Team Victory Rankings

We’re already one third of the way through the season if measured by race days. As ever here’s a chance to review the wins and take a look at the teams and some of the stories around them from the Catalonia team time trial fiasco to Peter Sagan’s tactical woes and why Astana’s image as peloton villains doesn’t work if they can’t win a single race.

17 wins and from nine different riders. Is Quick Step the most under-rated team in the sport? Certainly they are visible at this time of year but because they don’t challenge for the overall classification in grand tours they’ll always miss out on this media bonanza. Not that a team can fight on every front, choices have to be made. Quick Step still collect wins across the grand tours with multiple stage wins in the Giro and Vuelta and backing Marcel Kittel in the Tour de France.

If you like it’s a case of “grand tours, sprints, spring classics: pick any two” and even the wealth of Team Sky can’t cover all the fronts, house sprinter Elia Viviani doesn’t match the height of their ambitions elsewhere. Katusha are probably the closest but have to compromise, Ilnur Zakarin is still aiming to finish on the podium rather than win.

BMC Racing try to win the grand tours and the spring classics but opt out of sprinting. Their 17 wins include eight from Australians thanks to Rohan Dennis, Richie Porte and Miles Scotson. They also count three wins from team time trials including the recent one in the Volta a Catalunya where their protests saw the initial result of Movistar’s win overturned only for the UCI commissaires to read their own rules wrongly and apply the wrong sanction. After a good night’s sleep clearer heads – or an urgent phone call from Aigle – resolved things. As well as the regulatory reversals, it was also unusual for the way the protests appeared across social media as riders and team staff shared their frustrations by posting video evidence, as if trying to convict Movistar in the court of popular opinion. Trek-Segafredo also protested but via the usual, official channels rather than in public view. It’s been a storm in a teacup event but every BMC breach of the rules caught on TV will haunt them, they only have to drop an energy bar wrapper in the countryside and there will be calls for the UCI to fine them immediately (rightly so perhaps, littering is a continual problem). Indeed Tejay van Garderen had only to remove his helmet to take a cap off for Movistars J-J Rojas to call for the American to be disqualified from the race for breaking the rule about wearing helmets which in turn means Nairo Quintana will be fair game if he dares to unclip his helmet if, say, a hornet is buzzing there. The lesson is that we have commissaires to resolve this and they need to know their own rules. As it happened van Garderen cracked under pressure and the evergreen Valverde won the race.

Budget-wise FDJ are punching above their financial weight with seven wins, the latest in Catalonia with Davide Cimolai pipping Nacer Bouhanni but arguably their sixth place in the team time trial was just as valuable because it was a high place for a team with three neo-pros and validation of all the work their coaching staff do. One of those neo-pros was David Gaudu, tipped early this year as one to watch and already confirming his abilities and promise but as ever some riders can burn bright only to burn out. FDJ will need to manage him carefully but they know this.

Alberto Contador

Among the other teams Trek-Segafredo get marks for effort thanks to the persistence of Alberto Contador. One question is whether this effort sells bikes and the answer is unknown. It makes for great TV but it doesn’t deliver the wins. They’re a split team with a core of stage racers and another of classics contenders, all teams do this but it seems particularly pronounced here. They’ve been visible at times but haven’t had a result in the classics, driving the pace in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad just as the race was splitting but they missed the move. John Degenkolb and Jasper Stuyven are visible in the heat of the action but have yet to translate this into a win.

Peter Sagan Poggio Sanremo

Bora-Hansgrohe are proving to be more than Team Sagan with Sam Bennett’s stage win in Paris-Nice but only just. Sagan’s star status ensures attention regardless of wins but he still has to play the part, the Sanremo showman was more waspish in Wevelgem yesterday. The team is still top heavy and you wonder if Sagan’s attempts to play poker against Niki Terpstra and Quick Step would be advanced by having a stronger team in the final stages of the race. Certainly it would provide more cards to play but at the same time who would want to sign for this role? Finding a rider capable of making the grade in the final of a race but ready to lay down their chances isn’t easy; besides Sagan has Marcus Burghardt only he punctured just when it mattered on the way to Wevelgem. It’s questionable whether this would work anyway, Sagan now occupies a similar role to that endured by Fabian Cancellara where riders queue on his wheel and teams are happy to stop him from winning before making their own plans to win.

