Who are the sponsor? Giant are, as the name suggests, the worlds biggest bicycle making company. Shimano are the Japanese cycle componentry powerhouse who make Dura-Ace, Ultegra 105 and the like.
2013 Ranking: 16th
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. 2012 was less succesful for him however, falling ill at the Tour, and it was instead John Deglenkob that shone, winning 5 sprints at the Vuelta as well as sneaking 4th in Milan San Remo.
Last year: The team had a phenomenally successful year on the road that belied there 16th place ranking in the WorldTour. Kittel won the first stage of the talent packed Tour of Oman, as well as another Scheldeprijs, beating Mark Cavendish. He then rattled off a couple of stages of the Tour of Turkey before Deglenkob took the first of the teams seven Grand Tour wins across all three races at the Giro. Kittel set himself up for the Tour by winning the Tour of Picardie, then went to the Tour in belting form, taking four stages and becoming the first man to win the first and last stages since Thor Hushovd in 2006. This of course meant he wore yellow for a day, which was slightly overshadowed by the faff around Orica’s team bus, but by the time he won on the Champs Elysees, Kittel was being talked up as the man to finally end Mark Cavendish’s domination. The end of the year saw only one more Kittel win, taking his total to 16 for the year, before Tom Dumoulin almost won the ENECO Tour. Warren Barguil then won two stages of the Vuelta, including a last gasp triumph against Rigoberto Uran, before Deglenkob trounced everyone at Paris Tours by going with the attacks and still winning the sprint. The team even had good sponsorship news – they were, they said, able to ask Argos to step aside for another sponsor to come in, and promised to unveil them in 2014. However problems meant both Argos and the mystery sponsor never returned, and it was left to Giant, the bike sponsor, to increase it’s stake in the team.
Transfer dealings: Argos have decided to stick with what they have, with no major losses or signings.
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. The two are now more distinct then they were previoulsy, with Kittel the pure sprinting machine and Deglenkob more of a powerhouse who can get over hills and cobbles with relative ease before asphyxiating everyone at the finish. The teams other Grand Tour stage winner, Warren Barguil, is a puncheur, whilst 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, Tom Dumoulin, Koen De Koert and Tom Stamsnijder. An underrated man is Luka Mezgec, who scored 5 second places and was third of three stages of the Giro d’Italia.
Fashion police: 1t4i is gone it seems replaced with what looks like a template from the Blanco kit of last year, especially the shorts, but otherwise it looks a little like they didn’t have much time to come up with an image, which of course they didn’t. They now look like Juventus/Newcastle United/Notts County, but at least its predominately white and modern. It doesnt really need the blue in it though.
What are their targets? Getting Kittel back on the winning train again, and establishing him as the number one sprinter in the world, perhaps with a crack at some Giro stage wins before pulling out and going for the Tour at full bore. Again, the interesting thing will be what to do with Deglenkob. Presumably he will get leadership in the classics, particularly the lumpy classics like Paris Tours. The problem is he’s already won these, so presumably he’s going to want to get some opportunities on bigger stages like the Tour at some point. The team will also be keen to get Kittel to actually celebrate his wins – he spends most fo the time with his hands still on the bars, which isn’t exactly marketable.
What are they likely to achieve? Kittel is a guaranteed win factory, as long as he stays on his leadout train, which he has a habit of dropping off occcasionaly. Deglenkob is due a breakthrough, but its tricky to see where it could come – Milan San Remo is a candidate, but he could do with a Tour stage win or the like, which he is more then capable of. The rest of the team is usually dedicated to these two, but excpect people like Barguil and Mezgec to get some extra wins.
Components: Giant and Shimano are the teams bike and components providers, and Giant also seem to be making the kit, replacing Pearl Izumi.
The Big Question(s): Is Kittel now the best sprinter in the world? Will Deglenkob’s talent be properly utilised?