Losing Streaks

Cofidis, Paris-Nice 2024

Do you ever wonder that to win somebody’s got to lose? With all the focus on Tadej Pogačar and Jumbo-Visma winning so often these days, others are on the receiving end. Right now Cofidis are having a difficult to start to the season but if they can just get one win then they can start to look down on others. Or at least Arkéa-B&B Hotels which is having a lean spell comparable to Garmin’s drought of 2015-2017.

It’s zero wins for Cofidis, the only World Tour team without a victory so far in 2024. It’s surprising as they’ve often been good for early season success, think Bryan Coquard taking a stage of the Etoile de Bessèges or the Tour de La Provence, that kind of win which, in the weak winter sunshine, feels important as “Le Coq” smokes Mads Pedersen in an uphill finish. Only this weekend Pedersen’s a Ronde candidate and Coquard is racing the Route Adélie.

One irony is that Cofidis had remarked on how Coquard often wins early and then isn’t as prolific for the rest of the season so the plan was to delay his peak form. Some of this is structural to the team, you look at the squad and there’s no obvious “scorer”. Coquard can win those early season races and Axel Zingle is proving a good rider, especially in tough conditions, but he’s had three second places this year.

At some point though Coquard or Zingle will win a tricky bunch finish, or someone else triumphs from a breakaway. The question is when? Cofidis can take comfort that they’ve got until mid-May until things look historically bad.

Take the establishment of the Pro Tour in 2005 as a start point as it forms the calendar and participation system we know today and the longest wait for a top team to win came in 2005 and 2012. This record is jointly shared with the infamous Saunier Duval team as back in 2005 they took until the 19 May to get their first win. The latest date but as someone once pointed out 2012 was a leap year so it’s also the same number of days into the season as Ag2r La Mondiale’s long wait until 18 May 2012 to get their first win. That day Sébastien Hinault won a stage of the Circuit de Lorraine Professionel, a now-defunct race and as luck would have it hours later Sylvain Georges doubled-up with a solo stage win in the Tour of California.

If Cofidis get a win they’ll still be last on the team victory rankings table, as next come Astana, Ineos and DSM Firmenich-Post NL with two each. Astana have had poor results for some time and World Tour relegation awaits but Ineos and DSM are notable. DSM should be winning thanks to star signing Jakobsen and there’s a glass half-full, half-empty angle here as he’s never looked like winning a sprint yet but at least he was second recently in the Nokere Koerse so he should to find a way to victory soon. The British squad has a budget several times that of Cofidis so it ought to be winning more, and its two wins come from the Ecuador national championships and the demoted TT opener of the O Gran Camiño, a team so used to winning big is now selling different stories like Egan Bernal’s recovery.

World Tour drought
Once Cofidis get that first win anywhere the next thing is to see which World Tour teams are without a World Tour-level win this year. So far that’s obviously Cofidis, alongside Arkéa-B&B Hotels
, Astana, Ineos, Intermarché-Wanty
, Movistar and Jayco. This more a measure of the quality of the team and right now Arkéa-B&B are in the awkward position as they’re the only WorldTeam not to have won in the World Tour last year, their last top flight win was over two years ago now with Warren Barguil’s Tirreno-Adriatico stage in 2023.

Arkéa-B&B’s two year spell without a World Tour win is now longer than 2015-2017 dry spell endured by Cannondale (now EF) between Davide Formolo’s Giro Stage win in 2015 and Andrew Talansky’s Tour of California win. But of course Arkéa were promoted into the World Tour from 2023 so part of their drought was outside the World Tour.

Victory matters
Teams without wins get blog posts written about their woes, microphones are pushed towards them. Above all instead of being able to tell a story about their season so far they’re on the receiving end of questions. There’s the risk of compounding this, a sprinter feeling stressed rather than confident might launch too early or management lose their cool.

Quality matters too. Cofidis famously hadn’t won a Tour de France stage since 2008 and last summer they won two. If team manager Cédric Vasseur had met some Mephisto-like character on the eve of the Tour who promised two quality wins in July but the consequence was a dry spell to the start of 2024 he’d surely have signed up “with both hands” as the French expression goes.

