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Penny Pinching 2018: A New Hope
Fine GP Quest more nice points.


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@Tamijo: Thanks! Easiest race of the season for non-AI teams. Smile

August 2016: Vuelta a Espana (1/3)

Race squad: Bolivar, Del Pino, Garby, Golem, Morton, B. Silva, R. Silva, Skjerping, Wojtasik

You may note two names you already saw in our GP Quest squad. Rafael Silva and Wojtasik used the opportunity to get back into rhythm for the one-day race. Before dropping out of the Vuelta Rafael Silva managed a 2nd place on stage 4, only behind Slagter. Silva was the last survivor of the early breakaway, Slagter had attacked 20 km out and pulled Silva the rest of the way, they finished 17 seconds ahead of the reduced peloton. Wojtasik had a go on stage 6 but the breakaway didn't survive.

Aviva Cycling lost nearly 2 minutes in the opening TTT, only Team Bretagne was worse. Stage 2 finished with a small-ish mountain, we had considered picking one rider to go for the general classification, a top 20 maybe, but decided to only hunt for stages, so the whole team dropped back and lost more than 10 minutes on that stage.

The big names were absent: Froome decided against the double GT header this season and Quintana didn't quite recover in time from his injury. The race would be decided between Dan Martin, Talansky and Betancur, the rest of the field was rather weak. It wasn't a very sprinter-friendly course, Kittel won three of the four mass sprints, Nizzolo the last one, but the points classification would go to the overall winner by a large margin.

Stage 8 presented us with the second mountain stage and we decided on Golem to join the breakaway. A little early in the race, the breakaway might not stand a chance. But it's his 60th day of racing, nobody has more race days in his legs, we weren't sure he'd finish the Vuelta. PCM 14 doesn't have the fitness penalty PCM 09 did when riders race more than 60 days, but I try to keep to a maximum of 75 RDs. Golem only had one dangerous opponent in the group, Arkaitz Duran, who is fractionally better at climbing.

To our surprise, the breakaway would probably make it, the gap at the foot of the final climb, the Alto Penas Blanco near Estepona, was still comfortable for a climber as good as Golem. One by one his opponents fell behind and were soon swallowed by the attacks from the favourites. The fight between Golem and Duran was won by our man, by 18''. Our first Vuelta stage! Dan Martin and Betancur arrived 2'54'' behind, Talansky 3'58'', while Kelderman, Bardet, Ulissi, Jungels all lost at least 4 additional minutes.
August 2016: Vuelta a Espana (2/3)

Dan Martin lost valuable time on the easy hilly stage 9. The following day Golem attacked again and joined his second breakaway. He was the clear favourite in the group this time, but he finished 4th. He was caught at the top of the penultimate climb by the three top favourites, race leader Talansky, Betancur and Dan Martin, and managed to stay with them up the last climb, up to the last kilometre at least. He also slipped into the mountain jersey with this escape. Stage winner Betancur, Talansky and Dan Martin gained a lot of time on the other GC contenders, 4 minutes at least. Well, if Golem can win another mountain jersey he'll have to finish the Vuelta.

Talansky extended his lead when he won the ITT on stage 11. He's now over a minute ahead of Betancur and over 3 minutes ahead of Dan Martin, Jungels in 4th is already over 7 minutes behind.

After a couple of flat stages, Morton's turn came on stage 14. The Australian champion could only hope to fight for 2nd place against Hupond, Bonnafond, Prades and Villella, because Kruijswijk joined the breakaway and was clearly the best climber (MON 78). Morton didn't join the fight for the mountain points, conserved his energy and set an 80 effort up the final climb. It turned out to be the optimal choice, the climb was only 8 km long but included sections with over 10% gradient. Incredibly, with 2 km to go, even Kruijswijk dropped off and Morton won by 24 seconds!

Morton about to drop Kruijswijk

I spent waaaaay to much time on that screenshot. Smile

Only a day later Golem struck again! It was a long stage, over 230 km, across four cat. 1 peaks and after a fast descent a short climb to the finish line. Despite leading the mountain classification Golem only contended half-heartidly for the points, he had to worry about Dyachenko (MON 78) in the finale. Being a great descender, far better than Dyachenko and Brambilla, Golem attacked at the last big summit, just enough to get a small gap. Without much effort it grew to 30 seconds and Golem had plenty of energy left to stay ahead and celebrate his second stage.

