Team Victory Rankings

Phrases like “start of the spring classics” might resonate now but we’re already one quarter of the way through the season now with 145 days of racing done so far. Here’s a look at the stats and some of the stories behind them like whether FDJ’s surprise success this season is going to cost them financially or some musings on whether the Pro Conti ranks have any must-have teams to award a wildcard.

The story of March is similar to February with Etixx-Quickstep, Astana and Team Sky topping the rankings. Between them these four teams have taken over a quarter of all wins in men’s pro cycling so far this season.

Once again Etixx-Quickstep lead and they’re winning on all fronts, such as Dan Martin’s stage win in the Volta a Catalunya. The only problem is they’re not winning where they’re supposed to: on Belgium soil. Close your eyes and you’ll picture a train of blue jerseys chasing once again after they’ve missed the move of the day. As good as recent wins in Catalonia or Tirreno-Adriatico have been, this is a team with deep roots in Belgium and so far Niki Terpstra’s triumph in Le Samyn doesn’t cut it when it comes to the expectation placed on the team. What if this wasn’t an aberration but a structural problem for the team? A lot of their recruitment is now orientated to picking the best riders from around the world, think of Marcel Kittel, Fernando Gaviria, Dan Martin, Julian Alaphilippe and if this international scouting programme is proving efficient it seems they’re not recruiting the best of Belgium. Jasper Stuyven’s at Trek-Segafredo, Tiesj Bennot, Jürgen Roelandts and Jens Debusschere at Lotto-Soudal, Greg Van Avermaet and Philippe Gilbert at BMC Racing, Sep Vanmarcke at Lotto-Jumbo, Jan Bakelants at Ag2r La Mondiale. Glance at the CQ Rankings and Tom Boonen is the only Belgian EQS rider in the top-100, scope the next 100 and there’s Yves Lampaert in 110th and Pieter Serry in 190th. Lampaert was expected to do more but his girlfriend rammed him with a supermarket trolley by accident, provoking an Achilles tendon injury which has put him out of the spring classics.

BMC Racing are in fifth place but the surprise of the spring so far has been FDJ also on nine wins thanks to the success of their three leaders, Thibaut Pinot, Arnaud Démare and Arthur Vichot who have all won while nobody else has. Pinot’s taken three wins all from last weekend where he took the time trial stage, the mountain stage and the overall at the Critérium International, a celebration overshadowed by the sad loss of Daan Myngheer who died after suffering a heart attack on the opening stage. The race continued and FDJ who had to control the race by themselves and one year ago Pinot looked set to win but his attacks were countered by J-C Péraud. This time “we rode à la Sky” said Pinot as FDJ rode a much more controlled race. We missed the opportunity to see what Pinot could do against a deeper field thanks to the snow-that-wasn’t in Tirreno-Adriatico so the next test will be the Tour de Romandie at the end of April but the surprise was the team’s third place in the team time trial stage where they beat the likes of Tinkoff, Sky and Astana. The team have worked on this a lot and Pinot himself trains regularly on his time trial bike. If anything Pinot has long preferred long steady climbs rather than short spiky ascensions, an effort similar to a TT.

So far so good but can it hold? Nevermind the coming months, can the team stay together? Both Pinot and Démare have contracts expiring at the end of the year and their price is rising with every race at the moment. Nacer Bouhanni’s €1.3m contract with Cofidis raises the bar, “the monument winning Démare deserves similar” is an obvious opening gambit for his contract talks. Meanwhile Pinot, still 25 is improving and even turning weaknesses into strengths as he improves his time trial pacing and learns to cope with the burdens of leadership and the media pressures. You’ll remember FDJ had to sacrifice Francis Mourey’s cyclo-cross contract to find savings to spend on training camps, now the order of money needed to retain Pinot and Démare is much greater. Will the French lottery stump up more money? The team has been looking for a co-sponsor for sometime but has yet to seal a deal. There’s a good chance Pinot and Démare stay, they seem happy in the team and rooted in France. Pinot could have moved to Switzerland to save taxes but (so far) it’s not his style; Démare’s just got a house down the road from his parents.

Tinkoff are a mid-table sixth place for wins but top the UCI team rankings… all those second places by Sagan mean points galore. At the bottom of the table Giant-Alpecin are the only team without a wins and they’ve had five podium places, among them Sam Oomen third in the Critérium International (pictured and one of this blog’s neo pros to watch for 2016) and Tom Dumoulin beaten by one second in the Paris-Nice prologue. Above all they’ve got a lot of goodwill following their training crash so nobody is expecting a trophies and bouquets yet but there will be a point in the summer where we can take stock of where the riders and team management are. Lampre-Merida picked up their first win in last week’s Volta a Catalunya thanks to Davide Cimolai winning a sprint.