Finally in the wider sense all teams have stories to tell. Teams that win plenty still lose more often than not and those that are up against can evoke challenges, underdog narratives and collective tales of team work and determination. Winning isn’t everything and absent any imagery of victory salutes there’s still plenty to say.

Cofidis have been close but there’s no win yet and for weeks now they’ve been the only World Tour squad without a win. Maybe the losing streak is ended at Paris-Camembert today? Probably not.

With all the focus on winning streaks these days I wanted to drag up the reverse angle and see which teams are having a tougher time. Cofidis stand out, it’s not ideal today but it’ll be worrying if it’s still the case by mid-May. Arkéa-B&B are having a tough time and two years sans a World Tour win sees them overtake EF’s barren spell. And while Ineos, Astana and DSM are off the mark they’re having a rough start too.

52 thoughts on “Losing Streaks”

  1. With Demare taking time out due to ‘fatigue’ Arkea are one potential top winner down.
    As for INEOS. Their management and their intent remain a complete mystery to many of us. In days when ‘road captain’ is a name of the past, this team appears stuffed full to the brim of them. I can count nearly one third of the team who fit this dated description. Why, when control is these days from a car? None of these riders have the capability of winning, some not even finishing. Something very odd is going on with this poorly managed but well funded team after the halcyon days of their previous incarnation. The present model of wealthy teams, is to have a team full of potential winners.

    • I think they are genuinely in a state of transition still, with management changes and star riders getting older or being injured. Sponsor wealth doesn’t necessarily translate into results. I’m expecting better things from them this year, but Its telling that only coming second in the Giro, winning Strade & 2 x monument podiums last year was seen as a disappointing season. Perhaps they’ve been waiting to see what would happen with Bernal, plus the Evenepoel transfer situation, they might just be playing it safe, keeping their powder dry as it were.

    • This is a good point well made – Ineos’s squad is so odd.

      Not least just the *ages*. Among their 29 riders are Castroviejo (36), Fraile (33), Kwiatkowski (33), Puccio (34), Rowe (34), Swift (36), Thomas (37), Viviani (35) and Wurf (40). That’s nine riders who are 33 or older, in a squad of only 29. How on earth did they end up there.

      It’s clearly such a mess. A chunk of it must be shrinking budget, driving them to hang on to lots of riders past their prime. But even then, it still seems like mismanagement – with the funds they have, they should still have a better squad than they’ve ended up with. The lack of WT wins should be no surprise. Other than Tarling / Ganna in a few TTs, what kind of races would one expect them to win this year?

      • It goes back a while now but cam remember Lionel Birnie doing a long interview with Dave Brailsford and one of the manager’s ideas was that riders have a “performance curve” where they get better up to a point and then decline, but often in their later years the performance might drop off but they can still command a high wage because of experience, celebrity, being dependable. The idea was to get riders on the upward path and ideally for lower wages as they built their career but then be ruthless once the results don’t or won’t follow.

        The Brailsford of that interview would probably want a word with the team management today.

        • Yes, Brailsford did have a ‘performance curve’ as a predictive model for recruitment. Without DBs ruthlessness’, the team is now left with far too many riders way down the downward portion of the curve – or even of the page all together.
          Team models have changed significantly since those days. Visma in today’s ‘Straight through Flanders’ made the point very well. Another exciting and aggressive race. They had several potential winners in their team, even when Wout was no longer present. Of course it requires financial strength to put together such a team, but it also requires vision, determination, understanding and some of DBs ruthlessness’.
          INEOS are not the only team who appear to have failed to foresee the exciting changes that have taken place in the last two years. Soudal – Quick Step and PlF are just others who appear to be floundering to cope.
          Maybe a little anarchy and unpredictability makes the racing all the better!

          • To flag though – for all their Classics travails, QuickStep do have 4 WorldTour wins already this season. As many as Trek, and only three teams have more (obviously UAE, Visma and Alpecin). Ineos are the car crash here.

