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Transfers and Teams: Part 2, The Revenge

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Teams, riders, results, oh my! Here is the second part of the monster Chris created last week, an overview of the teams after the transfer season is all-but closed. The list follows no particular order, because that would be far, far too organized. Okay, let’s go.

Lampre-Vini Farnese

v. 2009. It was a forgettable season for Lampre this year. World Champion Alessandro Ballan lost most of his season to illness, and left Lampre with few, if any results, in the early season. Talk about curse of the Rainbow. Damiano Cunego hit his peak for the Ardennes races two weeks early at the Settimana Coppi e Bartali, which gave him a nice win, but not the big one he wanted. After an ordinary campaign in the Ardennes, where he won the Amstel Gold Race in 2008, Cunego rode an anonymous Giro where he received more attention for his press comments about doping than for his results on the road. Formerly the darling of the Italian media after his Giro win in 2004, Cunego struggled to meet the expectations heaped upon him by the press and his team management. At Italian Nationals, the team led-out Francesco Gavazzi, but Cunego finished higher, out-sprinted for the win by Filippo Pozzato. The Vuelta a España brought better days to Lampre as Paolo Tiralongo rode to a top ten placing in the general classification and Cunego won two stages in the high mountains. Mauro Santambrogio, meanwhile, picked off a semi-classic win in Italy. After the success of the Vuelta, Cunego’s fall campaign, including the Giro di Lombardia where he has three wins to his credit, fizzled. No win at Worlds, despite starting the race as a big favorite, no win at La Foglie Morte. All in all, more went wrong than right for Lampre this season, and no doubt they are dreaming of better days.

v. 2010. Lots of turn-over at Lampre. Alessandro Ballan heads to the new, deep-pocketed BMC, while Enrico Gasparotto transfers to Astana. Say Adio to Lampre’s cobbles team. They didn’t really want to ride well in Belgium, did they? Climber Paolo Tiralongo leaves for Astana, after publicly slamming Cunego for his poor leadership. Marzio Bruseghin, formerly a podium finisher at the Giro, leaves for Caisse d’Epargne. The ambitious neo-pro Mauro Santambrogio signs for BMC. The team management have gone shopping at the old LPR. Most notably, they have brought Italian sprinter Alessandro Petacchi to Lampre for next season. This signing brings sighs of relief all around, as the team will now have something to do at the Giro other than pretend that Cunego is the same rider he was in 2004. He isn’t. Cunego will change his focus at next year’s Giro from the general classification to stage-chasing. This tactic served him well at the Vuelta a España, and there’s no reason to think it won’t work at the Giro. Gilberto Simoni was also rumored to Lampre, though no formal announcement has surfaced. Lampre has also signed several other assorted Italians, Balloni, Bernucci, Pietropolli, Spezialetti.

Wish List. Dear Santa Claus, Please bring us some results. Any results will do. A win in the Ardennes for Cunego would go far toward quieting his critics and ease his trip to the Giro. He really really wants to win Liège-Bastogne-Liège. So Santa, how about it? Stage wins for Alessandro Petacchi at the Giro and the Tour would also be really really nice. If the press could forget about that inhaler problem, that would be even better still. But we’re not picky. Just bring us some results and we’ll be happy. XOXO, Lampre-Vini Farnese.

Liquigas-Doimo

v.2009 A teeming green horde of general classification riders: Ivan Basso, Franco Pellizotti, Vincenzo Nibali, and Roman Kreuziger. Kreuziger also found the podium at Classicá San Sebastián and was frequently near the front in the Ardennes. The Green Team is a talented bunch, for sure. No doubt Pellizotti would like to have won the Giro d’Italia, and Ivan Basso’s finish off the podium at the Vuelta a España was less than he’d hoped. Still, many teams would die for a season like Liquigas-Doimo enjoyed this year. The fly in the champagne came from sprinter Daniele Bennati, who spent much of the season injured and came up uncharacteristically empty-handed.

v.2010 Transfer season brought some minor changes to the roster, but it’s mostly the same show. Francesco Chicchi, the team’s young sprinter, may leave, though his plans remain unknown. Next year, it’s more of the same for the Green Team, with young riders like Nibali and Kreuziger hoping to build on their successes. Basso v. 2.0 will be hoping he can keep up.

