It’s the silly season of cycling again, and we’re taking a second to put together three riders for the ultimate World Tour team.
Transfers abound and Conti riders are making the leap to World Tour status every day as the season winds to a close. Big names like Sylvain Chavanel, Johnny Hoogerland, the van Poppel brothers and plenty others are on the move to new outfits for 2014 and beyond. The big news of late is the signing of both Yates brothers to ORICA-GreenEDGE. Sky had certainly hoped to snag them, but the brothers with join the Australian outfit as some of the most prized 21 year olds on the market since Peter Sagan.
It’s an enjoyable exercise to imagine yourself the deep-pocketed owner of a World Tour team, scanning the market to sign new riders or retain old ones. In the scrawling of a few signatures in the right places, riders can arrive and save a team, or have it scoffed at for years to come. While hindsight is 20/20, big signings like Thor Hushovd to Cervelo just caused trouble, while the same rider amongst other former World Champions at BMC has produced mixed results.
A lot of the success of a team is self-measured and scored, and certain wins mean more than others. Right now, TREK’s outfit for 2014 is certainly weighted toward the Classics, with big money being poured into a Cancellara double-repeat in mind, while they’ll retain the Schlecks as dark horse Grand Tour contenders.
Feel free to submit your own, but kolo t.c. had taken a stab at creating a well-rounded team with an emphasis on stage wins and Classics domination. Here’s the line-up.
Peter Sagan. He’s young and has seemingly endless potential. In this set-up, he’d target the Classics and the Tour for the foreseeable future. He’ll be around to challenge Cancellara until the Swiss rider retires, and should overthrow him in a year or two. Plus, he looks simply unbeatable for the green jersey as long as he stays upright and healthy. There’s hope he’ll hold onto to his crowd-pleasing ways, but there’s certainly room for some maturity and poise from the young rider.
Richie Porte. A year ago, Wiggins would have been tops of the list. While he’s still a favorite rider, While Froome is the obvious big name, we’re playing fantasy with some level of realism. Porte won’t be cheap, but the allure of leading a team would supposedly be enough. He’s with Sky for at least two more years, but let’s say a massive fee cut him loose. He’s got all the stuff to win week and Grand Tours, and could be employed to take on an Ardennes Classic if needed, too.
Geraint Thomas. He was a little slow out of the gate this year after spending 2012 gunning for the London Olympics. He’s sworn off the track, and now the Welshman should realize his potential as a top-tier Classics rider. He’d be leading the way at Milan-San Remo, Gent Wevelgem and ride as a second option at Flanders and Roubaix. However, he’s proven himself more than capable as a breakaway rider who can survive bigger climbs and excel in Grand Tours. He’s not a GC man, but he can be both a Classics threat and a trusty field general in Italy and France.
Honorable Mention. Two years ago, he would have been number one on this this. Janez Brajkovic has gone from phenom to looking for a contract. Unable to stay out of crashes and sick at the wrong times, it feels like ages since he out-dueled Alberto Contador and the Criterium du Dauphine on the slopes of Alpe d’Huez, or rode as one part of a three-pronged attack alongside Levi Leipheimer and Lance Armstrong in 2010. Now, he’s had to rely on his palmares for a spot with Astana, where he rides buried behind Vicenzo Nibali, Jakob Fuglsang and Roman Kreuziger for the role of protected rider. Still, he’s one big win away from being back on top and if he can ride a solid Paris-Nice this spring, could get the nod for a Grand Tour run in Spain.