|Omega Pharma – Quickstep
|Liquigas – Cannondale
|Lotto – Belisol
|FDJ – BigMat
|Garmin – Barracuda
|Vacansoleil – DCM
|Radioshack – Nissan
|Ag2r – La Mondiale, Astana, BMC Racing, Euskaltel – Euskadi, Lampre – ISD
We’re now in a second phase of the calendar now that the early season races are done and Milan-Sanremo is over. It is early to count the team wins but the data are worth a quick look.
The table counts all recognised wins by the top-18 UCI Pro Teams. In total there have been 89 wins for these teams. We can spot the “winner takes all trend” as roughly half of the wins belong to just three teams. Much of the table speaks for itself but note the Quickstep team won just eight races in 2011 but they have 19 wins already this year.
The picture above explains plenty. Omega Pharma leads, Sky look strong, Garmin-Barracuda have a surprise whilst Rabobank have run out of luck. Also note there are wins… and there are wins. It is early in the season and many teams would swap all their victories so far for a win in one of the upcoming classics.
Lower down, BMC stand out, their best result is a second place in the Tour of Qatar thanks to Adam Blythe, followed by Greg Van Avermaet’s second place in the Volta ao Algarve and Blythe followed up with a third place in the Handzame Classic last week. Like many Swiss exports the team is focussed on quality if anyone wants to pass judgement, at least wait until Liège–Bastogne–Liège, the race that marks the end of the spring classics.
Amongst the others with no wins:
- Ag2r – La Mondiale’s manager Vincent Lavenu perpetuates a cycling version of Moneyball, racing by spreadsheet to place riders in the top-10 for points whilst wins, glory and panache are often absent.
- Astana must be worried because Vinokourov was supposed to retire last year but stayed to lend his ranking points and ensure the team qualified for the World Tour, but now the team needs points from its existing riders (or new signings made in the course of the year).
- Lampre – ISD is a surprise, a team with a sprinter like Alessandro Petacchi would normally have won something plus Damiano Cunego expertly raises hopes of renewal each year with an early season win but this has not happened for the Lombard squad so far.
Compare and contrast
Omega Pharma – Quickstep top the table above but sit in 13th spot on the UCI’s team rankings. Meanwhile Radioshack-Nissan top the UCI rankings but only have two wins to their name.
Also note the accumulation of points. So far Radioshack-Nissan are scoring points 312 times faster than Saxo Bank. The UCI keeps changing its secret internal scheme to rank teams on “sporting merit” in order to qualify for Pro Team status amongst the top-18 teams but the top three squads are not far from securing their place for 2013 already.
The table above lists the top-18 teams but one squad is missing: Euskaltel-Euskadi. The orange-clad team has yet to win a race and worse, have yet to win a single point. The only saving grace is that this is normal, the team is often the last squad to win a race but makes up for it once the hilly stage races begin. The Volta Catalunya starts today and their home Tour of the Basque Country is coming up. Still, with with its financial future in doubt, a more consistent approach would satisfy more sponsors.
One winning solution is to recruit a sprinter. Since most races end in a sprint, having a sprinter maximises your chance of a win. But a handful of sprinters take the majority of wins so this plan is not as easy as it sounds. Alternatively teams can focus on smaller races. A good example of both strategies is FDJ-BigMat. The French team has used neo-pro Arnaud Démare to win four races, fellow sprinter Nacer Bouhanni adds one more win and Rémi Pauriol took the modest Boucles du Sud Ardèche.
- Talking of teams and their rankings, there is still no news on the future of the Saxo Bank team. Following Alberto Contador’s suspension the UCI has reviewed the squad’s Pro Team status amongst the top-18 but there’s no news on the outcome.
The table is worth a look but we shouldn’t dwell too long on this for now. Omega Pharma – Quickstep are having a storming start to the season but many will rate their season on the basis of the upcoming classics. Big budget squads like Astana and BMC should land wins in the coming weeks. Finally note the difference between winning and ranking, as exemplified by Radioshack-Nissan.