It's all over the web: Team RadioShack's final roster. Below is my take on how they'll do. You may disagree with some of my conclusions, though why you would do that, I have no idea. ;)
Edit: That Beppu and Zubeldia are on RadioShack is news to their former teams it seems. Below I talk about the team like they are but who knows? Maybe they'll form a completely different Team Limbo with Wiggo.
At first glance you might think Disco is back. Many of these boys are Disco alumni from one year or another:
Armstrong, Beppu, Brajkovic, Leipheimer, Li, McCartney, Paulinho, Popovych, Rubiera, and Vaitkus. But that's only 10 of the 26 so to be cautious we shouldn't get too carried away with the Disco Reunion Tour 2010 meme-even if those nine represent most of the key riders for next year. Plus of course you have most of the team management back from the Disco days so maybe that ReunionTour meme is correct.
What about second glance? Bunch of geezers on this team, probably more than any other team. Riders who will be 30 or more next year with age as of the Tour de France (to pick a race totally at random) in parenthesis:
Armstrong (38), Horner (38), Irizar (30), Kloden (35), Leipheimer (36), McCartney (36), Muravyev (30), Paulinho (30), Popovych (30), Rast (30), Rubiera (37), Zubeldia (33).
That's 12 of the 26 for those keeping track at home. Oh-notice that six seven of these guys are on both lists so far.
Another way to look at the team: If you combined their VDS scores from this year (2009) you would get.... 2882 points, good enough for 13th place in the final 2009 standings, behind 12th place Euskaltel and ahead of Lampre. Their leading scorers from this year? Surprise! Andreas Kloden! 642 points. 2nd-Levi Leipheimer with 603, and 3rd Lance Armstrong with 568.
All right, enough with the team. How are they gonna do next year?
I'll do this by type of race:
1) Cobbles prospects: slim and none.
Johan Bruyneel-led teams have a well deserved reputation for underperforming in the cobbled classics and there's no reason to think that the results might change next year. Like in year's past, they have some guys who look perfect for springtime in Belgium: Rast, Vaitkus, and Steegmans all have the combination of size, strength, and speed to do well. But outside of some random race where one of them gets top five (but doesn't win) they will barely register a pulse in Belgium. When I say "random race" I truly mean it: it could be KBK or Flanders. E3 or DDP. Whatever. Some race one of them will get in the final break, purely (IMO) because they have the talent to do so, which for that race will overcome the lack of strategy or interest on Management's part.
2) Ardennes and other hilly one day races: slim but perhaps better than the cobbles.
They have a bit more of a history of success when the one day races get hilly. Janez Brajkovic has gotten 2nd at Lombardia. Chris Horner does know how to get into the final selection of races like this even if he doesn't have the finishing speed to win. But the team really has a history of not emphasizing any one day races so any wins here, hell any podiums, would be shockers.
3) Stage races-decent
We all know that this is a team built for stage races.. But there are lots of stage races so I'm breaking them down into four categories: random, targeted, California and the Tour. (Yes I put ToC and Tour in the same sentence. But that's the way it is with this team.)
3A) Random stage races-fair to good prospects
This team is crazy deep in stage racing talent so it goes that there will be stage races they find themselves in mainly for practice that they podium or even win. Like last year Chris Horner got second in the Tour de l'Ain. Or Levi won Castilla and Leon. Brajkovic snagged 2nd at Trentino. This team is filled with good climbers who are also good at time trialing so expect some decent results at lower profile stage races.
3B) Targeted stage races-also good results but probably no wins.
When I say "targeted" here I mean races from Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico, The Giro and Vuelta, possibly a Spanish stage race or Pais Vasco, and Suisse, Romandie and the Dauphine. Honestly I am tempted to put the Giro in the random stage race category as I don't see who on this team is gonna make a real run at it. I can imagine in fact the Giro not inviting them as Lance will be in California.
So other than the Giro these races are important to one or another of the team leaders here. The interesting race among these though is Paris-Nice as this will be the race where RadioShack takes on Contador and Astana for the first time. Must see TV there- and I haven't even mentioned the liked of Lulu defending his crown and the other good riders who'll be there. But how they try to attack Bert will be interesting.
The other races here-like Kloden at T-A, and Suisse, are important races to gauge if these old guys have lost anything. They will put in the efforts-but will they pay off? My guess is that we'll see some podiums but no wins in the higher profile races here. Maybe Levi can pull off another win like he did at Castilla and Leon.
3C) Tour of Califiornia-great success lies ahead!
The main question here is who, besides Lance might deny Levi a fourth win? radioShack will bring most of its heavy hotter to this race and it will be interesting to see if any other team tries to contest the final result. Garmin and Saxo Bank are the most likely. Saxo? They don't race the Giro really so in theory their Schlecks, Cancellaras, Jens!, etc. will have open dates and could race here. But will they race hard? We'll have to see. That leaves Garmin as Columbia will not contest the GC. Garmin has tried to beat Levi the last two times and failed and I see no reason why that will change. At the end of the season, California will probably be the biggest success this team will have.
3D) Tour de France-ah, no. Sorry.
Unlike in the past, a Bruyneel-led team (here RadioShack) won't be the dominant team at the Tour. Saxo will be at least as strong while Astana will be strong enough along with having the best rider. On paper in mid-November, Saxo, RadioShack, Astana, Rabobank, and Liquigas all will field teams that, if one of their riders gets into the lead, they can successfully defend for several stages through the mountains to hold on for the win.
But now to Lance. Do you believe that Lance will be stronger this year, like he contends? That must mean that you believe in Santa too! Congratulations! Have a party!
The thing is, no one wins a Grand Tour at the age of 38. No one. No matter how much hype he generates. Unless he goes to Forks for some special blood work. Short of that, there will be a drumbeat of press hyping Lance as better than last year. But it won't make a difference. What I'll be interested in seeing fro this team at the Tour is what Levi will do. He too is too old to win but IMO Levi is theoretically the closest to Bert in ability. I could imagine telling Levi to stick with Bert wherever he goes, sort of a cycling equivalent of a basketball box-and-one defense. Hmmm. But I can't imagine Bruyneel and Lance having that type of subtlety. And of course Bert isn't the only rider that they need to worry about.
So to me, RadioShack will probably place two riders in the top ten, one in the top five perhaps. That's if everything falls into place. Given the age of their main guys, the likelihood of injuries will probably see them at less than full strength for the Tour. A bad case scenario is no one in the top ten, maybe one on the top 20, one of their main guys being injured for the Tour, and one crashing out. (Of course armageddon would see Lance getting injured pre-Tour and not starting. But that might free Levi at least.) They will create some excitement, especially when they see themselves falling behind.
The team will finish around 10th place in the VDS team standings next year. Best case is around 6-9. Probably 9-14. If a lot of injuries happen: 13-17.