There is still much discussion (criticism, praise, etc.) of Garmin-Cervelo’s tactics and results in the Ronde and Paris-Roubaix. A forward-looking question is whether their breakthrough spring season will continue as we switch gears to the Ardennes. This season’s infusion of talent, notably the heads of state from the former Cervelo TestTeam, arguably has strengthened their squad significantly. Add to this Ryder Hesjedal’s 2nd place finish in Amstel Gold Race last year, and the team may have a legitimate contender. 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. 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. 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. 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. Among these, big negative changes happened at Leopard-Trek and the super-team QSI, which we covered in a separate article. They had to field significantly less firepower than in past years. 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. Many of these teams have kept or even increased their roster, notably Lampre. 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. 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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