Team profiles: Garmin Sharp, Movistar and Vacansoleil-DCM

Each of the VeloVoices will be following one of the 18 ProTeams during 2013, in addition to their three nominated riders. Today it’s the turn of Panache, Jack and Tim to unveil their selections.

Garmin Sharp (Panache)

Garmin-Sharp 20132012 WorldTour ranking: 9th, 762 pts.

2012 highlights:

  • Omloop Het Nieuwsblad: Won by Sep Vanmarcke.
  • Giro d’Italia: Ryder Hesjedal 1st overall, won team time trial and team classification.
  • Tour de France: David Millar won one stage.
  • USA Pro Cycling Challenge: Christian Vande Velde 1st overall, Tyler Farrar won two stages, Tom Danielson won one stage.
  • Tour of Beijing: Dan Martin won mountains classification.

Five to watch:

  • Ryder Hesjedal (GC)
  • Andrew Talansky (GC)
  • Dan Martin (climber)
  • Nick Nuyens (Classics)
  • Johan Vansummeren (Classics)

Why I’m following them:

Over the last couple of years Garmin-Sharp have proved that you don’t have to have a ‘super-team’ budget to be a really super team. In 2011 they were victorious at Paris-Roubaix with crafty teamwork that allowed Johan Vansummeren to come into the Roubaix velodrome on a flat tyre with time to spare. Then they went on a successful stage-hunting campaign at the Tour de France. 2012 saw even greater success with Ryder Hesjedal claiming Garmin’s first Grand Tour victory and becoming the first Canadian ever to win the Giro d’Italia.  The team finished the year strongly with Christian Vande Velde edging out Levi Leiphiemer in the time trial on the final day of the US Pro Cycling Challenge to claim overall victory.

I’m following Garmin-Sharp because I want to see how they will up the ante and strive for even greater success. Can they focus after the media circus surrounding the USADA testimony of Vande Velde, David Zabriskie and manager Jonathan Vaughters? Will the addition of Nick Nuyens create a stealth Classics squad that contends with Omega Pharma-Quick Step? I hope the answer is yes to both and the team that has strived to be clean from doping will continue to be rewarded with good karma.


Twitter: @ride_argyle

Movistar (Jack)

Stampa2012 WorldTour ranking: 5th, 952 pts.

2012 highlights:

  • Tour Down Under: Alejandro Valverde won one stage.
  • Paris-Nice: Alejandro Valverde won one stage.
  • Giro d’Italia: Francisco Ventoso and Andrey Amador won one stage each.
  • Critérium du Dauphiné: Nairo Quintana won one stage.
  • Tour de Suisse: Rui Costa 1st overall and won one stage.
  • Tour de France: Alejandro Valverde won one stage.
  • Vuelta a España: Alejandro Valverde 2nd overall, won two stage wins, won points and combination classifications. Won team time trial and overall team prize.

Five to watch:

  • Alejandro Valverde (GC)
  • Rui Costa (GC)
  • Nairo Quintana (climber)
  • Andrey Amador (climber)
  • Alex Dowsett (time-trialist)

Why I’m following them:

Movistar are one of the most interesting teams in the WorldTour, boasting a fine mix of youth and experience and with a roster jam-packed with potential. Aside from the veteran and undoubted team leader Alejandro Valverde – who surprised by having an excellent 2012 – they have bags of youthful talent, from the likes of Colombian climber Nairo Quintana to the slightly older Rui Costa and Benat Inxausti. This year, they even have a Brit on board, with Alex Dowsett jumping across from Sky in the hope of getting a Grand Tour ride.

While they don’t really have a rider you’d expect to win one of the big three races – despite Valverde finishing second at the Vuelta last year – they have numerous capable of winning shorter stage races and individual stages in the Grand Tours, as well as possible top ten finishes. Very much a climbers’ team, the arrivals of Eros Capecchi and Sylwester Szmyd will complement the aforementioned, and could make for a successful season in the mountains. 


Twitter: @Movistar_Team

Vacansoleil-DCM (Tim)

Vacansoleil-DCM 20132012 WorldTour ranking: 16th, 364 pts.

