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team like Rabobank (see below).
The Superteams: Outside of OPQ and the Russian Kazakh axis, the so called superteams had a disappointing spring. Best among them was likely BMC Racing Team, with a resurgent Alessandro Ballan third at both Roubaix and Flanders, and Philippe Gilbert third at Flche. But they expected more.
Iglinskiy was a little easier to see coming; he's been top 10 at Flanders and Gent Wevelgem, and is a past winner of Strade Bianche. But even though he was second there this year to Fabian Cancellara, he'd had a quiet Classics campaign with relatively anonymous top 15 placings at Amstel and Flche.
Fast forward to April and Lefevere is on top of the world the top ranked team, the dominant rider of the spring season, and a stacked roster with sprinters, climbers, Classics racers, Grand Tours specialists, time trialists, you name it. The savviest pickup might not have been a racer at all but ex Highroad director Brian Holm, an underrated tactician; former Highroad manager Rolf Aldag is also a technical liaison.
Now there's a clash between Andy Schleck and Johan Bruyneel over the latter's decision to keep director Kim Anderson home for the Tour de France. The younger Schleck has battled poor form this spring, and Bruyneel's patience may be wearing thin. That's to say nothing of RadioShack's famously short fused money man, Flavio Becca.
It's easy to forget that Sagan is just 22. It's already his third season on Liquigas Cannondale. He's the star of the future for the Classics this year was just the second time he's ridden most of those races and he's already on, or near, the podium.
RadioShack Nissan was on form for a good spring until Fabian Cancellara's freakish feed zone crash at Flanders knocked him out. The rest of the team filled in well there and at Roubaix. But the Ardennes Classics, where the team was deep on paper with the Schlecks, Chris Horner, and others, simply didn't measure up.
The team isn't the deepest but for a second division squad, it's punching far above its weight and at least for now its stars seem happy to stay put.
year were not to be found; riders who've raced in the margins of the top 10 for years suddenly broke through. Here's a look at who emerged victorious from the run of Monuments and semi Classics over the past 45 days, and who exited with tail between legs.
Riders who were on fire last Nike Pullover Blue
Niki Terpstra: If not for Nike Jackets Sale
The different: The domination took place not on the latter part of the campaign but the early section, as Omega Pharma Quick Step star Tom Boonen rode himself into the record books and possibly the history books as there's talk of him surpassing Roger de Vlaeminck as the greatest Classics racer in the sport.
Gasparotto had some promising results early in his career an Italian national championship and a stint in the maglia rosa at the Giro d'Italia among them but until Amstel he had one win in the last three seasons, a stage of Tirreno Adriatico.
He sought foreign ownership to shore up sinking finances; held a reach of a training camp to identify prospective talent (which would be akin to an NFL team holding an open tryout because they had no draft analysis); and ended 2011 a lowly 16th out of 18 teams in sporting rank, below such titans as Ag2r and Euskaltel.
Gilbert seemed lost for most of the spring and former world champion Thor Hushovd was frustrated as well. Andy Rihs has made BMC the world's most star packed cycling team and likely expected more for his money than this.
The wins come at a crucial time for Astana, as the team is seeing the twilight of big names like Alexandre Vinokourov, and doesn't yet know whether Roman Kreuziger can improve on his career best 5th at last year's Giro d'Italia. With two major WorldTour wins, they're looking in good shape for the all important UCI points needed to gain a ProTeam license.
Rabobank and Sky also had disappointing campaigns. Matti Breschel failed to materialize as a contender, and the team went to Amstel Nike Sweatshirt Burgundy with an unusual situation of six "protected" riders and two workers (how's that math work, again?). Sky had the numbers at Roubaix but still couldn't control Boonen.
Also, the domination of a single rider.
Patrick Lefevere: Just two seasons ago, Lefevere was captain of a sinking ship. His star rider, Tom Boonen, had seemingly gone to seed.
Boonen, Terpstra would have been OPQS's best performer this spring. He won Dwars door Vlaanderen, was sixth at Flanders riding in support of Boonen, and was perhaps an untimely flat away from going to the wire with Tommeke at Roubaix. The Dutch rider could find his services in high demand next season, perhaps for a Nike Jacket White And Gold
Pierre Rolland tried a solid move at Lige and despite that effort finished 12th. Voeckler took Brabantse Pijl with an aggressive display in bad conditions and might've been even better at Lige but for a crash on wet roads that forced him to chase back on late in the race. Turgot was 8th at Scheldeprijs.
The Eastern Bloc: OK, Katusha's Joaquim Rodrguez was on some favorites lists for the Ardennes Classics, and he responded admirably with a win at Flche Wallonne. But if you had Enrico Gasparotto and Maxim Iglinskiy down to win Amstel and Lige, I'd recommend you use the hot hand next time Mega Millions goes so mega.
Of all the so called superteams, Omega Pharma emerged the strongest from the off season, with smart acquisitions. Luck has certainly played a role, and now may begin to work against them as stage racers Tony Martin and Levi Leipheimer are both nursing injuries. Leipheimer has a fractured fibula and is said to be recovering more slowly than he'd hoped; he's questionable for his favored Tour of California.
Peter Sagan: No, Sagan didn't win any major races (he did get a stage of Tirreno Adriatico and one of the Driedaagse de Panne). But in the major races he did enter, here are his finishes: Milan San Remo: 4th; Gent Wevelgem: 2nd; Tour of Flanders: 5th; Amstel Gold: 3rd.
2012 Spring Classics Races
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