Thursday, 29 September 2011

Tour of Beijing - The Teams

1. AG2R-La Mondiale
2. Astana
3. BMC
4. Euskaltel-Euskadi 
5. Garmin-Cervelo
6. HTC-Highroad
7. Katusha
8. Lampre-ISD
9. Leopard Trek
10. Liquigas-Cannondale
11. Movistar 
12. Omega-Pharma-Lotto
13. Quick-Step
14. Rabobank   
15. RadioShack
16. Saxobank-Sungard 
17. Sky
18. Vacansoleil-DCM                           
Peraud and Roche are leading a strong
team to Beijing

1. AG2R-La Mondiale have decided to let two men shoulder the burden of team captaincy, and they've picked two very capable pairs of hands: ex-MTB star Jean-Christophe Peraud who - as French TT champ in 2009 and the owner of a palmares that lists impressive results in a variety of races - would appear to be very much the sort of talented all-rounder a team might need in a new race. Alongside him will be ex-Irish road and TT champ Nicholas Roche, a rider who has been a prominent feature in many of the Grand Tours of the last few seasons. Backing them up are Sébastien Hinault, a rider who was always going to have a lot to live up to even though he's no relation to Bernard and hasn't disappointed in a 14-year professional career; Christophe Riblon who has emerged as one of the greatest track riders the world has ever seen; Grand Tour veterans Lloyd Mondory and Biel Kadri; Mikael Cherel who finished this year's Tour de Romandie in second place and promising new rider Julien Berard who took 4th place in this year's French championships.

Astana are sending a strong team in
the hope of having a rider for each
stage - including the Iglinskiy
brothers Maxim (pictured) and
(© McSmit CC3.0)
2. Astana, realising that nobody really knows what to expect, are sending an experienced team with a view to selecting a rider for each stage according to what they find along the way. The brothers Iglinskiy will both be in attendance: Maxim has revealed himself as a superb all-rounder during his six-year professional career with notable results including top ten finishes in the Critérium du Dauphiné and Milan-San Remo as well as a King of the Mountains trophy in the 2008 Tour de Suisse, while younger brother Valentin won the Chinese Tour of Hainan last year. At 39, Andrey Mizurov is the oldest rider in the race and brings with him a wealth of experience in Asian races - he's achieved respectable success in the Asian Games, Asia Tour, Tour of China, Tour of Japan and Tour of Qinghai Lake. Andriy Grivko, four-time Ukrainian National TT champion, should have no problems delivering a good result on Stage 1, while recent stage race success suggests he may perform well in other parts of the race too - and if he's not got the legs, twice Estonian TT champ Tanel Kangert will be able to take care of business. Enrico Gasparotto, winner of the Sprints category at the Tour de Suisse in 2009, should be suitably qualified to pick up valuable points throughout the Tour, as should Australian Simon Clarke and Kazakh Sergey Renev.

BMC top dogs Moinard and
(Moinard image public domain.
Bookwalter image © Fanny SchertzerCC3.0
3. BMC are going to be racing in Asia for the very first time this year, having never competed in any of the UCI events on the continent up until now. It seems to us that although they've elected not to send anyone from their top five, Cadel Evans' lieutenants Brent Bookwalter and Amaël Moinard are capable team captains. Norwegian road champ Alexander Kristoff , 2009 US National Crits champ John Murphy, Simon Zahner, Danilo Wyss and Chris Butler are backing them up to form a team more than able of completing the task set to them. However, it's a team notable for its lack of an obvious time trialist - can Tour of Romandie sprint champ Chad Beyer keep up the pace in the first stage?

Sanchez is the boss of the Basques
4. Other that Katusha, the professional team that knows the most about surviving under a repressive regime has to be Euskaltel-Euskadi, for all intents and purposes the national team of the Basque Country - a nation that faced harsh restrictions that were designed to destroy their culture. Those restrictions failed, of course, and it seems the team plan to add more glory to their resurgent land. The team leader is none other than Sammy Sanchez who blew the Olympics apart when he achieved an amazing triumph under horrendous conditions in the men's road race. Sanchez is known to have a great love for China and its people, and he'll be wanting to repay the welcome they gave him three years ago by putting on an impressive show. With him will be Amets Txurruka, winner of a Combativity award and a white jersey in the Tour de France; Grand Tour experts Igor Anton and Alan Perez; grimpeur Mikel Nieve; Mikel Astarloza, recently back from a two-year ban and hoping to add more good results to an impressive palmares; 2009 Under-23 road champion Romain Sicard; ever-able Pierre Cazaux and new hope Jon Izaguirre.