Bahrein-Merida have two wins and are a team built around Vincenzo Nibali but according to his coach Paolo Slongo he’s two kilos over his racing weight and if there’s time to shift this for the Giro it’s risky as it means running a calorific deficit just when he needs to be working hard and nurturing his body.

Who’s won races for Lotto-Jumbo? It’s easy to imagine Dylan Groenewegen but their Dutch champion has yet to get a win, he’s come close but the success has gone to Jos Van Emden, Victor Campanaerts and and Primož Roglič instead. Steven Kruijswijk is quietly improving, 21st in Abu Dhabi, DNF in Paris-Nice and now seventh in Catalonia which suggests all is on track for his Giro bid.

At the bottom end Astana are officially Team Gooseberry as they’re the only team without a win. If sport is to have heroes then it needs villains too and the Kazakh team has often been only too willing to supply scandal after scandal over the years thanks to multiple doping cases, UCI audits and other moments such as the Saint Augustine time they had to decide whether to abide by the MPCC rules or not and duly baled: “oh Lord, grant me chastity… but just do not give it yet“. Only this bad boy image needs wins to underpin it, to be fearsome rather than fodder. They ought to have had a win or two but their team has suffered losses over the winter leaving a roster with more second fiddles than the Berlin symphony’s storeroom plus a core of Kazakhs where several probably owe their place on the team to the accident of birth rather than the fruits of a global talent scouting scheme. Fabio Aru is their hope for the Giro but had a torrid time in Tirreno-Adriatico and Miguel Ángel López might be “superman” but he’s yet to fly… to Europe as he hasn’t started a race this season. Both will surely deliver and whatever you think of the team they’ve always been one of those solar powered squads who thrive in the summer stage races.

In contrast to Astana Cannondale-Drapac have nurtured a saintly image and were a team founded with the express purpose of riding clean, a statement that you might think should be assumed but a decade ago this was revolutionary and taboo-breaking to declare. Only today they seem to have lost this mojo. The win in the Coppi e Bartali will help but they were bottom fishing in a 2.1 race where Team Sky and Dimension Data were the only other World Tour teams, and the British squad sent its C-team of youngsters on a busy weekend with the Flemish classics and Catalonia. Sep Vanmarcke’s still got time to turn things around for Paris-Roubaix but the clock is ticking.

Direct Energie top the Pro Conti tables in part because they turned the tables on World Tour teams in the Coppi e Bartali thanks to Lilian Calmejane taking a stage win and the overall plus Thomas Boudat’s stage win too, he’s just turned 23 and is an exciting sprint prospect. Still by some measures they’ve have had a disappointing start to their season with Bryan Coquard only taking two wins when it would be reasonable to have expected more, especially as he was almost invisible during Paris-Nice, a vital early season target for the team.

If Direct Energie missed Paris-Nice so did domestic rivals Cofidis with Nacer Bouhanni quitting in the cold but he’s since redeemed himself with the Nokere Koerse and a stage win in Catalonia. He’s now in contract talks and a renewal seems likely but surely on reduced terms, or at least a smaller salary and large win bonuses.

Delko-Marseille Provence-KTM have more reasons to celebrate thanks to signing a five year deal with Delko, an auto parts retailer. The Pro Conti scene doesn’t have long term licences and if the likes of Cofidis are fixtures but many more teams come and go, Delko now looks to be on a solid footing and we can expect more recruitment and possibly a Vuelta wildcard invitation later this year.

