Lotto Winners

Andre Greipel Lotto Soudal

Several teams are sponsored by lotteries like FDJ and Lotto-Jumbo but in 2015 it’s Lotto-Soudal who’ve been lucky with the draw. Best team of 2015? Of course not but Lotto-Soudal have beaten expectations and their own records and it’s worth noting. The finish 2015 in third place on the team victory ranking.

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Paris-Nice Contenders and Pretenders

A bicycle race is an exercise in hierarchy. We start with riders on equal time and by the end they are arranged in order. Tests like summit finishes and time trials help impose a reasonable order and over the years we’ve got used to seeing teams controlling events in stage races and relying on set piece moments to define the race, a “train” imposing itself of the race.

Only this year’s Paris-Nice has none of these cues, the route is a blank canvas where riders will have to take risks to win.

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Team Victory Rankings

It’s early in the season but as you’ll see below, not as early as you might think. Here is the state of play so far with the win count for the 18 World Tour teams.

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2012 UCI Pro Teams

Professional cycling teams are ranked into three tiers. The top level is UCI Pro Team and the 18 teams here have automatic and obligatory access to the big races on the UCI’s World Tour calendar. In addition, there is a range of rules governing these teams that aim to ensure sporting and financial stability.

You’ll find the top-18 teams below, their sponsors explained plus riders and staff listed.

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Cavendish, Specialized, Omega-Quickstep and the vacuum

Mark Cavendish

You’re probably more interested in racing than rumours but where Mark Cavendish will ride next year is still up in the year and even if speculation isn’t your thing, there are some interesting ideas behind this.

I had thought Cavendish was going to Team Sky, only that US bike manufacturer Specialized were coming with him. But this sponsorship plan looks increasingly unlikely. First Pinarello have a firm three year deal with Team Sky meaning the British team are contracted to ride the Italian frames in 2012. And I believe the same is true of helmet supplier Kask, another frustration for Specialized.

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Can Quick-Step and Omega afford to let Gilbert go?

UCI rankings

That’s the current team standings. Note Omega Pharma-Lotto are sitting in third place whilst Quick Step languish in 17th place. A lot of this is down to Philippe Gilbert. As of Sunday he held 568 points, meaning that if you subtract his 568 points from Omega-Lotto then the Belgian squad would be in… 17th place.

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Divorce in the Kingdom: Omega, Lotto and Gilbert

Not all marriages last. Today came confirmation of a split in the Kingdom of Belgium between Omega Pharma and the Belgian lottery, Lotto. Both are long term sponsors of pro cycling. Omega boss Marc Coucke is a big fan of the sport and cycling is the most popular sport in Belgium, meaning the state lottery is almost obliged to get involved.

Reynders + Gilbert
Reynders and Gilbert: a classic "politician with sportsman" pose... or is there more to it?

But there’s a twist, as explained by Greg Ienco of Cyclisme Revue. Lotto is effectively under the control of Belgian politician Didier Reynders. He’s perhaps the top representative of the Walloon region, being both deputy prime minister and finance minister. Plus as there’s still no government, he was also an informateur, a role appointed by the King to help form a government but like others, couldn’t get a parliamentary majority in place. Put simply, Reynders is big in Belgium.

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Lloyd’s unlucky Lotto ticket

Matthew Lloyd, the Australian rider on the Omega Pharma – Lotto team got fired today.

In times past I’ve often found the various incarnations of the Lotto team to be rather chaotic, surviving from one month to the next, often with ability to lose a race by strategic bungling and above all, some chaotic recruitment (eg here and here) and man-management skills. That’s harsh but for years they’ve been a distant second to national rivals Quick Step.

In recent times though that’s changed. They’ve refocussed with Philippe Gilbert as their leader and AndrĂ© Greipel was a useful addition. There have been other changes and some measures they’ve toppled Quick Step.

But it seems the office politics haven’t gone away. Only this morning I brought tales of a split in the team that’s got traction across the cycling media. Rather than countering with some good news, they’ve now fired Aussie rider Matthew Lloyd.

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Greipel to Lotto: good for the team, bad for him

Does Greipel feel lucky? AndrĂ© Greipel’s finally announced he’s on his way to Belgian squad Omega Pharma – Lotto. It’s one of those logical deals. Greipel has been feeling the squeeze on his team, he’s a top sprinter but has to play understudy to Mark Cavendish, only getting an invite to the races where the … Read more