Wish List. Dear Santa, Please bring us a healthy sprinter. Bennati is lovely to look at, but we’d like it very much if he could win a race or several next year. Also, could you help us on the polemica front? We desperately need a magic potion that will ensure that our team leaders don’t kill each other somewhere on the road between Amsterdam and Paris. We’ll take anything you got, as long as it’s WADA-legal. One last thing, if you don’t mind, could you bring Quinziato a result on the cobbles? He was always right there last season, but never quite in the winning move. Otherwise, well, we’d really like to win the Giro and the Tour. I don’t think that’s too much to ask, is it? XOXO, Liquigas-Doimo.

BMC Racing Team

v. 2009 The team everyone’s talking about these days. BMC divided the season between the United States and Europe and picked up more results on the North American circuit than they did in Europe. They rode Paris-Roubaix and the Critérium Dauphiné Libéré, though not with too much in the way of results.

v. 2010 The Money Machine. BMC has opened the check book and gone shopping. Ownership of the team changed hands and the deep-pocketed Andy Rhis is willing to pay whatever’s necessary to assemble a top level team. They’ve signed George Hincapie, Alessandro Ballan, Karsten Kroon, Mauro Santambrogio, and Marcus Berghardt. Plainly, they have hopes for the cobbled races. As if that were not enough, BMC also lured the current World Champion Cadel Evans away from his troubled relationship with Silence-Lotto. Rumor puts the deal at 2 million euro per year for three years. Also, Evans had to pay out a year’s salary to Silence to end his contract early. No word on whether BMC picked up the tab on that aspect of the transaction. Anyhow, this BMC is pretty much a whole new team, and several of the American riders on last year’s roster may be left without chairs as the music winds down.

Wish List. Dear Santa, We just spent a shit-ton of cash buying riders. Please don’t let any of them get injured or test positive. Also, can you hook us up with some of that team bonding potion you gave Liquigas-Doimo? I think we may need it. Don’t forget to leave us some grand tour invites. After all, we’ll need something for all these riders to do. A win for Hincapie at Paris-Roubaix would make our season. So would a repeat for Ballan at the Ronde. Honestly, though, we’ll settle for a win somewhere in Belgium. Just about anywhere will do. If you could find a way for Evans to replay Mendrisio at Liège-Bastogne-Liège or La Flèche Wallone, we certainly wouldn’t complain. Also, please send us a Tour podium finish for Evans. XOXO, BMC.

OmegaPharma-Lotto

v.2009 Maybe they should re-name their team after Philippe Gilbert. Certainly, he saved their season this year. Leif Hoste waved his arms to no avail on the cobbles. If not for Gilbert, there’d have been no results in Belgium for the team. Not exactly the way to make the local sponsor proud. But Gilbert saved the day with an impressive fourth at the Ronde van Vlaanderen, and showed a hint of the results yet to come. Gilbert also saved the late season for Silence and pulled the rare Autumn Double of Paris-Tours and Giro di Lombardia. When you’re hot, you win lots of races. Gilbert also picked up a fourth at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, despite a too-early attack. The young Belgian has made it clear that there are few one-day races on the calender that he can’t win. Good thing, because Silence doesn’t have much else to hope for. Cadel Evans, meanwhile, planned his season around the Tour de France, only to ride anonymously around France. He did win a crono at the Critérium Dauphiné Libéré and finish second overall at the pre-Tour stage race. Evans saved the best for last, and one his only major one day race at the World Championship road race. If you’re only going to win one, you might as well go big.

