A note on programming
The astute among you will have noticed that it isn’t quite the start of the offseason, and yet here we are with the first offseason capsule.
This is, I think, good news for the reader. There are 19 Mondays between now and the UAE Tour. That means each Monday comes with an offseason capsule, and we will cover the whole World Tour, starting with a folding team and ending with a new team. These won’t all necessarily be written by me, but the once-a-week pattern will continue.
But wait, there’s more! I’ll also be posting a column every Thursday. I have some ideas about a lot of these, but they’ll basically just be my musings on the cycling world, something to keep you thinking ahead to the new season through the cold days in the Northern hemisphere. With guests, sometimes.
Oh, and I’ve started my offseason programme early, so this was written and scheduled before I headed to an island paradise. Apologies for any late news that may have gone missing as a result.
Where was I? Oh, yes, BMC. With insincere apologies for the pun, it is farewell to one of the more high-profile outfits of the last few years, a team who delivered some big wins but never quite lived up to expectations. The 2018 season continued that trend, as the curtain came down with something of a whimper.
What we said last year
I wasn’t particularly positive about this squad, noting the lack of a youth movement and the budgetary worries that were weakening the squad. I thought GVA would be there or thereabouts but wouldn’t match Sagan, and I was pessimistic about Porte’s chances of returning to form following his 2016 crash. I was, however, pretty sweet on Dylan Teuns’ chances of improving on a breakthrough year.
What we got in 2018
If you really like time trials, this was one of the great seasons. If not… meh.
16 of the team’s 23 wins (as I write this) came against the clock, including four of the five GT wins. Rohan Dennis had himself a great season in his chosen discipline, even before he won the world championships. Before that, he’d bagged his national champs, three of the four grand tour time trials he contested (he was second in the fourth) and WT wins in Adriatico and Abu Dhabi. He was also the straw that stirred the drink for a great team chrono outfit who won all season long but nonetheless could only manage third in the world TTT.
On the road, the story was less rosy. Greg van Avermaet was one of several who couldn’t stand up to the Wolfpack’s assault on spring. He managed plenty of strong finishes but his only individual wins came in the Tours of Oman and Yorkshire. He’d have wanted something in the classics. Richie Porte returned to form more effectively than I feared, riding well for second Down Under before winning the Tour de Suisse. However, his rotten luck in the Tour continued as he fell early in the Roubaix stage and didn’t complete. Although he returned for the Vuelta, his form did not.
Nobody really had the sort of season to cover up for disappointments from the biggest names in the squad, but that was clearly an unrealistic goal. Stefan Kung took a step forward and was a strong helper in the classics before thriving against the clock. My optimism about Dylan Teuns wasn’t rewarded with great results but his season was far from poor.
FSA-DS Ranking 2018
4th – There’s time for this to change as the season winds down, but as I write this, they sit right up in the upper echelons but a shade below the elite. Which sounds about right.
1. Rohan Dennis grabbed his first ever World Champs gold, cementing a year in which he’s been the comfortable pick of the chrono men and giving the BMC list of wins some welcome lustre. He’ll be sporting rainbows when he heads to pastures new in 2019.
2. Richie Porte may not have shone in July, but his form in June was again stellar and raised hopes. Showed he was ready for the Tour with a customarily straightforward win in the Tour de Suisse, sticking close to the goats on the mountain stages and putting them away against the clock. Stefan Kung won the concluding time trial to make for a very cheerful evening on the BMC bus in Bellinzona.
3. Not a huge amount to pick from, but Alessandro de Marchi deserves credit for picking up another win in the Vuelta. He’s won four races in his pro career, and three of them are Vuelta stages. That’s a good record to have and his ability to nab prestigious races (and world tour points) becomes a skill instead of a happy coincidence at some point. He added Giro dell’Emilia to make me think about changing this highlight, but I’ll stick with the Vuelta. Good year, Alessandro.
1. Can I copy and paste from last year? Stage 8 of the Tour, Richie Porte crashes out, a big chance in the biggest race is undermined before it has a chance to begin. The team didn’t cover themselves in glory when commenting on the crash, either.
2. Greg van Avermaet can’t really be blamed for not grabbing a win over the spring, with an historically good Quick Step unit combining against him. Still, he must be increasingly desperate to win Flanders and the moment when Niki Terpstra disappeared up the road and didn’t come back was a definite lowlight.
3. This team made no secret of their desire to finish on a high and the team time trial at the worlds looked there for the taking for a squad that had been excelling all season. It wasn’t to be, as once again Quick Step (and, for good measure, Sunweb) outshone them.
So, what happens next?
Nothing. This team will fade into the sunset. There will be a new team, rising like a phoenix from the ashes, and they will be the subject of the 19th and final offseason capsule. Yes, that’s a teaser, folks.