Team profiles: Argos-Shimano, Astana and Omega Pharma-Quick Step

In addition to selecting three riders apiece to follow, each of the VeloVoices will be monitoring the progress of one of the 18 ProTeams throughout 2013. You can read about Tim, Jack and Panache’s selections tomorrow, but today it’s the turn of Kitty, Sheree and Ant to reveal their teams for this season.

Argos-Shimano (Kitty)

Argos-Shimano 20132012 WorldTour ranking: N/A. 2nd in UCI Europe Tour, 1,615 pts.

2012 highlights:

  • UCI Europe Tour: John Degenkolb ranked 1st overall.
  • Tour of Oman: Marcel Kittel won two stages.
  • Vuelta a Andalucía: Patrick Gretsch won one stage.
  • Three Days of De Panne: Marcel Kittel won one stage.
  • Four Days of Dunkirk: John Degenkolb won two stages.
  • Scheldeprijs: Won by Marcel Kittel.
  • Tour de Picardie: John Degenkolb 1st overall and won two stages.
  • Tour de Pologne: John Degenkolb won one stage.
  • Vuelta a España: John Degenkolb won five stages.

Five to watch:

  • Marcel Kittel (sprinter)
  • John Degenkolb (sprinter)
  • Koen de Kort (Classics/road captain)
  • Peter Gretsch (time-triallist)
  • Simon Geschke (climber)

Why I’m following them:

I was so impressed by the Argonauts last season. First of all, their snowy white kits were a refreshing change from the blue/white/black combo that a lot of other teams were sporting. Second of all, they rode with heart and soul all year long and made the most of their wild card selections, especially in the Vuelta. They were gunning for a ProTeam licence and they made sure they were like streaks of lightning on the front of the peloton during the sprints. I think they’re going to have a great year this year, chalking up multiple wins from both Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb. Other than the Lotto boys, the Argonauts feel the most like a team who pull together in every race, have fun, and don’t have star ego trips. No toys out of the pram for these guys!


Twitter: @1t4i

Astana (Sheree)

Astana 20132012 WorldTour ranking: 10th, 645 pts.

2012 highlights:

  • Volta a Catalunya: Janez Brajkovic won one stage.
  • Amstel Gold: Won by Enrico Gasparotto.
  • Liege-Bastogne-Liege: Won by Maxim Iglinskiy.
  • Gito d’Italia: Paolo Tiralongo and Roman Kreuziger won one stage each.
  • Tour de Suisse: Fredrik Kessiakoff and Tanel Kangert won one stage each.
  • Olympics road race: Won by Alexandre Vinokourov.
  • Vuelta a Espana: Fredrik Kessiakoff won one stage.

Five to watch:

  • Vincenzo Nibali (GC)
  • Evan Huffman (time-trialist)
  • Jakob Fuglsang (GC)
  • Maxim Iglinskiy (Classics)
  • Alexey Lutsenko (sprinter)

Why I’m following them:

Last year I followed Alexandre Vinokourov. He’s retired and, as befits an Olympic gold medal winner and Kazakhstan’s athlete of 2012, he’s now running the team. So I want to see how he fares. I also know some of the riders and support staff so this just might  – or might not – give me a better insight. They’re also a team that’s local to me in that a number of their staff and riders live either on the Cote d’Azur or in Monaco. Since assuming the reins, Alex has brought in additional sponsors, hired more assistant directeur sportifs and given the team an overhaul. Out goes Roman Kreuziger and in comes Vuelta winner Vincenzo Nibali, with his Italian wingmen, who’s going to be aiming for the top step of the Giro podium.

Another recent hire, Jakob Fuglsang, will presumably get a crack at one of the other two Grand Tours. With 23 professionals and four neo pros there’s room  – in the  budget and under UCI rules – to hire other riders. The team has nine Kazakhs and nine Italians, Italian largely being the team’s lingua franca as it’s the most common language among the riders, including the Kazakhs. I’m hoping, probably along with everyone else, that Alex’s attacking flair as a racer translates into a more aggressive strategy on the road for the most readily identifiable team. Yes, the turquoise and gold kit positively leaps up at you and I love their iridescent time-trialling skin suits – though I wouldn’t wear one myself.


