There is still much discussion (criticism, praise, etc.) of Garmin-Cervelo’s tactics and results in the Ronde and Paris-Roubaix. Â A forward-looking question is whether their breakthrough spring season will continue as we switch gears to the Ardennes. Â This season’s infusion of talent, notably the heads of state from the former Cervelo TestTeam, arguably has strengthened their squad significantly. Â Add to this Ryder Hesjedal’s 2nd place finish in Amstel Gold Race last year, and the team may have a legitimate contender. Â Will their Ardennes warrior match the accomplishment of their cobbled gladiators?
The cobbled classics of the last few weeks are notable for several factors:
- All eyes were on Fabian Cancellara.
- The stars really didn’t shine at the biggest races. Â Either they had rotten luck or they played to not lose to Cancellara.
- The lieutenants struck.
- The big teams factored much less than before.
All these should not take away from Team Garmin’s accomplishments, but they offer a contrast as we look forward to the Ardennes classics. Â Garmin’s win owes much to Johan Van Summeren being in the right place at the right time, and the reluctance of the strongest rider to take a risk against Cancellara. Â Garmin should rightly take credit for the placement of Thor Hushovd and Sep Vanmarcke in the Cancellara group, and BMC for having both Ballan and Quinziato, at least until Mons-en-Pevele.
Cobbles-oriented teams include obvious favorites Leopard-Trek, Quick-Step, BMC, Garmin. Â Among these, big negative changes happened at Leopard-Trek and the super-team QSI, which we covered in a separate article. Â They had to field significantly less firepower than in past years. Â And the stars either had rotten luck (Tom Boonen, Sylvain Chavanel, Pippo Pozzato) and or they played to not lose to Cancellara.
To compare, consider the hill-oriented teams such Lampre, Astana, Katusha, Euskaltel, Movistar, and perhaps Garmin again. Â Many of these teams have kept or even increased their roster, notably Lampre. Â Many argue that an Andreas Kloden in renaissance and a lucky Chris Horner can contend for a win, perhaps with help from the likes of Janez Brackovic.
I expect more controlled races in the Ardennes than in the cobbled races, and more stars playing to win rather than lieutenants competing for podium. Â Hence, lesser chances for Garmin unless they can match the other teams in strength in the finale. Then again, Hesjedal’s proven himself to be an aggressive rider with a knack for being at the right place at the right time. Can he follow-up Vansummeren’s monument with a big win of his own?
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