Who are the sponsor? Argos is a Dutch Oil company that operates in the North Sea, and has bases in the lowland European countries. Shimano are the Japanese cycle componentry powerhouse who make Dura-Ace, Ultegra 105 and the like.
2012 Ranking: 1st, UCI ProContinental Ranking.
Past Stars: Kenny Van Hummel, Jonathan Hivert.
Selected Team Palmares: Stages, Vuelta a Espana (John Deglenkob x 5, 2012, Marcel Kittel x1, 2011) UCI Europe Tour 2012 (John Deglenkob), Scheldeprijis 2012 (Marcel Kittel)
Brief Team History: Born in 2005, they inherited the Skil sponsor, but are not to be confused with the team Skil had sponsored in the eighties. As Skil-Shimano, they toiled in the Proconti ranks, until they got an invite to the Tour in 2009, where they didn’t really do an awful lot to be honest, except that Kenny Van Hummel was called the ‘worst climber in the history of the race’ by L’Equipe. They got invited back the next year and were rubbish as well, so didn’t get in for 2011. Luckily, Marcel Kittel spent 2011 winning races for fun, becoming the most successful neo-pro in history.
Last year: The year started with the team wearing ‘1t4i’ jerseys as it was revealed that Skil were leaving, but a new sponsor would be coming in. A glorious white kit was brought in, and they got themselves a Tour invitation. Unfortunately, star Marcel Kittel got ill, and they hadn’t brought John Deglenkob, who won all but one sprint stage of the Vuelta as the team enjoyed a late surge – Deglenkob had become the star, from 4th in Milan San Remo to 4th in Paris-Tours after he rode away from the peloton when he realised he had a better chance of catching them himself. Kittel did get into a bit of a spat about doping when it emerged he had had a blood treatment done when he was ill a few years back, but it was before it was illegal, so it quickly blew over.
Transfer dealings: Argos have decided to stick with what they have, with no major losses or signings. Thomas Peterson, previously of Garmin, is their foray into the GC market.
Who are the star riders? There’s basically two men the squad is based around, their terrible teutonic twins in Marcel Kittel and John Deglenkob. Both claim, as all sprinters do, not to be ‘pure sprinters’, and indeed, neither are – Kittel was a TT rider until he began dropping the men he was meant to lead out, and Deglenkob is a burly classics machine. Both have explosive finishes however, and can win from a group of any size. Thomas Peterson is the team’s excersise in a GC rider, although he still needs to develop, then they have an assortment of attacking riders such as Simon Geschke, Patrick Gretsch, Koen De Koert and Tom Stamsnijder.
Fashion police: An updated kit removes the light green 1t4i regalia, which is a great shame, and emphasises the Shimano logo alot more. The majority of the kit is still white though, so they get excellent marks from me anyway.
What are their targets? Wins, and lots of them, utilizing Kittel and Deglenkob to the best of their abilities. Milan San-Remo will be a big target, especially after Deglenkob did so well, and I’d allready have money on him if I was a betting man. Then, with a ProTeam license, they will now want Grand Tour stage wins given they’re automatically invited. Deglenkob and Kittel will have to coexist at the Tour, but will want a win each as well as some of the flatter classics.
What are they likely to achieve? Still seen as underdogs, Argos could spring surprises if Kittel is back up to steam after an injury and illness hit year. They should get one stage in the Tour between the Germans, and Deglenkob may turn out to be Sagan’s best challenger for green, before they go wrap up some of the flatter classics such as Scheldprijs and Paris-Tours. Hopefully the rest of the team will make use of the time they spend not leading out the sprinters to get on the attack and win some races.
Components: Argos ride Felt bikes, and, as the secondary sponsor is Shimano, everything else is provided by the Japanese brand. Pearl Izumi make the lovely white kit.
The Big Question(s): Can Kittel return to winning ways? Can he and Deglenkob share leadership at the Tour?