OK, time to get past some family drama — nothing too extreme, except in its consumption of time — and back to blogging! I must say, the batteries are recharged, and in case there was any question in my mind, all it took was a few laps of the Gavere UCI CX race to make it clear. Are Mathieu van der Poel, Wout Van Aert and Tom Pidcock all in the same place at the same time? If so, sign me all the way up.
[Oh, and FYI we are swapping FSA DS spreadsheets around now as we speak.]
Each year is another step in the endless quest to keep things fresh around here, especially with respect to team previews. In the early days of the Café, we could count on the English cycling media to do a slipshod enough job of covering things that they would barely put out anything informative. Then they started to (and often times it looked eerily familiar), and now they are actually not bad at the endeavor. But staleness is always a foe, especially on these pages. So here’s a new tack: Five Fast Factors.
For each World Tour team, I will come up with five things to say that are worth talking about for some reason. Yes, transfers will come up, and yes, youth infusions are going to be hard to ignore most of the time. Also I have one definite recurring item: a longitudinal look back at the team kits. We treat each year’s design like a referendum on the state of the sport or humanity or whatever... well, why don’t we look back over a few years and see if there are hidden messages there? Worth a try.
I’ll test-drive this theme with one pointedly-non-WT squad, Israel Premier Tech, below. I’ll probably be able to kick out three of these a week until they’re done, but feel free to take the reins in fanposts for your favorite squad, or at least favorite to talk about. I can always use the help! You can even expand to Pro Conti squads if you like. Just ping me via email/twitter DM/etc. to give me a heads-up before I start in on your team. Here we go!
Five Fast Factors: Israel Premier Tech
1. How Real Was the Teunaissance?
For all IPT’s issues, and we will get to those, how huge was Dylan Teuns’ late arrival and reinvigoration of his career? In some ways discussing Israel-Premier Tech is easy because there are so few guys to cover, and by far their top scorer, biggest winner and near-savior was the 31-year-old Belgian puncheur par excellence. He only came to IPT in August — a rare “mid-season” transfer — when Bahrain-Victorious signaled that he was free to leave before the final year of his contract was up if he wanted, but by then he had taken a podium spot at La Flèche Wallonne plus some other decent results. With IPT he kept up the solid work, taking fifth at the Tour of Britain and fourth in GP de Wallonie. Pretty solid finish to try to keep the team in the World Tour. Then not enough guys stepped up and IPT missed the cut anyways. But you can’t blame Dylan Teuns.
Can Teuns keep the team afloat for another year as they try to, I dunno, sue their way back into the World Tour? The answer is no, in part because I don’t totally buy the sudden return of Peak Teuns being something you just repeat every year, and in part because I don’t know that whatever the team’s fortunes are will all fall on Teuns anyway. Lots of guys could rebound from their own point-starved 2022, and if a license becomes available in less than the three years before the relegation/promotion process is currently scheduled to happen, IPT could put a credible case together across its roster. As for Teuns, he has been incredibly steady, a top-100 guy since 2017, and the biggest concern — his house being raided as part of an investigation of Bahrain-Victorious — seems to not point directly to further troubles.
2. Wait, Other Guys Might Step Up?
The fact that these guys were the 19th team in an 18-team competition is a little weird. Would you have picked them to finish behind Arkea-Samsic? Maybe you would have picked Astana ahead of IPT, and you’d have been right, by about 100 points. The real issue was that known quantities like Michael Woods, Ben Hermans, Giacomo Nizzolo and Alessandro De Marchi all suffered big drops in point production. Plenty of other big names like Chris Froome (!), Simon Clarke, Jakob Fuglsang and Sep Vanmarcke didn’t dramatically reverse their fortunes either.
The one common thread to all this disappointment is the 1980s. Bad hair, worse clothes, way too much synthesizer... those 80s. That’s when every guy I just named was born. While the rest of cycling zigs toward youth, these guys zagged toward, I dunno, wisdom? Clearly IPT have gone against the grain, and the results say what they say. Still, it feels a little quick to write off Fuglsang, Woods, Nizzolo, maybe even some fruitful spring results by Vanmarcke. Let’s give them another lap.
