With a brief pause in the racing today, here’s the first look at team standings in 2018 and as ever a chance to look at the squads and stories around them.
Quick Step are on 10 wins and again top the table. Once again their distribution of podium places is remarkable as they’ve only had two second places and four third places and Elia Viviani has had an excellent to the season. So far so good but this weekend is openingsweekend in Belgium and the team is often judged against its performances in the spring classics and we’ll see how they fare post-Boonen. Probably the same as usual because if Boonen was a figurehead they tended to race by numerical superiority, putting as many riders as possible into the final phase of the race and with the likes of Philippe Gilbert, Yves Lampaert, Zdeněk Štybar and Niki Terpstra among others they’ll keep doing this.
Team Sky are next on nine wins with six wins across the Ruta Del Sol and Volta ao Algarve stage races last weekend as well as two national titles in Colombia with Sergio Henao and Egan Bernal who also won the newly-promoted Oro y Paz stage race which has all the ingredients to become a fixture on the calendar: local popularity, good roads, a suitable calendar slot and if they’d polish the TV production it’d be perfect. All this and nobody is talking about Chris Froome.
Mitchelton-Scott’s eight wins show balance but hint at problems too because of their eight wins a mix has come from sprinter Caleb Ewan and from GC success like Esteban Chaves in the Herald Sun Tour. It’s successful now but what happens in a grand tour when they have to pick between Chaves and the Yates brothers and then explore whether to bring Ewan along too and if so the allocation of rider resources to GC and sprinting? A nice problem to have and if some support riders can do both but expect other teams to make siren noises behind the scenes this spring to Ewan.
Lotto-Soudal are enjoying a solid start to the season but they often do only to vanish in April when they’re racing on home soil, it’s been ages since they’ve won a big spring classic. But they’ve just won a stage race with Tim Wellens, a rarity for them too although Wellens won the Eneco Tour in 2015 (pictured). It was “only” the Ruta Del Sol but Wellens didn’t win thanks to a trademark bold attack, instead he matched the best – and attacked them – on the summit finish stage, then he rode the field off his wheel on an uphill finish before holding his own in the final time trial.
BMC Racing are on five wins but two stand out. First Jürgen Roelandts has found winning ways again after all those years. There’s a picture of him losing out to Preben Van Hecke in the Belgian national championships which sums up his struggles in the past but now he’s winning and will be a precious help to Greg Van Avermaet. GVA is the other win that stands out, he won a stage in Oman and rode everyone off his wheel and the kind of demonstration that makes him the rider to watch in this Saturday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Meanwhile Richie Porte won his habitual stage Down Under. In the background is the team’s survival with Swiss billionaire and owner of BMC bikes Andy Rihs said to be pulling his funding for the team, so can team management secure sponsorship? They have to do this soon otherwise riders will get itchy feet and even inky fingers this spring.
Dylan Groenewegen has three of Lotto-Jumbo‘s wins and has had perfect start to the season winning stages and wearing the leader’s jersey in each of the two races he’s done. He’s still 24 and has room to improve, as does his team’s lead out and it’ll be interesting to see how they challenge the more established sprint trains and we’ll see more this Sunday when he goes for Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.
Katusha-Alpecin are only one win thanks to Nathan Haas’s stage win in Oman which could be an important moment. Haas has often placed or featured in the final phases of a race but has few wins and if he start converting his presence in the finale into wins then Katusha will collect more. Having signed Marcel Kittel we might expect more sprint wins but the German powerhouse need not hurry, he’s being paid to win big rather than often. The squad are a curiosity as they try to escape their Team Kremlin image in a bid to create a cycling lifestyle brand with a more international roster and riding under the Swiss flag.
EF-Drapac have two wins, a stage win for Rigoberto Uran in the Oro y Paz and one for Sacha Modolo in the Ruta Del Sol, their new recruit sprinting well and Sep Vanmarcke looks to be coming to the boil once again but can he ever win big in the spring classics? Especially as Team Sky poached Dylan van Baarle in the midst of the team’s the autumnal sponsorship fiasco.
FDJ are on two wins thanks to Marc Sarreau, their back-up sprinter for Arnaud Démare. FDJ have a muscular lead out for Démare but it’s not very subtle, they pull hard on the front like the old HTC team rather than the current vogue of surging forward in the final moments to place their leader. Sarreau’s an interesting character, a fourth year pro but still 24 years old and if he’s mature in the peloton despite his young age he’s the same off the bike having become a father aged 19.
Team Sunweb have to keep challenging for that win as they’re the only team on zero. It’s unusual because in years past we could well in to spring like this. They have only once made the top three when Phil Bauhaus got a second place in the Tour Down Under but won’t be worrying because their top riders Tom Dumoulin and Michael Matthews have yet to start racing.
Pro Continental Teams
Slim pickings as ever in cycling’s second tier. Teams have to take the wins they can and for them it often is the taking part that counts as a wildcard invitation to a grand tour can deliver the TV airtime they crave so Direct Energie, Team Fortuneo-Samsic, Wanty-Groupe Gobert and Cofidis are all winners as they’ve been picked for the Tour de France. Back to the stats and Delko-Marseille-KTM have four wins including the surprise home triumph of Rémi di Gregorio in the Tour de la Provence. Di Gregorio was slung out of the 2012 Tour de France in a doping raid and dumped by Cofidis but once the headlines died down it turned out he’d turned out all he had was a kit to inject glucose which was stupid given the no-needles policy adopted by the UCI but since it was unused he won damages from Cofidis.
Cofidis have three wins thanks to Christophe Laporte, normally Nacer Bouhanni’s lead out but given his own chances. He’s a powerful rider with a mountain biking background and someone who could become very useful in races like Paris-Roubaix. Behind the scenes new manager Cédric Vasseur is putting his foot down, for example Bouhanni’s father is no longer on the team payroll as an advisor; previously he was on board to help reassure his son.
Vital Concept might lament their lack of a Tour de France invite but ASO don’t invite new teams to the Tour de France and Bryan Coquard just isn’t sizzling enough to make them break that rule. Meanwhile Rick Delaney and Aqua Blue Sport are also struggling for wildcards, billed as a “rant” in The Cycling Podcast, Delaney delivered a reasonable critique of his team’s problems and the sport’s structures.
- Methodology: all races *.1 and above count but the rider must be wearing their team jersey, so wins by Dimension Data and UAE-Emirates riders in the African and Asian continental championships don’t count as their riders were riding for their respective national squads that day, nor do Androni’s four wins this season as they’re all in *.2 races.