David Millar, winner of
multiple "The Cyclist who
Most Closely Resembles
David Bowie" category
at the Tour de France
(© PetitBrun CC2.0)
5. We've always considered David Millar, who spent much of his youth in Hong Kong before it was handed over to Chinese control, to be one of the brighter minds in the peloton - perhaps that's part of the reason that Garmin-Cervelo have elected him as team leader for the Tour. As the only British rider to have worn the leader's jersey in all three Grand Tours, Millar returned from a two-year ban after empty EPO phials were discovered during a police raid on his Paris apartment by becoming National Road and TT champion in 2007. With a fine selection of stage wins to choose from among his palmares, the new father undoubtedly has the legs to do well as well as the brain. Supporting him are Johan Vansummeren, a rider who eternally guaranteed his hardman status by winning Paris-Roubaix this year; Heinrich Haussler, winner of the points classification in both the Paris-Nice and Tour of Qatar this year - and two stages in the latter; Matthew Wilson, no longer as strong a rider as he once was but one of the most capable domestiques in the business; Michel Kreder, who has been adding repeated top 10 wins to his palmares consistently ever since his first year as a professional in 2004; current Australian TT and madison champ Cameron Meyer, who also took both the overall GC and Youth trophies in this year's Tour Down Under; Andrew Talansky who, having been the US U-23 TT champion last year and winner of the Youth classification in this year's Tour de Romandie is one of the most promising young riders of the moment and Jack Bobridge, this year's Australian National Road and World Individual Pursuit champion.

New TT champ and almost certain
to be Stage 1 winner Tony Martin
(public domain image)
6. However, sending two elite time trial experts may prove insufficient. In fact, sending a whole team of time trial experts may prove insufficient - because HTC-Highroad, who will be riding one of their very last races, are sending new World TT Champion Tony Martin: the 28-year-old German who has taken the sport to a new level, upping the bar so high that even the likes of Fabian Cancellara can't come within sight of beating him. Riding with him will be 2011 Belorussian National TT champ Kanstantsin Sivtsov, a rider with the notable distinction of also having been national road race champ in 2006; Caleb Fairly, in his first year as a professional after winning both the Colorado Springs Crit and the Tour of The Bahamas in the previous two years; two-time New Zealand road champ Hayden Riulston, who also took 10th place in Paris-Roubaix last year; three-time World Track champ Leigh Howard, who also finished in 3rd place on the opening stage of this year's Vuelta despite being just 21 years of age; Irish road champ 2010 Matt Brammeier, who earlier this year topped that victory by winning both the Irish road and TT champs; Peter Velits, twice U-23 road champ of Slovakia and once U-23 World road champ; and past winner of the Tours of Britain and Austria Matthew Albasini, a Grand Tour veteran who also counts a rare 1st place victory in both the Sprints and Mountains classifications at the 2006 Tour de Suisse among his many successes. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the definition of a strong team.

Galimzyanov will be in
charge of Katusha
7. If there's a team who don't muck about, it's the mighty Katusha who send a gang of fully tooled-up hardmen to every race they enter. Denis Galimzyanov, who has already crushed the opposition at the Tour de Luxembourg and Paris-Brussels this year, leads a mean-looking pack consisting of TT specialist Artem Ovechkin, three-time Moldovan road race champion Alexandr Pliuschin - also no pushover in a TT, two-time junior world track champ Nikolay Trusov, Egor Silin who completed a Tour de France in his first year as a pro, Stijn Vandenbergh who won the Tour of Ireland in his first professional year, Grand Tour veteran Vladimir Isaychev and promising new boy Alexander Porsev. Galimzyanov also understands the importance of this race beyond cycling: "Let’s hope, for the Chinese, this will be a huge show," he says.