Look at the slim pickings in cycling’s second tier where there are 32 wins so far, that’s fewer than Quick Step and BMC combined. So wins are rare but sometimes visibility counts, simply getting airtime is valuable but even that’s not easy, take Wanty-Groupe Gobert who rode in Catalonia last week only they suffered and you wonder how they’ll cope in the Tour de France.

Methodology these are .1 races and higher. This is to ensure professional wins count rather than victories taken in pro-am races, for example Fortuneo-Direct Concept won a stage of the Tour de Normandie and the overall last week with Anthony Delaplace but it’s not counted because it’s a .2 level race and the field is packed with U23 and development teams. Also on a subtler point note the rider has to be racing for their team so Jack Bauer’s win in the New Zealand time trial championships counts towards Quick Step’s tally because he rode in the team jersey while Astana are still on zero because Dmitri Gruzdev’s win in the Asian championships was done under a Kazakh jersey and not the Astana one.

31 thoughts on “Team Victory Rankings”

  1. It’s understandable that Terpstra doesn’t want to work – he has no chance of winning the sprint with the people he’s with, so he’s trying to save his legs for a big attack nearer the finish (plus he can say ‘I have a whole team chasing behind’).
    It’s understandable that Sagan’s not happy with that, but that’s cycling and he’d better get used to it.
    GVA just got on with it.
    Compare the two’s record in Belgium this season – Sagan’s thrown away two races against GVA – this and the Omloop: don’t know what he was doing in that sprint.
    If Sagan was really unhappy, he could have refused to work too and called Terpstra’s bluff (although he can’t – ever, it seems – say ‘I have other riders behind’).
    This way, he could just sit on GVA’s wheel. Might well not work, but better than simply throwing the race away with one daft move.
    ‘This is just one example of how you can lose the race against me,” Sagan said’ – and yet another of how your head loses you races your legs could win.
    It does seem to come down to ego – he seemed to think that he could launch himself away from Terpstra and Andersen once they were all behind and catch the two in front.
    Milan San Remo 2013 and 2017, he starts his sprints early and from the front, ostensibly convinced that he can crush the opposition and win more impressively.
    A cannier rider – with his sprint – would rely on that more often.
    Terpstra came 4th today, which is probably where he would have ended up without all these shenanigans. Not that his move was smart either, mind you (he should have gone through, but worked less, thus not annoying the others, then attacked with a few km to go) – nor Andersen: threw away what would have been a very good result for him.
    I love Sagan’s attacking riding and he does seem to be the best. But he needs to learn to deal with being the best – and that means everyone else being convinced that you’re the one to beat.
    GVA’s just getting on with it in a similar situation – and winning the races.
    Sagan could have signed for a better team for less money – and he’d probably win more races. It would probably be less fun for us to watch, though.

    • When I saw Sagan refuse to do all the work at Ghent, the first thing that popped into my head was that one factor behind it (or at least an unintended consequence) could be that he wants to put other riders on notice that he won’t just drag them along; they need to work as well. Doing it in a “minor” race before Flanders and Roubaix may make other riders a bit more hesitant to deploy the suck-Sagan’s-wheel strategy.

    • Agreed more or less on everything, but I wouldn’t say that GVA is living a similar situation to Sagan’s – quite the contrary, I’d say! I don’t know if it’s his past image of not finishing the work in sprints or what, but during this Classics campaign he always found somebody who was willing to do a fair share of the job (or even the lion’s share…).

      The difference between Cancellara and Sagan is that the former started to suffer from this syndrome mainly from 2011 on… he had already won one Flanders, a Sanremo and a couple of Roubaix (and most of the stages he won in stage races).
      From then on, he became even stronger in the Classics, clearly sacrificing part of his TT skills, plus he worked on his peak speed to grant himself more winning chances on the line, and also to be able to drop more easily people on walls – yet most of his victories precede 2011.
      If we consider 2011 (it’s also halfway through his top level career) as a turning point, he won nearly a double number of races before then! And the funny thing is that when he was winning big after 2011, more often than not he had found (tactically absurd) willing helpers in Vanmarcke et al.

