August is the busiest month of the year with more days of racing than in April and it’s hard to stop and count the wins but today is as good as any. Plus if things keep up the chart will get even more skewed by OPQS’s win rate.
OPQS are the statistical outlier with 50 wins so far, a tale of quality and quantity. Stage wins in the Tour de France, spring classics and plenty more and so far 14 riders have contributed to the success, or even 16 if you include the two extra riders who helped win the team time trial in Tirreno-Adriatico who have yet to win a race themselves so far this year. It all looks set to continue with rich backers, sponsorship renewals and a judicious development and recruitment program that’s bringing on riders like Julian Alaphilippe.
On to the rest of the results and they speak for themselves. Giant-Shimano are a winning machine but it wasn’t that long ago that they were struggling to stay in the World Tour while Team Sky might be having a year to forget but they’ve scored plenty of wins as consolation.
Some say BMC Racing are the real improvement this year but you look at their roster and surely they can do even better? Tinkoff-Saxo might be the turn-around tale of 2014 with 23 wins so far compared to just seven last year. But what further shopping will they do in the transfer market? They have Sagan but maybe a new sprinter would help them.
FDJ will lose Nacer Bouhanni and he’s brought eight wins so far, almost half their tally. Maybe stagiaire Marc Sarreau can help, the 21 year old was second yesterday’s stage of the Tour de l’Ain and enraged that he lost. Of course Thibaut Pinot’s performances in the Tour are a highlight for the team but he didn’t win. So as ever, the obligatory word of caution between counting the wins and measuring performance.
Cannondale are similar to FDJ with just four riders responsible for their wins this year. The team’s demise seems certain with an exodus of riders to other teams while those still under contract will fold into the Argyll armada, the second merger since the team merged with Cervélo. Europcar are the stragglers, promoted to the World Tour but they’ve yet to win a World Tour race and Jimmy Engoulvent’s stage win in the HC-rated Four Days of Dunkerque was their highest status result so it’s low and quality and quantity alike. But the team budget is low and Euro for Euro they perform well for results whether Pierre Rolland’s Giro raids or Bryan Coquard’s improving sprints.
Onto the pro continental rankings and Rusvelo are having a great time. But can you name one of their wins? Probably not. Their wins have come in clusters, several stages at time in the Five Rings of Moscow or the GP Adygeya. Their biggest win has been Timofey Kritskiy’s stage win in the Tour of Quinghai Lake, a re-emergence for a once promising rider who was a rival to Tejay van Garderen in the U23 ranks until he crashed out of the Tour de l’Avenir.
Earlier this year we had seen some squads pull away with a collection of “wildcard” teams, those big enough to rival the World Tour teams in grand tours and earn other invitations pulling away from the rest, as if there was a division within the second division. Now this isn’t so clear. It’ll be interesting to see how MTN-Qhubeka fare in the Vuelta and they’re busy recruiting riders to strengthen for 2015. There are no few names yet but I wonder if Ted King will join, the team needs a US rider. Why? Well because the US bike market is so valuable that almost every team has an American to act as an ambassador and besides King was at Cervélo and the African team will ride Cervélo next year.
But enough speculation. Cofidis remain a mystery, the French squad has a bigger budget than some World Tour teams but without the results to match, if cycling was football the manager would have been sacked long ago. Last but not least are Team Colombia, always an exciting team but with few wins and no sooner does a rider get any good than he’s poached by a World Tour team.