v.2010. Evans has taken his rainbow shirt and moved on to BMC much to the poorly concealed shock and dismay of the Silence-Lotto team management. Indeed, a story, perhaps apocryphal, circulated around the time of Worlds, that sports director Marc Sargeant had made the rounds of the press room at Worlds to make sure that the assembled press knew that Evans remained under contract Silence-Lotto. The departure of Evans leaves a ginormous hole in the Silence-Lotto roster at precisely the wrong time of year. Most of the big name riders are signed and sealed by now. Silence-Lotto does have some cash, because the Evans buy-out cost the total of a year of Evans’ salary. But that’s cold consolation in November. Philippe Gilbert will certainly win more races, which will keep OmegaPharma-Lotto in the headlines throughout the season. The team management can only hope that Hoste finds his form and puts more energy into pedaling his bike than waving his arms. Hoste needs a result on the cobbles this season. The arrival of Jan Bakelants could help the cobbles cause. The young Belgian won oodles of races as an U23, but passed a quiet first season as a pro. At the moment, this team is in disarray, and it’s not clear how they can come about.

Wish List. Dear Santa, Please find us a rider to replace Evans. Also, could you send Hoste a result? Any result will do. Actually, if you send any of our riders a result, that would be great. Another monument win for Gilbert - either Liège-Bastogne-Liège or Ronde van Vlaanderen - would make our season. Please Santa Claus? We promise to be good. XOXO, OmegaPharma-Lotto.

Caisse d’Epargne

v.2009. Alejandro Valverde made the most of his inability to race in Italy - which ruled out starts at the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia - and won the home tour. Smiles all around. Joaquím Rodríguez rode to second place at the Liège-Bastogne-Liège and to third at Worlds, and is steadily amassing a nice pile of one day results. Luis León Sánchez took Paris-Nice out from under full-on pre-race fave Alberto Contador. Sánchez also bagged the overall at Tour Méditerréen and a Tour stage. Nice season, there for Sánchez.

v.2010. Joaquín Rodríguez takes his toys to Katusha next season. Christophe Moreau signs on. I suppose he will chase stages at the Tour and make goofy faces at the camera. Every team needs a guy like that. Marzio Bruseghin leaves Lampre for Caisse. A good rider is Bruseghin, but that podium finish at the Giro d’Italia feels like a long time ago, and next season’s grand tours will not do the crono specialist any favors. Juan Mauricio Soler, by contrast, is a very nice pick-up if he can stay uninjured. The ex-Barloworld rider has a Polka Dot jersey to his credit and will find plenty to like about both the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France next season. Another handy rider for the high mountains, Juan José Cobo comes to Caisse next year. Cobo won a mountain stage at the 2008 Tour de France, and a stage at the 2009 Vuelta a España. In the main, Caisse d’Epargne have used their checkbook wisely this transfer season, though hopefully, they did not pay an overly high price for Moreau, who is a tad past it.

Wish List. Dear Santa, We’ve been really really good this year. Please make the CONI case against Valverde go away. He promises never to see a gynecologist again. Also, if it’s not too much trouble, could you leave a lump of coal for Etorre Torri? He’s a very bad man. We’d also like some one-day race mojo for Valverde. Where is the rider who has twice won Liège-Bastogne-Liège? A Tour start wouldn’t suck either, but we already mentioned that silly CONI thing. If Valverde can’t get his legs around the idea of a one day racing, we need someone to take the place of Rodríguez. We’ve all but given up hope that a certain Tour de France champion will win free of his contract. Maybe you could stick him wrapped up with a big red bow under our tree next year ? XOXO, Caisse d’Epargne.

