Kitty, Sheree and Ant have been following the fortunes of Argos-Shimano, Astana and Omega Pharma-Quick Step. Here’s a quick update on how each of these teams has fared over the past four months.
WorldTour ranking: 18th, 154 pts.
- Tour of Turkey: Marcel Kittel won three stages.
- Four Days of Dunkirk: Ramon Sinkeldam, third overall.
- Tour de Picardie: Marcel Kittel 1st overall and won two stages.
- Giro d’Italia: John Degenkolb won one stage.
- Tour of Belgium: Tom Dumoulin 5th overall and best young rider.
- Criterium du Dauphine: Thomas Damuseau, won mountains classification.
- Ster ZLM Toer: Marcel Kittel won one stage.
- National time trial championships: Tobias Ludvigsson, Sweden, second. Tom Dumoulin, Netherlands, third. Patrick Gretsch, Germany, second.
- National road race championships: John Degenkolb, Germany, third. Tom Dumoulin, Netherlands, second.
- Tour de France: Marcel Kittel won four stages.
- Arctic Race of Norway: Nikias Arndt won one stage.
The Argonauts went from strength to strength in the second third of the season. Marcel Kittel continued his winning ways with stage victories in the Tour of Turkey, Tour of Picardie, Ster ZLM Toer and, of course, four stage wins in the Tour de France – the most successful sprinter in this year’s race. But it wasn’t all Kittel Time. John Degenkolb made an impression in the Giro d’Italia, taking one of those stage wins that has become part of the Italian race’s legend.
Various team members made their presence known in their respective national championships. Thomas Damuseau won the KoM jersey at the Criterium du Dauphine and Tom Dumoulin won the best young rider’s jersey in the Tour of Belgium.
Unfortunately, the Argonauts also had some injuries. Tom Veelers underwent stomach surgery in April, to correct a pinched artery that led to his stomach and small intestines. Tom Stamsnijder broke his scapula during the Four Days of Dunkirk. Matthieu Sprick was admitted to hospital with cerebral thrombosis – otherwise known as a stroke. The last update I could find was mid-June, where it was reported he had mobility problems of the left arm, but was undergoing rehabilitation.
WorldTour ranking: 5th, 678 pts.
- Liege-Bastogne-Liege: Enrico Gasparotto 6th.
- Tour of Turkey: Andrea Guardini two 2nd places. Kevin Seeldraeyers one 2nd place.
- Tour of Romandie: Enrico Gasparotto one 2nd place, Franco Gavazzi one 3rd place.
- Giro d’Italia: Vincenzo Nibali 1st overall, won two stages. Tanel Kangert one 2nd and one 3rd place.
- Tour of Belgium: Maxim Iglinskiy won one stage. Franco Gavazzi one 2nd place.
- Criterium du Dauphine: Jakob Fuglsang 4th overall and one 2nd place. Kevin Seeldraeyers one 3rd place.
- Tour de Suisse: Tanel Kangert 6th overall. Enrico Gasparotto one 2nd place.
- National championships: Alexandr Dyachenko, Kazakhstan, first in road race. Tanel Kangert, Estonia, 1st in time trial.
- Tour de France: Jakob Fuglsang 7th overall, one 2nd place.
- Tour of Austria: Alexandr Dyachenko 2nd overall, one 2nd place. Kevin Seeldraeyers 3rd overall, won two stages. Fabio Aru one 3rd place. Simone Ponzi one 2nd and one 3rd place.
- Tour of Poland: Tanel Kangert 9th overall.
- Vuelta a Burgos. Simone Ponzi won one stage, one 2nd place.
At the start of the season, the team’s main objective was to win the Giro d’Italia with Vincenzo Nibali. The victory was achieved in a fashion eerily reminiscent of Sky, such was the team and Nibali’s domination of the event. After rediscovering his legs in the Tours of Poland and Burgos, Nibali is looking to repeat in the Vuelta a Espana, which he last won in 2010, before mounting an assault on the rainbow-jersey on a course perfectly suited to him. Don’t be surprised to see most of the team riding for ‘Italy’ in Tuscany.
Team manager Alexander Vinokourov had more modest ambitions for the Tour de France. He said that Jakob Fuglsang, after a strong showing in the Criterium du Dauphine, would finish in the top seven. That’s exactly what he did but, given it was achieved largely through his own efforts, it was all the more admirable.
