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.

Website: www.1t4i.com

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.

Website: www.proteam-astana.com

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).

Website: www.omegapharma-quickstep.com

Twitter: @OPQScyclingteam

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