Golem was close to securing the third GT mountain jersey for our team. What an achievement. But no! He was hit by a virus on the last rest day and had to retire! Has the triple KOM dream ended?
September 2016: Vuelta a Espana (3/3)

Well, we haven't given up on the mountain jersey just yet. This Vuelta was rather stingy with KOM points, Golem had 46 when he had to abando the race, Dyachenko was 2nd with 33 points and race leader Talansky had 26 points. So Morton was still in the mix, he picked up 18 points when he won stage 14. He'd have to do a Del Pino, attack twice in the final few stages and hope that Dyachenko – 15th in the GC – wouldn't join a breakaway and that Talansky wouldn't catch him.

So Morton escaped again on a hilly stage 18. This time he didn't stand a chance against Kruijswijk nor Zakarin, but 13 more mountain points brought him close to the jersey. Stage 19 to Oviedo was hilly again, with fewer KOM points, and Del Pino, Giro King of the Mountains, had another chance in a breakaway. The group nearly made it but was caught just under the flamme rouge and Talansky won the stage. He also picked up 10 more KOM points, 36 in total, and was now leading all three classifications.

But we still had stage 20 ending on the Angliru. Should the breakaway be caught by the favourites, Talansky would win the KOM rankings, there were few points before the final climb. To win the stage our best chance would have been Bolivar, who is fresh and a slightly better climber, but of course Morton had to try and get that jersey.

He was up against Stetina and Brambilla, both are better climbers. And both decided to fight Morton for the KOM points, this wasn't going to be as easy as it was for Del Pino in the Giro. And while the gap to the peloton grew very large mid-way through the stage, the Angliru is super tough.

And the breakaway fell apart on the climb and so did the peloton, Talansky's GC lead may have seemed comfortable, but Martin had to try to dislodge him. Brambilla won the stage over 90 seconds ahead of Stetina. Morton's gap to Talansky shrank further and further... but he finished 3rd, 2'16'' behind Brambilla, but 23'' ahead of Martin and 37'' ahead of Talansky. 17 KOM points on the stage, 48 in total, enough to win the classification by 7 points ahead of Brambilla, 10 ahead of Talansky!

Three GT mountain jerseys in one year, let's call it a grand slam. Or maybe a not-quite-so-grand slam. Slightly miraculous, with Del Pino snatching the jersey with two late Giro stages and now Morton's very late victory as a back-up option to Golem. We also won three stages in the Vuelta, with Golem winning twice and Morton beating Kruijswijk on stage 14.

As for the GC, Talansky won the Vuelta nearly 3 minutes ahead of Dan Martin and nearly 7 minutes ahead of Betancur. Still, a much better performance by Betancur than last season, when he only finished 13th. Kelderman in 4th was already 15'50'' behind Talansky, Bardet in 10th 32'04''. The full top 10: Talansky, D. Martin, Betancur, Kelderman, Ulissi, Jungels, Pardilla, Contador, Acevedo and Bardet.

Stage by stage:
1Bradley WigginsBradley WigginsBradley WigginsBradley WigginsSimon Yates
2Andrew TalanskyAndrew TalanskyAndrew TalanskyAndrew TalanskyBob Jungels
3Bob JungelsBob JungelsBob JungelsAndrew TalanskyBob Jungels
4Tom Jelte SlagterBob JungelsBob JungelsAndrew TalanskyBob Jungels
5Ramunas NavardauskasBob JungelsBob JungelsAndrew TalanskyBob Jungels
6Alejandro ValverdeBob JungelsBob JungelsAndrew TalanskyBob Jungels
7Marcel KittelBob JungelsBob JungelsAndrew TalanskyBob Jungels
8Fredy GolemAndrew TalanskyBob JungelsAndrew TalanskyBob Jungels
9Jesus HerradaAndrew TalanskyBob JungelsAndrew TalanskyBob Jungels
10Carlos Alberto BetancurAndrew TalanskyBob JungelsFredy GolemBob Jungels
11Andrew TalanskyAndrew TalanskyBob JungelsFredy GolemBob Jungels
12Marcel KittelAndrew TalanskyBob JungelsFredy GolemBob Jungels
13Giacomo NizzoloAndrew TalanskyBob JungelsFredy GolemBob Jungels
14Lachlan MortonAndrew TalanskyAndrew TalanskyFredy GolemBob Jungels
15Fredy GolemAndrew TalanskyAndrew TalanskyFredy GolemBob Jungels
16Sergio PardillaAndrew TalanskyAndrew TalanskyFredy GolemWilco Kelderman
17Marcel KittelAndrew TalanskyAndrew TalanskyAlexsandr DyachenkoWilco Kelderman
18Steven KruijswijkAndrew TalanskyAndrew TalanskyAlexsandr DyachenkoWilco Kelderman
19Andrew TalanskyAndrew TalanskyAndrew TalanskyAndrew TalanskyWilco Kelderman
20Gianluca BrambillaAndrew TalanskyAndrew TalanskyLachlan MortonWilco Kelderman
21Marcel KittelAndrew TalanskyAndrew TalanskyLachlan MortonWilco Kelderman

