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

In addition to picking three riders each to watch in 2013, each of the VeloVoices has also selected one of the 19 WorldTour teams to follow. Yesterday Panache, Jack and Tim reviewed the achievements to date of Garmin-Sharp, Movistar and Vacansoleil-DCM. Today it’s the turn of Kitty, Sheree and Ant.

Argos-Shimano (Kitty)

Argos-Shimano 2013

WorldTour ranking: 19th, 22 pts.

Major results:

  • Tour of Oman: Marcel Kittel won one stage.
  • Vuelta a Andalucia: Peter Gretsch 5th in one stage. Tom Dumoulin won mountains classification.
  • Paris-Nice: Marcel Kittel won one stage.
  • Three Days of West Flanders: Tobias Ludvigsson 2nd overall and best young rider.
  • Volta a Catalunya: François Parisien won one stage.
  • Three Days of De Panne: Tom Dumoulin 6th overall.
  • Tour of Flanders: John Degenkolb 9th.
  • Circuit Cycliste Sarthe: Tobias Ludvigsson 3rd overall and best young rider.
  • Scheldeprijs: Marcel Kittel 1st.
  • Brabantse Pijl: Simon Geschke 5th.

The first part of the Argonauts’ debut season as a WorldTour team didn’t quite go according to plan. They were hoping for a big classics season but were hampered by Koen de Kort suffering a broken collarbone in the Tour of Qatar and therefore losing preparation time for the races that are his focus and forte.

That said, Marcel Kittel successfully defended his Scheldeprijs title and Simon Geschke picked up a top five in Brabantse Pijl and with the grand tours coming up, we can expect to see them build on this solid start to the season.

However, the Argonauts’ women’s team have been putting in storming performances so far this year. Kirsten Wild has been at the top of the podium at the Tour of Qatar, winning three stages, as well as winning Gent-Wevelgem. She also ripped up the Energiewacht Tour with four stage wins. It’s great to see sponsors putting their support behind both their men’s and women’s teams and long may it continue.


Twitter: @1t4i

Astana (Sheree)Astana 2013

WorldTour ranking: 12th, 183 pts.

Major results:

  • Tour de San Luis: Vincenzo Nibali 10th overall.
  • Tour of Qatar: Andrea Guardini 3rd in one stage.
  • Tour of Oman: Vincenzo Nibali 7th overall.
  • Vuelta a Andalucia: Jakob Fuglsang 6th overall.
  • Tour de Langkawi: Andrea Guardini won one stage, 2nd in two stages, 3rd in one stage.
  • GP Nobili Rubinetterie: Simone Ponzi 3rd.
  • Vuelta a Murcia: Jakob Fuglsang 8th.
  • Roma Maxima: Simone Ponzi 5th.
  • Paris-Nice: Maxim Iglinskiy 2nd in one stage.
  • Tirreno-Adriatico: Vincenzo Nibali 1st overall, 2nd in one stage, 3rd in one stage.
  • Volta a Catalunya: Valerio Agnoli 2nd in one stage.
  • Dwars door Vlaanderen: Borut Bozic 2nd.
  • Gent-Wevelgem: Borut Bozic 2nd.
  • Vuelta al Pais Vasco: Francesco Gavazzi 2nd in one stage and wore the leader’s jersey for a day.
  • Scheldeprijs: Andrea Guardini 4th.
  • Amstel Gold: Enrico Gasparotto 9th.

It looks as if the team are picking up points all over, but ProTeams only score points in WorldTour events and a number of the above results, particularly Guardini’s, have come in races on the European and Asian Circuits. Nonetheless general manager Alexandre Vinokourov is pleased with the overall showing of the team and, in particular, Vincenzo Nibali‘s defence of his Tirreno-Adriatico title in the face of stiff opposition from Alberto Contador and Chris Froome.

Nibali has most of the team’s points haul (106), with the rest shared by the Slovenian Borut Bozic who seems to have found his feet (or should that be legs?) at Astana (61), Francesco Gavazzi (five), Maxim Iglinskiy and Valerio Agnoli (both four).

