After a few seasons of high finishes in the cobbled classics, Rabobank’s Sebastian Langeveld finally broke through to win this spring’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad after a solo attack saw him out in front for the final 50 kilometers of the race. He’s gone too early, was my thought at the time. But the Dutchman proved me wrong in the end, narrowly defeating defending champion Juan Antonio Flecha of Team Sky in a two-up sprint.
But now, I find myself wondering if Langeveld has once again left too soon. Each year, the transfer market opens earlier and earlier, and while it’s always fun to speculate as to whom will go where, it’s rare that a rider announces his intentions—and has them linked to another team—as early as the Giro d’Italia.
For Langeveld, this early announcement poses a few problems. First, if I were his sport director, why would I make room for him at races where I have several other riders (who are under contract for the following season and beyond) who deserve their chances to shine? In particular, Denmark’s Matti Breschel is returning from injury and will certainly warrant his share of the glory. Why add a wild card such as Langeveld to a race roster when a dedicated rouleur might be a better fit?
Second, from a business perspective, by announcing his desire to leave the Dutch team Langeveld has also eliminated a means by which he might drive up his price. If I were his agent (if I haven’t already been fired), I’m telling Sky that he wants to stay and Rabobank that he wants to explore other options—essentially creating a bidding war between the two squads for my rider’s service. By admitting that he wants to leave, Langeveld has eliminated half of that equation.
Lastly, from a sporting perspective, is Team Sky really the best answer? Yes, Juan Antonio Flecha’s getting old and Edvald Boasson Hagen is proving to be frail, but Sky has so far proven itself to be adept only at winning field sprints and races during the Belgian opening weekend. With so much potential turmoil on the horizon for several of the sport’s best classics squads, wouldn’t it have been better for Langeveld to wait see what other options might arise?
What’s done is done. Langeveld has again decided to try his chances early—only this time, a victory is far less certain.
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