Perfect GT for the team 3 stages !!, Golem fanstasic ! wft retire from a virus that was just sooo sad. What a comeback for the team with 2nd option Morton securing the jersey in the end.


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The Grand Slam Cool
Thanks, guys! Poor Morton had to fight hard to achieve that triple for us, keeping Talansky behind him up the Angliru with his MON 73... he collapsed after crossing the finish line and needed medical attention. Smile

September 2016: Grand Prix de Quebec

Race squad: Franczak, Goos, Gougeard, Hoem, Pomoshnikov, Puccio, R. Silva, Wojtasik

Hoem (HIL 78), Rafael Silva (77) and Wojtasik (76) are our three best puncheurs and deserved protection from their team mates. As always in such races we made sure to stay near the front, especially in the final 50 km. Maybe we could have picked Hoem to follow one of the late attacks by the top favourites and arrive at the tail end of such a select group, akin to Silva in San Sebastian, but we decided to follow attacks as a team, with a high effort, which brought the peloton back together.

With only 4 km to go, on the penultimate hill, the best riders attacked yet again, once again we simplyy chose a high speed to just about keep up with them and our three leaders had all the sprint energy left we could have wished for. It wasn't enough to overtake any of the top 7 riders who had attacked, but we were able to keep everybody else behind us and finished 8th, 9th and 10th. Three riders in the top 10 sounds great, even if it was only 8th to 10th.

The top 10: Mollema, Gilbert, Uran, J. Vanendert, Spilak, Cancellara, Rui Costa, Hoem, R. Silva, Wojtasik
September 2016: Grand Prix de Montreal

Race squad: Franczak, Goos, Gougeard, Hoem, Pomoshnikov, R. Silva, Skjerping, Wojtasik

Just one small change for the second Canadian race, Puccio caught a cold and was replaced by Skjerping. The circuit features a steep hill but the last 5 km are flat and we don't really have a rider for that, none of our men have high FLA or SPR.

Nonetheless, we had our protected riders near the front and the last time we tackled the toughest climb produced a group of just 10 riders with our three men all present. Ooh, this was looking good, the gap only grew, the rest of the peloton seemed to have given up entirely.

Gilbert wasted precious energy with an attack into the last descent which everybody followed and then our men came to the front of the group and formed a 3-man sprint train led by Hoem. Our opponents immediately started their sprint 3 km out, Quintana surged ahead. Hoem also started his sprint soon and with 1.8 km to go Silva left his rear wheel, overtook him and was closing in on the others after the final turn... and Silva wins, he wins the race, ahead of Quintana and Mollema! Wojtasik adds a great 4th place, Hoem had sacrified himself for his team mates and finished 9th. The result of the season, our first win in a one-day WT race against some of the best riders in the world.

Top 10: Rafael Silva, Quintana, Mollema, Wojtasik, Spilak, König, Gilbert, Sergio Henao, Hoem, Jelle Vanendert

Rafael Silva wins!

Great one there in Montreal


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Thanks, Tamijo! Another unexpected result, and what a big one, but since July everything seems to go Aviva's way.

September 2016: World Championships in Plouay

ITT: In the 36.4 km individual time trial Taylor Phinney defended his title. He beat Dumoulin by 35 and Tony Martin by 55 seconds. Next were Durbridge, Dennis, Cancellara, Castroviejo, Theuns, Oskar Svendsen and Dowsett.

Road Race: The race mirrored the WT race in August. I control Britain in the WC road races and generally think of it as a control team. However, Ben Swift was in top fitness, and he targeted this race, so he deserved to be near the front with protection.