      This isn’t exactly promising for Sagan’s palmarés!

      • Unlike Cancellara, Sagan can win from a bunch sprint (like in Doha), which means that if he is in a small group, he can afford that the group gets caught and the race is decided in a sprints, whereas those who are with him are likely to prefer the group battling it out. So he should be able to find collaborators, but it’d probably require teammates behind, so that Sagan doesn’t have to close down all attacks by himself if his group is caught. As it is now, his threat of a bunch sprint isn’t as credible as it could be.

        It’s the same that has allowed Boonen not to do all the work himself; most of his opponents would prefer to battle it out with him in a small group than getting caught by a larger group with his teammates (Ronde ’12 is a good example, and the sprint threat was very credible after his exploits the week before).

        • Currently, Sagan isn’t fast as Boonen was. Doha was atypical, it was a 20 men sprints, and the riders had endured a notable strain for hours.
          Sagan is very good in bunch sprints, say, at the TdF, because of his handling skills… and because he throws himself in even when the sprint is already lost (unlike several colleagues). But he doesn’t win many of them.
          In Classics, especially if Sagan is spending energies with earlier attacks, he might find himself slower, in a “mass” sprint, than Degenkolb, Kristoff, Démare, Matthews, Roelandts… or, at least, of one of them.
          He’s fast enough to scare the rivals from being potential helpers (as everybody knew that Cancellara would just drop them if they collaborated – it wasn’t about the sprint, but from 2011 on the concept was the same); yet, I don’t believe he’s fast enough to really rely on a crowded sprint to get his victories.
          It was also Bettini’s story in the last years of his career at the Giro (but in Lombardia and elsewhere, too): nobody would help him in a break, hence he had to go solo or to hone even more his sprinting skills and stay with the bunch – he was eventually able to win a serious mass sprint in a stage finishing in Brescia, I think.
          However, I think that we all agree that Sagan would need some teammates being around in the last part of a race to avoid playing cat & mouse all the time (he’d really need Gatto ^__^), and that another problem he’s got is that some teams benefit of the double captain option with solid sprinters behind.

    • I’ve found the whole dynamic between Quick Step and Sagan quite fascinating this past month or two.
      Boonen alluded in the run-up to Milan-Sanremo that QSF had plans to beat Sagan.
      In truth, their only plans have been to contain and frustrate him.
      Their riders who have managed to make his telling breaks subsequently contributed minimally but were never going to beat him anyway.
      More a case of marking and hoping that they were able to get Gaviria to out-sprint him.

      QSF have got a bad case of Sagan fever it seems to me.
      And it does them no credit.

      • Is that so strange? Sagan is the man to beat in the races where Quickstep typically want to / are expected to show good results. So obviously, they’re going to have to find a way to best him. They (or anybody) are not going to drop him under normal circumstances, but they do have several riders who know how to play these kinds of games… so any which way will do. That’s cycling, and it’s been that way for decades

    • I agree with most of what J Evans says, although as Mark comments I do think there’s an element of Sagan making a statement to “wheel suckers” (AKA weaker but tactically astute riders) ahead of Flanders and Roubaix. I think Sagan’s great for the sport but he is a victim of his own willingness to drag people to the line in every classic and grand tour stage going. It all makes for interesting racing though, especially since GVA is in such strong form too.

