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TdF Rest day chat – what is a team?

July 17, 2014

There are 22 teams in the Tour. Cycling is very much a team sport, although it is often individuals that get the most glory. The teams in cycling can be confusing. For a start, their names change regularly as they are based on the main sponsors. Some team like Movistar have a long history, others are much younger. Teams come and go based on persuading existing or new sponsors to keep giving them money. Belkin and Giant Shimano are the latest to have major concerns about their future as their main sponsors are not continuing next year. The teams do not get appearance money or TV money. The fans on the roadside do not pay. Quite a few of the teams have rich benefactors, like BMC. These teams have a more comfortable existence in some ways, but it obviously depends on keeping the rich man happy. Cycling is a very different sport to most others.

There are 18 teams at the top level of the sport. These teams have automatic entry into the biggest races including the 3 grand tours (France, Italy and Spain), the classics and the prestigious week long stage races. There are 4 more teams in the Tour (known as wildcards) who are invited by the Tour organiser. Usually these are French teams like Cofidis although this year the Swiss team IAM was invited (not too surprising as they have French star Chavanel) along with the German/Scottish team Netapp Enduro.

The teams have different aims in cycling’s biggest event. So let’s have a look at them. The teams sometimes need to revise their strategy if their star riders quit, like Froome (Sky) and Cavendish (OPQS).

Sky (UK, satellite TV). Won previous two tours despite being a relatively new team. The management brings considerable experience of winning everything on the track at the Olympics and worlds. Entirely focussed on GC and were all behind Froome. With his exit they will get behind Porte. If Porte looks unlikely to get on the podium then they will start chasing stage wins. Balanced team with strong GC contender, climbers and rouleurs.

Astana (Kazakhstan, oil?). GC team, all for Nibali. Very strong with some superb riders. Questionable management.

Movistar (Spain, TV). GC team, all for Valverde. Very strong with well rounded team and superb, experienced management.

Tinkoff Saxo (Russia/Denmark, banking). GC team, all for Contador. With his exit the team will probably go for stages. The team may not be as strong as the above three. Not sure if Bennati is in the team as a sprinter or as a domestique. Perhaps both.

Garmin (US, GPS type gadgets). GC team, all for Talanksy. This focus on GC is new to Garmin. In the last few tours they have been going for stage wins and have succeeded through crafty tactics. The team is quite young and they have left the old guard at home. Will be interesting to see if they can last three weeks.

BMC (US/Swiss, bike manufacturer). GC team, all for van Garderen. Team has always struggled to be cohesive and has been a graveyard for former greats. However, Evans is not here this year so perhaps they will get behind the young American. I will not be surprised if the rouleurs take a flier and go for the odd stage win. Management is improving with Peiper having a more senior role.

Belkin (Netherlands, GPS gadgets). Not sure what their strategy is. Publicly they are behind Mollema for GC, on the road they have been racing as individuals and going for stage wins. Perhaps the uncertainty regarding the team’s future is affecting team moral and the riders are worried about if they have a job next year. Would be very sad if this old team folds.

AG2R (France, insurance). The team has had a really good year so far this year, even in the spring classics. They have a few cards to play and have already won a stage. Bardet is probably their hope for GC, but that will not stop them going for breaks and stage wins. This team is an example of a mix of aims. That hampers their chances in GC, but they were never going to win that. So going for stages and the white jersey and more realistic goals.

OPQS (Belgium, drugs & flooring). Very strong team that was built around Cavendish. With his early exit they are looking for stage wins. That will be tough as Cav’s lead out men are not as quick Cav, Kittel or Greipel. Tony Martin is the best ITT rider in the world so will be favourite Stage 20. Kwiakowski is a hope for GC and the white yersey.

Lampre Merida (Italy, steel & bike manufacturer). Probably built around world champ Rui Costa and his GC hopes. However, he is an outside bet for that. If he falls off the pace, then they will start going for stage wins. They have been looking more like a credible team than previous years.

Lotto Bellisol (Belgium, gambling). Main goal is Greipel and stage wins. VDB has a chance of a decent finish in GC but will need to achieve that on his own.

Katusha (Russia, oligarch funded). Not sure if they have a plan.

FDJ (France, gambling). Not sure what their plan is. Demare is a decent sprinter but unlikely to beat Kittel on the flat or Sagan on the hillier stages. Pinot is a promising climber and might win a stage. Expect to see them in fruitless breaks.

Europcar (France, car rental). Expect to see them in breaks. Voeckler and Rolland will be prominent in their huffing and puffing for short periods before being overtaken by better cyclists.

Orica Green Edge (Australia, mining). Strong team that will go for stage wins, for example Gerrans is a decent sprinter for lumpy stages.

Trek (US/Luxembourg, bike manufacture). A team only in the sense that they wear the same jersey.

Giant Shimano (Netherlands, bikes and stuff). Focus is entirely on Kittel, who is the fastest sprinter in the world at the moment. Expect him to continue winning stages.

Cannondale (Italy, bike manufacture). Focus on Sagan who is a massive favourite for the points competition and might win a few stages.

and the wildcards:

Cofidis (France, bank/credit). You might see them now and then, probably because their jersey design is stylish and distinctive, not because they are about to win anything.

Netapp Endura (Germany/Scotland, software & clothing). Wild card team that will be delighted to be at the tour. Will be keen on breaks and hoping for a stage win. König is their leader and a superb climber.

IAM (Switzerland, asset management). GC team for Frank (who is out), but can adapt for other goals like stage wins. Chavanel is a strong rider and very capable of winning stages.

Bretagne-Séché Environnement (France, waste treatment). I know almost nothing about them. The unpopular and dangerous sprinter Feillu is the best known rider.

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