        • Thinking back to the 2012 TdF Sky win made me wonder: is ozempic or similar allowed/used in the pro peloton? (Sorry if discussed on this site before)

          • “Substances in the Monitoring Program are not prohibited. The WADA laboratories analyze for the substances in the program to evaluate patterns of use, but athletes will not incur an anti-doping violation for using substances in the Monitoring Program.

            For 2024, tapentadol and dihydrocodeine were added to monitor patterns of use in-competition, and semaglutide (GLP-1 analog) was added to examine prevalence of use in sport.”

            Semaglutide works by making the body feel less hungry by slowing down the gastrointestinal tract. People who take these drugs say they have a very low appetite and cannot finish meals, resulting in weight loss. ¨

            But we may well ask ourselves whether pro cyclists need a drug to stick to their diet plan and to reach or maintain their racing weight – and there is no performanc-enhancing effect (apart from the weight loss).

    • I have a theory about Ineos: that results, to a certain extent, are not the be all and end all. For them the sponsorship is a PR exercise, taking customers to events and wining and dining them (2 full busloads to see Pidcock finish 8th in a CX race) and the chance for some customers to ride with the the “stars” on training rides. In the latter case the sociability is more important than their results.

  2. I recall a Youtuber commenting on Cofidis’ wheel/tire choice at the TDU. He mentioned they were one of the few squads still running 25mm tubular tires. Some very brief googling will net you wattages saved by switching to wider tires and with tubeless setups.

    I thought that had been debunked when Lafay won last year. There was some talk that Corima had finally elevated their tubeless setups. But now Astana are on Vision, and so are Arkea in pursuit of those elusive extra watts.

    8-10W is quite a margin at the WT level…..

    • That might weigh on results given the amount of second places they’ve had. They have Michelin as a sponsor and apparently the 25 and 28 clinchers roll as good as any so if there’s a chance to move to that, maybe worth taking.

      • Yeah, it’s all down to the equipment. Thank you Mr. Marketing Maven. If equipment makes the difference how come the infamous “marginal gains” SKYNEOS team, who can buy (or get free or better, get paid to use/endorse) any/everything they “need” to win are doing so poorly as noted in comments here?
        Riders move from team to team which always means changes in equipment – some do better at the new team, some do worse. Only the marketing-mavens or those who happily guzzle their kool-aid would claim the equipment makes the difference.
        IMHO it’s an insult to the athletes!

        • Ineos isn’t a great example. With the Freeman debacle we know why they were so great. They sold that off on us for years but it was a facade.

          You are 100% correct, tech isn’t what wins races; the riders do…but at this point it’s a qualifier. If you don’t have the fastest kit you won’t win. The best riders are on the fastest stuff AND have exceptional fitness.

          • Good try, but Freeman was actually struck off the UK medical register in 2021 after being found guilty of ordering 30 sachets of a banned testosterone to the British Cycling National Cycling Centre,” NOT sky/Ineos.
            I am no defender of doping. but it is important that the facts are correct. Freeman certainly worked with the Pro team.
            Let’s not go down the dead end of doping yet again!

          • All the riders know that if they are all giving it everything but someone has a bike that is more aero or lighter it can make a difference, not always the difference though. But especially over time, you can lose one sprint to positioning, another to timing etc but if two equally strong riders sprint for the win and a series of photo finishes going the wrong way then if you could find an extra 5-10W for free at 65km/h then you’d probably convert it into the win. The same if not more so for time trials, they reward the big budget teams who can buy custom bars, fund regular wind tunnel time etc. This resource-performance gap is hard to measure but it’s probably grown over time. But Cofidis are no amateurs either, they have resources and knowledge here that Bingoal or Total don’t etc.

            There’s also a placebo effect too, riders told their new kit is faster believe it. And the reverse, when we see riders emptying their last bidon of half the water, throwing away used gel wrappers etc for the last climb of the day… and then someone knows their bike is 1.25kg heavier it plays on their mind.

