If you didn’t see last week’s column, have a look now to bring yourself up to speed on the rationale. The team is below, and the deluxe turkey cranberry stuffing sandwich goes to Fausto for services to crowd sourcing. A reheated pig in blanket to Shawn for his contribution. Those of you more worried about your own VDS teams than taking part get nothing but thrice-boiled sprouts. Without further ado, your team:
Bob de Cnodder. Bob has been out of a job since Aqua Blue folded and gives us an experienced leader. He’s been working with Martyn Irvine, and the hope is that he’ll bring in Irvine and pick up a couple more newly retired riders to mentor into leadership roles.
1. Stefan Kung – a leader for the cobbles, for TT heavy GC races, and for the future, Kung was a casualty of the BMC collapse and at 24 is the sort of rider we rarely see on the market.
2. Michael Valgren – You guys saw this coming too. Yes, we had to overpay for a rider coming off his best season, but if you want a rider who can win without much support and in many different races, look no further… except for
3. Tim Wellens – This was a major blow for Lotto Soudal, but his contract came up for renewal in the wrong year. We value him for his WT points but even more for his attitude, winning style, and pure talent.
Experience and Leadership
4. Serge Pauwels – We probably won’t get many seasons out of Serge, but he’s got a decade’s experience at the top level across four teams. CCC thought they could benefit from that, but I guess we wanted him more.
5. Andrey Amador – Movistar thought they’d keep their experienced Costa Rican but we sold him on the chance to help build a new squad and be a leader on the road. Unlike Movistar, we care that he can finish and time trial, as well as climb.
6. Vasil Kiryenka – I’m guessing this name is the first real surprise. I’m sure we’ll have paid plenty to prise him away from Sky. Seems feasible, though, doesn’t it? Time triallist, climber and team-worker,
7. Robert Gesink – There aren’t many with experience to match Bobo’s and I’m thrilled to have him in the squad. Let’s hope he can bring everything he knows and none of his luck. Poor Jumbo-Visma are among the team’s who’ll suffer badly from this new team being set up.
The core of the squad
8. Giulio Ciccone – This isn’t a team that is set up to thrive in the high mountains of the grand tours. Still only 24 (this week!), Giulio is one of the men who can fix that and won’t need much support from the rest of the team.
9. Patrick Konrad – A repeat of Ciccone’s comments – Konrad can climb, is young and still improving, and can go well in a grand tour even without a mountain train. Bora brought too many riders in and Patrick was only too pleased to join a less crowded squad.
10. Robert Power – Poor Bobbie didn’t know he was putting himself on a collision course with our squad by taking sixth in Strade aged just 22, or by winning two hilly one-day races in the same season. He was, though, and we’ll welcome him for 2019. He could be another GC man with some seasoning, but he’ll win races in the interim.
11. Alexis Gougeard – He almost re-signed with AG2R, you know, but we convinced him he wasn’t living up to his potential. He’ll be a highly valued part of our cobbles unit and we’ll bring out his latent time trialling prowess, too.
12. Mike Teunissen – Another cobbled star and this one was surprisingly let go by Team Sunweb after a good year, including second in a tough Dwars. We got in before he could go to Jumbo-Visma.
13. Killian Frankiny – Fausto was right, this is a second swoop to pick a talented youngster from the BMC scrap heap just before Groupama-FDJ could lure him in. He can be another Swiss star for us.
14. Alberto Bettiol – While we’re grabbing former BMC riders with more potential than we ever saw, let’s grab the young Italian puncheur from under Vaughters’ nose.
15. Larry Warbasse – As predicted by Fausto, Warbasse knows his was around the de Cnodder philosophy and will bring experience and wisdom to a fairly green squad.
16. Sergei Chernetski – You know what’s fun about running your own team? You get to step in and avoid guys with WT potential dropping down a rung. Without us, Sergei would have moved from Astana to Caja Rural. Sorry to the Pro-Conti boys, but we’re keeping him in the World Tour where he belongs.
17. Tom van Asbroek – American sports teams call men like Tom “glue guys”. I’m not saying he’ll be winning every week but there isn’t a race where he can’t be of value to the team. Only 28, bags of experience, and inexplicably due to go back to the Pro-Conti ranks until, you guessed it, we swept in and grabbed him.
Piles of Potential
18. Casper Pederson – I don’t want to cannibalise the whole Aqua Blue set-up, but I’m not too proud to pick up this young gem from the pile and stop him moving to Sunweb.
19. Dusan Rajovic – Too talented to spend another year at Adria Mobil, we grabbed the Serbian sprinter from the bargain bin to fill out our roster and give us a chance to see what he can do in the big leagues, and for a team without sprinters to boast about.
20. Rui Olivera – I’ve never understood why we don’t see more Portuguese cyclists at the top level. UAE nearly had a youngster of boundless potential before we snuck in and grabbed him.
21. Jaako Hanninen – Because crowd-sourcing works, and who doesn’t love a time trialling Finn?
22. Stefan de Bod – Poor Dimension Data, they can’t even wrap up the pick of the African talent any more. This young Saffa has top tens in the Piccolo Lombardia and the World u-23 ITT, so of course he’d find his way onto our squad.
23. Hernan Aguirre – I’ve been talking about the Wrath of God for some time now, and he’s recently won Qinghai Lake in a promising 2018 season. A late pick-up when, astonishingly, no other WT squad showed any interest.
24. Michel Reis – A young Luxembourger with a talent for climbing (second in the Val d’Isere stage of the Avenir) and inexplicably not picked up after a promising stagiare trial with Trek, we swept in and grabbed him.
25. Luis Villalobos – C’mon, now, you can’t be surprised by this. I’m probably more interested in this talented young Mexican than I have any reason to be, but I offered him a contract from the start of the year and that took him off Canondale’s books.
26. Pascal Eenkhorn – The only rider for whom we stepped in and broke a contract, the young Dutchman who can do a bit of anything is worth it. Lotto NL get something involving Edam, I expect. We get a rider to dream on.
So, there you have it. Twenty-six riders plus a bit of the management structure. We’re light on pure climbers. We’re light on pure sprinters. We’re light on linguistic consistency. We tick plenty of other boxes. It would have been lovely to find the money for Richie Porte or Ivan Sosa, or even for Tony Martin or Bauke Mollema, but it couldn’t be done. We will have to wait on Masnada and Senechal. Still, I like what we’ve got.