For several teams at the lower end of the table this time of year is a busy time with many races in April, the busiest month of the year in terms of race days. It’s here that the teams can pick up more wins rather than hope for success in the set-piece events like the Monument classics and the upcoming grand tours.

In the pro continental ranks Direct Energie are on nine wins, the same as a month ago after their strong start to the season. Bryan Coquard is over his shoulder injury and should start winning soon again. Cofidis are the big climbers thanks to Nacer Bouhanni and his four wins this season, three of which have been in World Tour and helpfully in countries where the consumer lender sponsor has business too. The team’s other winner was Anthony Turgis in the Classique Loire Atlantique who is part of a mini-cycling dynasty with two brothers, the elder Jimmy is a pro at Roubaix Lille Métropole while Tanguy is one of France’s best juniors. Southeast-Venezuela took two home wins in the Coppi e Bartali with 30 something sprinter Manuel Belletti and the 21 year old Jakub Mareczko. Drapac are up to fourth because they’ve taken two wins in the Tour of Taiwan and now moving for a spell of racing in Europe and it’ll be interesting to see how they fare, knowing the terrain counts for so much but veteran rider Graeme Brown will be invaluable here.

One observation among all the Pro Continental teams is the gap between them and the World Tour. Only Cofidis have a genuine world class rider in Nacer Bouhanni, the kind a race would want to give a wildcard because he’s a genuine contender in the sprint finishes although the team have put all their eggs in this one basket and without him they’re far from compelling. It’s worse elsewhere though, look across at the other teams and there few “must have” riders when World Tour races consider who to invite. Pippo Pozzatto probably opens a few doors for Southeast, Sylvain Chavanel for Direct Energie and maybe Davide Rebellin might do the same for CCC too while Bora-Argon 18’s Sam Bennett (pictured) is starting get his foot in the same door. But otherwise we’re quickly down to inviting teams for their ability to enliven a race, to send riders up the road in the early breakaways although there’s a tautology here, these teams have to race like this because they often don’t have a rider who can thrive in the front group after 200km. Of course all this makes the triumph of a smaller team that much more notable, some of these teams have budgets – all their riders, staff, logistics, training camps – that represent a mere fraction of what the likes of Tinkoff, Sky or Astana spend on a single rider’s salary. Lastly amid all this is the chance for talent detection and progress, for example Androni have 19 year old Colombian Egan Bernal who, if things don’t go the way of Betancur, looks very promising and everyone is now talking about Caja Rural’s 21 year old Briton, and Froome body double, Hugh Carthy.

33 thoughts on “Team Victory Rankings”

  1. Superb write-up as always. Good pick up on Egan Bernal, clearly talented but also racing with a maturity beyond his years and seems to be adapting well to European racing. Would also add in Mads Pedersen of Stölting to the promising list – an excellent effort yesterday at De Panne to follow up the win at U23 Gent-Wevelgem and a respectable showing at the Tour of Qatar.

  2. Really good to read your assessment of Thibaut Pinot’s season so far.

    He seems to have been going nicely right from the beginning of the season, picking up a few placings each tme he’s raced, both TT’s and summit finishes. As you say, what this means going forward into the ‘meat’ of his season remains to be seen but nonetheless it augurs well (I hope).

  3. “his girlfriend rammed him with a supermarket trolley by accident, provoking an Achilles tendon injury which has put him out of the spring classics.”

    Sounds like a scene that didn’t make the cut in the one off ‘Some mothers do ave em’ skit with Wiggo! Ooh Betty……

    • I suspect Inrng wants to take his time to develop that story – it is too fresh in people’s minds, the poor boys haven’t been buried yet, plus Inrng is doing this on top of his regular job… so he doesn’t have limitless amount of research, writing and editing time for that type of piece. He would want to do that type of piece justice.

      Give him a break thanks!

      • It’s just that whilst that is, in a way, ‘pending’, I’ve found it difficult to talk about Etixx yet again missing the move. It had suddenly lost much of its significance.

    • I am thinking about this and readers have been emailing in asking “where’s the piece” but as I’ve replied to people, the two riders have yet to be buried – as DMC points out too – and so feel it’s worth waiting, a period of mourning for them and also reflection for me, if you see what I mean.

      • One of the very best features of inrng is their considered and intelligent approach, not rushing in to half-baked stuff like most news sites. Hopefully you’ll continue your commendable approach of resisting baseless speculation; even if you had your thoughts fully formed, I think it’s valuable to wait until the most intense emotions of the moment have been faded with time and a broader perspective can be offered.

      • Of course, the blogger writes strictly only when he feels like it, and only about what he wants to write about. And it must continue to be so. What I find deafening is the lack of debate in the peloton, in the UCI and in the bigger specialized media.