Last season Astana did particularly well in the Ardennes classics and, like Sky, have been training both in Tenerife and at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco in the hope of another strong showing. Astana have also performed well in the team time trials which can often be an important, psychological factor in grand tours: the team was sixth at the Tour of Qatar, fifth at Tirreno-Adriatico and 7th at Coppi e Bartali.


Twitter: @AstanaTeam

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

WorldTour ranking: 5th, 369 pts.

Major results:

  • Tour de San Luis: Mark Cavendish won one stage.
  • Tour of Qatar: Mark Cavendish 1st overall and won four stages.
  • Volta ao Algarve: Tony Martin 1st overall and won one stage. Michal Kwiatkowski 2nd overall and 2nd in one stage.
  • Omloop Het Nieuwsblad: Stijn Vandenbergh 2nd.
  • Three Days of West Flanders: Kristof Vanderwalle 1st overall and won one stage. Niki Terpstra 3rd overall.
  • Paris-Nice: Sylvain Chavanel won one stage.
  • Tirreno-Adriatico: Won team time trial. Tony Martin won one stage. Michal Kwiatkowski best young rider.
  • Vuelta a Catalunya: Gianni Meersman won two stages.
  • Three Days of De Panne: Sylvain Chavanel 1st overall and won one stage. Mark Cavendish won one stage. Niki Terpstra 3rd overall.
  • Vuelta al Pais Vasco: Tony Martin won one stage.
  • Paris-Roubaix: Niki Terpstra 3rd. Zdenek Stybar 6th.
  • Brabantse Pijl: Sylvain Chavanel 4th.
  • Amstel Gold: Michal Kwiatkowski 4th.

You could say that things haven’t exactly gone to plan for OPQS so far this season. From misfiring sprint trains to infected elbows, broken ribs and stray cameras, a fair few things haven’t fallen quite the way they would have hoped. In reality, this is only half the story and equal focus should be given to the way the team has still succeeded in pulling in a respectable haul of results. This, after all, is still a team which has 11 riders who have picked up WorldTour points (more than any other team so far this season) and currently sits fifth in the UCI rankings.

In many respects the results speak for themselves and a lot of racing has in fact been ‘business as usual’. Mark Cavendish has raked in a similar tally of stage wins as in previous seasons, Tony Martin has smashed the time trials, Sylvain Chavanel has been even more electric than ever and Niki Terpstra has also been on excellent form. In addition, Stijn Vandenbergh has put in some outstanding rides, most notably at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Paris-Roubaix, where he was denied a top-four finish after a crash with a spectator. Zdenek Stybar also had a fantastic ride in Paris-Roubaix and, as we all know, was cruelly robbed of a podium place and possibly a win by a fan’s camera.

OPQS are such a strong team that you could say they would have hoped for even more success. Questions marks remain over the effectiveness of the sprint lead-out which has led to plaintive outbursts from Cav, and even from Patrick Lefevere himself. Meanwhile, Tom’s Boonens have been pushing wobbly wheels this year, and a couple of unfortunate crashes have made his comeback from illness back in January kangaroo like a first-time driver. He himself has also been prone to a bit of whining this season – although if I’m honest, you make me ride through snow-covered hills in Italy and I’ll do more than moan – which shows the frustration he must be feeling.

I can’t help but wonder what might have been in Roubaix and Flanders, but while it’s been far from plain sailing it’s been a strong opening to the season, especially when you factor in the great form of Fabian Cancellara and Peter Sagan. If I had to give them a grade, it’d be C+ (but A- for effort).


Twitter: @OPQScyclingteam

TotW: Contador as a boy, a Roman win & Argonaut instagrams!

Well, after a tweetastic few weeks with the cobbled classics, everyone has settled down just a little bit. This week, we have a few final pictures and thoughts from Roubaix, flowers and an apology to a certain podium girl, a Roman win and a bumper gruppetto.

Goodbye Roubaix

Just a few little bits and pieces from Roubaix this week. First up, That Boy Phinney looking like he gave everything he had by the time he made it to the velodrome.