      • I think Quick-Step have a very strong hand to deal with both Sagan and van Avarmaet in the two big races coming up. They have shown, especially in Dwars and E3, that they aren’t going to try and sit on the front and ‘do a Sky’ like they might have been guilty of in the last couple of years. In Flanders they can fire Gilbert/Lampaert/Stybar off with 75km to go and van Avarmaet and Sagan know on the basis of this last week that might stick so they better do something about it. That could/will be in Sagan’s case going after it himself, van Avarmaet could use Oss to drag them back. Then if they are caught the Quick Step rider can sit up and wait for it to come together again and then somebody else can go. All the while they have Boonen waiting to sprint against a tired Sagan and GVA, maybe after Terpstra has tried something in the last 10-5km. In Paris-Roubaix they can do the same but Gilbert and Lampaert wont be involved and Terpstra an Stybar will probably assume more importance. Plus here Boonen is probably equally as effective as Sagan and van Avarmaet (if not considerably better) so they aren’t fighting in numbers to overcome the better riders, they have the best rider. This is the theory anyway but if Sagan and van Avarmaet are just too strong then it wont work. In my opinion of the two at the moment GVA has the edge, he’s flying and could be in the middle of a Gilbert 2011/Boonen 2012 style purple patch.

        • Yeah, that’s a good point. I suppose the main challenge for Quick Step is getting two or three riders into a selective break alongside Sagan/GVA, as they’ll need strength in numbers for the strategy they used successfully at DDV. I keep expecting Trentin to feature in a finale but he doesn’t seem to enjoy the extra distance that the Monuments bring. He’s a very fast finisher in normal circumstances.

      • I guess this is more or less true but in this particular case there were 3 riders giving their all (GVA, Keukeleire and Sagan), one obviously dragging (Krag Andersen) and Terpstra betting on two horses. I can understand Sagan’s general frustration but this was not the right moment to take that stance. He had a fair enough chance of winning the race if the break continued to ride like they were doing. If one thing it showed the others that frustrating Sagan offers a way of beating him, if not worse. Maybe he isn’t so sure and confident at all anymore that he can beat guys like Keukeleire or GVA in the sprint (which is what he actually said in the post-race comments: “I don’t want to get beaten in the sprint”). The “Sagan wanted to stick it to them” is the least interesting one and the two others (genuine tactical mistake, lack of confidence) are about as likely if you look at what happened last sunday.

    • Maybe a good play by Terpstra to limit Sagan’s chances, but it got both Terpstra and his team nowhere. Terpstra arguably had a shot at a solo attack, which he threw away. He also arguably had a (long) shot at 3rd out of that group, if they had stayed together.

      Bringing the break back to the group to allow for a bunch sprint is one thing, but letting GvA and Keukeleire go up the road wasn’t exactly bringing the group back to the bunch.

      In summary, I think Terpstra got the tactics slightly wrong here, too. Terpstra’s and Quickstep’s chances were better with him in the lead group, not in no-man’s land with GvA up the road. I’m not satisfied with Sagan’s tactics either, here, but maybe he was putting his foot down here to say “enough is enough.” Anyway, I can’t see how either Sagan or Quickstep would be happy with the result — in this case, they should have worked together.

      • The whole crux of the story is that the Quicksetp DS’ses and Boonen were asking Terpstra to not do any work (other than take the turns he had to, but not pull hard – and he did just that) because they thought they could get their fast guys back up to the front. But then Sagan pulled up next to Terpstra to have a chat, which caused the gap to form, etc. You could see Terpstra trying to reach the DS’ses on comms, to ask what he should do. At that moment, the Quickstep DS’ses were forced to change their tactics and wanted Terpstra to work to close the gap. There was even footage from the onboard camera in the Quickstep team car where you could hear Terpstra shouting into the car “Oh, NOW you want me to work all of a sudden?”

        Boonen later said it was a case of “we couldn’t reach Niki over the comms to tell him the fast guys wouldn’t make it”. This suggests that, if Terpstra had known the fast guys wouldn’t make it, he would have pulled his weight earlier, leaving nothing to complain for Sagan. Of course Boonen would say that… We’ll never know if it’s true. But one thing is evident: The team changed their assignment to Terpstra almost 180 degrees in the space of 10 seconds. Nobody seemed to happy about it, but at least team Quickstep closed ranks pretty quickly. And after all, these kinds of controversies are also a part of cycling.