After the strong wind split the peloton with 40 km to go, the speed was very high and increased even more after an attack from Van Avermaet. He was reeled back in and then the next Belgian tried his luck and built up a lead of nearly a minute. Would he solo to victory, just like Gilbert did in August?

Adam Yates was the last bodyguard for Swift. And on the final hill the peloton, working for the sprinters, couldn't keep up with the British duo anymore. Bakelandts was still 30'' ahead, but Swift started a lethal sprint 2.5 km out and surged past the Belgian to become the new World Champion, bodyguard Yates took the bronze medal. Sorry about that, other nations.

Top 10: Swift, Bakelandts, Adam Yates, Kristoff, Porsev, Bouhanni, Groenewegen, Goss, Rojas, Kittel
October 2016: Il Lombardia

Race squad: Garby, Goos, Hoem, Pomoshnikov, Puccio, R. Silva, Skjerping, Wojtasik

One of the shortest reports of the season. With 40 km to go there was a decisive split in the peloton which all our riders missed. 32 men broke free and never allowed the rest to reconnect. We just didn't see that coming. The group was whittled down to 23 over the final climb, but there wasn't much of a sprint, everybody was exhausted and the strongest riders prevailed.

Ulissi won Il Lombardia ahead of Moser, Jungels, Kwiatkowski, Dan Martin, Sergio Henao, Adam Yates, Porte, Slagter and Aru. Hoem was our best rider, finishing 42nd.
October 2016: Tour of Beijing

Race squad: Goos, Hoem, Meinert, Pomoshnikov, Puccio, R. Silva, Skjerping, Wojtasik

The final 2016 race report, and Aviva could add to the string of great results we've been having since August. It is the hilly variant of the Tour of Beijing, the two nominally hilly stages can't cause significant gaps, but the final stage can, it is regarded as flat but features a small but steep cat.2 followed by an even steeper cat. 1 not far from this finish line.

Bouhanni won the opening stage, Rui Costa the first of the hilly stages, with 76 riders in tow. Stage 3 caused small gaps, Sagan won by 8 seconds ahead of Gallopin, Rui Costa, Geschke and Sergio Henao, the large next group with all our riders was 28 seconds behind.

Pomoshnikov snuck into the breakaway on the last stage, the peloton was 2'30'' behind as the breakaway hit the final two hills. Pomoshnikov set a hard pace, we lost sight of him for a while, he needlessly pulled the group between the two hills, but he dropped everybody except for Koretzky on the second hill. We concentrated on the rest of the team, but the energy reserves were already low at the top of the final climb.

Nonetheless, Hoem attacked and nobody tried to chase him. We didn't know if Pomoshnikov should slow down and wait for Hoem to catch up, decided against it but Hoem caught the duo nonetheless, 2 km from the finish. This was getting rather exciting, because the peloton wasn't riding at top speed. It had swelled back to 75 riders, Hoem and Pomoshnikov could only ride a 60 effort, and yet the gap was still over a minute. Hoem won the stage, the peloton arrived 50 seconds behind, so Hoem wins the Tour of Beijing! Wow, our first WT stage race win... no, wait a minute, he didn't win. Koretzky takes the title, we hadn't considered him at all. Did he win both intermediate sprints? He finishes equal on time with Hoem and is awarded the victory.

That was a slight disappointment, to say the least. We wouldn't get that close to winning a WT stage race for quite a while. But of course, disappointment turned into joy, Hoem 2nd, Pomoshnikov 3rd overall, Sagan misses the victory by 11 seconds and the podium by 7 seconds. Pomoshnikov also wins the KOM rankings, Hoem is the best young rider and Aviva the best team.

The top 10: Koretzky, Hoem, Pomoshnikov, Sagan, Rui Costa, Gallopin, Bouhanni, Geschke, Sergio Henao, Degenkolb

So there we have it, 668 WT points in our maiden season. In my last career, starting in the World Tour with a similar team, I was pretty happy with 218 points, I've really outdone myself. Smile Gourgeard's great 5th place in Gent-Wevelgem doesn't even count towards the final team rankings. I'll go into more detail with a full season summary.
November 2016: Season Summary


I'm not sure if I should be happy about how well the season went. I was hoping for a gentle progression, but how can I even repeat these feats? Three GT KOM jerseys, chances are that won't happen again. And so many outstanding results starting in June with the Dauphine and just getting better and better as the season went on. That's too much pressure for the new season, and it will be a slog again in the first few months, I'm sure.