Phinney McQuaid hug 1

Continue reading

La Flèche Wallonne preview

La Flèche Wallonne logoSandwiched mid-week between the Amstel Gold Race and Liège-Bastogne-Liège is the second of the three Ardennes classics, La Flèche Wallonne (The Walloon Arrow). After Roman Kreuziger sprung a surprise to win the first Ardennes race on Sunday, the other favourites will be looking to make amends here.

What kind of race is it?

Joaquim Rodriguez takes the win in 2012 (image: official website)

Joaquim Rodriguez takes the win in 2012 (image: official website)

Flèche Wallonne is the first of two Ardennes classics in Belgium, with the peloton heading from Amstel Gold’s setting in the Limburg region of the Netherlands to Binche in the Walloon region. The starting location has been changed for this year’s edition, having previously started half an hour east in Charleroi.

The race is most notable for the fireworks at the finish on the fierce Mur de Huy. 1.3km with sections as steep as 26%, it is on this climb where the race is invariably won and lost. After Kreuziger’s win on Sunday, it’s unlikely that any dangerous breakaways will be given any breathing space at all, and a scrap between the favourites on the Mur will likely determine the eventual winner.

Winners in the last five years:

2008: Kim Kirchen (High Road)

2009: Davide Rebellin (Diquigiovanni-Androni)

2010: Cadel Evans (BMC)

2011: Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto)

2012: Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha)

What happened last year?

Last year’s race played out as expected, with Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) taking victory after powering his way to a win on the Mur de Huy. Once the early breakaways and late counters had been shut down, it was left up to the favourites to fight it out on the final climb – and the Spaniard emerged the strongest. Michael Albasini (GreenEDGE) took an impressive second place, while Philippe Gilbert (BMC) just about salvaged his disappointing classics season by rounding out the podium places.

1. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) 4:45:41

2. Michael Albasini (GreenEDGE) +0:04

3. Philippe Gilbert (BMC) same time

4. Jelle Vanendert (Lotto-Belisol) s/t

5. Robert Kiserlovski (Astana) +0:07

6. Dan Martin (Garmin-Barracuda) +0:09

7. Bauke Mollema (Rabobank) s/t

8. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) s/t

9. Diego Ulissi (Lampre-ISD) s/t

10. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol) +0:11

Click here for our full review of last year’s race.

This year’s race

The alteration of the starting location isn’t the only change for this edition. The race has been lengthened by around 10km, with the first ascent of the Mur de Huy delayed by approximately 38km, allowing for the Côte de Naninne and the Côte de Groynne to be climbed before the riders hit the ‘wall’.

Then five climbs are taken in, in a 64km loop before the second ascent of the Mur. This is a fairly sizable adjustment, with only a couple of these ascents present in last year’s edition. Fewer climbs possibly inadvertently encouraged more conservative tactics from riders, and – much like the alterations to the Amstel Gold course – a bid to make the racing more unpredictable may be the motive behind the changes. However, after the second passing of the Mur, the final loop to the finish is similar to that seen in 2012.

La Flèche Wallonne 2013 profile

Who to watch

Philippe Gilbert will be looking to break his rainbow duck (image: BMC)

Philippe Gilbert will be looking to break his rainbow duck (image: BMC)

Starting with the winner of Amstel Gold, Saxo-Tinkoff’s Roman Kreuziger is evidently in good form, though this race may not be to his tastes. He prefers tougher, longer climbs rather than the short, punchy Mur, and it’s hard to see lightning strike twice after his breakaway win on Sunday. Last year’s winner Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) is much more suited to the parcours, though after he crashed in the Netherlands his entire Ardennes week is in doubt.

After underperforming in Amstel, Cannondale’s Peter Sagan has decided to end his classics season here. He’ll want to go out with a bang, though after struggling to keep pace on Sunday, he may not have the legs to win. World champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC) seems to be in better shape, and he’ll certainly be up at the front when the race hits the Mur.

Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE) and former winner Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) both finished on the podium in Amstel, and are also expected to be at the sharp end on the final climb. Finally Valverde’s compatriot, a certain Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff), will ride the final couple of Ardennes classics, though may not contend for the win – he considered skipping the races due to fatigue.

La Flèche Wallonne takes place on Wednesday 17th April. Live coverage will be shown on Eurosport. For other options check

Link: Official website