        • True. There’s been discussion of the general issue on the likes of cyclingtips (most people have rightly avoided commenting on this specific incident), but we can expect nothing from the UCI (as we had before this incident), except tweets from the politician Cookson.

      • The critical issue of motorized vehicles in the peloton has been brewing for some time now and needs airing.

        It is inrng’s site and we are his guests. So if he does not want us to discuss the matter for now then we have been polite enough to comply.

        But let’s be clear, if inrng does not want to discuss the issue out of some notion of a mark of respect and mourning over the fatality at Gent-W then that is his concern.

        Otherwise one should be wary not to let sentiment get in the way of reasoned debate.

        The topic of motor vehicles in the peloton was important before the Gent-W fatality and it remains important now. The Gent-W accident seems irrelevant to the broader topic in at least two ways: (1) it may be an aberrant freak event and (2) we do not know details of the fatality. The broader matter can be properly discussed, and can only be properly discussed, without any reference to that fatality.

        But whilst the Gent-Wevelgem tragedy might be irrelevant to adding detail or pattern to the larger subject matter, it can be constructive in simply prompting the broader debate. Indeed that should be the merest positive outcome of the sad news.

        If the sole benefit in that tragedy is that it focuses a spotlight on an important topic then in focussing attention it creates a fertile context for ideas to be explored. Not to take up that discussion when the environment is at its most fertile but rather waiting until the topic subsides into generality may be undesirable. To ignore that one benefit can mean impetus is lost; interest subsides; stimulus to creative imagination dulls in the meantime. As Ferdi notes regarding the silence of the peloton, inertia may take over.

        As David’s (and inrng’s) comment above indicates, the focus can quickly be diffused into broader matters of rider safety, which is a topic where a rider dying of a heart attack may find a place but where certainly a rider dying of a heart attack has absolutely nothing to do with motors in the peloton.

        Insofar as the Gent-W fatality is irrelevant to the broader discussion, any ongoing police investigation into details at Gent is not a meaningful impediment to such discussion.

        Not to address a serious topic on specious grounds of respect does not really show respect to anyone or anything. It is rather untenable. Those concerned with public safety do not leave off discussing the terrorist threat out of respect for the victims at Bruxelles. If we forbear to discuss the matter here out of some mourning for the dead we are following misplaced sentiment. The issue remains as serious as it always was and its constituents are essentially unaffected by a tragic death or freak accident of which details are not known.

        The principle at work here is that we might discuss those topics that inrng initiates; so far he has not addressed this topic for reasons of his own which might be misplaced, but even so we wait.

        • At first I was indifferent to the question, if I want to read something on this blog about this topic. I was just so glad that at least here some time was given, before Demoitié isn’t a person anymore, but a tool for everybody to promote his/her personal beliefs, anger and whatever. Everything I read here in the comments now makes me personally hope with all my heart INRNG doesn’t write about this topic. Not because I wouldn’t be interested in it, no, because of all the comments and discussions that will follow in the wake of such a piece.

      • Good idea. Too many speculations on how the GW tragedy actually happened at this point. When the investigation details are released we’ll hope they contain a statement from the moto pilot as to what really happened – then the discussion will at least be based on facts rather than the crap that is circulating now. RIP Demoitie.
        But maybe there could be a post on this?
        Which cracked me up – did the author of this even bother to look up the definition of “blockbuster”? ASO must be shaking in their boots – the mighty Tour of Switzerland and Velon is threatening their Dauphine!!!! Be scared, be very scared!! 🙂

        • For now.
          What happens if the Velon-linked Jialin buys more, bigger races, such as the Giro from the cash-strapped RCS?
          What changes would they then make?
          For certain, we know that the UCI would do nothing to stop them doing whatever they wanted.

  4. Interesting with Quick-Step and their not signing the best Belgians. In fairness with Gaviria they may have signed a future megastar of Sagan proportions but whether or not that will appease Belgian sponsors if/when Benoot, Debuschere and Wellens win big is another matter. Maybe with Quick-Step it is a matter of they have so much money they are able to fish for the very best young talents, wherever they are from, whereas Lotto with a little less money are restricted to looking in Belgium. I’m guessing when Boonen retires he’ll free up a fair bit of the salary budget and Lefevre might be able to just go out and sign a Belgian market replacement like Vanmarcke or van Avarmaet.

  5. ” Davide Rebellin might do the same for CCC”

    hasn’t he specifically been excluded from a wild card before (Giro invite for CCC last year but he “wasn’t picked” to be on the team despite being their strongest rider?).

    • It was alleged to be that way, yes. He was getting results in Turkey way ahead of anything the others on the squad were achieving but days later didn’t start his home race. But it could have got the team invites to other races, eg the Amstel or the Giro dell’Emilia for example.

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