The team have set their sights on challenging Chris Froome and Sky in next year’s Tour de France which has meant Alex has already been flexing his credit card signing Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil) and is rumoured to be chasing many more. Be sure to read Jack’s transfer gossip column for all the latest news.
Elsewhere, the team has picked up points in a number of races with their more experienced team members while affording youngsters such as Alexey Lutsenko and Fabio Aru plenty of encouragement but little expectation of results for now. Unsurprisingly, Nibali has the lion’s share of the team’s points haul (322, 8th overall), followed by Fuglsang (160, 21st), Tanel Kangert (84, 43rd), Borut Bozic (61, 57th) and Enrico Gasparotto (51, 63rd).
WorldTour ranking: 6th, 617 pts.
- Tour de Romandie: Gianni Meersman won two stages. Tony Martin won one stage.
- Giro d’Italia: Mark Cavendish won points classification and five stages, and held the maglia rosa for one day.
- Tour of Belgium: Tony Martin 1st overall and won one stage.
- Criterium du Dauphine: Tony Martin won one stage.
- National time trial championships: Sylvain Chavanel, France, 1st. Tony Martin, Germany, first. Peter Velits, Slovakia, first.
- National road race championships: Michal Kwiatkowski, Poland, 1st. Mark Cavendish, Britain, 1st.
- Tour de France: Mark Cavendish won two stages, 2nd in points classification. Tony Martin won one stage. Matteo Trentin won one stage. Michal Kwiatkowski 11th overall, 3rd in best young rider classification.
- Tour de Wallonie: Tom Boonen won one stage.
- Tour of Denmark: Mark Cavendish won one stage.
- Tour de l’Ain: Gianni Meersman won one stage.
On paper, it’s been a productive few months for Patrick Lefevere’s boys. Nine grand tour stage wins, a maglia rosso, a string of minor Tour victories, a handful of national championship jerseys, and recently a victory in the Tour de Wallonie by the injury-riddled Tom Boonen, taking the year’s haul to a massive 44 victories. Das Boot (as Brian Holm lovingly refers to the squad), still sit among the top teams in the WorldTour after the grand tour big guns have come out to play. That said, there have been missed opportunities, and the performance of other major sprint rivals in the Tour de France has left a hint of “could do better” about this mid-term report.
It’s all too easy, in the clamour over Kittel’s besting of Cav on the Champs Elysees, to get side-tracked from a real success story for OPQS in the Tour, which was newly crowned Polish road race champion Michal Kwiatkowski’s outstanding 11th place finish. The 23-year-old had a right ding-dong battle with Nairo Quintana for the white jersey, and although he didn’t triumph on this occasion, the strength of his performance was one of the major highlights of OPQS’ season to date. This race is no flash in the pan though for Kwiatkowski, who has also had two top-five finishes in classics, was fourth overall at Tirreno-Adriatico and was runner-up at the Volta ao Algarve. In fact, when you look at his career trajectory over the last couple of seasons with OPQS, everything points to a bright future for the young starlet.
Beyond the racing, OPQS are showing every sign of being an ambitious team and have already bolstered their ranks for next season. Mark Renshaw, will add firepower to the OPQS sprint train, and will board Das Boot in 2014. Meanwhile Alessandro Petacchi has already been pulled out of a retirement that was scarcely longer than the average summer holiday and grabbed a second place behind Marcel Kittel in Kortrijk Koerse, his first outing in OPQS colours. Another rider to be heading into the fold is Rigoberto Urang Urang m’Lord, to add a stronger GC balance to the squad. It’s strongly expected that Sylvain Chavanel will leave at the end of the season, and it would not surprise me if one or two other riders switch around. If OPQS are keen to seek out some GC success in the grand tours, we may see some additional legs brought in to provide support for Uran in mountain stages.
On balance, it’s been a strong season to date. Cavendish, for all of his apparent issues in the Tour, has still won more grand tour stages than all of his major sprint rivals put together this season. Strong riding from Chavanel has entertained, while Kwiatkowski, Matteo Trentin, Gianni Meersman and Tony Martin have shown that the squad has great strength in depth. Patrick Lefevere has appeared frank in social media in both his support and criticism of the team, and the early signings suggest a commitment to learn from mistakes, and a drive to improve. Last time around I graded OPQS’ season a C+, and I would be inclined to upgrade that to a B-. Just think what could happen if everything went their way!
Previous update: 16th April.