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Keeping Score: Ten More Teams

I started this exercise last week, and aim to finish it off today: namely, taking the temperature of all the big July teams, a/k/a the Cycling Quotient Top teams, #11-22 minus the Italian continental teams you won't hear about again til October.

11. Crédit Agricole

Wins: 16 (Tour Med overall & 2 stgs, Dauphine Stg & KOM, crit int stg, Catalunya 2 stgs & pts, PN stg & pts)

Analysis: Not a bad start to the season. The team's focus is on racking up a variety of wins, both at home and around Europe, with Thor Hushovd still the only heavy hitter. They also boast a decent roster of youngsters, including Pierre Rolland who just bagged the polka dot jersey at the Dauphine. They seem to lack bigger ambitions for now, but competency isn't a bad place to start.

Looking Ahead: The plan for the Tour is twofold: put Hushovd in the sprints, including the day 1 road stage and its potential yellow reward; and go stage hunting from there. Actually, while the lack of a prologue is supposed to reward the sprinters with the early spotlight, it hurts big Thor, who's perhaps the best chronoman among the sprinting crowd.  Rolland is sitting out the Tour for now, but Fofonov could be a top stage threat.

Team Vibe: Free and easy. Hushovd looked solid at the Volta a Catalunya and the Dauphine, where he held the leader's jersey. His success takes some pressure off the team, and the successes of Fofonov and Rolland simply add to it.


12. Gerolsteiner

Wins: 10: Romandie stage & KOM, Algarve 2 stgs, Paris-Nice overall (no stgs), GP Miguel Indurain, 2 Bayern Rundfahrt stages.

Analysis: Gerolsteiner's spring campaign is usually what pays the bills, but apart from Rebellin's unspectacular, tactical victory in Paris-Nice, it wasn't the finest of campaigns for the team. Not what you want when you're hunting for a sponsor, though there are at least rumors of a pending solution there, if nothing complete. Anyway, Rebellin, Schumacher and Wegmann are in charge of a really young team, and sitting 12th is only a step removed from their 2007 ranking.

Looking Ahead:  They don't really have much of an attack for the Tour. Bernhard Kohl's 31st place and Markus Fothen's 34th represented their best efforts on GC, and this year shouldn't be much different. If Forster goes, he'll be the designated sprinter, and Schumacher is an all-round stage threat. Strictly small potatoes.

Team Vibe: Now what?

13. Lampre

Wins: 9 -- Giro d'Italia ITT stage and podium place (3rd), Pais Vasco stage & points jersey, Amstel Gold Race.

Analysis: Bella! A perfect example of how points don't really tell the story. Sure, Davide Rebellin scored big-time at Paris-Nice, and had high placings in the Ardennes, but would you really take his late-career wins and Gerolsteiner's campaign over Lampre's numerically inferior haul? There's a lot to like about this squad: Alessandro Ballan proved that he's an utter fixture for the next 6 years of Cobbles, and Simon Spilak emerged as a valuable ally and breakout threat in his own right. Damiano Cunego was slightly faster than Rebellin in the Ardennes. He then begged off the Giro, but Lampre still bagged a surprise podium spot at the Giro, a HUGE coup for them. And now they're all for Cunego at the Tour. For a working-class outfit, could this have worked out any better?

Looking Ahead: Cunego will be a top contender at the Tour, even if Lance says he hasn't got a prayer of winning. Maybe so, but he has as good a chance now as he ever will, and was smart to focus on France. If and when that goes by the boards, there's always the worlds, in his hometown, and Lombardia, the race he was born to ride. Also, the sight of classics star Ballan working feverishly for Cunego next month will be a reminder of why Cycling is so great. And if Napolitano can find his top gear... I can dream.

Team Vibe: Cautiously giddy. And nothing to lose.

14. Cofidis

Wins: 12 -- stg & overall 4Jours Dunkirque, Brabantse Pijl, Dwars door Vlaanderen, PN stage, Catalunya stg, GP La Marseillaise, Circuit la Sarthe stg, Tour Med 2 stgs, 

Analysis: Sitting 14th in the team rankings is a marginal improvement for Cofidis. These aren't important differences really; all that changed is that Sylvain Chavanel got hot in March. But he won with flair, and covered for Nick Nuyens' lack of production in Belgium... a nice lift for the team. Considering the lack of expectations, this isn't bad.

Looking Ahead: The man to watch is Maxime Monfort. Not that he's going to shake up the Tour; if Cofidis are smart they'll introduce him to le Grand Boucle gently and let him learn slowly. But Monfort's forte is the time trial, so he will almost certainly be hanging around the upper echelons of the GC. Can a Belgian on a French team win the Tour? Probably not anytime soon, but Monfort is already consistently solid enough to get notice.

Team Vibe: Rebuilding patiently.

15. Barloworld

Wins: 6 -- GP Pino Cerami, Giro del Capo stage & overall,

Analysis: Off to a fine start this spring, Barloworld saw the trio of Pfannberger, Cooke and Gasparotto making themselves known in some of the world's top races. That didn't really translate into wins, but for Barloworld relevance is a pretty good achievement.

