In American sports, one often cheers for "the name on the front of the jersey" (the team) as much as if not more than "the name on the back of the jersey" (the individual). I'm quite sure everyone here has their favorite individual riders, but what about at the team level? Any rooting interests there?
It does seem a bit antithetical to the fluid nature of ridership in the sport, although that fluid nature may slowly be becoming a thing of the past. But coming as I do with a basis in American sports, I've definitely developed a few favorites.Back in my infancy as a cycling fan, I suppose you could say that I was all about US Postal/Discovery. As an American, c'mon, can you blame me? It was a pretty heavy-handed force-feeding.
One of the first races I ever watched that was not the Tour de France was the 2009 Giro d'Italia. I had just moved to a new city, and I loathed the lack of cable TV options in my new digs. As I flipped around the meager over-the-air options available to me, I stumbled across Universal Sports, a channel I cherished until it went away. Say what you like about their coverage, but happening onto coverage of a major bike race two months before I expected it to even be possible (I of course knew other races than the TdF existed, but I never expected to see them on American TV) and when I had really no other options for entertainment was a veritable godsend.
And that race, a team captured my heart - the Cervélo TestTeam. Which is the tiniest bit strange looking at it in retrospect, because they did jack all for the first two weeks of that race ;\ I had caught a glimpse of them earlier in the season watching the Tour of California, in its last February edition, and I took notice of Thor Hushovd's stage win, not really thinking too much of it at the time but noticing how impressed the commentators were that he beat Mark Cavendish (who I of course remembered from the '08 Tour). I guess the first thing I noticed was those jerseys - red, white, and black (always an eye-pleasing combination) with the é's on the shoulders, which I thought was quirky and fun (I still like that Garmin-Barracuda incorporates the é's). I guess I didn't really think much of the Tour of California at the time - it seemed like an also-ran American race of limited importance.
I remembered Simon Gerrans, a rider I quite like on an individual level, from his stage win in the '08 Tour, and I found myself rooting him on to be the best of the breakaway in stage 14. Which he indeed was. The Cervélo TestTeam seemed to my still largely-untrained eye to be a scrappy bunch of underdogs in against bigger and better competition, and while that's a little too Disney a description, I soon found out through separate research that it was more true than not. Of course I also remembered Carlos Sastre from the '08 Tour, and I was on the edge of my seat shouting him on during his winning solo bid up Monte Petrano in stage 16. I lamented his losses to Franco Pellizotti the next stage, but cheered him on again two days later at Vesuvio. When Menchov's slip and fall sealed the final stage time trial for Ignatas Konovalovas, I was actually happy, despite not having any idea who Ignatas Konovalovas was at the time or even how to pronounce his name.
I then followed the '09 Tour (but sadly could not watch) gleefully expecting defending champion Sastre to put on another amazing show, if not to win again. Sadly, neither was to be, but this was still a great race for my new favorite team, highlighted beyond question by Thor Hushovd's brave solo breakaway on the queen freaking stage to all but seal the green jersey points title. I was able to see that stage on (long) tape delay, along with a couple of others. Heinrich Haussler's dominant stage win earlier in the Tour also put a big smile on my face.
Wasn't able to see the '09 Vuelta either, but I was stoked for Gerrans getting another stage win to seal the career triple of Grand Tour stage wins. I wasn't too stoked about him signing for the nascent Team Sky, a team I wasn't too jazzed about at all at the time (considering their sponsor -- but don't jump down my throat, I don't so much care about that anymore). I recall similar feelings about Hayden Roulston of all riders, despite the fact that he had pretty much no results on the season. With great interest, I read about the incoming transfers - who were Theo Bos, Stefan Denifl, and Xavier Tondó? I was certain to find out.
And it was through this team that I first became aware of other races on the calendar. Of course reading about the team's results led me to exploring Milan-Sanremo, where they got two of the three podium placings in '09, for the first time, but so too Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, along with other and somewhat lesser races like Dwars door Vlaanderen,E3 Prijs Vlaanderen, Brabantse Pijl, the Gran Premio Miguel Indurain, the Amstel Gold Race, La Flèche Wallonne, and Liège–Bastogne–Liège, all of which had Cervélo riders in the top ten. I didn't actually see any of them, but I read about them, and it was really the first time I knew that they existed.
2010 wasn't as rosy a year, but I still cheered on Sastre at the Giro...and the Tour....and the Vuelta. Tondó actually captured my imagination at the Giro and the Vuelta, with his strong rides in both (and his stage wins at Paris-Nice and the Volta a Catalunya earlier in the year). Even though he was 31 at the time, I definitely looked forward to seeing him another several seasons at the top level of the sport, although we all of course know that was not fated to be. Hushovd provided some nice memories at the Tour and Vuelta, riding in the ridiculously awesome-looking Norwegian champion's jersey. I had hoped for a points title repeat, but this was right when Thor stopped being able to get 5th or 6th in full field sprints, instead getting 13th or 14th, so it didn't happen.
I was crushed when I found out the team was folding. Like, actual tears. Some denial, too. I first read the headline that Hushovd and Haussler were going to transfer to Garmin, and I said "No...no way." Yes way :( The Vuelta was a nice swan song, though. Hushovd got a stage win and Tondó and Sastre both rode to top-ten placings, making Cervélo the only team with two riders in the top ten.
2010 was the first year I watched the world championships, so imagine my glee when Hushovd won. Seeing a Cervélo TestTeam rainbow jersey was like a beautiful dream. I bought the Universal Sports webcast of the Giro di Lombardia that year simply because Hushovd was riding that race in the rainbow jersey. I didn't quite understand that it was not a race in which he would feature, but even just seeing him at the sign-in with the jersey made me happy. It actually softened the blow of the team folding.
I transferred my rooting interests to the new team to bear the Cervélo name in 2011, but it was sort of half-hearted. They were an accomplished team with several riders I liked and several American riders (hey, it never hurts), not to mention their squeaky clean anti-doping image, but it never really clicked for me like it had with the TestTeam, not for the first few months anyway. But seeing Tyler Farrar persevere through the personal tragedy of the '11 Giro, David Millar's leadership in same, and later the all-around amazing Tour de France they had, I thought okay, yeah, this is my new favorite team. And then Hushovd left again :( Still luv ya Thor, but BMC? Really??
Made my personal rooting interests in this Giro all the easier :D Though I really have nothing against anyone in even the top ten.
Another team I've taken to liking is Orica-GreenEDGE. I gushed about their new title sponsor here, but they also just have lots of riders I like; certainly Gerrans is chief among them but he's far from the only one.
I also have a few least-favorite teams, but I'm guessing most everyone could already guess them. And let's keep this positive anyway. Have you got a favorite team or teams?