With a roster including some of the biggest names and personalities in professional cycling, big name sponsors (in addition to Trek, they were supported by LuxAir, Oakley and Mercedes Benz, among others - Mercedes supplying them with team cars which finally ended Jaguar-sponsored Sky's monopoly in the unofficial Poshest Support Vehicles stakes), the snazziest website in the ProTour and a team bus that looked like an unusually luxurious space shuttle, the stage looked set for Leopard Trek to dominate in the Grand Tours and other stage races.
|Wouter Weylandt, 1984-2011|
(image credit: Dzipi CC BY-SA 2.0)
Fabian Cancellara wasn't having his best year either. Having earned himself the reputation of World's Greatest Ever Time Trial Rider (look up Beryl Burton to find out why he wasn't), he seemed unable to light the same fire in his legs and was roundly beaten by Highroad's Tony Martin every time they faced one another. However, he was the team's most successful rider, capturing podium places at a number of races including two stages at the Tour de Suisse, 2nd at Paris-Roubaix and 3rd at the Tour of Flanders. Jens Voigt, meanwhile, was making his way through the year in his characteristic manner, attacking anything that moved and riding like a hooligan on a stolen bike before charming the entire world with his pleasant manners, affability and articulacy when off the bike. He was a favourite to win the Tour of Britain, arriving at the race as team leader, but had to abandon after crashing and breaking a finger in the first stage. And he didn't just break it a little bit, either - being Jens Voigt, he completely smashed it to bits and needed emergency surgery to save it.
(image credit: Kei-Ai CC BY 2.0)
So it wasn't such a bad year, all in all, for Leopard Trek; they just didn't live up to the hype that others created around them. 2011 proved to be their first and last year when they announced a merger with Johan Bruyneel's RadioShack. We'll miss Wouter, and we'll those lovely black, duck egg blue and white jerseys.
Antonio Suarez, Overall and Mountains Classification winner of the 1959 Vuelta a Espana, died on this day in 1981. Very unusually for a rider with the capability of winning a Mountains title, he also won the Points Classification two years later, the same year he finished 3rd overall in the Giro d'Italia behind Jacques Anquetil and Arnaldo Pambianco. Suarez appears to have been one of those Mediterranean riders who performed well only in the Mediterranean climate, for his Tour de France results appear at first glance to be those of a lesser man: his most notable finish was 17th in 1960, while he came 64th in 1958 and 43rd in 1963.
The Welsh professional and ex-British Junior Champion Yanto Barker was born on this day in 1980. Yanto was the highest placed British rider in the the 2005 Tour of Britain
Henry George, winner of a gold medal for Belgium in the 50km Track event at the 1920 Olympics, died on this day in 1976. He was born on the 18th of February 1891.
AG2R's Mattei Montaguti, twice an Italian National Champion and a winner at the Giro della Provincia di Reggio Calabria was born today in 1984. He came 2nd in the Mountains Classification at the 2011 Vuelta a Espana.
Other births: Luigi Arienti (Italy, 1937); Nada Cristofoli (Italy, 1971); Ørnulf Andresen (Norway, 1944); Enzo Sacchi (Italy, 1926, died 1988); Jorge Jukich (Uruguay, 1943); Immo Rittmeyer (Germany, 1936); Kihei Tomioka (Japan, 1932, died 2007); Rusty Peden (Canada, 1916); Paul Camilleri (Malta, 1934); Mark Gorski (USA, 1960); Volodymyr Diudia (Ukraine, 1983); Reinhold Pommer (Germany, 1935); Javier Taboada (Mexico, 1935); Stefan Baraud (Cayman Islands, 1975); Jørgen Jensen (Denmark, 1947); Theodor Rinderknecht (Switzerland, 1958); Augusts Kepke (Russia, 1886).