Looking Ahead: Curiously strong squad for the Tour, built around Soler. Assuming Cooke and Pfannberger line up, they'll be able to give Soler some decent protection, and still peel off a couple guys to deliver stage wins via Robbie Hunter. Soler isn't the top threat at the Tour, and inspired little confidence with his indifferent Giro performance. But he has serious KOM jersey potential, and might find himself climbing up the Alpe with Evans & co., if Barloworld play their cards properly.

Team Vibe: Nothing to lose.

16. AG2R

Wins: 7 -- Dauphine stage, Catalunya stage, GP di Lugano, Tirreno KOM jersey.

Analysis: Same as always... They were active at the Dauphine, which is good for business. Otherwise, this is a small team in a big pond.

Looking Ahead: Hey, Cyril Dessel was once seventh overall at the Tour? Things have changed, but there's no reason Dessel, teaming with Vlad Efimkin and surrounded by the cream of the squad (Gadret, Calzati, Nocentini), can't bag some respectable results. Team seems a tad chaotic.

Team Vibe: We exist!

17. Saunier Duval

Wins: 5 -- Euskal Bizikleta stage & overall, Tour of California stage, Giro d'Italia 2 stages and 2nd overall.

Analysis: Almost totally anonymous before the Giro, and likely to stay that way afterwards. I really don't like this team, no matter how good Ricco is.

Looking Ahead:  Again, not much to like. Perhaps Jose Angel Gomez Marchante or JJ Cobo can rediscover their respective forms and make noise at the Vuelta or San Sebastian. Ricco might get shelved for the worlds or Olympics, considering what a great teammate he is, but he'd have a chance at a result if he's allowed one.

Team Vibe: Staring into space.

18. Euskaltel

Wins: 6 -- Tour de Suisse stage (and current overall lead), Castilla y Leon stage, Murcia stage, Pais Vasco KOM, Asturias ITT

Analysis: A bit quiet so far, thanks to Sammy Sanchez' decision to focus entirely on the Tour de France, and their usual aversion to cobblestones, Italy, etc. Nothing unusual there.

Looking Ahead: The flipside of their mellow spring is the promise of a strong summer. Zubeldia and Sanchez are actually a pretty solid duo for the Tour, promising at least one solid GC placing and some stage wins. Koldo Fernandez, Mikel Astarloza and current Suisse leader Igor Anton can also make hay here and there. No reason to think they'll turn the Tour upside down, and Sanchez' better chances lie in August and September. But they're intriguing enough.

Team Vibe: Tanned, rested and ready.

21. Slipstream Garmin!

Wins: 4 -- Giro TTT, Georgia TTT, Sarthe ITT

Analysis: Supposedly this year was all about establishing themselves, as opposed to winning, and the plan is working. The Giro TTT and temporary possession of the maglia rosa was a coup. Martijn Maaskant was a complete revelation in April. Bad luck prevented some further results (other than a winning bike toss), but that's cycling. Rewarded today with a big new sponsorship package. Cha-ching!

Looking Ahead: Life at the Tour could get miserable in a hurry. They don't really have anyone for any particular aspect, so it'll be time to go stage-hunting. Maggie Backstedt will undoubtedly be among the more prominent hunters. They've only really won time trials, so Zabriskie's injury is a blow to their chances on the big stage. But if he's fit soon enough, the Worlds and Olympics beckon. Believe it or not, that could be worth more to an American team than a stage of the Tour.

Team Vibe: Nice work, now get back to it.

23. Milram

Wins: 10 -- Bayern Rundfahrt overall, Andalucia 3 stages, GP Costa degli Etruschi, Valenciana 2 stages.

Analysis: It's no secret this team does absolutely nothing for me. Their season went to hell when Petacchi... well, when they decided to stand pat with a team built around two aging sprinters, the faster of whom had a potential doping case hanging over him. When the shoe dropped on Petacchi's season, they were done. Then Nikki Terpstra started showing his future prowess in Belgium, and Christian Knees rescued them in Bayern, and suddenly things weren't quite as dismal.

Looking Ahead: To what? Next spring maybe. I guess you could say Milram are primed to rebuild around Terpstra and Knees, but another thought would be to blow up the team and set Terpstra and Knees (and Grivko and the Velits brothers) free to find a real team.

Team Vibe: Dazed and confused.

25. (Bonus!) Agritubel

Wins: 14 -- Tour Normandie 5 stages, Tour Med stage, Boucles de l'Aulne, Classic Loire Atlantique, Route Adelie de Vitre, Catalunya KOM, Sarthe stage, 3 Jours de Valcluse stage and overall, Rhone-Alpes Isere stage

Analysis: Who owns the roads of France? For 11 months a year, it's these guys. Sure, they were practically drafted by the UCI into a Pro Tour format that doesn't seem to suit them, but getting invited to the Tour of Flanders is nothing to be ashamed of. They do their real work in-country, functioning more like a top-flight continental team. But they've been very good at this role.

Looking Ahead: Christophe Moreau and Roman Feillu are the sentimental picks to bag themselves a couple stages next month in Le Tour. There'll be plenty of cheering if it happens. Jimmy Casper might be in line for a win too.

Team Vibe: C'est la vie!