Classics specialist Matti Breschel has concluded his search for a new team in 2013 by going back from whence he came. Breschel, 28 and hitting the peak of his career, has signed with Bjarne Riis and will return to the Saxo-Tinkoff formation with which he spent his first six years as a pro.
Here are his CQ rankings from the last five years: 29, 22, 38, 594, 169. If I had listed them in a completely different order, would you have had any trouble picking out which two were the Rabo years? I've often thought of Rabobank as my favorite or near-favorite team, but maybe a better way of describing them is my favorite collection of riders who, in a different situation, would be awesome. I can't peek under the hood and describe exactly what's wrong with their management. But the Breschel signing always seemed to walk a fine line between genius and disaster. As opposed to Lulu Sanchez, who came in at the same time and fit perfectly into a niche that wasn't already filled, Breschel's signing was greeted with grumbling by Lars Boom while the ink was drying.
Then, before good things could happen on a bike like Breschel attacking at the Tour of Flanders and setting up Boom for a win, or vice versa, Breschel hurt his knee, and hit the shelf. By the time he returned he was on his last contract year and the talk of Breschel as captain was noticeably absent. Did they know he wasn't fitting in? Were they just worried about his knee? Did Boom assert some sort of control over roles? No idea. It just became a given very quickly that he wasn't returning. In some sports they say you don't lose your starting job to an injury, but that seems to be exactly what happened to Breschel.
Now, at Saxo, the Dane will be what he's never been before: a classics captain with no reason to doubt his support. He's riding for a Danish team. There's no Fabian Cancellara in front of him; there isn't even a Nick Nuyens crowding him for position. Riis wouldn't be bringing him back if Breschel weren't still a potential classics great. So all signs point to him as the team leader, and Breschel pointed to his "big ambitions" as the reason for going back home.
Photo by Patrick Verhoest for the Podium Cafe