August is a very busy month for the World Tour with the Tour of Poland, the BinckBank Tour and the Vuelta and that’s just the racing. Teams are changing shape with plenty of rider transfers being announced already.
Quick Step lead with 53 wins and they’ve had exactly as many second and third places combined meaning they win a lot more than they place. 13 riders have won so far. The best ever result by a team in recent times is High Road in 2009 with 85 which is achievable for Quick Step but probably unlikely. There’s quality too, four stage wins in the Tour de France where they collected all the jerseys at different points during the race too.
Team Sky are second on 36, with Michał Kwiatkowski having just won his home Tour of Poland with two stage wins along the way. Egan Bernal is on six wins. Of course among the count are the Giro and Tour which matter more than others although is winning the Tour a big win for them or just an expected result these days? It’s still a big win, much as in Peter Sagan taking the green jersey might seem baked-in for us but offers huge publicity for the sponsors. For a change though expectations in the upcoming Vuelta may be lower, for now their options look more limited, there’s no obvious contender for the overall win with Chris Froome likely to rest and Geraint Thomas due to ride the Tour of Britain.
Mitchelton-Scott have 30 wins. Their most prolific rider? Simon Yates has six and the team will have a twin track approach in the Vuelta with both of the Yates racing the Vuelta. After Simon Yates, next comes… the team, they have five wins from the complicated Hammer Series events where wins go to the team, not riders. There’s still no news on a co-sponsor.
Who would have thought Lotto-Jumbo would be on 27 wins and sitting fourth? Dylan Groenewegen has scored 11 including two Tour stage wins. The team is among the lowest spenders in the World Tour but has somehow extended the services of Primož Roglič, Steven Kruijswijk, George Bennett and Dylan Groenwegen during the year and now they have to worry about retaining neo-pro Sepp Kuss who has just won the Tour of Utah and by riding the whole field off his wheel… three times on three stages. It’s impressive but repeating this in Europe may be harder with narrow roads and the fight for position but that’s a skill that can be learned.
Mid-table and Astana have 24 wins, it wasn’t long ago that the team’s future was briefly in doubt but this has been settled among Kazakh political and business circles but they’re not the team they used to be when they could fight on several fronts even if they came out of the Tour de France with two stage wins, a result most would be jealous of. Bahrain-Merida are the big recruiters at the moment, bringing in plenty of riders, especially from BMC. So far seven hires have been announced for only one departure so there’s a big shake-up here although one quiet move was to extend Mark Padun’s contract, the Ukrainian climber has quietly impressed this year. BMC Racing are set to lose over a third of their roster and that’s just the official departures so far. New owner Dariusz Miłek will have to splash some cash soon, they’re hired Serge Pauwels and Guillaume van Keirsbulck, 21 years of pro racing between them and eight wins so the team won’t be racing up the rankings in 2019 at the moment. It’s sensible to hire the riders they want rather than those that are on the market, there’s a difference.
Groupama-FDJ are punching above their weight on 22 including some World Tour wins, notably Georg Preidler’s win in Poland last week but it’s still a top-heavy team built around Arnaud Démare and Thibaut Pinot. The arrival of insurance giant Groupama this year has given the team a budget boost which should let them make a generous offer to Thibaut Pinot but does he want to stay and ride the Tour de France? In comes Stefan Küng, an engine for the team time trials and a strong rider for the spring classics allowing the team to play two cards, Küng for the breakaways and Démare sitting tight for the sprint. But will FDJ stay around, the sponsor is the French state lottery and could be privatised soon… although this event seems to have been six to nine months away for the last three years.
Team Sunweb have a disappointing six wins. Tom Dumoulin’s second places in the Giro and Tour are huge results and satisfying for the team, probably more than winning ten or even 20 *.1 races but it’s surprising that Michael Matthews, Nikias Arndt, Max Walscheid and Phil Bauhaus haven’t delivered a few more sprint wins.
Meanwhile three teams still haven’t got a World Tour win: Ag2r La Mondiale, Dimension Data and EF Education First-Drapac. All are having a tough time, Ag2r may not have hoped for a lot of wins in the Tour de France but the toll of injuries – including selecting already-injured riders like Tony Gallopin – cost them and Romain Bardet; EF-Drapac also may not have planned on victories but publicity from a podium chance for Rigoberto Urán only for him to crash and quit the race. Meanwhile Dimension Data are having a rotten season, plagued with injuries, crashes and bad form. All three have issues of quality and quantity, Ag2r haven’t even had an HC-level win so far this season but at least have 11 wins to their name, more than the other two squads combined. Normally the answer to a lack of wins is to bring in a sprinter and Ag2r lack proven winners; EF-Drapac bought in Sacha Modolo and Dan McLay but both have been discreet this year and meanwhile Mark Cavendish has been playing catch-up for much of the season. In a pre-Tour presentation Dimension Data boss Doug Ryder said his team’s aim was to win a grand tour with an African rider but first they’ll have to keep their World Tour licence; or consider other means such as merging with Cervélo-Bigla to have a women’s team with Ashley Moolman who could win the Giro Rosa and thus win a women’s grand tour if we use this semantic description.
Katusha are last on the chart thanks to alphabetic order, they could be ranked above EF-Drapac by virtue of winning in the World Tour but it’s been a tough season for them with just four wins despite a ripping roster, a bumper budget and a star sprinter. If they were a football team would the manager be sacked?
Onto the Pro Continental ranks and if this is cycling’s second division there’s no sense of a team on the up, a squad deserving of promotion to the World Tour. If anything the problem is the opposite, who issue wildcards to for the major events. Teams can hire some stars or just deliver “animation” to a race, ie cannon-fodder for the day’s early breakaway. Even so the upcoming Vuelta has invited Cofidis – who coincidentally sponsor the race, just fancy that – Caja Rural who are arguably Spain’s second team, Euskadi-Murias and Burgos-BH, the latter has just one win and also one rider provisionally suspended. Cofidis top the table and will hope for more with Nacer Bouhanni at the Vuelta but there’s still a stand-off between him and management and you sense the team would happily let him go to another team but the rider is on a seven figure salary and won’t get that elsewhere so he has no incentive to move. A star rider in the Pro Conti ranks is Ivan Ramiro Sosa, recent winner of the Vuelta a Burgos, the pre-Vuelta test with always a selective race and this time he was riding away from the likes of Astana and Team Sky. It’s said he’s joining Trek-Segafredo. Another star rider is Wout van Aert only there’s still no news on the Aqua Blue Sport and Verandas Willems-Crelan merger, briefly announced by the Irish team before a bucket of cold water was poured over it by the Belgian side and the longer this drags on the more inclined existing riders at both teams will be to head for safer prospects elsewhere. Lastly Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise are off the chart as they still don’t have a win.
- Methodology: all *.1 races and above count but wins were a rider is not racing for their team don’t count, for example Matteo Trentin’s European cycling championships title was a win for Italy, not Mitchelton-Scott.