2012 highlights:

  • Paris-Nice: Lieuwe Westra 2nd overall and won one stage. Gustav Larsson and Thomas De Gendt won one stage each. Frederik Veuchelen won mountains classification.
  • Volta a Catalunya: Tomasz Marczynski won sprint classification.
  • Giro d’Italia: Thomas De Gendt 3rd overall and one stage (Passo dello Stelvio).
  • Tour of Luxembourg: Wout Poels won one stage.
  • Tour of Poland: Tomasz Marczynski won mountains classification.
  • Paris-Tours: Won by Marco Marcato.

Five to watch:

  • Thomas De Gendt (GC)
  • Juan Antonio Flecha (Classics)
  • Johnny Hoogerland (Classics/breakaways)
  • Marco Marcato (sprinter)
  • Jose Rujano (climber)

Why I’m following them:

Vacansoleil are one of the peloton’s smallest teams in terms of budget but one of the largest in terms of heart. They are a squad packed full of attacking riders who can be relied upon to animate any race in pursuit of even a remote sniff of victory or, at the very least, valuable airtime for their sponsors. Their overall points haul last year was small, but they had a habit of making an impact in big races throughout the year, most notably Paris-Nice, the Giro (where Thomas De Gendt won the queen stage atop the Stelvio and claimed the bottom step of the podium) and the autumn Classic Paris-Tours.

For 2013, they should be stronger still with the arrival of both veteran Classics specialist Juan Antonio Flecha and climber Jose Rujano, a former Giro mountains classification winner. The former will be hoping to finally win Paris-Roubaix (in which he has finished in the top four in five of the past eight years), while the latter will target mountain stages and provide support for De Gendt in pursuit of stage race and Grand Tour honours. They probably still won’t win many races, but they will be there or thereabouts throughout the Classics and Grand Tours and they will be loads of fun to watch.


Twitter: @VacansoleilDCM

Tour Down Under preview

Tour Down Under logoThe 2013 UCI WorldTour kicks off on Tuesday with its traditional curtain-raiser, the 15th edition of the Tour Down Under. This year’s race boasts arguably its strongest ever line-up – including world champion Philippe Gilbert – as the professional peloton seeks to shake off the winter rust and prepare for a long season ahead.

What kind of race is it?

The six-day event always has something of a start-of-term feel to it, with the majority of top stage race riders absent. It has traditionally been a sprinters’ paradise, primarily comprising flat stages with some relatively benign climbs. However, this year’s parcours – like 2012’s – looks less straightforward.

The roll call of previous winners features identifiable sprint names such as Andre GreipelStuart O’Grady and Allan Davis, although puncheur Simon Gerrans benefitted from the summit finish on Old Willunga Hill to claim overall victory last year. As this is the first race of the season for most of the riders, form is almost impossible to read, which can lead to some surprising names on the podium. Aussie riders are always keen to impress in their home race.

The most recent winners of the race are:

2008: Andre Greipel (High Road)

2009: Allan Davis (Quick Step)

2010: Andre Greipel (HTC-Columbia)

2011: Cameron Meyer (Garmin-Cervelo)

2012: Simon Gerrans (GreenEDGE)

What happened last year?

Gerrans held off Valverde by the narrowest of margins (image courtesy of Orica-GreenEDGE)

Gerrans held off Valverde by the narrowest of margins (image courtesy of Orica-GreenEDGE)

The race was decided on the penultimate queen stage, where Simon Gerrans (GreenEDGE) was the only man who could hold the wheel of stage winner Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) on the summit finish of Old Willunga Hill. The pair ended up level on time but the Aussie claimed the overall on count-back after successfully negotiating the final day. That concluding stage was won by Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol), who had also dominated the sprints on stages one and three.

A breakaway win by William Clarke (UniSA-Australia) on the rolling second stage ultimately made no difference to the final GC, as did Oscar Freire‘s victory on stage four, which came after many of the other sprinters had been dropped on a small late climb.