          • “All the riders know that if they are all giving it everything but someone has a bike that is more aero or lighter it can make a difference, not always the difference though. ”
            And you KNOW this how? From your time as a pro? A pro told you this? Otherwise it’s just an opinion based on marketing bullspeak and exactly what those folks want the consumer to believe.

          • It’s surely obvious, if you are on a shopping bike and your identical twin is on a time trial bike they be faster. The gap narrows the closer the bikes resemble each other but there are bikes that are measurably lighter or more aero than others.

            But it’s also a recurring theme with riders, only the marketing aspect you point out means they don’t say this aloud… but it is something said in private. Equally some can be picky about their bikes, others oblivious too.

          • “It’s surely obvious, if you are on a shopping bike and your identical twin is on a time trial bike they be faster. ”
            You’re really gonna go there?!? Is INRNG now supported in some way by the bike industry? Anon Y. Mouse and Co. making lame comments like that I can understand and I may be banned for posting this but I expect better from you than BS examples like the one quoted above.
            Same for “If you don’t have the fastest kit you won’t win. ” from Mr. Mouse – please explain how Mr. Pogacar won all those races on a bike with components which must be really awful since nobody in the WT will use them in 2024. More than a few times he used mechanical levers to pull on wires to squeeze rubber blocks onto the sides of the rims to control his speed. Did he win Lombardia because he couldn’t slow down?
            Bicycles DON’T win races, racers do…no matter what the marketing-mavens want you to believe.

          • You’re coming across as argumentative for the sake of it. There’s no point exaggerating the gains of some bikes, that is the probably marketing BS that gets you. But differences exist between models as by definition they are not the same. Is this the winning difference? Often not but it can be a factor among others at times.

          • “But differences exist between models as by definition they are not the same. Is this the winning difference? Often not but it can be a factor among others at times.”
            I’ll end this with some thoughts from pros I’ve sat-in on interviews with. The vacation/tour group clients loved to ask equipment questions to every single one of the pros, LeMond, BigTex, Phil Anderson, Ron Keifel, Chris Carmichael, Norm Alvis and Andy Hampsten to name just a few.
            None of them would claim equipment made any difference, even when pressed. No sponsor shilling either. The closest one ever came was Hampsten who quipped “The only thing worse than NOT having a super-light climbing bike going uphill is HAVING one when you go back down.”
            It’s all marketing bullspeak. Always has been, always will be, if the UCI does its job right.
            The guy who wins LeTour would have won riding the bike of the guy who finished dead last and vice-versa. If there was any real difference (like F1) wouldn’t we see various riders consistently winning on Brand X year after year while riders on other brands struggle? Riders using bikes with Cervelo decals on ’em won all three Grand Tours in 2023. Are you gonna claim it was the bikes that made the difference? The marketing-mavens at Cervelo might, but Primoz Roglic doesn’t think so. I think WvA won plenty of races on a bike with Bianchi decals on it not too long ago if memory serves me correctly?

          • That was all a long time ago Larry, steel frames built by artisans, today’s bikes are different. My point isn’t really about bikes making the Tour winning difference (although that handlebar in 1989) more that if the margin of victory is often very close it is a factor. If a rider loses a time trial by three seconds the kit can make a difference.

            Since you mention Andy Hampsten and marketing…

            He took the lead in the 1988 Giro of course. His 7-Eleven team were several riders down in the third week and worried about Eric Breukink and his strong Panasonic team. The Cyndarella-Isotonic started appearing on the front of the bunch and working for 7-Eleven.

            Plenty of anecdotes and autobiographies have recounted deals, teams buying help for the day. Cyndarella-Isotonic joined in because of corporate marketing: they were the other team in the Giro supplied by Shimano and there was a big commercial incentive to help the Japanese manufacturer get its first grand tour win and so their riders were told to get on with it.