The Little Prince becomes
the big boss at Lampre
8. Lampre-ISD have announced they plan for Damiano Cunego, winner of the 2003 Tour of Qinghai Lake, to lead a grade-A team. Under-23 TT champs Adriano Malori and Alfredo Balloni will be hunting honours for the team in Stage 1 before providing the Little Prince with back-up alongside Vuelta stage winner Francesco Gavazzi, a rider with the ability to win multiple stages; Daniele Pietropolli, who has already racked up 11 top 10 finishes this year;  Manuele Mori, whose best result this year was a 6th place stage finish in the Vuelta a Espana; Matteo Bono, winner of a stage in this year's Eneco Tour of Benelux and Leonardo Bertagnolli, veteran of fifteen Grand Tours and a stage winner in the Vuelta, Giro and Tour of Austria.

Joost Posthuma,
seen at this year's
Dauphiné Libéré
9. Leopard Trek never send a B-Team to any race. In fact, with one of the most impressive multinational rosters of any team in the sport, Leopard Trek don't have a B-Team; and they treat every race as being as important as any other - whereas several teams sent their mini-coaches and a skeleton crew of support staff to the Tour of Britain this year, Leopard Trek sent their full-scale space shuttle bus and all full trappings of a successful Pro Team (your intrepid Cyclopunk photographer was very nearly run over by the bus, actually, and has never felt so proud in his miserable life). However, the team does seem peculiarly heavy on the climbers - a little odd in a race that features few big climbs. Though the team has announced its roster, it's not yet revealed the team leader - there are several potentials among the names, but the most likely must surely be Tour de France old hand Joost Posthuma, a rider who can perform well in a range of disciplines including time trial (1st '07 Sachsen Tour, '08 Three Days of De Panne, '10 Tour of Austria) and stage races (U-23 1st '03 Thüringen Rundfahrt, '08 Tour of Luxembourg, '09 Ruta del Sol). With him will be the current German road champion Robert Wagner; Thomas Rohregger, King of the Mountains in the Tours of Luxembourg, Austria and Down Under, later winning the Tour of Austria overall in 2008 - and having ridden for Austria in the 2008 Olympics, he'll have some idea what he's up against in this race. With them are Anders Lund, an excellent climber and talented all-rounder who has won both the Danish National and World road U-19 championships in the past; Danish U-23 road champ in 2004 and 2005 Martin Pedersen, who then went on to win the Tour of Britain in 2006; Danish Martin Mortensen, a powerful climber who also has a very unusual talent for time trialing, having won the 2008 Duo Normand alongside countryman Michael Tronberg; ever-consistent, occasional stage winner Tom Stamsnijder and the excellent Italian sprinter Giacomo Nizzolo who achieved his best victory with 1st place in Stage 5 of this year's Bayern-Rundfahrt.

Peter Sagan will lead Liquigas
(© RoxanneMK CC2.0)
10. Liquigas-Cannondale are another team who recognise that sprints may be the key to winning this race, sending a team of riders cleverly designed so as to be able to stay near the head of the course all the way throughout each day and have a rider capable of winning the stage waiting for the opportunity to do so. 21-year-old Peter Sagan - who, having won three stages of this year's Vuelta and two at the Tour de Suisse is widely considered the most promising rider of his generation and almost certainly a future Grand Tour winner will be joined by Cameron Wurf, Oceania TT champion in 2008 and 5th overall in this year's Tour of Turkey; Peter's older brother Juraj, 4th place in the Slovakian Road Championships this year; European track scratch race champion Davide Cimolai; Mauro da Dalto, a rider with a strangely empty trophy cabinet considering his near-superhuman ability to keep climbing for as long as a parcours requires; Elia Viviani, winner of three races and two stages of the USA ProCycling Challenge so far this year; Daniel Oss, another USA ProCycling stage winner in 2011, a year in which he also won a stage combativity award in the Tour de France and Tiziano Dall'Antonio, third overall and winner of the Youth category at the 2007 Tour of Luxembourg.