But for now, let's celebrate. 22 victories, that alone is damn impressive for a weak WT newcomer. Rafael Silva and Hoem proved to be fantastic signings, between them they scored 456 WT points, with Silva beating the slightly better Hoem. The latter has room to improve further and will be our key rider next season. He'll reach HIL 80 before leaving us and we'll see more of him in the future riding for other teams. To give you one long-term hint: It will take many seasons until we have another puncheur with more than HIL 78.

Thanks to the weird and wonderful Tour of Beijing Pomoshnikov was our third best scorer (92), without a single victory to his name. He moved past Golem (76), despite the latter's 5 fine victories, 2 stages in the Dauphine, one at the TdF and two more at the Vuelta. Thanks to his fantastic 4th place in Montreal Wojtasik (44) is fifth in the internal rankings. He'll be the first rider who gets a contract extension and stay with us until 2019. AVG 71, but HIL 76 makes him a great domestique and a rider to send into early breakaways without seeming threatening to anybody.

Gougeard (30 pts) won't be forgotten anytime soon for his great Gent-Wevelgem. Morton (25) also had a great season, winning a Vuelta stage and taking home the mountain jersey after Golem had to leave the race. He also won the Tour de l'Ain. Despite the small squad of 24 riders, nobody raced more than 70 days (Del Pino).

Noteworthy results 2016:
Stage 6 Tirreno-Adriatico (Hoem)
1st Volta Limburg Classic (Goos)
Stage 1 Giro del Trentino (Garby)
5th Gent-Wevelgem (Gougeard)
11th Liege-Bastogne-Liege (Hoem)
Stage 7 Tour of California (Bolivar)
Stages 7 and 8 Dauphine (Golem)
1st GP d'Argovie (Rafael Silva)
Stage 5 Tour de Suisse (Goos)
Stage 9 Tour de France (Golem)
Stage 10 Tour de France (Hoem)
5th Clasica San Sebastian (R. Silva)
6th and 7th overall Tour de Pologne (R. Silva, Hoem)
8th and 9th overall Eneco Tour (R.Silva, SĂĽtterlin)
1st (GC) Tour de l'Ain (Morton)
2nd and 3rd GP Quest (Hoem, R. Silva)
Stages 8 and 15 La Vuelta (Golem)
Stage 14 La Vuelta (Morton)
1st GP Montreal (Rafael Silva)
Stage 5 Tour of Beijing (Hoem)
2nd and 3rd overall Tour of Beijing (Hoem, Pomoshnikov)

Winner of the individual WT rankings 2016 was Dan Martin (693). He only won one major race, Tirreno-Adriatico, but he was up there in just about every race: 2nd in the Vuelta, 5th in the TdF, 2nd in Pais Vasco and the Dauphine, 3rd in Amstel Gold, 5th in Il Lombardia, 7th in LBL. Rui Costa (582) trails by over 100 points, he only beat Froome by 2 points and the next riders are only seperated by slim margins, too: Uran (566), Sagan (546), Kreuziger (533), Kwiatkowski (520), Ulissi (511), Gilbert (488) and Betancur (464). Like I already revealed a long time ago, the ITT champ Phinney claimed 16 victories, trailing him are Nizzolo (12), Quintana, Sagan, Porte (11), Kittel, Cancellara (10), Rui Costa, Cavendish and Van der Sande (9).

Movistar (1424) wins the WT team rankings. They are followed by Quickstep (1358), BMC (1298), Katusha (1262), Cannondale (1220), Sky (988), Astana (966), Trek (920), Orica (902) and Lotto (709). PCT team Ag2r was 11th (672) and Aviva an excellent 12th (668). Garmin (149) caught up to the other teams with a late surge, but it wasn't enough to avoid relegation. They overtook Europcar (141) in the end, but Lampre (159) just survived. Ag2r returns to the WT by a huge margin, 5210 CQ points, IAM is promoted with only 2150 points, just beating out Qhubeka (2114) and Team Bretagne (2105). Had the season ended in September, Caja Rural (2060) would have been promoted instead of IAM, but they failed to score much in October and dropped 3 places.
December 2016: Between seasons

Here is a table with a brief look at the WT teams for next season, ranked by wage budget. I have included a few new columns, The WT and CQ rankings 2016 as well as a CHG column for the wage budget development. Life isn't fair and neither is PCM, there's not much correlation between performance and budget changes.