          • “Since you mention Andy Hampsten and marketing…” blah, blah, blah…
            Nice story but has zero to do with the subject at hand…so “nice try… but no cigar”.as they used to say.
            If you wanna believe the difference between winning and losing can be purchased at a bike shop, it’s OK with me, but I’ve worked in 5-6 different ones during my life and never saw anything for sale in any of ’em that I believed would do that.
            Back-in-the-day I’d tell a prospective client looking at a high-quality pro-level bike: “We have everything here + the skill and knowledge to build you a Tour de France winning bike. But you need the LEGS and those can’t be bought here, sorry. You have to supply them.”

          • Can’t help thinking that it would help to be as sceptical about people when the thing they are marketing is their past exploits (“it was all me”) rather than their current sponsor…

    • True although the teams towards the lower end of the rankings struggle for these as well.

      But Cofidis did come very close last year in the Tour of Guangxi with Rémi Rochas second overall. Had he won then the team would have been the first French squad to win a World Tour stage race since Betancur in Paris-Nice 2014 and Rochas the first Frenchman to win this level race since Moreau in the 2007 Dauphiné. Can debate the value of the label, Guangxi vs Dauphiné etc but you’re right that being close is important too… but winning outright makes a big difference as well.

  3. “With all the focus on winning streaks these days I wanted to drag up the reverse angle and see which teams are having a tougher time.”
    Ho and hum. Seems like pro cycling today has fallen into something my wife used to describe about her racing days. Her competitors then were women like Rebecca Twigg and Connie Carpenter for some context.
    She’d joke about what they called the “California Syndrome” – SoCal based racers would train all winter in the nice weather and be flying in the early season races…but burned out when the really important ones came round. She worked hard to avoid this, going to college in the east helped.
    Losing (or winning) streaks seem rather silly IMHO when the real cycling season started what….two weeks ago with MSR?

  4. Without doing a thorough analysis, it seems to me that Ineos have a much reduced programme this year, missing many of the .1 and .Pro races where they have won in the past. I think they missed Vuelta a Andalucia, Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and Vuelta Ciclista a la Región de Murcia, all of which netted wins last year. A bit puzzling.

    • That’s long been Greenedge’s way as well, to race the big races and not do much more. Ineos may do some more as they have the old riders mentioned above but they also have a lot of younger ones who could try a day/week’s leadership in a .Pro or .1 race too.

  5. Probably one of the greatest changes in the recent past has been the rapid decline in strength and performance of French teams. See the present bottom feeders amongst the WT teams. There was a time, not so long ago when they were all conquering in the TdF, even with non French riders like Lemond. At the time of ‘two tier’ cycling this decline was understandable. But for the past few years there has not been a dominant International French team or even rider.
    Maybe their concentration on their own French Cup programme has removed some of their higher level International competitiveness or they are simply to insular!
    It is noticeable that even in the top tier of French amatuer racing, clubs are not allowed more than two foreign riders.

      • “Poor Alaphilippe, forgotten already! 😉”.
        Exciting rider when on form, but not too many quality wins to show for all the hype!
        Certainly not with the results of earlier French riders like Anquetil, Hinault, Poulidor, Thevenet, or Fignon, to name just a few of the more recent French stars.

        • I’m no JA fan but to say not too many quality wins is laughable. Two world championships, MSR and Strade Bianche, 3x Flèche. His palmares is impressive

        • Of course Alaphilippe isn’t another Hinault – Hinault was one of the three greatest riders ever to have graced the sport; the only question is whether you think he is second or third behind Merckx. There has only been one other rider in the last 40 years who is even worth discussing in the same conversation which is Pogacar: let’s see what his palmarès looks like when he retires, but he is on course if he keeps winning to be in the same conversation at least.

          But that is not to do down Alaphilippe. He is in the small group of riders who at any one time were “at the top of their generation”. As such, that probably puts him in the top 0.01% of cyclists ever; just not in the top 0.001% to be at the Merckx / Hinault / Coppi level.