Experienced Pablo Lastras and
respected climber Beñat Intxausti
will be taking the reins at Movistar
(Lastras: © YellowMonkey/Blnguyen CC3.0
Intxausti:  © Petit Brun CC2.0)
11. Movistar are also sending two team leaders, Pablo Lastras and Beñat Intxausti. Team manager Eusebio Unzué agrees with those who claim that neither rider is a strong leader, but with a win in the Vuelta a Andalucia and more stage victories than most riders could ever hope for in the case of Lastras and an assortment of respectable top 5 finishes for Intxausti, neither man could be described as a weak cyclist. With them will be Sergio Pardilla, perhaps the rider most naturally suited to climbing in the world after Alberto Contador and Emma Pooley; super-strong Cantabrian Ángel Madrazo, a rider who is sure to repay the honours paid to him by fans at this year's Tour Down Under who chose him as the subject of the race's tradition of picking an unknown and treating him as the ultimate star of the event; Jesús Herrada, perhaps the most noted young time trialist among the current crop; Enrique Sanz, a young rider who defeated several older, more experienced sprint specialists to win a stage of this year's Vuelta a la Comunidad de Madrid - his first year as a professional; super-domestique Javier Iriarte, a rider who marked himself down as a future great when he came within metres of a breakaway stage in the five-day Tour Méditerranéen early this year and Rubén Plaza, one of the few riders to emerge unscathed and cleared of all charges from the infamous Operación Puerto - billed as one of Spain's greatest chances for Grand Tour success this year, he comes to the race hungry to salvage success from a season almost destroyed by a complicated leg injury in Spring.

Van den Broeck is often on good
form towards the end of the
12. After a sickening crash that left him with several broken ribs and a fracture injury to his shoulder, Jurgen Van den Broeck somehow managed to be in a fit state in time for the Vuelta a Espana and achieved a very respectable 8th place in the overall General Classification. He's a mountain specialist, but a look at  his palmares and track record reveals a very odd fact about the Omega-Pharma-Lotto leader - late in the season, when other riders are beginning to feel the strain after several months of hard racing, he tends to become stronger. That puts him in an ideal position to perform very well in this race even though the parcours doesn't feature any of the high, steep slopes upon which he excels. Alongside him will be ace sprinter Kenny Dehaes who, while seemingly not a potential stage winner, will almost certainly grab valuable points in the intermediate sprints; hardman Jens Debusschere who came second in the Junior Paris-Roubaix last year; Vicente Reynès, veteran of four Grand Tours and four top 5 appearances in them; Bart de Clerq, 5th place in the Giro's Young Rider classification this year and Maarten Neyens, a rider whose career seemed to have gone onto a back-burner since notable under Under-23 success but whom Omega-Pharma have spent the last year developing into a strong Elite contender. The team are evidently hoping to put on a good show in the time trial, too, as they're sending both Oliver Kaisen - a rider who has stood on the Belgian National Championships podium three times and, unusually for a TT specialist, can also climb with the best of them - and Adam Hansen; the latter being a man who is as comfortable riding an individual TT as he is elbowing his way through a teeth-and-nails sprint to the finish line.

Niki Terpstra seems the most likely
choice to lead a Quick-Step team
that is almost guaranteed success
13. Quick-Step, meanwhile, are determined not to make the same potential mistake as LeopardTrek; so they're sending a team consisting of all-rounders, any one of them suited to winning a stage. They too are yet to announce their leader, but the most obvious candidate is Niki Terpstra, 2010 Dutch road champ and an ever-present face around the general classification leadership boards in every race he enters. Backing him up are Francesco Chicchi, a rider who has won stages in more races than most people will ever enter; Kristoff Vandewalle, in his first year with the team but approaching the end of his third as a professional and finishing off a season in which he rode in both the Giro and the Vuelta; Belgian Iljo Keisse who is eager to repeat the early success that saw him win 29 track medals prior to a very messy doping investigation that left him unable to race up until August this year; all-rounder Francesco Reda who at 28 will be keen to find his place in the sport; Dario Cataldo, a part of every Giro d'Italia since 2008 and 15th overall this year; Matteo Trentin, in his first year as a professional and already Italy's U-23 road champion and Marco Bandiera, a rider who has been steadily moving up the ranks ever since he was 8th over the line in the final stage of the 2009 Tour de France.

