2013 Ranking: 9th
Past Stars: Danilo Di Luca, Vincenzo Nibali, Daniele Bennati, Romain Kreuziger, Robert Kiserlovski, Franco Pellizotti
Selected Team Palmares: Green Jersey 2012 & 2013 Tour de France , Stages, Tour de France 2012 x 3, 2013,Stages, Vuelta a Espana 2011 x 3, 2013 Ghent Whevelghem, 2013 GP Montreal (Peter Sagan), Strade Bianche 2013, 2012 Tour of Poland (Moreno Moser), Stages, Giro d’Italia (2010 Ivan Basso, 2011, Eros Capecchi),Stage, Vuelta a Espana 2013 (Danielo Ratto)
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, plus having men like Kreuizger and Pellizotti to deliver good placings. After 2013, when theylost Nibali and some of his supporting cast., their stage race strength is somewhat diminished however as they increasingly focus on punchy, aggressive riders who can deliver wins, not results.
Last year: A year without Nibali meant that Sagan would be the main man, and he delivered 22 wins as a result in the Tour, Ghent Whevelghem, the Tour de Suisse, Oman, California and Montreal. However he was 2nd in Milan San Remo and the Tour of Flanders, which meant only Moreno Moser’s Strade Bianche win (with Sagan second) was their rough road success aside from Sagan’s wheelie-impressive (see what i did there…) display at Ghent Whevelghem. The Tour wasn’t the roaring success it was in 2012, with ‘only’ one stage win from Sagan (who was injured after a crash in Corsica) after a team time trial across the entirety of a stage, and a run away points victory that was so expected it was almost dull and publicity free, requiring the green dye to be broken out for Sagan to gain much recognition for the achievement, perhaps because the green of Cannondale looked little different with a green jersey on it. No wins in the Giro were remedied by Sagan’s success in California, before Ratto’s odd foot out descending style won him a Vuelta stage. Rumours linking the team to Fernando Alonso then began to peak and trough as Sagan couldn’t get into the required form to win the Worlds.
Transfer dealings: Pretty much just swapping Italians out, the team has bought in Oscar Gatto, but the most exciting prospect is Matej Mahoric, the U23 and Junior World Champion the last two years.
Who are the star riders? The undisputed leader of the team is 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. There’s also Matej Mahoric, who is in the Sagan mould.
Fashion police: They’ve kept exactly the same kit as 2013, which is odd, because it seemed to be a bodge job done quickly. Still, it’ll keep people who bought it happy.
What are their targets? Sagan desperately wants to win a Mounment, because everyone thinks he’s a failure if he doesnt despite his crazy amount of wins. Milan San Remo and the Tour of Flanders are the targets, before he goes for a third straight green jersey. Basso still thinks he can win the Giro or the Tour, but then he said that last year and it didn’t start the former or finish the latter. Moser wants tosteadily improve and Mahoric will just want to see what level he is at professionally. The other target will be keeping Sagan on the team – Fernando Alonso has seemingly made him a prime target for his new squad, and though there are rumours that Cannondale might become one with Alonso’s squad, keeping their star rider is key to their survival.
What are they likely to achieve? Surely this is the year that Sagan will win a Monument – Ghent Whevelghem was a stepping stone, and Milan San Remo looks like his best chance. That said, he will have to overcome Boonen, Cancellara, Gilbert and co to triumph, which is perhaps a point to raise with those who seem to think he should have already won everything under the sun. It’s tricky to see him not winning Green again as well, although stage wins might be harder to come by. Basso will be lucky to get near a podium, let alone top one, and everyone else will be putting their backs into helping Sagan.
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 finally win a Monument? Can they keep hold of him if Alonso comes calling.