What do you see in the picture above. Etixx-Quickstep forced to chase after missing the move in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad? Or the most successful team in the sport so far this year?
As February ends some 15% of the season’s race days have been raced. Here’s a look at the victory rankings for teams and some of the stories behind them.
Read the Flemish press this morning and it’s full of tales of woe for Patrick Lefevere after his team had a poor showing. As ever they’re held to higher standard than everyone else in the spring classics because of their record and home status. So when Lefevre was asked by Belgian TV what went wrong and he said his team had won, only it was in France thanks to Petr Vakoč, this won’t satisfy the Belgians. The Quicksteppers are by far the most successful team in the world this year with quality and quantity. They top the table and thanks to eight different riders plus a team time trial win. Marcel Kittel is on five wins with Fernando Gaviria on two which could have been three had he not gifted one win to team mate Davide Martinelli. Vakoč won twice over the weekend saying that since he’d won on Saturday he could sit tight on Sunday and follow the moves although watching the race he’s was very active and matched everything Romain Bardet and Jan Bakelants could throw at him. They copped flak for the weak performance in the openingsweekend but in truth they came with their B-team. Yes Tom Boonen and Niki Terpstra looked off the mark but it’s February and once Zdeněk Štybar and Yves Lampaert are racing the tables can turn.
Astana are next with nine wins and three thanks to Andrea Guardini. The Italian sprinter is a useful house sprinter for them to collect wins but can never ride the Giro d’Italia because he has to cede the team to Vincenzo Nibali or Fabio Aru. No matter how well paid “Flash” may be it must grate to miss out on his home race and the public recognition that comes with it. Nibali is off to a winning start, a contrast to many previous years where he’s spluttered like a lawnmower that’s been neglected over winter and refuses to start.
Team Sky are third with wins in Australia and Europe including the overall classification in three races. They could be even higher as they’ve had 12 second places so far too but perhaps they’ll get more in upcoming stage races like Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico. Their Australian cousins – for both teams were born out of national track programs – Orica-Greenedge have seven wins and so far all are in the southern hemisphere thanks to Simon Gerrans and Caleb Ewan in Australia plus Daryl Impey’s South African time trial title. With these riders and Michael Matthews they’re bound to win more soon and managing the riders right is going to be the hard thing, especially if the misunderstanding between Matthews and Gerrans from last year’s Worlds hasn’t been patched up.
Katusha have five thanks to Alexander Kristoff including his 0.008th of second win ahead of Mark Cavendish. He might be their sole winner but his performances are the result of a collective effort with several riders pulling his sprint caravan across the desert sands of Qatar and Oman.
Marc Madiot read the riot act to his riders over the winter according to L’Equipe, warning some riders not to show up overweight for the classics again. As well Arthur Vichot seems to have found his mojo again and told Radiovelo recently he’d been wondering what he was doing in the sport after spells of illness, injury and ignominy but it’s one thing to take a win in an early season race in France and another to deliver a World Tour win. FDJ say Vichot will be their “sniper” for Paris-Nice, presumably because he can drop his rivals and pick off wins rather than hiding out of sight all week.
Tinkoff have four wins which might not sound like much but they had to wait until mid-May to win this amount last year. Cannondale have two which is two more than a year ago but one of these is Paddy Bevin’s New Zealand time trial title. Giant-Alpecin have no wins but plenty of goodwill following their training accident as by now you’d have expected John Degenkolb to have taken a win and according to The Cycling Podcast neo-pro Max Walscheid was beating Degenkolb in practice sprints. Lampre-Merida meanwhile have come close with nine podium places without a top step.
Direct Energie top the Pro Conti rankings and by some margin. They started with three stage wins and the overall for Adrien Petit in the Tropicale Amissa Bongo. Not the biggest race nor a market for their sponsor but a win is a win. Plus there’s the lucre and the lure of relatively weak opposition so that the winning team take home enough prize money each pay for, say, a luxury family holiday at the end of the season. On top of this Bryan Coquard took two wins before breaking his shoulder this month while veterans Sylvain Chavanel and Thomas Voeckler have each enjoyed a win with Voeckler taking his first win since 2013.
Next are Southeast-Venezuela with three wins although just. Two come from their 21 year old Italian sprinter Jakub Mareczko but he was wearing the Italian team jersey for one in the Tour de San Luis. Yes that’s a Polish name (marr-etch-co) and he was born in Jarosław right next to the Ukrainian border but he moved to Italy as a boy and Kuba grew up in Brescia with a sharp northern accent to match. His win in the maglia azzura needed a photo finish to separate him from team mate Elia Viviani and sparked a mini polemic of lèse-majesté, the understudy beating the team boss. Mareczko isn’t just promising, he won more races in 2015 than any other Italian.
Newcomers One Pro Cycling have two wins but they’re .2 level races so don’t count in these tables. Otherwise it’s slim pickings with many teams yet to win a race. Etixx-Quickstep and Astana combined have more races than entire cohort of Pro Conti teams combined. These second tier teams know they can’t win as much and rely on the Coubertin ideals of participation rather than winning, albeit for less noble reasons given they get on TV.
- all .1 races and above count and a win is a one day race, a stage or an overall victory. Ancillary competitions like mountains, points, youth and so on do not count.
- Had a bad start? Don’t worry as proved the other day there’s little correlation between results now and the rest of the season