Boom or Bos?
14. In these days when even the highest-profile teams with the best track records can face an untimely demise due to the widespread belief that cycling remains riddled with drugs (as has been the case with Highroad), it's great to see an organisation such as Rabobank who are not only very pleased to support the sport (support they're actually extending for next year, hence their new team centred around Marianne Vos) but have actually woven it into their corporate structure. Team Rabobank are apparently keen to show their appreciation - which is why they're sending a team that, on paper at least, seems perhaps the most likely to win the Tour. As of yet, directeur sportif Erik Dekker remains reticent when it comes to naming his team's leader. Meanwhile, the fact that Lars Boom's name appears on the list of selected riders would appear to make it a foregone conclusion - having been a World champion in cyclocross and road four times, National champion in cyclocross, road and TT an incredible thirteen times and with an assortment of stage race victories (including two stages and the overall General Classification at this year's Tour of Britain), he's undoubtedly one of the most successful and talented all-rounders ever to have donned a pair of lycra shorts. However, he's not the only candidate - and nobody would be at all surprised should Theo Bos, sixteen times world champ in various track disciplines and a multiple stage winner in several road races, be the boss instead. Riding with them will be Stef Clement, current Dutch TT champ (as he was in '06, '07 and '09); Jos van Emden, who took the Dutch TT champ trophy from Clement in '10 and came 5th overall in this year's Eneco Tour; Juan Manuel Garate, a Grand Tour veteran having first ridden in the Vuelta ten years ago and who beat the best climbers in the world - including Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador - in the climb to the summit finish on Mont Ventoux in Stage 20 of the '09 Tour de France; TT expert Luis León Sánchez who in recent years has developed his climbing abilities to such a level that he's now rated as one of the finest all-rounders and grimpeurs in the world and Dennis van Winden and Paul Martens, both highly accomplished time trialers.

Janez Brajkovic is the
likely leader for
15. Team RadioShack as we know it is coming to the conclusion of its final season, after which they will merge with the Schleck's Leopard Trek to form a new superteam. That, combined with the links between the electrical retailer and the Chinese manufacturing base is the reason that RadioShack are sending a team of their top corporate executives in addition to a very strong team of cyclists. Like Rabobank, they've yet to announce the team leader, but the top man for the job is likely to be Janez Brajkovič, possibly the most successful cyclist to have ever pedaled out of Slovenia and a very strong time trialer who, in recent years, has been developing into a serious stage race talent beginning with an overall General Classification victory in the 2010 Critérium du Dauphiné. Joining him are Benjamin King who topped his US National Junior TT and Junior Road champion wins in 2007 by becoming U-23 Criterium, U-23 Road and Elite National Road champion in '10; Haimar Zubeldia, the type of climber his Basque homeland seems to specialise in producing, a noted time trialer and a veteran of ten Tours de France; Ireland's Philip Deignan, twice winner of Vuelta stages and a participant in three Giros d'Italia; Markel Irizar, another Basque and winner of this year's Vuelta a Andalucia; three time Kazakh TT champ and once Kazakh Road champ Dimitry Muravyev; current Portuguese TT champ Nelson Oliveira and Tiago Machado, Portuguese TT champ in 2009 and a successful finisher in several stage races since.

