Kitty, Sheree and Ant have been following the fortunes of Argos-Shimano, Astana and Omega Pharma-Quick Step all year. Here’s a final update on how each of these teams has fared over the closing part of the season..
WorldTour ranking: 16th, 355 pts.
- Vattenfall Cyclassics: John Degenkolb 1st.
- Vuelta a Espana: Warren Barguil won two stages.
- Grote Prijs Jef Scherens: Bert de Backer 1st.
- Omloop van het Houtland Lichtervelde: Marcel Kittel.
- Tour de l’Eurometropole: John Degenkolb won two stages.
- Binche-Chimay-Binche/Mémorial Frank Vandenbroucke: Janse van Rensburg 1st.
- Paris-Bourges: John Degenkolb 1st.
- Paris-Tours: John Degenkolb 1st.
- Tour of Beijing: Luka Mezgec won one stage.
The Argonauts finished the season strong with John Degenkolb winning the Vattenfall Cyclassics, Paris-Bourges and Paris-Tours and Marcel Kittel taking the Omloop van het Houtland Lichtervelde (try saying that three times fast … try saying that at all!)
But it certainly wasn’t just about the two leaders of the team. The Vuelta was the breakthrough race for young Warren Barguil, who won two stages in spectacular style. And the much-maligned Tour of Beijing saw young Luka Mezgec take the final stage.
Unlike many other teams this year, Argos-Shimano seems to have solid sponsorship and was able to ensure that contracts with Degenkolb, Kittel, Simon Geschke and Tom Dumoulin were extended. So we’ll have our solid Argonaut team back in their snowy-white fabulousness for the 2014 season.
*Update on Matthieu Sprick, who suffered a stroke earlier in the 2013 season. On a fan site in August, he posted that his leg and arm were getting better. He’s now able to walk and grab objects, albeit a bit awkwardly. This is excellent news and we continue to send our best wishes to him for a speedy recovery.
EDIT: It has just been announced this morning that Argos will be stepping down as title sponsor for 2014. Their replacement has not been named yet.
WorldTour ranking: 5th, 1,045 pts.
- Eneco Tour: Andriy Grivko 3rd overall.
- Coppa Agostini: Simone Ponzi 2nd.
- Vuelta a Espana: 1st in team time trial. Vincenzo Nibali 2nd overall, including five top-five placings.
- GP de Fourmies: Borut Bozic 5th.
- GP Cycliste de Montreal: Simone Ponzi 2nd.
- Road World Championships road race: Vincenzo Nibali 4th, Andriy Grivko 5th.
- Il Lombardia: Enrico Gasparotto 5th.
- Tour of Almaty: Maxim Iglinskiy 1st. Ruslan Tleubayev 3rd.
Team manager Alexander Vinokourov will be able to look back on his first season at the helm with satisfaction – 15 victories and a rise of five places from last season to fifth overall. The team achieved its objectives by winning the Giro d’Italia with Vincenzo Nibali and a top ten placing in the Tour de France (seventh) with Jakob Fuglsang, Nibali’s second overall in the Vuelta a Espana – a race Alex won in 2006 – was surely the icing on the cake.
The team performed admirably in the Worlds road race although there was the merest suggestion that both Andriy Grivko and Maxim Iglinskiy, fifth and eighth respectively, were riding in support of Nibali who finished an admirable fourth after hitting the tarmac a couple of times.
Despite being registered in Luxembourg, the team sees itself very much as Asian so to win the inaugural ‘home’ Tour of Almaty in Kazakhstan and have one of its stagiares place third, was the cherry on the icing. As promised, it earned the winner a return to the team for his younger brother Valentin Iglinskiy, who has spent an anonymous season at Ag2r La Mondiale.
Elsewhere the team picked up points in a number of one-day races revealing the overall depth in the squad which Alex has demonstrated he’s willing to strengthen to enable Nibali to challenge Chris Froome at next year’s Tour de France. So far he’s signed Franco Pellizotti (somewhat controversially), Michele Scarponi, Lieuwe Westra and Mikel Landa but they won’t be the last.
Unsurprisingly, Nibali has the lion’s share of the team’s points haul (474, 5th overall), followed by Fuglsang (160, 30th), Tanel Kangert (116, 44th), Enrico Gasparotto (45th, 115) and Grivko (70, 69th).
WorldTour ranking: 7th, 1,013 pts.
- Tour de l’Ain: Gianni Meersman won one stage.
- Eneco Tour: Zdenek Stybar, 1st overall and won two stages. Sylvain Chavanel won one stage.
- Vuelta a Espana: Zdenek Stybar won one stage.
- World Ports Classic: Nikolas Maes, 1st overall.
- Tour of Britain: Mark Cavendish won three stages.
- Road World Championships: OPQS 1st in team time trial. Tony Martin 1st in individual time trial.
- Chrono des Nations: Tony Martin, 1st.
The final few months of the season have been very much business as usual for OPQS. A show of strength in the latter part of the season from Zdenek Stybar gave fans plenty to shout about at the Eneco Tour, and La Vuelta, and even something to hope for going into the World Championships. Meanwhile Tony Martin had us all screaming at our TV sets and laptops as he accidentally turned a training session into the greatest failed breakaway for years on stage six of the Vuelta.
Would he have traded those 15 metres in Spain for the bestial performance he put in in Italy a short while later to retain the rainbow stripes though? I doubt it. OPQS also retained the World TTT title, with a victory that was made no less impressive by its narrowness.
Overall, this has been an excellent season for the Belgian team, but I’ll leave it to OPQS head honcho, Patrick Lefevere, to sum the year up:
— Patrick Lefevere (@PatLefevere) October 15, 2013
— Patrick Lefevere (@PatLefevere) October 20, 2013
That sounds to me like a little dig at the UCI rankings, in which OPQS finished below a number of teams which they could claim to have outperformed.
Not one to just sit back and bemoan his lot however, Lefevere has responded by bolstering the squad. The addition of a grand tour contender in Rigoberto Uran will add another string to the OPQS bow, and the solidification of the sprint train with Mark Renshaw and Alessandro Petacchi will no doubt reduce the number of near misses in the sprints next season.
While a number of riders have departed, most notably Sylvain Chavanel, the arrival of Jan Bakelants and Thomas de Gendt (who could prove to be a bargain) should continue the exciting breakaway forays. Couple that with this season’s revelations, Michal Kwiatkowski and Stybar, and factor in the probable return to form of Tom Boonen, and you have a team that should be destined for even more success next season.