Patrick Lefevere described his Tour de France as one of highs and lows with wins and woes alike, typified by Zdeněk Štybar’s stage win in Le Havre. As he was raising his arms in celebration Tony Martin was floored on the tarmac with a broken collarbone. Lefevere said it was better than flatlining around France. The story of Etixx-Quickstep’s season is one of consistency with wins on all terrains and they top the table so far this season with 39 wins.
We’re now past two thirds of the racing days of the 2015. August can feel flat after the Tour de France but actually it’s one of the busiest months of the year with around 100 days of racing thanks to simultaneous stage race around the world. Right now there’s the Tour de Pologne, the Vuelta a Burgos, the Tour of Utah and the Volta a Portugal meaning four days of racing in one day. So any team in the doldrums can get some wind in their sails this month.
Did you expect Katusha to be second? Alexander Kristoff went missing in the Tour de France but still has 18 wins, more than anyone else in the pro peloton and half of Katusha’s score. Joaquim Rodriguez has won five races this year including two stages of the Tour de France and the Tour of the Basque Country. It’s still hard to work out the point of Team Katusha, the “Russian Cycling Project”, you cannot buy a Katusha and they don’t do much for Russian cycling. Yuri Trofimov, one of the few capable of winning World Tour races, is leaving for Tinkoff-Saxo.
Team Sky help with regular quality and quantity point. Sky’s Tour de France win is just one among 35 wins but obviously every team manager would swap all their wins this season for this sacred success. Richie Porte’s delivered nine wins thanks to his early season stage race run. Elia Viviani has two wins, not much but it shows the value of a “house sprinter” who can pop up for a few wins a year when needed.
Lampre-Merida are having a great time. They’ve been struggling for years, now they’ve got 23 wins ahead of big budget behemoths BMC Racing. But look more closely and Lampre-Merida have been on fishing expeditions around the world. Tsagbu Grmay brings two wins with his double in the Ethiopian road race and TT championships and while they took four stage wins in the Giro in May they took two more in the Tour of Japan where they were the only World Tour team.
For all teams there are stories of missed opportunities. Take Tinkoff-Saxo where Peter Sagan has finished second 11 times this season and just converting a few of these into wins would help. But how? Nobody wants to reach the finish in a breakaway with him so he gets attacked – see Ruben Plaza’s Gap stage win in the Tour de France – and if there’s a bunch sprint then he’s often beaten by the specialists. He just needs to be a lot less visible, take that Gap stage where he could have sat further back on the Col de Manse.
Looking at the tail end of the chart the stories seem to vary but share the common theme of a small budget. FDJ linger as Arnaud Démare’s fallen between two stools labelled spring classics and sprint finishes when you’d normally bank on him to win 10 races; Arthur Vichot is another contender for flop of 2015, although Vichot has been sick with a virus for a long time and there are some upcoming races to suit him. There’s talk of recruiting foreign classics specialists to help in April then double as bodyguards for Thibaut Pinot in July.
Cannondale-Garmin thought they were having a dire season until the story about Tom Danielson’s positive A-sample appeared (incidentally he’s still not listed as suspended on neither the USADA nor UCI site, let’s hope it wasn’t a prank call) and of their meagre six wins two are national championship TT titles for Ramūnas Navardauskas and Andrew Talansky against softer rivals. They argylle team had three second places in Tour de France stages, close but their leaders are paid to win. They’re the youngest team in the World Tour so some leniency is normal for the others. Lotto-Jumbo’s sponsors are reviewing whether to continue, they’re signed up for 2016 but will they continue for longer? Let’s hope so and winning isn’t everything as Robert Gesink’s Tour de France comeback shows and Steven Kruijswijk had an excellent Giro.
Onto the Pro Continental teams, cycling’s second division. Note the y-axis, these smaller fish swim in a smaller pond where there’s less to feed on, just 16 wins for Rusvelo, half of what it takes to top the World Tour. Well done to Rusvelo but can you name a win? Can you even one of their riders? Ivan Savitsky took four stage wins in the 2.2-rated Tour of Serbia and it’s this discreet success that keeps them mysterious, often they only appear in the European and English-language media when someone’s been caught doping.
MTN-Qhubeka are a positive story in the original sense with a lot of wins and that high profile success in the Tour de France from Stephen Cummings. But you’d hope so given their high profile recruitment and spend. They’re a good example of how to operate a Pro Conti team, it’s a smaller budget but having some exciting riders and a story to tell brings in the invitations for the top races, all without the burdens of a World Tour licence. Sponsor MTN is stepping down and it’s said South African IT company Dimension Data will take over but let’s hope the ink is dried on that. They were never the first African team to ride the Tour but made plenty of this label and 2016 will be interesting from a story-telling perspective because the African story has been told: is it one of continuation or is there a new angle?
Cofidis have 13 of which seven come from Nacer Bouhanni and he’ll look for more success in the Vuelta to save his season, he’s now the best paid rider in France and needs the success to match this price tag. Europcar have written to the UCI for a World Tour licence in 2016 with five potential sponsors lined up according to reports; as good as this sounds the team has to send in the paperwork now anyway even if has a 1% chance of survival because if it misses the deadline then it’s finished away so the admin is a formality rather than a sign of something to come. They’ll need money for the World Tour, the team has won in the .1 and .2 races with only one victory in an HC race and nothing in the World Tour. Bryan Coquard could be the man to deliver but IAM Cycling and Ag2r La Mondiale are interested.
Androni are suspended now following two positive tests in the team after the UCI’s introduction of collective punishment starting this year, aping the MPCC’s code. It’s harsh to stop a whole team for the fault of two cretins, you punish clean riders on the team who might have aimed to be in peak form but the team has internal issues to resolve and this might finally focus minds.
Bardiani-CSF are the ultimate quality vs quantity tale here, just one win but Nicola Boem’s stage win in the Giro was just what the sponsors wanted but the likes of Enrico Battaglin and Sonny Colbrelli ought to have delivered more wins by now. Finally don’t forget Dutch team Roompot, still on zero wins.
Momentum: wins matter and teams that struggle in the first half of the year tend to continue.
Methodology: these are individual wins and team time trials. Wearing a leader’s jersey for a day in a race is not a win, only winning it at the end of the race counts.