        I’m curious to see how this effects the upcoming races. Did Sagan putting his foot down put the other teams on notice? Are they all going to work with Sagan going forward? Or have they learned how to defeat Sagan, how to get him to give up his own chances out of emotion? And/or is Van Avermaet just going to benefit from all of this and smash everybody who lingers?

        • Interesting insight! I don’t mean to say that Terpstra is 100% on the hook – it sounds like the Quickstep DSs should have been more clear that the GvA/Sagan group was the place to be. It’s interesting how GvA has now won three races this spring and Sagan is still the center of the universe for team’s tactics.

          I also wonder if Sagan had bigger objectives in mind when toying with Terpstra, or if he was just frustrated in the moment. Either way, this makes Flanders all the more interesting. What is Quickstep’s game plan going to be?

          Looking forward to the race previews! Thanks INRNG

          • @Jeff

            You’re right of course. If it were a blame game, I’d say Sagan and Terpstra are both equally to blame for allowing the gap to open up. (Sagan started talking, Terpstra then immediately stopped pedalling). Either could have prevented the gap easily. It almost seemed to be a “game of chicken”, where both chickens got roasted. But that’s all in the game of cycling if you ask me. It’s not track running/swimming/skating where everybody keeps their own lane. Luckily for us 😉

            Indeed, very much looking forward to how the following races will work out. I’m putting my (proverbial) money on Van Avermaet.

        • Excellent points! Makes me long for more races where the radios don’t work and riders have to think for themselves (or wait for the DS to show up in the car) like it used to be.
          Simple fact – in the condition GVA is in at present, you don’t give him even the slightest gap! Now HE has the target on his back for Sunday rather than Sagan so we can see who the smart one really is ….when a Monument win is on the line.

          • That would be something. It’d be very interesting to see how riders perform without radios. For safety, I’d keep the radio’s though, but only one way: From rider to car. So they can signal if they need a wheel, bottles, etc

            Yeah, GVA seems to be the big favourite based on results so far. Sagan is possibly the favourite in name?

  2. Looks like Delko missed out on the Vuelta wildcard. Cofidis and Caja Rural were a given and I suppose Manzana Postobon’s ride in Catalunya showed that they wouldn’t be completely out of their depth. Aqua Blue was a bit of an unexpected choice though?

    • It’s a difficult choice, the two obvious picks as you say but among the rest it wasn’t easy. Direct Energie had a good argument, Calmejane’s stage win last year and impressing ASO in Paris-Nice thanks to his win in the KoM competition despite Coquard’s absence from the results. Still it should be fun and it’s nice to see Colombian cycling get a boost too, Manzana are a promising structure that needs support.

      • Why are Cofidis such an obvious pick? Should Bouhanni not turn up (always possible) what do they have to offer – Navarro possibly taking a stage or getting a top ten? He hasn’t looked that good for a few years. Who else is there?
        Is there a reason Navarro went from being Contador’s lieutenant to striking out, unsuccessfully, on his own? Was there a falling out post-drugs ban?

  3. Quick-Step collected 4 wins (Boonen, Richeze x2, Gaviria) at the Vuelta de San Juan early this year without even competing, there were no other sprinters.

  4. A minor correction – Dimension Data were also riding the Coppi-Bartali stage race, so Cannondale-Drapac had to beat two WT teams to get their win.

  5. Color me impressed! Not just for the fun and excellent use of the language or for the results of each team, but for how deep you go into the weeds to get the numbers right. Knowing that you could choose Bauer vs. Gruzdev is a sign of you really looking into details. Thank you, again, for a superb start to my day in North America.

  6. Great write up as usual!

    With most of the comments here being about Sagan not winning, in an article all about race wins it seems Bora-Hansgrohe/Sagan still get most of the exposure wether they win or loose.

    He could sit in more but again when he’s up road it’s more exposure and wether he’s doing too much work or not his chances of winning are still high either way.

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