richard Virenque…and this year they had Levi Leipheimer, who finished on the podium 5 years previously but was never going to repeat that form. Tony Martin might be able to develop into more of a GC rider at some point, but I doubt it – OPQS would be better suited looking at the Velits twins. More intriguingly though, they appear to be best suited to nab Cavendish – something that would deliver them a near guarenteed Tour stage win, something they haven’t had for some time (2008 by my count). They do have a history of poaching riders from rivals Lotto, so maybe they could poach their GC riders.
Suggested buys: Maxime Monfort (RadioShack)
Dream buys: Mark Cavendish (Team Sky), Jurgen Van den Broeck, Jelle Vanendert (Lotto Belisol)
Team Nucleus: Vincenzo Nibali, Robert Kivierlovski, Maxim Iglinisky, Enrico Gassporotto, Janez Brajkovic
Having all ready confirmed the signing of Nibali, and with Olympic Road Race champ Vinokourov retiring (for the third time?!), it’s something of a new era for Astana without their talisman. Luckily they have a strong team already, and will be keen to mirror their classics success with Iglinsky and Gassporotto. Their Grand Tour ambitions will be helped by Nibali, but will he now go for his home race, the Giro, rather then the Tour? If so, then a move for Andy Schleck is still on, as rumoured…
Suggested buys: Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil, to add to their Italian contingent), Domenico Pozzovivo (Colnago, the Italian deserves a big team move, perhaps Astana will be the ones to take him on?) Jacob Fugslang (RadioShack)
Dream buys: Andy Schleck (RadioShack)
Team Nucleus: Alberto Contador, Nicholas Roche, Nick Nuyens, Juan Hose Haedo, Chris Anker Sorenson
Saxo are back to concentrating on one man by the looks of things, despite how that strategy has played out this year, with the team languishing at the bottom of the ProTeam standings. Somehow, the team has found money through Tinkoff and Oleg Tinkov to fund new riders, and the buying in of Nicholas Roche, as well as the rumoured Romain Kreuziger, Matti Breshel and possibly Jacob Fugslang. Riis is obviously still a big pull, and the team will be back to its usual strength at this rate.
Suggested Buys: Romain Kreuziger (Astana), Matti Breschel (Rabobank), Jacob Fugslang (RadioShack)
Dream buys: Jens Voigt, Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack)
Team Nucleus: Denis Menchov, Joaquim Rodriguez, Daniel Moreno, Alexandr Kolobnev, Mikhail Ignatiev
For all their money, Katusha have really flatlined the last few years. Whilst Rodriguez has been their Bastion, they clearly want Russian success, but would do better to look at the other talents avaliable to them. Moreno is hugely under rated, and of they could only get Kolobnev to get on the form he has in the Olympics or Worlds in other one day races, they would be onto a winner. Getting rid of an unhappy Pozzato ruined their classics campaigns on the cobbles, and so they need to look there. Rodriguez is still key though.
Suggested Buys: Matti Breschel (RaboBank), JJ Rojas (Movistar) Bjorn Leukmans (VacanSoleil)
Team Nucleus: Ryder Hesjedal, David Millar, Sep Vanmarke, Daniel Martin, Andrew Talanksy
Van de Velde is simply past it, as much as he keeps claiming he can do well in a major tour. Whilst the trend is increasingly to keep going a long way into the thirties for GC riders, the trend is also that this is followed by a decline in performance (see Messrs Armstrong, Leipheimer, Horner). So instead, Garmin has Hesjedal and Talansky for GC, although they’ll no doubt be keen to point out that Dan Martin is one as well: er, no. He should concentrate in his podiums in the hilly classics – as riders dont seem to realise and Paolo Bettini knew, 20th-6th in a grand tour is worthless compared to victories in races such as Liege or Lombardy. The classics team looks good still with Vanmarcke, and if Haussler ever returns to his 2009 form, so expect to see few buys from them.
Suggested buys: Brent Bookwalter (BMC), Matthew Busche (RadioShack), Benjamin King (RadioShack)
Dream buys: Tejay Van Garderen (BMC)