Langeveld to Garmin: Classics Coming Back into Focus?

Today Garmin - Sharp announced the signing of Sebastian Langeveld, formerly of Orica-GreenEdge, signaling that maybe they're planning to be a classics team again.

A wee bit of history... the old Garmin plan, back in its Slipstream days, was pure insurgency, nabbing kids like Martijn Maaskant and getting their American talent to go for results in Europe's venerable, bone-jarring cobbled races. Since 2010 they've been pretty noticeable. Tyler Farrar won that year's Scheldeprijs (along with fifth at the Tour of Flanders). A year later Johan Van Summeren shocked the world with his Paris-Roubaix victory, won on the backs of a loaded squad including marginal favorite Thor Hushovd and heir apparent Sep Vanmarcke. By 2012 it was Sep's turn, with a dramatic Omloop victory over classics king Tom Boonen.

So when their cobbles campaign went thud in 2013, after the departures of Hushovd and Vanmarcke, and when Dan Martin won Liege-Bastogne-Liege, it seemed like maybe the team was just evolving more toward the Ardennes and away from the infernal stones. Nick Nuyens was their only major addition for the current team's cobbles objective, and Nuyens fulfilled his reputation for getting hurt and missing entire years.

Langeveld presumably came at a manageable price. Maaskant is leaving the team, so that salary came off the books, and Langeveld's lack of wins during his two years at OGE probably drove down his market. But if so, it's to Garmin's advantage. The guy is, in fact, a steady presence who's regularly in with a shot at a big result... all you can ask for at the world's most capricious events. Langeveld famously won himself an Omloop in 2011, another dramatic two-up result over a very powerful Juan Antonio Flecha. The Leidener is only 28, relatively youthful for this discipline, and though there are talented kids ready to overtake him, Langeveld is a steady, top-end guy, especially at Paris-Roubaix. He has two top-tens in the last three years, and that's including 2012 when he crashed out of the spring at de Ronde. Tenth in the most recent Ronde is his best result yet, suggesting he likes the new course. E3 is always a possibility.

Rider salaries, a critical data point to assessing transfers, are maddeningly secret, but my hunch is that Langeveld came over at a good deal for the team, and will provide exactly what they need, a top-end, steady guy. Nuyens is still there, ever the lottery ticket, where he'll either win a monument or DNF. Farrar may or may not return. From his power profile and body type, Ramunas Navardauskas seems like a guy they should use on the cobbles, though maybe there's a good reason they don't. Van Summeren is a Paris-Roubaix specialist cut from the same cloth as many a cobbled champion. I don't see the same depth of some past squads, but at the top end Garmin-Sharp enter 2014 with a pretty good set of cards to play.

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