Etixx-Quickstep have signed Fernando Gaviria for 2016 and some have asked if this means trouble for Mark Cavendish. No, in fact it’s potentially a good move for the team and even helpful for Mark Cavendish. Several teams have multiple sprinting options while some stay out of this crowded contest.
Gaviria certainly looks exciting. But let’s not forget he was heading for peak form to impress at the Tour de San Luis and then the track world championships so beating Mark Cavendish and Sacha Modolo was great for him but it’d be another thing to do it in the European summer when the stars sprinters are shining. Not that his peak form was a blip, he’s already won two rainbow jerseys on the track, the pedigree is there. It’s just that when he pulls on an Etixx jersey for 2016 we should remember he’ll be a 21 year old neo-pro and simply moving to Europe and learning languages will be a challenge, yet alone learning to sprint in the big races.
Coquard Case Study
Thinly built with a devastating kick and youthful confidence? See Gaviria but also Europcar’s Bryan Coquard, the Olympic omnium silver medallist and new Madison world champion, 22 years old. Very promising but when it comes to challenging Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel he’s got some margin for improvement. If Gaviria becomes as good by the end of 2017 he’ll be doing very well.
Still it’s a wise move for the Belgian super team. Glance at their roster and Mark Cavendish is their only sprinter. Yes Gianni Meersman wins sprints as does Matteo Trentin but both seem punchier riders for the harder stages while Mark Renshaw is really a lead-out specialist who can take a win from time to time. So adding another sprinter makes sense. The one area where “Gav” might struggle with “Cav” is the leadout, this is a skill that takes years to learn. Instead with the UCI’s calendar reforms looking as stalled as a sprinter on the Mortirolo, the prospect of overlapping races looks set to continue so teams can place a sprinter in one race like Paris-Nice and have another in Tirreno-Adriatico. It’ll even help Cavendish as he’s not the only sprinter tasked with winning. Unlike a stage race specialist a sprinter is expected to win almost all-season long. Cav + Gav should mean more wins for the team which suits everyone although again, let’s not expect too much from the Colombian next year.
Etixx-Quick Step are one of the top teams with a matching budget and having a back-up sprinter is normal. Look at Movistar, not necessarily the team you’d think of for sprints but they have two esprínters in Juan-Joaquin Rojas and Juan-José Lobato. Giant-Alpecin have Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb, with Luka Mezgec playing the back-up role and others like Dauphiné stage winner Nikias Arndt are capable of sprint wins too. Some teams are sprinter-heavy:
- Orica-Greenedge have many with Adam Blythe, Caleb Ewan, Michael Matthews, Leigh Howard while Jens Keukeleire, Brett Lancaster and Simon Yates all finish very fast too
- MTN-Qhubeka have concentrated their recruitment on sprinters with Theo Boss, Matt Goss, Tyler Farrar and sprinter-all rounder Edvald Boasson Hagen and sprinter-classics rider Reinardt Janse van Rensburg joining Gerald Ciolek and Kristian Sbaragli on board: that’s seven sprinters.
Should all teams have a sprinter? It’s a question for Moneyball /Moneywheell students as the price is high to start with. A few years ago Europcar manager Jean-René Bernaudeau said he saw Cavendish winning stage after stage in the Tour de France and decided not to bother recruiting a sprinter for his Europcar team. Bernaudeau’s case is telling because he’s got a small budget with little room for luxury and as we saw last winter, he decided to keep Bryan Coquard but the funds used up meant he had to lose some classics contenders. Even a modest sprinter comes at premium because if they get outdone in the grand tour finishes they’re bound to win a semi-classic here or a stage in the Tour of [Insert your preferred French/Spanish region] and therefore command a premium salary. However it’s this occasional win that helps raise moral on the team and if a smaller team didn’t count on winning a sprint stage in a grand tour at least they’ve gathered up some smaller crumbs elsewhere.
Talking of premium salaries as we saw with Nacer Bouhanni’s million Euro switch to Cofidis, you can’t just hire a sprinter. They often like to have a train and come as a package. Some sprinters can cope without a lead out but the more other teams use trains these days, the more a sprinter needs one to help save energy in the final. For a manager this means budget but also a cost on the roster. It’s ok for Cofidis who won’t start the Tour de France with big ambitions for the overall but look at Astana where Andrea Guardini is fast enough on a good day to beat, say Mark Cavendish but he’s unlikely to start the Tour de France and if he rides the Giro will have to freestyle the sprint because the team is built around the ambitions of Vincenzo Nibali and Fabio Aru.
Several teams opt for one or two “house sprinters”. Like a house wine these fastmen aren’t going to score big every time but they’ll get the job done. Team Sky have hired Elia Viviani while Ben Swift seems more than sprinter and Chris Sutton hasn’t won a sprint since 2011. Trek Factory Racing have Danny van Poppel and Giacomo Nizzolo.
@TRONetips who cares about those wins? We care only Alberto vs Froome, and so far 2:1 If I buy 4 sprinters we can have 100 wins nobody cares
— Oleg Tinkov (@olegtinkov) February 21, 2015
The one oddity among all the teams is Tinkoff-Saxo because if they’ve hired Peter Sagan they don’t really have anyone else, Daniele Bennati used to sprint but is more of a road captain these days. It’s odd because you’d think Tinkov would want someone to win on the days when Alberto Contador and Peter Sagan won’t, if we were assembling a dream team surely we’d pick a sprinter too?
How many races end in a sprint?
If you know, please get in touch. I did try to count but the sheer number of races makes it hard to count and but it’s as much a qualitative job as quantitative one because if some sprint finishes are obvious with 150 riders all on the same time, how do you define others, is a contest among 20/40/60 riders a bunch sprint? If there are time gaps between the riders was it a sprint, you need to find video or reports to find out what happened. It’s a proper piece of research but it does feel like most races do end in a mass gallop.
Trouble for Mark Cavendish? No, and let’s remember Fernando Gaviria is just a promising amateur today and a neo-pro for 2016, he does half as well as Bryan Coquard it’s promising and if he’s that good it’ll help Etixx-Quick Step. Indeed having a second sprinter seems ordinary for a team, especially once as well-financed as Etixx-Quick Step. Different teams have different sprint philosophies, some sit out the sprint completely, some see it as their defining point and many accept that domination is unlikely but still have a house sprinter or two.