Euskaltel-Euskadi

v.2009 Samuel Sánchez and Heinrich Haussler could start a Second Place club. Sánchez finished second behind Alejandro Valverde at the Vuelta a España, which was his main objective of the season. Then, the Olympic road race champion finished second behind Philippe Gilbert at the Giro di Lombardia. Sucks to be second. Igor Anton, the big Orange Hope for the grand tours, never really got it going, and overall, the results came few and far between for the Basque team. Anton and Sánchez each won minor races in Spain, while Koldo Fernández took out a hand full of sprint victories. I’m not sure anyone outside the devoted Euskaltel-Euskadi tifosi really noticed. Even resident Basque tifosa Albertina admitted, "the year pertained somewhat to flat txakoli."

v.2010 The Euskaltel-Euskadi team management has been busy this shopping season, and has picked up a number of talented young things. The most exciting signing for the Orange team is Romain Sicard, who carries French citizenship but is of Basque heritage. Sicard rode away with the U23 Tour de l’Avenir and won the U23 World Championship road race. Though the results might not come immediately for the 21 year old Sicard, who rides his first pro season next year, his talent is clear. Beñat Intxausti comes to Euskaltel-Euskadi from Fuji-Servetto and has been widely touted a one of the next big Iberian talents. Jonathan Castroviejo comes from the same U23 team as Sicard and won a stage of the Tour de l’Avenir. According to Albertina, he time trials. Brilliant, no? Gorka Izagirre, Miguel Minguez, and Daniel Sesma have also signed for next season.

Wish List. Dear Santa, We have signed a lot of young riders, and we hope they will make the transition to the pro ranks smoothly. Also, we’re sorry about those two positive doping controls, this year. We promise to do better in the future. If it’s not too much trouble, we’d dearly like a major one day win for Samuel Sánchez and a high finish at the Tour de France. We don’t expect him to win, but maybe a top five? That would be nice. If you could bring Igor Anton a stage win either in France or at the Vuelta a España, that would really help put things back on track for him. He seems to have lost his way, maybe you can help? No, not that kind of help, we promised not to do any of that! Anyway, just a few results, that’s all we’re asking. XOXO, Euskatel-Euskadi.

Cervélo TestTeam

v.2009 It was break-out year for the newly formed Cervélo TestTeam, with a consistent string of results throughout the year, from Thor Hushovd’s win at Omloop het Nieuwsblatt to Phil Deignan’s stage win at the Vuelta a España. Simon Gerrans picked off stages at the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France. Though Carlos Sastre fell short of his general classification ambitions, he won two mountain stages at the Giro d’Italia. The Tour was unfortunately forgettable for Sastre. Heinrich Haussler turned from second tier sprinter to all-arounder and won a stage at the Tour and finished second to a flying Mark Cavendish at Milano-Sanremo.

v.2010 Cervélo loses four riders: Hayden Roulston, José Angel Gómez Marchante, Serge Pauwels, and Simon Gerrans. A talented all-arounder, Gerrans brought Cervélo stage wins at the Giro and Tour, and his absence leaves a hole in the roster that will not be easy to fill. Pauwels did strong support for Sastre in the Giro, but the relationship soured over the team car débâcle that saw the Belgian pulled off a stage winning two-man break. Despite these departures, Cervélo still has plenty of strong legs on the roster. They will also pick up sprinter Theo Bos from the Rabobank Continental team. A former multiple World Champion on the track, Bos started his full-time transition to road this season. Thor Hushovd and Heinrich Haussler remain the team’s go-to boys for the sprints, but Bos could pick them up a result or two along the way.

Wish List. Dear Santa, Please bring us a season of solid results again next year. Could you give Barbie a big race win? So many seconds is a little rough on the boy, don’t you think? Sastre needs a high finish at the Giro. Could you make him win it? Maybe that’s too much to ask, but it never hurts, right? We’d also like a stage win or two, if you could swing it. And don’t forget those grand tour invites. Perfect stocking stuffers! XOXO, Cervélo TestTeam.

Bbox Bouygues Télécom, Cofidis,
AG2R-La Mondiale, & Français des Jeux

Not much is changing for these four teams. All four will be looking for wins in the local French races and we can expect to see them all in the early, often-doomed breakaways at the grand tours. Pierrick Fédrigo and Tommy Voeckler of Bbox Bouygues Télécom have shown that riding the breaks is not always a fruitless effort. Expect more of the same, next season.