1. Simon Gerrans (GreenEDGE) 20:46:12

2. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) same time

3. Tiago Machado (RadioShack-Nissan) +0:08

4. Michael Rogers (Sky) +0:14

5. Rohan Dennis (UniSA-Australia) s/t

6. Jan Bakelants (RadioShack-Nissan) +0:16

7. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) +0:18

8. Javier Moreno (Movistar) +0:23

9. Michael Matthews (Rabobank) +0:29

10. Eduard Vorganov (Katusha) +0:32

Our 2012 race reviews can be found here: Stages 1 & 2, Stages 3-5, Stage 6 & round-table.

This year’s race

This year’s parcours is broadly similar to last year’s. It again features Old Willunga Hill at the climax of the penultimate stage, which should again be decisive and eliminate the sprinters from contention for the overall. The fast-twitch men could conceivably compete for the spoils on every other stage, although in reality only three – one, four and the concluding city circuit criterium – clearly favour them.

The second stage is one of two back-to-back days which could end in either a sprint or a breakaway victory, with the summit of the 3.7km Corkscrew Road climb coming 7km from the finish. The sprinters’ teams will struggle to contain a determined group of attackers on this difficult hill, with a downhill drag all the way from the summit also aiding a break’s prospects.

Stage 2 profile

Stage 2 profile

Stage three to Stirling features five lumpy laps to sap the sprinters’ legs and set up the prospect of a successful escape. None of the climbs are especially onerous, but their cumulative effect on legs which are not yet 100% race-hardened may tip the balance towards a small group sprint rather than a full bunch gallop.

Stage 3 profile

Stage 3 profile

Old Willunga Hill again provides the battleground for Saturday’s queen stage. The ascent is fairly steady over its 3km-plus length, averaging 7.5%. It should prove decisive again this year, although intermediate time bonuses on the short concluding city centre stage offer the possibility of a last-gasp change in the finishing order.

Stage 5 profile

Stage 5 profile

Who to watch

As usual, this year’s race is heavy on sprint talent, with a smattering of big-name stage racers who will be looking to ease their way gently into the season. The event will be graced by the rainbow jersey of Philippe Gilbert (BMC) as well as Andy Schleck (RadioShack), who will be looking to bounce back from a miserable 2012, and Giro podium finisher Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM).

Adelaide is historically a happy hunting ground for Greipel (image courtesy of Lotto Belisol)

Adelaide is historically a happy hunting ground for Greipel (image courtesy of Lotto Belisol)

Defending champion Simon Gerrans returns at the head of an Orica-GreenEDGE team which also includes sprinter Matt Goss and Adelaide local Stuart O’Grady, still evergreen at 39. Indeed, apart from Mark Cavendish (who is racing at the Tour de San Luis), Peter Sagan and Vuelta ace John Degenkolb, most of the sport’s top sprinters will take the start, although don’t expect many of them to be at top form yet. Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol) loves this race, having won the overall twice previously and also Sunday’s warm-up People’s Choice Classic. But he will face stiff competition from fellow German Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano), Mark Renshaw (Blanco), Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) and the Sky pair of Edvald Boasson Hagen and ladies’ favourite Bernhard Eisel, not to mention a host of others looking to break into the top echelon, such as Arnaud Demare (FDJ), Andrea Guardini (Astana), J J Rojas (Movistar) and Britain’s Andrew Fenn (Omega Pharma-Quick Step).

Other familiar faces will include the ever popular Jens Voigt (RadioShack) in what may well be his final season. Adam Hansen (Lotto Belisol) was the only man to finish all three Grand Tours in 2012. Oh, and there will be a Sagan on hand for Cannondale – not Peter but his older brother Juraj.

With this year’s parcours broadly similar to last year’s, look for a Classics-style puncheur to take the overall while the sprinters battle it out on the flat stages. It’s most likely too early in the season for the likes of Gilbert and Schleck, so don’t be surprised if Gerrans repeats his 2012 triumph.

