With the classics done where do different teams stand? As the chart above shows there’s a difference between the quantitative and the qualitative with some scoring numerous wins but often at a lower level.
Also with the Tour de France wildcards being announced soon, below is a look at the second division pro continental teams.
Whilst Liège-Bastogne-Liège took place underneath bare trees and there’s a great summer of cycling ahead, remember that the calendar is loaded with races in the early season. By now we had one third of the year’s total number of race days. Of course there’s a bias to calendar with the early season loaded with classics that suit a particular type of rider and arguably, particular teams. Now that the spring classics are over the roads are heading for hills and then over to the mountains so the nature of the sport is changing.
I’d speculated before whether Rabobank’s withdrawal would make the Blanco riders more hungry for results but we can see Vacansoleil-DCM is facing the loss of its sponsor and this hasn’t created the results, the Dutch campers have only one win between them so far.
The likes of BMC Racing and Saxo-Tinkoff are languishing for now but note that BMC’s budget is about double that of the Danish team. Bjarne Riis and colleagues have created a relatively high profile team thanks to careful signings and the obvious presence of Alberto Contador. But there are questions of ambitions and targets, for example FDJ has eleven wins but how many of them can you remember? They’ve won six race in April but whilst most people watch the big classics, FDJ have been taking local races, for example yesterday Mickaël Delage won La Roue Tourangelle.
As ever it almost goes without saying that quality matters more than quantity both in terms of publicity but also for precious ranking points. As much as OPQS lead the table, we have to go back to 2007 when Patrick Lefevere “only” got one podium in the spring monuments plus the Amstel and the team this year was saved by Niki Terpstra’s Roubaix podium. In fact to take this away from teams and go to nations, we have to go back to 1918 for the last time the Belgians didn’t win a significant spring classic.
Looking ahead it’s hard to see OPQS being overtaken. Mark Cavendish is about to come back from a break meaning stage wins in the Tour de Romandie and Giro await. Team Sky have big ambitions for the Giro and Tour but there might be few wins along the way, a time trial here, a mountain stage there and the squad’s sprinting power is diminished this year.
The UCI’s second division has 20 teams but so far only 15 have won so far this year. Europcar leads by a long way, with more wins than the next three squads combined. The team is hunting for a new sponsor and must surely offer the best value for money in the sport: success, guaranteed entry into the Tour de France and pretty much scandal free since the day Jean-René Bernaudeau started his pro management career. But Europcar remain resolutely French with a focus on domestic races, winning in the Etoile de Bessèges or the Circuit de la Sarthe with the only World Tour win coming from Damien Gaudin’s in the Paris-Nice prologue. By contrast MTN-Qhubeka have four wins but one of those is the invaluable Milan-Sanremo.