TeamWTCQ WagesCHGTop earners
QuickStep211,176k-13kQuintana, Valverde, Demare
BMC Racing361,013k+280kGilbert, Nibali, Pinot
Katusha44928k+80kKreuziger, Dan Martin, Kittel
Team Sky62852k+71kPorte, Tony Martin, Terpstra
Movistar15671k-44kFroome, Degenkolb, König
Lotto - Belisol1012628k+30kRui Costa, Velits, Meersman
Trek87621k-42kCancellara, Betancur, Gesink
Orica-GreenEdge98571k+80kCavendish, Ulissi, Majka
Giant-Shimano1410558k-72kBouhanni, Boom, Kelderman
Cannondale53529k-2kSagan, Jungels, Adam Yates
Astana79515k-144kVan Garderen, Bardet, Contador
Ag2r*1111487k-12kKwiatkowski, C. Meyer, Coppel
Belkin1616432k+51kUran, Bakelandts, Hutarovich
Tinkoff-Saxo1515385k+12kVanmarcke, Slagter, Aru
IAM Cycling*2020326k+62kKristoff, Haas, Impey
FDJ.fr1314258k-119kKruijswijk, Tsatevich, Boivin
Lampre-Merida1719249k-45kGatto, Oss, Yannick Martinez
Aviva Cycling121399k+21kValgren, Kirchmair, Figares
(* promoted; Name: Earning more than 100k)
Season 2017: The only way is sideways?

Let's start off with the 2017 squad. Please take a good look at the following table. I've included a new column, CHG (change). For riders who were with us last season, it's the change in AVG over 12 months, from one 1st of January to the next. Then I decided to do something similar for the new riders, their change (in italics) since the 1st of August (shortly after signing them) until the 1st of January. Seeing even a little improvement since signing the riders is always encouraging.

NameAgeWageContTop StatAVGChgPot
Fredy Golem2435002017MON 7674.52.66
Bjørn Tore Hoem2535002017HIL 7872.91.06
Jan Bo Meinert2435002017SPR 7672.31.84
Michael Valgren2440002018FLA 7472.10.15
Stefan Kirchmair2840002017MON 7672.00.95
Rafael Silva2630002017HIL 7772.00.75
Angel Figares2140002018MON 7471.90.45
Maurits Lammertink2635002018HIL 7671.61.15
Alexis Gougeard2335002017FLA 7471.50.85
Rafaël Lemesle2430002017TTR 7271.51.64
Tim de Jong2435002018HIL 7471.50.65
Zdzislaw Wojtasik2430002017HIL 7671.31.64
Marcel Aregger2625002017SPR 7571.31.84
Isaurindo Manaia2430002017MON 7271.11.85
Laurens De Vreese2835002018HIL 7671.10.55
Ricardo Vilela2940002017MON 7371.10.04
Salvatore Puccio2730002017HIL 7471.01.03
Kristoffer Skjerping2330002017HIL 7270.90.93
Marc Goos2630002017HIL 7370.91.34
Nathan Brown2535002017MON 7370.90.44
Isaac Bolivar2535002017MON 7470.80.12
Zico Waeytens2535002018HIL 7470.60.14
Sergei Pomoshnikov2630002017HIL 7470.50.74
Hannes Köszegi2235002018MON 7370.40.05
Lasse Hansen2435002017TTR 7170.30.35
Joaquim Bettencourt2425002017SPR 7470.20.34
Roland Foetz2330002019MON 7370.20.54
Roland Fiedler2330002018HIL 7469.70.04
Pier Thys2435002018COB 7669.70.55
Bruno Silva2825002017MON 7069.10.03

Oh no, I just noticed (5 seasons later, when I made this table) there are two Maurits Lammertinks in this database, with the same date of birth. We signed the better of the two and I don't think we ever meet his evil twin. But if you ever read “our ex-rider Lammertink” I might have gotten it wrong.

We've increased the squad to the maximum of 30 riders, where we'll keep it from now on. The riders now cost us 99k/month, up from 78k. 18 riders from last season had a contract for 2017, so we hired 12 new riders and didn't even make use of the full budget. This will be another theme for this career, we hope to strike lucky with young riders, rather than hiring 30-year old professionals who probably have reached their limit. We won't always fine enough young riders so there'll be exceptions like Ricardo Vilela. We still needed a climber and settled for Vilela, who already spent a season with Aviva and after a year with Wanty is returning to the fold.

