2013 Team Previews: Cannondale

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Who are the sponsor? Cannondale are a USA bike manufacturer.

Nationality: They’re still technically Italian, but with a new American sponsor, they seem to be claiming to be from the USA what with their swanky LA launch.

2012 Ranking: 3rd (as Liquigas-Cannondale)

Past Stars: Danilo Di Luca, Vincenzo Nibali, Daniele Bennati, Romain Kreuziger, Robert Kiserlovski, Franco Pellizotti

Selected Team Palmares: 1st, Giro d’Italia (2007, Danilo Di Luca, 2010, Ivan Basso), 1st, 2011 Vuelta a Espana (Vincenzo Nibali),  Green Jersey 2012 Tour de France (Peter Sagan), 1st, 2012 Tirreno-Adriatico (Vincenzo Nibali), Stages, Giro d’Italia (2010 x3, TTT, Vincenzo Nibali, Ivan Basso, 2011, Eros Capecchi), Stages, Tour de France (2012 x 3, Peter Sagan), Stages, Vuelta a Espana (2011 x 3, Peter Sagan).

Brief Team History: Liquigas have been around since 1999, and 2013 will be the first year they do not feature the Liquigas name in their title. Traditionally they’ve very much been a stage racing team, winning the Giro through Di Luca and Basso and coming close with Basso and Nibali. As of 2013, their stage race strength is somewhat diminished however as they increasingly focus on punchy, aggressive riders who can deliver wins, not results.

Last year: Liquigas had two of the men of the year in Nibali and Sagan. After Basso and Nibali eventually settled to go for the Giro and Tour respectively after a brief tetchy period where they both wanted to do the Giro, things settled down as Sagan rattled off top 5 places in Milan San-Remo, the Tour of Flanders and Amstel Gold, before Basso and Liquigas rode on the front an awful lot at the Giro but could only deliver the Italian to 5th overall. Meanwhile, Nibali had been building, with 3rd in Milan San-Remo after winning Tirrenno Adriatico, then being caught at the last in Liege-Bastonge-Liege. As a result, we was the only man who tried to win the Tour against the might of Sky, his reward being third place as Sagan rattled off a set of increasingly daring stage celebrations on his way to the green jersey. The season fizzled out after that, but Basso was still on hand to deliver a win in the Japan Cup to close out the Liquigas years.

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Sagan won 17 races last year.

Transfer dealings: In Nibali, Cappechi, Szymd and Agnoli, Cannondale have lost a the heart of their stage racing squad to Astana and co in one fell swoop, with Daniel Oss also leaving. Nibali leaves a huge hole in the team, with Basso now surely at the end of his career, but despite the inability or unwillingness of the team to replace these riders, they still have young talent in Sagan, Moser and co to look after and push through to stardom.

Who are the star riders? The undisputed leader of the team is now Peter Sagan, who can win pretty much any individual stage if he wants it seems, be it flat, mountainous or cobbled. Ivan Basso remains the last survivor of the old Italian guard, and will get a decent placing in a Grand Tour, but the Italian youth in Moreno Moser, similar to Sagan in his weaponry, will be seen more often during the year, as will sprinter Elia Viviani.

Fashion police: The Liquigas lime-green has always received a mixed reception, and they essentially relegated it last year behind white and blue. This year though, its back in an even more putrid shade in a kit that looks like it was cobbled together at the last minute, even though they’ve had quite a while to come up with it. Still, it stands out, even if they still insist on national champions kits that blend into the normal one rather then emphasise the rider’s achievements.

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What are their targets? Basso has promised his fans a Pink or Yellow jersey before the end of his career, and Sagan will want to win a monument, of which he is spoilt for choice, with San-Remo, Flanders and Lombardy all suiting him well. However, he thinks the World’s will be too hard for him this year, so he’ll probably end the year with another green jersey in a shoot out with Mark Cavendish. Moser will be after a break through win somewhere as well.

What are they likely to achieve?  Sorry Ivan, but I can’t see him winning the Giro, let alone finishing on the podium with the myriad of stars lining up to race the event. Sagan however will rattle off Milan San Remo, or at least get on the podium, before suprising people at Flanders, which Moser will hopefully also ride. Then it’s off to the Tour and more guarenteed Sagan wins if he rides, but whether he wins Green will depend if OPQS get Cavendish to the sprint finishes or not.

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Components: They ride Cannondale bikes such as the SuperSix EVO, with SRAM red gearing and FSA components. Sugoi make the kit.

The Big Question(s): Can Sagan mantain his edge over his rivals and continue to develop? Can Basso really challenge for a Grand Tour win?

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