Twitter: @AstanaTeam

OPQS Omega Pharma-Quick Step 2013Omega Pharma-Quick Step (Ant)

2012 WorldTour ranking: 4th, 1,162 pts.

2012 highlights:

  • Tour of Qatar: Tom Boonen 1st overall and won two stages.
  • Tour of Oman: Peter Velits 1st overall.
  • Paris-Nice: Tom Boonen won one stage.
  • Dwars door Vlaanderen: Won by Niki Terpstra.
  • E3 Harelbeke: Won by Tom Boonen.
  • Gent-Wevelgem: Won by Tom Boonen.
  • Three Days of De Panne: Sylvain Chavanel 1st overall and won one stage.
  • Tour of Flanders: Won by Tom Boonen.
  • Paris-Roubaix: Won by Tom Boonen.
  • Tour of Turkey: Iljo Keisse won one stage.
  • Tour of Belgium: Tony Martin 1st overall and won one stage.
  • Vuelta a Espana: Dario Cataldo wo. one stage.
  • Paris-Brussels: Won by Tom Boonen.
  • Road World Championships: 1st in trade team time trial, Tony Martin won individual time trial.

Five to watch:

  • Tom Boonen (Classics/sprinter)
  • Niki Terpstra (Attacker, or as Panache puts it, ‘all-round bad-ass’)
  • Sylvain Chavanel (According to OPQS, he’s a ‘stage hunter’ – I love this title!)
  • Tony Martin (time trialist)
  • Mark Cavendish (uber-sprinter) [Nah, never heard of him – Ed.]

Why I’m following them:

Speed. These guys have it in abundance, and while there are many teams which can electrify a race, it’s the sheer breadth of talent and flair within OPQS that drew me to them. (Okay, the signing of Mark Cavendish had a little something to do with it too.) From guys who love to go out on the attack, to sprinters, to time-trialists, OPQS have almost got it all. The one obvious weakness being road-hardened climbers (a couple of young prospects aside) who could challenge for high overall places in the Grand Tours. So what am I expecting/hoping to see? The combined talents of Boonen, Cavendish, Terpstra and Chavanel should bring them a decent shout of a victory on most days, and I would expect them to reel in a very big haul from the Classics.

One of the key points of interest for me will be how they manage to deploy these four guys with maximum effect, and I hope that the presence of Cav won’t stunt the opportunistic attacks that this team has such capacity for. In addition to this, of course, there are a number of very strong time trial riders in their ranks, not least world champion Tony Martin, and as a collective they picked up the world TTT title in 2012, so they have a good number of disciplines well covered. I still think the kit is awful, but I’ll turn a blind eye to that!


Twitter: @OPQScyclingteam

Tour de San Luis preview

Logo Tour de San Luis 2013The seventh edition of the Tour de San Luis runs from Monday 21st until Sunday 27th January and it’s gaining in popularity as it provides high altitude, warm weather racing in a convivial atmosphere. Ten ProTeams are present: Omega Pharma-Quick Step along with Movistar, Lampre-Merida, Astana, BMC, AG2R La Mondiale, Orice-GreenEDGE, Lotto-Belisol, Saxo-Tinkoff and Cannondale. There are also the top-ranked European and US ProConti teams along with a sprinkling of local ones.

What kind of race is it?

Riders will cover 1,017.5km over seven stages, one of which is an individual time trial. The race is ranked 2.1 on the UCI America Circuit. The two indicates that it’s a stage race while the one shows it’s a second tier race  – top-tier races are HC – to which half the invited teams must be from the WorldTour. In addition, the organisers are obliged to invite the top-ranked Professional Continental and Continental teams on the American circuit. National teams may also take part.

The most recent winners of the event are:

2008: Martin Garrido (Palmeiras Resort-Tavira)

2009: Alfredo Lucero (Argentina national team)

2010: Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo)

2011: Marco Arragiada (Chile national team)

2012: Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quick Step)

What happened last year?