Our undisputed captain is Fredy Golem, he will again rider Tour and Vuelta. His contract is running out, and so are the contracts of Hoem and Rafael Silva, our top WT point scorers, and we'll have no chance of holding onto them. Hoem didn't progress as nicely as we'd have liked, and the 2017 season won't be much better. He'll improve to HIL 79, but just as he reaches HIL 80 he'll suffer a big injury, we'll never see him perform at that level. Most new riders have pot 5, which is nice, though the only 3-year contract is with Foetz. And we wouldn't have minded a new guy with pot 6. But with a bit of training they should just about all become useful.

I read through my 2017 notes and I was probably being generous when I picked the title for the season. We'll really struggle most of the year, we seem to always have to ride into a strong headwind and every breakaway seems to have tough opponents. Also, we'll fail more goals than we fulfil, I didn't renegotiate any this season, stage win or bust. I won't write reports about all our goal races this season, I didn't write notes on some of them, which probably means they didn't go well. Smile

Top 5 Volta ao Algarve19/02-22/02*
Top 10 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad01/03***
Top 5 Roma Maxima08/03**
Stage win(s) Paris Nice09/03-16/03***
Stage win(s) Tirreno12/03-18/03****
Stage win(s) Critérium International28/03-30/03**
Top 10 Ronde van Vlaanderen06/04*****
Top 10 Paris Roubaix13/04*****
Top 10 Amstel Gold Race20/04*****
Stage win(s) Giro del Trentino22/04-26/04*
Top 10 La Flèche Wallonne23/04***
Stage win(s) Critérium du Dauphiné08/06-15/06****
Stage win(s) Tour de Suisse14/06-22/06****
Stage win(s) Post Danmark Rundt05/08-10/08*
Top 10 Paris Tours Elite12/10**

January 2017: Tour Down Under

Race squad: Aregger, Gougeard, Hansen, Meinert, Pomoshnikov, Thys, Vilela

The 2017 TDU is unusual: No hilly stages, instead it features a 20 km ITT and a stage with a tough finish on Mount Baw Baw. We decided to only bring some of our weaker riders and one man for the breakaway on the mountain stage, Vilela.

The Portuguese climbers lost 1'32'' in the opening ITT, the winner was Tony Martin, our best rider Gougeard as 23rd. I simulated the flat stages as I usually do, Modolo won the first mass sprint, then Kittel struck twice. Vilela was the first to attack on the queen stage and helped create a breakaway of 13 riders. None of the others were a big threat for him – except for Ulissi, a far superior rider. The advantage grew to over 6 minutes but then the peloton kicked into gear and it seemed clear the group would be caught.

Our man had been able to stay with Ulissi and Lutsenko heading into the final climb with about half his energy remaining. Ulissi rode away and then the favourites came, Kreuziger, Bouet, Gilbert, Dan Martin... though the Irishman stayed behind Vilela for a while, with his team mate Kreuziger in the lead. He sprinted past the exhausted Vilela, but nobody else reached him, not race leader Tony Martin, nor Clarke or Bakelants, even Betancur looked tired.

Kreuziger won the stage nearly 2 minutes ahead of Ulissi. Bouet arrived alone over 4 minutes behind, Dan Martin lost over 5 minutes. Vilela nearly caught Gilbert again, both arrived 6'16'' behind Kreuziger. Nothing happened during the last stage, won by Vandousselaere, so this is the final GC: Kreuziger, Ulissi, Bouet, Gilbert, Tony Martin, Bakelandts, Dan Martin, Vilela, Clarke, Betancur. An excellent result for Vilela and Aviva, it'll remain our only top 10 GC result for some time to come.
Edited by Ripley on 17-06-2019 07:48
Fine race in Beijing and Good luck in the upcoming season.

Interesting new squad with many new names, will be looking out for my fellow Dane Valgren.
Edited by Tamijo on 17-06-2019 15:23


If you're interested in weird music:
Thanks, Tamijo! Valgren will captain the team in the Ronde.

February/March 2017: As we had feared, the next races were just as difficult as last year. We missed the first three sponsor goals: A top 5 in the Volta ao Algarve? The final top 5 were Kwiatkowski, Rui Costa, Jungels, Valverde and Kelderman. Our best man was Lemesle as 11th. A top 10 in the Omloop? Valgren was 12th. A top 5 in the Roma Maxima, this time without cobblestons? We got damn close, 6th, 7th and 9th. So the pressure was on to fulfil our next goals.