3. Is There a Plan?
I guess you have to ask, why exactly are they so old? By my calculation, the team’s average age last year was 42, well above the 23 year old average of the rest of the sport. I can’t really diagnose their institutional issues — is it money that they lack, or prestige, history, coaching, agent connections? Did they try to lure hot young talents to Tel Aviv for Gal Gadot’s star-studded birthday bash, only for it to fall through? Whatever the case, my attempted optimism of the previous paragraph doesn’t really jibe with the roster so much as maybe they have just grabbed big-name guys who aged out of the “sought after” bin and into the “very available” one.
You see this a lot with ball sports and it usually doesn’t work. Newly-formed teams sign a big name as a way to get their fans interested, which is a perfectly understandable goal, but it ends up being empty calories. Teams that build quicker often start slower, putting together a foundation that will help the team make its mark when it is truly ready later on. Sometimes you have to go slow to go fast. IPT didn’t go that route, and here they are.
4. Are They In on the Young Talent Wave At Least?
Maybe! Two years from now, assuming that they remain a functioning team and owner Sylvan Adams (and his money) stick out the demotion, IPT will look a lot different. Probably eight guys on the current roster will be primed for retirement or lesser roles. Another six (including Teuns) will be hitting their mid-30s and subject to replacement. The opportunity for a major restocking and youth movement is there.
What IPT do with it remains to be seen, but they’ve added some new blood that could be promising. At the head of the class is Italian Marco Frigo (no relation to Dario), who spent the last two seasons with the Israel Cycling Academy, IPT’s development squad, racking up some impressive performances at the u23 level, including a national U23 title and stages of the Ronde de l’Isard and Circuit des Ardennes. Frigo seems to have all-around ability to this point, though the team is interested in his GC potential as well.
Next on the list of Academy grads is Brit Mason Hollyman, a climber who has scored some very impressive U23 results, like fifth in LBL Espoirs, stage wins at the Volta a Portugal and Giro della Valle d’Aosta Mont Blanc. Hollyman is set on contesting stage races and is billed as one of Britain’s top young talents.
Then there is Corbin Strong, a New Zealand sprinter who just took second at Coppa Bernocchi, won a Tour of Britain stage (and finished 6th on GC after two days in the lead), and posted several other top ten results in his first year at the senior level. Just 22, Strong should have no problem racking up points at the sub-WT level, and will probably get a few bites at the bigger apples this year too. Add in young Arizonan Matthew Riccitello, a 20-year-old GC rider, and Canadian Derek Gee, who has excelled in time trials, and IPT have a very nice base of young talent to build on.
Of course, so do many other teams, and as the roster turns over, IPT will have trouble competing for the top talents without a World Tour license, but we have seen plenty of riders come up through smaller teams to great success, so fingers crossed for these guys.
5. When Did They Perfect Their Kit?
OK, so with IPT being relatively new, we have five true iterations of the team’s jerseys, with two versions of the white-shoulder thing, for a total of six kits. Which one is the best? I’ll give some comments in order shown above but feel free to chime in and vote!
- Most recent Israel Premier Tech. Kind of looks like some sort of food involving a lot of blueberries. I like blueberries.
- The late 2022 kit released for the Tour de France, which they called their Field of Dreams kit having to do with supporting projects in Rwanda. I call it their Van Gogh version because it looks like a swatch from the interactive Van Gogh exhibit I went to last year.
- 2022, the later version of the white-shoulder look, involving some nice 70s design in the blue space around the ribcage.
- 2021, the first version of the white shoulder look. The dark blue and white always reminds me of a business suit. That’s not a compliment.
- Light blue/white 2020 Israel Start-up Nation kit. A very pleasant summery look, albeit something a local club designer could have come up with.
- Earlier Israel Cycling Academy kits, dating back from 2019 and earlier. For some reason there’s a white 7 underneath the blue field. Not remembering why.
OK, time to vote!
IPT/ISN/ICA’s best kit is...
This poll is closed
2022 Field of Dreams/Van Gogh
2022 white shoulder
2021 Business Suit
2019 and earlier inexplicable 7