Race details

January 22nd: Stage 1 – Prospect to Lobethal, 135km

January 23rd: Stage 2 – Mt Barker to Rostrevor, 116.5km

January 24th: Stage 3 – Unley to Stirling, 139km

January 25th: Stage 4 – Modbury to Tanunda, 126.5km

January 26th: Stage 5 – McLaren Vale to Old Willunga Hill, 151.5km

January 27th: Stage 6 – Adelaide City Council Street Circuit, 90km

The Tour Down Under starts on Tuesday 22nd January and concludes on Sunday 27th. Daily live coverage and highlights will be shown by Sky Sports in the UK. For other live coverage check

Link: Official website

Tweets of the Week Special: The Lance Armstrong Oprah interview

Anyone who has been with VeloVoices through last year will know that when there is a major story, I try to piece together a mosaic of what people are saying about it on Twitter. With these Specials, I try to give a reflection of what people are saying on Twitter – fans, journalists, riders, anyone who’s talking about the topic. I also try to keep my comments to a minimum (I’ve already made my own personal thoughts clear on this blog already, as have Tim, Ant and Panache) and that’s true for this as well.

I have waded through a lot of tweets and I’ve tried to pick out some of the most thought-provoking, the funniest, the most passionate, the most immediate in reaction, just to preserve a snapshot of the last few days. Could you imagine if Samuel L Jackson had been tweeting about it like he did about the Olympics? THAT would have been awesome! Anyway I’ve tried to put the tweets in some semblance of order but it’s very difficult – like getting the Department of Justice to drop a case, apparently! – and so it jumps around a lot. But bear with it, because the last entry is the one that’s really worth reading. I promise.

Not so long ago, in a galaxy not so far away

Early Friday morning (UK time), the Twittersphere blew up like Alderaan hit by the Death Star. It was the Lance Armstrong ‘No Holds Barred’ Interview with Oprah Winfrey. The biggest story in town.

Tweet map

He said WHAT?

Body language Bicycling body language bicycling 2 Change of mind 1 Change of mind 2 Contradiction 2 Contradictions 1 Contradictions 3 Contradictions 5 Contradictions 6

Contradictions 7 Contradictions 8 contradictions 9 Contradictions 10 Contradictions 11

“I did it for Kristen”

I just realised, not only were his three children lied to continually by their father, but by their mother too. How truly awful for them. They don’t deserve that.

Kik 1 Kik 2 Kik 3

“I don’t like that guy”

Psychology 1 Psychology 2 Psychology 3 Psychology 4

2009 comeback

2009 anti doping defense by Vis 2 2009 anti doping defense by Vis 2009 Alberto2 2009 Alberto1

Semantics and process

humbling joke interview techniques journos ashamed kids money a

kids money

Lance over the top response

Mercier aren't you glad?

Mercier aren't you glad 2

morbidly obese narcissism needs to speak to usada Not enough 1 NYT review Picture 53 reduce ban rules

WADA comments 1 WADA oaths

Some still believe and some don’t … but everyone wants to move forward

positive positive 2 positive 3 wanted to hope

Riders’ (and Federer’s) responses

(Not sure what the world is going on in this exchange between Cav and Daniel Benson about hotel rooms but this is just an example of the surreal stuff that has been going on …)

Cav Sun statement

Cav Benson Cav Galloway reaction Federer response 1 Federer response 2 Greipel response 1 Greipel response 2 Henderson statement KdKort response Kittel Lance bets McEwen response Phinney doping statement

The lighter side of the debate

BingoStrong 1 Bingostrong 2 Bingostrong 3 Bingostrong 4 Chipmunk tweet

Edgar Allan Poe Hickie dodgeball Joan Rivers Lance used rugs librarian scorned Onion Oprah 1 shitty beer Shut up dudes What am I on?

body language bear

And it ain’t over yet

Rasmussen 1

Rasmussen 2

A few final thoughts

Decade of abuse did we believe him Did we believe him 2 Did we believe him 3 Doprah 1 Eat cake stuff Fans help create Festina girl

“Death sentences” …

Death penalty 1

…and the last true word goes to Jered Gruber Death penalty Jered