Which World Tour team was the best in the Spring Classics?

Hello again. For the one person desperately clamouring as to where I’ve been, and the lack of any articles about Paris-Roubaix etc, I’m afraid that work for finals and dissertations is finally here, and so bar perhaps a little Giro preview, this will be probably the only thing I write before May 14th. Luckily, I’m free after that, and have too many ideas so prepare for an overload after that date.

So Spring is over for cycling, even if it hasn’t arrived yet meteorologically, given we had Kurnne snowed off, and Milan san-remo almost cancelled due to the white stuff. The classics season hasn’t been that brilliant to be honest – it’s suffered from huge packs just biding their time and not wanting to take risks, presumably because they’re all worried about the hated WorldTour points and don’t want to put people up the road when they can keep everyone in one mass and minimise success. An anonymous 10th is better than a glorious breakaway caught with 5k to go and swallowed to 30th theses days, even if the latter gets far more exposure. Of course, the effective loss of Tom Boonen and no real challenger to Cancellara on the cobbles a la Pozzato for Boonen last year also made things a bit numb. Still, next year should hopefully see Ballan, Cancellara and Boonen all back, although you get the impression we’re moving into a transition period for the cobbled classics, if not the Ardenne as well.

The overawing mood seems to be one of disappointment. BMC and especially Sky promised much, but neither won a single classic, and after Sky’s bawling about their special training camp, they will be especially dissapointed they couldn’t take anything of much value. Belgium as well, were disappointing, landing no major wins for their worst season since 1945, albeit on the back of Gilbert’s 2011and Boonen’s 2012. Similarly, the French and Italians didn’t really sparkle, with the Swiss, Spanish and Slovakian (singular) instead being the stars.

But is that really the case? Statistical analysis shows that BMC were actually one of the best teams, only missing out on the top 10 once, whilst Sky were consistently one of the best teams. Garmin, who salvaged their spring with Liege, will be happy it covers there awful cobbled classics performance, where despite having winners of both the monuments, they couldn’t get in the top 50. The big suprise was that Katusha, who almost lost outon invitations to all the races when they didn’t get their World Tour licence, were the best team overall, with Luca Paolini, Daniel Moreno, Joaquim Rodriguez and Alexandre Kristoff the big guns firing them to classics glory.

Classics Winners:

Milan san-Remo: Gerald CiolekE3 Harelbeke: Fabian Cancellara
Ghent-Whevelghem: Peter Sagan
Tour of Flanders: Fabian Cancellara
Paris-Roubaix: Fabian Cancellara
Amstel Gold: Romain Kreuziger
Fleche Wallone: Daniel Moreno
Liege-Bastonge-Liege: Daniel Martin

proper overall

Here’s the table of results. It’s basically created by ranking the teams on various criteria – how many wins they achieved,how many podiums, how many top 10 placings. However this is done just for their first placed rider. Then, there’s a team classification, based on the positions of their top 3 riders on the day. These were ranked overall, for just the cobbled races, and for just the Ardenne classics (Milan san-remo doesn’t fall into either category). As you can see, Katusha, came out top, with BMC’s consitency snapping at their heels. Unsurprisingly, all the ‘super-teams’ with the big budgets are in the top 6, with Garmin the only exception.

Classics1

This chart shows the position of the teams first rider to the finish in each race. For example, Jurgen Roelandts was Lotto’s first finisher at Milan sanremo, in 16th, so they score 16 for that, whilst Sagan was second for Cannondale, so they score two. There is no first for Milan sanremo as Gerald Ciolek, on MTN Quebeka, the Pro-continental team, won that one. The Gold, silver and bronze highlights represent a podium, whilst green is a top 10 placing.

No team was able to garner a series of top 10 placings across all the classics, although BMC and Radioshack managed it for the 4 cobbled classics, whilst Movistar got someone in the top 10 for the Ardenne. BMC came closest however, with only Philippe Gilbert’s 15th place in Fleche Wallone preventing them from a great run of consistency. However, theres was the bestanyway, as their top placing shows – the average of their positions across all the classics makes them the best classics team in terms of placings. Euskatel, who I gave a token 100 for the two races where they failed to get a rider to the finish, were pretty lame in last, averaging a top placing of only 54th across every race, whilst BMC were on average 6th. Also notable is Cannondale and Radioshacks essential capitulation after the Cobbled races.

classics2

The capitulation of those two teams is demonstrated better by these charts, where they revert from 1st and 5th on the Cobbles to 17th and 18th in the Ardennes. Fabian Cancellara’s epic spring pretty much nailed Radioshack on to win in the cobbled races, although BMC and OPQS were right up there. If Cannondale had managed to get someone in the top 10 at Roubaix, they probably would have won. Oddly, Garmin were the second worst team: they got only one top 20, 20th in Ghent Whevelghem, which given the embarrassment of riches they have for the classics is pretty abysmal. Euskatel bring up the rear with an average best placing of 88th.

In the Ardenne, Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde helped them to the top spot, although Katusha will be pretty happy with their win and 2nd place. Garmin were obviously much better in the Ardenne, as were Euskatel – it was Radioshack who were joint last with Vacansoleil, whilst Ag2Rs Carlos Betancruz bumped them up significantly.

overall team

‘Ah,’ but you might say. ‘That ranking is harsh to the strong teams like OPQS and Sky – they’re the teams we saw lots of, but they dont get the credit ‘cos they didn’t win. Radioshack/Cannondale were a one man team’ etc etc. So to address this, I made a ranking based on looking at the top 3 men from each team. So for instance, if a teams top finishers were 10th, 17th and 23rd, you add them all together and get 50. This figure is added up for every race, then divided by the number of races (8) then by 3 to get the average team placing. The Gold/Silver/Bronze indicates the top three performers on team performance, whilst the black boxes are where a team failed to get three riders to the finish, and were thus awarded 300 points as punishment.

OPQS emerge as the victors by the skin of their teeth over BMC in this, mainly due to their incredible cobbled strength in depth. The interesting ones are Radioshack and Cannondale though – their men in 2nd and 3rd were usually quite high up the rankings, and so they did pretty well as a result.

cobbledteam

Doing the same thing just for the cobbles shows BMC and Omega joint top, although OPQS won more races in this ranking.FDJ punched above their weight to take 4th ahead of teams like Blanco and Sky. Euskatel and Lampre didn’t get three riders to the finish of any cobbled classic, so they’re pretty crap to be honest.

 

atThe best team in the Ardenne was those Katusha boys, with Astana and surprisingly Blanco pushing at their heels. I barely saw Blanco at the front, but they must have been massing there behind. Ag2R were helped by Carlos Betancruz, but the likes of Rinaldo Nocentini kept them up there above Sky and co, whilst BMC slipped down to 12th. Cannondale werent  all that good despite having Moser and Sagan, whilst Lotto, who podiumed with Vanendert last year and won all three in 2011 with Gilbert, were second last ahead of Argos.

cobbles2A ranking of all the components of the classics season makes Radioshack the best team, unsurprisingly, given they were the best in every criteria bar the team, where they were ‘only’ third. BMC and OPQS are next best unsurprisingly, but Garmin coming third last will surely make them buck their ideas up for next year.

ap

The Ardenne chart shows Katusha are the only team to keep the push going through the spring – that’s why they win overall in the ranking. BMC’s lack of support for Gilbert and his lack of real high placings forced them behind the better depth of the likes of Movistar and Astana, whilst suprisingly, Cannondale are pretty low considering that Sagan was a favourite to win two of the three races.

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