Last year's victor(image courtesy of official race site)

Last year’s victor
(image courtesy of official race site)

Frankly, it was a bit of a goal-fest for Omega Pharma-Quick Step. Levi Leipheimer won the overall, largely as a result of his victory in the time trial and his ability to cling to runner-up Alberto Contador’s (Saxo Bank) coat-tails on the two summit finishes. With two stage wins for Francesco Chicchi and one for Tom Boonen, OPQS scored an impressive four wins from seven. The remaining stage was won by the young Italian sprinter and track star Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale). Contador was subsequently stripped of those two victories when he was sanctioned in relation to his 2010 Tour de France clenbuterol positive.

1. Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) 26:32:55

2. Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank) +0:46

3. Daniel Diaz (San Luis Somos Todos) +1:29

4. Stefan Schumacher (Christina Watches-Ofone) +1:34

5. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) +1:50

6. Jose Serpa (Androni Giocattoli) +2:13

7. Magno Nazaret (Funvic-Pidamonhangab) +2:39

8. Luis Mansilla (Chile) +3:24

9. Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +3:44

10. Andrey Amador (Movistar) +4:46

Our full 2012 race review is here.

This year’s race

The stages follow a not dissimilar format to prior years. Proceedings kick off with a sprint-friendly stage finishing after a long stretch of downhill  – just to warm up the legs and get everyone acclimatised to the altitude. The organisers dial it up a notch on day two with another sprint stage, but one which is rather more undulating. Stage three features two category one climbs: the Alto de Nogoli followed by a long descent before the 4.8km climb at an average of 6.7% to the summit finish at Mirador Potrero.


The flattish 19.5km time trial is an out-and-back loop with a number of tricky turns and may well again prove decisive in determining the race winner. Here’s a quick run through of the stage:

Stage five features a finish on yet another category one climb, the 10.2km Cerro d’Amago, which has a few 10%+ ramps and finishes on the plateau above the climb.


Stage six, the queen stage shown above, finishes atop the well-known category one climb the Mirador del Sol. The 7km climb averages 8.75%, though there are a few stretches above 14%. This penultimate stage should pretty much confirm the general classification as the final day is another one for the sprinters, although there is a bit of a ramp up to the finish, making it possibly more suited to Peter Sagan (Cannondale) than Mark Cavendish (OPQS).

Who to watch

Vincenzo Nibali swapping lime-green for turquoise(image courtesy of team Astana)

Vincenzo Nibali swapping lime-green for turquoise (image courtesy of team Astana)

Last year’s winning team are bringing French national time trial champion Sylvain Chavanel, who last year rode in support of Leipheimer, and sprinter Mark Cavendish who’ll be keen to record a win in his new jersey and joust with Sagan. Astana are fielding 2010 winner Vincenzo Nibali, also sporting new colours and looking to impress.

It would be nice to see one or more of the Colombians who are taking part shine in the high mountains but I suspect they’ll all be tasked with taking care of their respective team leaders.

This early in the season, riders are looking more for stage wins to test their legs than perhaps the overall. So look for riders who typically will be riding in a support role later in the year, and who can also time trial, to waltz off with that magnificent small rider-sized trophy.

Of course the man everyone will be watching is last year’s Vuelta winner Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff), who’ll want to continue his winning form into 2013.

Race details

January 21st: Stage 1 – San Luis to Villa Mercedes, 165km

January 22nd: Stage 2 – Tilisarao to Terraza del Portezuelo, 187km

January 23rd: Stage 3 – La Punta to Mirador Potrero/La Punta, 180km

January 24th: Stage 4 – San Luis to San Luis, 19.5km individual time trial

January 25th: Stage 5 – Juana Koslay to La Carolina, 185km

January 26th: Stage 6 – Quines to Merlo, 131km

January 27th: Stage 7 – San Luis to San Luis, 160km

The Tour de San Luis starts on Monday 21st January and concludes on Sunday 27th. For live video and audio coverage check

Link: Official website