Time to look at the teams and the number of races they’ve won. It might be early in the spring classics season but we’re almost a quarter of the way through the season as measured by the number of days of racing and therefore the amount of wins up for grabs.
It’s also the chance to evaluate some issues from Tinkoff-Saxo’s managerial mess to Astana’s looming licence loss.
Etixx-Quickstep looked to pulling away in February but Team Sky and Movistar have caught up. Richie Porte’s wins in Paris-Nice and Catalunya have made the Tasmanian the most prolific winner in pro cycling this year. Meanwhile Etixx-Quickstep are collecting headlines for podium finishes but they’re still winning regularly, however the Belgian superteam is held to high standards in the classics and collecting on the Ronde Van Zeeland Seaports and the Handzame Classic are not exactly what Patrick Lefevere dreams about. Meanwhile Belgian underdogs Lotto-Soudal are having a good start too. The top four teams account for exactly half of the wins.
Giant-Alpecin are missing Marcel Kittel who’s been struck with a virus. Of course Milan-Sanremo is as good as it gets but the sprinter-heavy team isn’t bringing in the results like they were last year when they had five wins from John Degenkolb, four from Luka Mezgec, three from Marcel Kittel, two from Tobias Ludvigsson and one from Tom Dumoulin; now the score is two from “Dege” and one from Mezgec.
Cannondale-Garmin got their first win of the year but it’s slim pickings, a morning stage of the Criterium International in front of small crowds and no TV. That’s better than Lotto-Jumbo and FDJ who are hardly promoting the image of good fortune their lottery sponsors crave. For FDJ it’s the worst start to the season since 1999. Thibaut Pinot came close in the Critérium International and the team will be pleased with his performance in Corsica after Tirreno-Adriatico but the consensus is that he still managed to lose the race last weekend, isolated on the final climb he attacked too early and then being countered by Péraud and a stronger A2gr team.
Note the modest performances of big budget teams like BMC Racing and Tinkoff-Saxo. It’s too easy to look at Tinkoff-Saxo ejecting Bjarne Riis and think “crisis” but they’re only two wins different from BMC Racing, a squad with a solid management and Alberto Contador looks nailed on to win the Giro, at least going by the bookmakers. Still these are stressful times for the Russian team, as predicted Bjarne Riis has been paid off and any surviving Danish riders and staff will be feeling nervous now.
Results vs rankings: if BMC and Tinkoff-Saxo look low on the chart above when it comes to the UCI World Tour rankings they’re a more respectable fifth and sixth place overall. Comparing the win rankings to the UCI rankings today reveals a correlation but not a perfect match. If you need to know the Spearman’s σ is 0.64. Rankings are rightly biased to the top events but they also reward consistent placing, for example Geraint Thomas’s fifth place overall in Paris-Nice earns 50 points, as much as he got for third in Gent-Wevelgem and his success along with Richie Porte puts their team first.
As for Astana they have six wins, five of which come from Andrea “Flash” Guardini who scored four in the Tour de Langkawi, his preferred race over the years with 18 stage wins. But instead of counting the wins we could be counting the days left for the team. Today’s De Telegraaf says the UCI could remove Astana’s licence… which is exactly what the UCI wanted to do just one month ago. The news is not new. Reading between the lines one possibility is that De Telegraaf have had it confirmed from the UCI that Astana’s document gathering and argumentation isn’t going to be enough to save it on Thursday’s licence hearing. All will be clearer in the coming days and weeks but a resolution might take much longer if appeals are launched.
Among the UCI Pro Continental teams there’s always large gap. Those at the top are able to rival the World Tour teams on a good day, see Pierre Rolland and Maciej Paterski in the Volta Catalunya or Topsport Vlaaderen in the Dwars Door Vlaanderen for recent examples. Those at the other end struggle for invitations yet alone wins.
The big loser for now is Cofidis, beaucoup budget but sans success. The team spends more than World Tour outfits like IAM, Cannodale-Garmin and FDJ but hasn’t got much to show for it. Much has been made about Bouhanni’s sprint train not working and this is a fair point, one time Cofidis manager Cyrille Guimard used to reckon it took three years to get a team working; Mark Cavendish took a while to get satisfaction with OPQS. Still Bouhanni is capable of winning alone too so he shoulders some of the responsibility, more so since he signed for a small team that’s not won much of late: he knew what he was getting into. The team plans to end the drought by placing Bouhanni into a series of smaller races in the coming weeks like Paris-Camembert and the GP de Denain.