      • Alaphillipe is entertaining. He always gets himself on TV. He’s flamboyant in a way. You always know he’s there.
        He also crashes spectacularly!!
        Strade Bianche, Ronde van Vlaannderen, bouncing off a mountain wall in TT in the Tour,
        I’m sure there’s more.
        And he does some dumb sh t sometimes. Was it Liege he lost cause he threw his arms up to soon?

  6. “Probably one of the greatest changes in the recent past has been the rapid decline in strength and performance of French teams.”
    Take a look at the MPCC website – seems more French riders are involved vs those from other countries.
    Correlation is not causation but just the other day Franck Bonnamour was sacked for dodgy biopassport values so maybe the sport’s not as clean as we all like to think post BigTex and the bad old daze? Cycling at two speeds all over again…or same as it ever was?

  7. “More French riders are involved vs those from other countries.’
    I am talking about quality, not quantity. Unlike the Italian scene, the French certainly have plenty of teams and professionals.
    Their results unfortunately don’t back up their numerical superiority.

  8. “I am talking about quality, not quantity.”
    Correlation is not causation but ya gotta wonder if cleaner is slower -why would results back up numerical superiority if the French riders are riding under stricter protocols than their rivals – doped is doped!

      • I have no idea on who might be doping so don’t want to speculate but the comments on French riders lack of results combined with so many being part of MPCC vs riders from other countries makes me wonder. I do think it’s too easy post BigTex to think things have been miraculously “sanitized for our protection” especially since we’ve heard that a few times before. 1999 was supposed to be that “tour of redemption” post-Festina as I recall. I was there at Sestriere when a whole lot of people went “uh-oh” after BigTex’s incredible performance…which turned out to be just that.
        I didn’t read MPCC’s manifesto so it could be they ban things that aren’t “doping” to WADA or UCI but improve performance in what MPCC considers unsporting or unsafe ways, so their members don’t use them and their results demonstrate it?
        What’s preventing UCI from adopting MPCC’s rules if they too believe in credible cycling? How much of Mr. Mars’ and the Mad Hatter’s philosophy remains in the sport? And why are so many dodgy characters from the past still involved? Lifetime bans should have been handed out to more cheats than BigTex and his Smug Thug DS, IMHO.

        • Thank you, Larry. I love cycling, watching pro cycling, and reading about it, especially comments, because I learn so many different perspectives. When I watch the current greats, my heart wants certainty, but I guess that’s not really possible. I visited MPCC’s website to read up on their rules but the site is “suspended.”

  9. I absolutely detested Sky, but I think some of the recent criticism of Ineos is a little harsh. They have been the victims of some bad luck (Bernal etc.), compounded with maybe putting too many eggs in the baskets of Pidcock and pursuit of Remco. But they were 15 seconds from the GC at the Giro last year and not that long ago they were super competitive in the classics. With the young talent they are investing in now and the old guys on their way out they are absolutely in a time of transition, but I expect to see them back at the pointy end of races sooner rather than later.

    • A transition to what though? The squad seems fairly randomly assembled. Which kinds of races do you expect them to be at the pointy end of?

      • I think Bernal and Rodriguez will be competitive in stage races (not on the level of Ving or Pogi, but who is?). I think Tarling and some of the other young riders will be good classics riders. Pidcock is still a question mark as well. He has shown that he can win big races, but his focus has not been great. Narvaez has shown some really impressive form this year as well.

  10. Ineos is a team in transition, but I feel there is a problem with the performance curve of a lot of their talent flattening or even going down: Turner, Sheffield, Hayter, Arensman. Tarling is the only one who seems to be still making big steps.

    Cofidis and Total Energies probably also look worse, because Decathlon has seriously stepped up and are no longer one of the underperforming French teams. I feel like even though Démare is totally out of shape, Arkea is doing pretty well in a scrappy underdog way.

    DSM is the team that worries me most. They seem to have developed some very idiosyncratic ideas about how to race that brought them success in the Kittel era and now they are trying those times back, even though it isn’t working. Patrick Eddy’s performance in Bredene – Koksijde being yet another baffling example of this.

    • Tarling and Sheffield had a good day yesterday, but your point is still valid as they were always in the second tier.

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