March 2017: Paris-Nice
*** goal: Stage Win

Race squad: De Vreese, Foetz, Hoem, M. Lammertink, Valgren, Vilela, Waeytens, Wojtasik

Winning a stage was the goal and that was all we concentrated on. It meant sending a man into every breakaway, but none of them stood a chance until stage 7, the last and best opportunity because the GC was already settled. A long, hilly stage, but with a flat finale. We had saved up Hoem for this occasion, though he's a terrible sprinter if it comes to that.

He had to chase after a breakaway that had already formed with Vorganov, Garcia and Lang. All three are better sprinters and Vorganov and Lang better on flat roads, too, so Hoem would have to dig deep. Lang was dropped on the longest climb, Hoem attacked at the peak, a long way from the finish line, but Vorganov and Garcia wouldn't give up and the trio was back together after Hoem had spent most of his energy. With 15 km to go, Vorganov attacked and Hoem had just enough energy to follow him, he caught him basically without any red or yellow bar left. But he was able to latch onto the Russian's rear wheel. Hoem had to gamble and wait as long as possible. Vorganov sprinted a little before reaching the flamme rouge, Hoem waited until the final 500 metres and just managed to snatch victory by half a wheel. Finally an objective ticked off!

The top 10: Rui Costa wins just 6 seconds ahead of Kwiatkowski, Spilak is 3rd and followed by Ulissi, Gilbert, Pinot, Pardilla, Moser, Barguil and Ion Izagirre.
March 2017: Tirreno-Adriatico
**** goal: Stage Win

Race squad: Bolivar, Brown, Tim de Jong, Gougeard, Manaia, Meinert, Puccio, Rafael Silva

Tirreno-Adriatico was the same story as Paris-Nice: A man in every breakaway, but none survived until the final chance came on stage 6. It was considered mountainous, but the finale seemed hilly to us, with a ramp to Torricella which had to be tackled four times. So we'd saved up Rafael Silva for this stage, who has reached his full potential with HIL 78.

He was joined by five other riders in the breakaway: Vanmarcke, Seeldraeyers, Delio Fernandez Cruz, Cataldo and a first generation newgen, Stefano KonsbrĂĽck (HIL 76). Silva couldn't mark all the other riders and Cataldo got away with 12 km to go. Silva was able to beat the others, but he never got close to Cataldo again. So another goal failed, and the next goals don't look any easier.

Top 10: Quintana, Bardet, Cancellara, Sergio Henao, Jungels, Cataldo, Mollema, Kiserlovski, Dan Martin, Vanmarcke
March 2017: Milano-Sanremo

Race squad: de Jong, De Vreese, Gougeard, Hoem, Lammertink, Silva, Valgren, Wojtasik

I have 7 variants of this race and I never remembered any of them being classified as hilly by PCM, but that's what we got this year. And it's a real opportunity for a top 10 result. Especially for Hoem, who's just reached HIL 79 and AVG 73. Plus he has stronger support this year, the 8 riders racing here have HIL 79, 78, 77, 76, 76, 75, 74 and 70. Not bad.

Hoem, Silva and Lammertink were protected and Hoem proved to be the strongest of the trio. Going into the Cipressa he even rode away from the peloton with his protection. Then the top favourites attacked, Gilbert, Cancellara, Sagan, Dan Martin, Jungels and Ponzi. Hoem caught the tail end of that group, Lammertink and Silva made it into an E2 pulled by Bardet and Betancur.

Soon more attacks from the leading group followed, Hoem just picked his own pace and lost contact with the best riders. Bardet jumped across, so did Jungels. Hoem didn't play any games, a top 10 would be a fine result, he pulled Bardet and Jungels into the last kilometre and they outsprinted him easily. But Aviva and Hoem were very happy to finish 8th, with Lammertink and Silva adding solid results, 12th and 13th.

After failing 4 out of 5 goals it was good to at least get a first noteworthy result for the sponsor. He's apparently already so snobby that the top 10 in the TDU didn't impress.

Top 10: Sagan, Gilbert, Ponzi, Cancellara, Dan Martin, Jungels, Bardet, Hoem, Degenkolb, Bakelandts
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