Milram missed-out on another opportunity for a stage win today, begging the question:
Well, I practically gave you one: Milram.
Two more should be easy since itâ€™s the first year theyâ€™ve participated: Skil-Shimano and Katusha.
The fourth? Garmin-Slipstream.
Of the four, Milram has to be the most disappointing. Theyâ€™ve been in the race since 2006, and after more than 3 tries still have no wins to their credit. And with riders like Alessandro Petacchi, Erik Zabel, Gerald Ciolek, Fabian Wegmann, and Linus Gerdemann, you canâ€™t say that havenâ€™t had the firepower (though the latter two have been on the team only since the beginning of this season). Milramâ€™s been an active presence at the front on most days. Several times theyâ€™ve placed a rider in the dayâ€™s big break, and on several sprint stages theyâ€™ve been seen working to set-up their sprinter. So you can’t say they haven’t tried.
But no wins since 2006? Milram Corporate is either the most patient or the most oblivious title sponsor in the sport. Or maybe General Manager Gerry Van Gerwen (a really nice guy, by the way) has some pretty “interesting” photos of the companyâ€™s President/CEO?
Skil-Shimano deserves a bit of a pass as itâ€™s their first go-round in le Grand Boucle. The team’s made its presence known in breakaways and has made an attempt here and there to set-up Kenny Van Hummel in the sprints. If they keep it up, a stage win could be in their future (but people have been saying that about Milram since 2006).
However, Katusha has more reason to be a bit disappointed. Mikael Ignatievâ€™s been in a few breakaways, but thatâ€™s pretty much it. We’ve all been waiting for Filippo Pozatto to show himself at some point, but heâ€™s received more headlines for his jersey design than his results. Worse still is the fact that Robbie McEwen and Geert Steegmans, the teamâ€™s two best stage options, didnâ€™t even start! I still see Pozatto or Ignatiev taking a stage later in the race, but if they donâ€™t, this will be the last year Katusha is given the benefit of the doubt.
And finally, thereâ€™s Garmin-(We Ride in the Winnerâ€™s)Slipstream. Close, but no cigar seems to be the motto for Jonathan Vaughters and his ridersâ€”close to the stage win, close to the podium. Despite the near-misses, there are positives though: Tyler Farrarâ€™s consistently crept closer and closer to a sprint win and still could get one in the final week. Bradley Wiggins and Christian Vande Velde both lie in reach of the podium on the GC (but both need to lose some time in order to have a shout for a mountain stage win). As for breakaways, I think itâ€™s safe to say the team is content to preserve its energies for the remaining critical stages.
This is the second year for the cleanest team in cycling to participate in the sportâ€™s biggest race. At some point though, theyâ€™ll need to do more than just “be there”. Will they take the next step between now and Paris?
What do you think?