Classics

The Superteam is Falling Flat

27 Mar , 2011  

‘Perhaps no single squad has had as much talent ready for Paris-Roubaix since Mapei in 2000′. Well, so says April’s Pro Cycling magazine alongside a photograph of Garmin-Cervelo’s trinity of classics specialists Tyler Farrar, Thor Hushovd and Heinrich Haussler.

The new superteam can also boast experienced cobbled classic riders such as Andreas Klier, Roger Hammond, Martijn Maaskant, Johan van Summeren as well as the up and coming Sep Vanmarcke who has already been pegged for greatness. On paper it’s a formidable lineup. But gelling these riders into a coherent and selfless unit with clear goals and objectives isn’t easy. In fact it is the amount of talented riders which makes this task all the more difficult.

Garmin-Cervelo have yet to win a proper one-day race this year so far. Murilo Fischer and Tyler Farrar both won races in Mallorca in February but as part of an odd hybrid single-day/stage-race format; so we won’t count those wins as true one-day victories. And it is Farrar again who has come closest to netting a proper one-day win for the team by finishing third in both Ghent-Wevelgem and Dwars door Vlaanderen.

In the same article in this month’s Pro Cycling, Jonathan Vaughters states that:

Tyler, Thor and Heinrich don’t have egos and all are generous. They have intelligence to understand they can win if they have a good day and need to help somebody else if they are in a medium day. That’s why the key is to give them autonomy. They will see how they feel and work together.

For Flanders and Roubaix, we’ll have the answer before the race. If Thor is in good condition, everybody will support him 100 per cent. But Milan-San Remo, that one is tricky. Thor, Heinrich or Tyler? They all can win.

So as vague as you like so far, have been the team orders for the classics which have already been raced, Milan-San Remo and Ghent-Wevelgem. Well, if I was the manager of a cycling team, I wouldn’t be revealing my master plan to a magazine either. But from the evidence we’ve seen from Garmin-Cervelo there doesn’t seem to have been any master plan at all and Vaughters has indeed been playing it by ear.

Haussler, Farrar and Hushovd all want to win a monument classic

Despite Farrar’s third place in Ghent-Wevelgem which has slightly painted over the cracks of their failings this year, the team has been completely anonymous in how both races unfolded. From getting riders into a breakaway to reeling in escapees and then to actually winning, the team hasn’t been able to tick any of the boxes. The vague team plans revealed in the magazine don’t appear to be a smokescreen at all.

Returning then to the opening remark that Garmin-Cervelo have as much talent ready for Paris-Roubaix since Mapei in 2000. This may be true, in that the potential is there for any of the aforementioned Garmin-Cervelo riders to take the victory depending on how the race is played out. But what is certainly true is that, in terms of results, this team is nowehere near the Mapei class of 2000.

Garmin-Cervelo have several riders who have finished in the top 10 of Paris-Roubaix, but when it comes to actually crossing the finishing line first in a classic, they have two former winners of Ghent-Wevelgem; Andreas Klier and Thor Hushovd. And of course, Hushovd is the reigning World Champion. That’s it.

Now let’s look at the results of riders who were on the Mapei-QuickStep team in 2000, only considering results achieved before the year 2000.

They too had the reigning World Champion in Oscar Freire. Their holy trinity consisted of Michele Bartoli, twice a World Cup Winner, twice winner of Liége-Bastogne-Liége, and a winner of both the Tour of Flanders and Fléche Wallonne; Johan Museeuw, former World Champion, triple Tour of Flanders winner, Paris-Roubaix winner and another double World Cup winner; and finally Andrea Tafi, a winner of both Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Lombardy.

The all-conquering Mapei team

We can add to that then two winners of Ghent-Wevelgem, Tom Steels and Wilfried Peeters. There’s also Gianni Faresin who won the Tour of Lombardy and finally Stefano Zanini, a winner of Amstel Gold.

In total, the members of that Mapei team had won four World Cups, two World Championships, ten monument classics and five other classics between them. In contrast, Team Garmin Cervelo riders have won one World Championship, no monuments and just two other classics.

At the moment, Garmin-Cervelo are a team full of promise. Currently, they don’t seem to have the guidance necessary to convert the title of ‘strongest team’ on paper into actually being the strongest team on the road. We may look back at this team in ten years time and count up the amount of monument classic victories they have achieved in the years between 2011 and 2020. And the answer might be plenty. But we could also do that for Mapei to see how their riders fared in the years following 2000. There was plenty of promise on that Mapei team to add to the results which had already been delivered.

To illustrate, the only major classic which hadn’t been won by any of the member of that Mapei team was Milan San-Remo. But there was actually four future winners of Milan San-Remo waiting in the wings as classics stars to be; Oscar Freire, Fabian Cancellara, Filippo Pozzato and Paolo Bettini. There was also plenty of other strong classics guys who would go on to achieve podium places in monument classics; Leif Hoste, Fred Rodriguez and Luca Paolini. In terms of depth and results, Garmin-Cervelo doesn’t even come close to matching the Mapei team of 2000.

So far it seems the tactic of ‘the road will decide’ to determine the leader hasn’t worked. Vaughters saying this to his potential leaders will result in none of them wanting to be the guy out in the breakaway, none of them want to be the decoy. They’ll all want to ride conservatively to see of they can be ‘the one’ that the road decides is on the best form. Conversely, by selecting a definite leader for the day, as Vaughters says he will for Flanders and Roubaix, it makes riders’ roles clear and provides the team with an arsenal of tactical options. For a team who are notable for having not yet won a Tour de France stage, they are becoming more and more notable for having not yet won a major classic.

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3 Responses

  1. james drake says:

    Well, you can now chalk one victory for Garmin-Cervelo in the classics, although it was an unlikely breakaway winner (who was probably more surprised than the spectators waiting in the stadium or Thor Hushovd and Fabian Cancellara).. Kind of makes you wonder why G-C needs a Thor when they have a Van Summeren. Sorry Thor, no disrespect, but your latest victories are coming about because of your following tactics and not because you’re winning races. And 8th place.. when you were behind the eventual 2nd placed Cancellara right till the end??? Show’s were all the power really is. Cancellara not a sprinter? Does he even need to be? Best deserved 2nd place, and perhaps even 1st if he hadn’t been bluffed by the G-C team.. Perhaps Mr Cosimo, you have underestimated the team tactics of G-C, who after all put the breaks on Cancellara by having Thor glued to his wheel.

  2. Irish Peloton says:

    Well, they need a Thor because without him, Van Summeren would never have won that race. Garmin-Cervelo did indeed get the tactics spot on this time, helped in no small part by the fact that their riders seemed much stronger than they did in the Tour of Flanders. Hushovd, Farrar and Van Summeren are all much more suited to Roubaix than Flanders.

    But hats off to Jonathan Vaughters and Peter van Petegem who were calling the shots and got things absolutely right to take the victory for the team. Perhaps it will be the first of many classics for them? Now all they need is a Tour de France stage!

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