Each year, Pavé previews the upcoming road season with a countdown of the top-20 teams in the sport. We pick things up today with #5.
#5 – Team Garmin-Cervélo
With one huge exception, no team made a bigger splash this past off-season than Garmin-Cervélo. By joining forces with the backbone of the Cervélo TestTeam—a move that allowed GM Jonathan Vaughters to acquire the majority of the TestTeam’s talented classics contingent—Garmin went from “on the cusp” to “cup runneth over” in a matter of days.
And it’s easy to see why. Take a squad that already contained Tyler Farrar, Martijn Maaskant, David Miller, and Johan Van Summeren; add Thor Hushovd, Heinrich Haussler, Roger Hammond, and Andreas Klier from Cervélo; throw in Sep Vanmarcke—last year’s Ghent-Wevelgem revelation; and you have the makings of one of the finest and deepest classics teams ever assembled. Not to mention, a major headache for whomever is responsible for determining who rides where.
That said, were I newly-signed DS Peter Van Petegem, here’s what I would do: first, I’d send Thor and Haussler to the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and Paris-Nice. Farrar, Miller, and Van Summeren would tackle L’Eroica and Tirreno. At San Remo, Haussler and Farrar would be my co-captains, with Thor providing a lead-out for the American—Haussler gets to try his hand in a break. Then Haussler tackles the E3 with Miller, Van Summeren, Maaskant, and Klier, while Farrar returns Thor’s San Remo favor with a lead-out in Ghent-Wevelgem the next day—with Vanmarcke and Hammond helping out. At Flanders, Haussler and Farrar are my two co-captains with Hushovd playing the role of uber-lieutenant, while all eggs will be in the World Champion’s basket at Roubaix.
Needless to say, it’s a complicated mess of expectations and egos to sort out—doing it smoothly will determine the success of the team’s March and April. If all goes well, Garmin could easily win a Monument or two or three; on the other hand, too many cooks have spoiled more than pot in the past. Here’s hoping Garmin’s not left with a bad taste in its mouth by mid-April.
At the same time—despite its off-season acquisitions—Garmin’s not a team built only for the cobbled classics. With Ryder Hesjedal, Daniel Martin, Christian Vande Velde, and Tom Danielson on board, this is a squad that has the potential to perform well in the Ardennes classics, short stage races, and place a rider inside the top-10 at all three Grand Tours.
Of the four, Hesjedal and Martin are the marquee names. The Canadian started his fantastic 2010 with a strong performance in the Basque Country before finishing second in Amstel, ninth in Fleche, and twelfth in Liege. At the Tour two months later, he put in the performance of a lifetime, riding consistently from Arenberg to the Tourmalet on his way to a seventh-place finish in Paris. Top-10 results in several summer classics and semi-classics confirmed the rider’s potential.
This summer, there’s little reason to doubt the Canadian’s ability to replicate if not improve upon his performance from last year. His progression has been steady, the talent is clearly there, and there’s an aggression that was not displayed by past Garmin GC success stories such as Vande Velde and Bradley Wiggins. In short, this guy’s for real.
As for Dan Martin, the Irishman is still waiting for his first Tour de France, but if he peaks for July like he peaked for last August, Vaughters will be hard-pressed to leave him off the roster. That said, Martin’s demonstrated an affinity for racing in Italy, and on a terribly hilly parcours, it might be worthwhile to see what he can do as the team’s undisputed leader at the Giro. As for Vande Velde, he’ll serve the team best as a lieutenant, but should not be discounted in short stage races as he can still climb and time trial better than most. Tom Danielson will once again be the team’s main man for the Vuelta.
Along the way, look for Haussler, Farrar, and Hushovd to grab their share of Grand Tour stage wins, with Garmin’s long-coveted Tour stage a major goal. It will be interesting to see how Farrar and Hushovd co-exist in July. Will one work for stages while the other goes for green? The new points format will likely suit a team with two sprinters, but who will play which role for Garmin remains to be seen.
If all goes well, Garmin’s #5 ranking might look too low by the end of the season. And with one of the deepest squads in the sport, and young talent a-plenty, they might as well get used to being at the top.
Man of the Hour: Thor Hushovd won the biggest race of his career at last season’s World Championships; now he gets a chance to be the first rainbow-wearing Roubaix winner since Bernard Hinault in 1981.
On the Hot Seat: Heinrich Haussler had quite an unlucky 2010 as injuries, crashes, and more injuries pretty much derailed his entire season. He needs to remain patient and build his form slowly in 2011; a rash display of over-exuberance will get him nowhere—except maybe injured.
Up-and-Comer: This is a tough one to pick, as Garmin’s assembled some of the finest young talent in the sport over the past few seasons. American Andrew Talansky rode impressively when in Europe last season, finishing second overall at the Tour de l’Avenir. This season, he’s already off to an impressive start thanks to a fourth-place ride in the Tour Mediterranéan. Garmin will need to resist the urge to ask too much of this future star too soon.
Best Pick-Up: Even before they signed Ronde and Roubaix-winner Peter Van Petegem to a short-term contract, Garmin-Cervélo might have had the best classics director in the sport in rider Andreas Klier. One of Van Petegem’s personal mentees from his days with TVM-Farm Frites, Klier knows just about every stretch of Flemish berg and straat as well as the locals do—after all, he’s a local himself after moving there several years ago. Look for Klier to be the Classics difference-maker for Garmin—especially if the races are run without radios.
Biggest Loss: Svein Tuft was beginning to hit his stride last summer, winning time trials at the Tour of Denmark and ENECO Tour on his way to finishing second and fifth overall respectively. Will Garmin miss those two wins? Maybe not—but Tuft is a powerful rider who was able to perform well in those odd parts of the season when everyone else is either training or resting. In other words: he’s a handy guy to have around.
And that’s it for #5. By now I’m sure you’ve guessed the four remaining teams in the ranking—but in which order will they arrive?
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