Nick Nuyens, seen here
in an earlier Rabobank
incarnation, will be taking
charge at Saxobank.
16. One of the best things from a fan's point of view about the non-Grand Tour Pro Tours is that they form an opportunity to see potential future Grand Tour captains being tried out in team leadership positions. This has never been more true than at Saxobank-Sungard, who have put Nick Nuyens in the top job -  currently best known as a Classics specialist, a series of stage race successes - 3rd overall '04 Tour of Britain, 1st overall and two stage wins '05 Tour of Britain, stage wins in the Tours of Switzerland and Austria - over his nine year career suggests there's more then one string to his bow and a lot of potential in his legs. Supporting him are the Argentinian brothers Haedo: Juan José, after notable success as a track rider, built up an impressive palmares mostly in New World races during the early part of his career in road cycling, where he has become one of the most respected sprinters. He's been adding European wins ever since - most notably Stage 16 of this year's Vuelta a Espana. Younger brother Lucas Sebastián has not yet enjoyed quite such an illustrious career, but two stage wins in '09 and 2nd place in Stage 3 of the '10 Tour of Poland suggests he has the potential to achieve more. The always-consistent Chris Anker Sørensen is, perhaps, not an obvious candidate for stage wins - though he's the sort of rider that could easily create surprises if freed from domestique duties - but is a sold performer guaranteed to do what's required of him; Jonas Aaen Jørgensen won a series of 1st place prizes in 2009, then had a quiet year in '10 before a return to form saw him win the Grand Prix d'Isbergues in September this year; Luke Roberts is Saxobank's man for Stage 1 - he's won a range of time trial competitions since becoming individual and team U-17 TT Australian national champion in 1993. Also known as a pursuit cyclist, notable wins in the Tour Down Under, Tours de Normandi and Romandie, Critérium du Dauphiné, Tour of Britain and Tour de France suggest that 34, Roberts' career is entering a new chapter rather than drawing to a conclusion. David Tanner is new to Saxobank and new to the World Tour circuit - this is his first time riding in one; but a palmares with a string of top 5 results - including 2nd overall and a stage win in last year's Tour of China - make his a name that many people will be keeping tabs upon. Michael Mørkøv has been to China before too - he won Olympic silver in the team pursuit here in 2008, adding another result to a string of top three successes.

Chris Froome will lead
Team Sky, perhaps
early indication that
he'll be team captain
in the future
(© Rama CC2.0)
17. Team Sky have put together a roster that perfectly combines the wisdom that comes with age and the fiery passion of youth; a team made up of old hands and young bucks. Right in the middle of the age scale is Chris Froome, who at 26 has emerged as the most likely rider to take over when Bradley Wiggins calls it a day and will be acting as team leader during this race. Froome's most recent success was his brilliant, unexpected victory in Stage 17 of this year's Vuelta, when he used ninja-like cunning to sneak up the inside line past Juan José Cobo - a rider who made Alto de l'Angliru look easy - and won the stage before the Spaniard even knew what had happened. Riding support are Davide Appollonio, the 22-year-old sprinter who finished in the top ten five times during this year's Giro and then went on to win Stage 3 (and the points jersey for the stage) in the Tour of Luxembourg just a few days after the Giro finished; twice National road champ Jeremy Hunt now in his 15th year as a professional; 2010 European U-23 time trial champ and Commonwealth Games silver medalist Alex Dowsett; 2010 German road champ and winner of the 2008 Bayern-Rundfahrt Christian Knees; all-rounder and super-domestique Michael Barry who at 35 has a palmares boasting notable successes in both time trials and road races; Commonwealth Games gold medalist Steve Cummings, who also crossed the finish line in second place to complete this year's Tour of Britain and Dario Cioni, a professional for 11 years and an ex-Italian National TT champ who has also accounted very well for himself in a range of stage races.

Hoogerland's at the helm
for Vacansoleil
18. Vacansoleil-DCM have put Johnny Hoogerland - the popular Dutch rider who took his place in the cycling hall of fame after fighting on and finishing a stage of the Tour de France earlier this year after being thrown off the road into a barbed wire fence, dripping blood as he crossed the line to a hero's welcome - but let's not forget he also took the polka dot jersey at the end of five stages during the race. He'll be supported through the climbs by Thomas de Gendt, winner of the Mountains and Sprint classiifications in the 2009 Tour of Britain and Wout Poels, second man up the Angliru in this year's Vuelta; while Lieuwe Westra, himself a handy rider in the climbs and Martijn Keizer, winner of this year's Boucles de l'Aulne take care of duty in Stage 1. Meanwhile, Tour of Luxembourg winner Matteo Carrara, Tour of Qatar winner Wouter Mol and Rob Ruijgh make up numbers to form a very handy crew indeed.

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