In this second part of our 2016 preview, we look at Lampre Merida, Lotto Soudal, Movistar, Orica Greenedge, Giant Alpecin, LottoNL Jumbo, Sky, Tinkoff and Trek.
Catch up on the first half of our 2016 preview here
In: Yukiya Arashiro, Marko Kump, Matej Mohoric, Louis Meintjes, Simone Petilli, Federico Zurlo.
Out: Niccolò Bonifazio, Nelson Oliveira, Ruben Plaza, Filippo Pozzato, Maximiliano Richeze, Jose Serpa, Rafael Valls.
Lampre are another team that don’t have a constellation of stars in their sky. They lost their flamboyant long-timer Pippo Pozzato to pro continental team South East, though that’s arguably a blessing in disguise!
Rui Costa will be targeting the week-long stage races, such as Paris-Nice and the Critérium du Dauphiné (where he won what might have been the stage of the year last year, beating an aggressively attacking Nibali to the finish on stage 6). He’ll also look for a stage win at the Tour, with an eye on the Olympics at all times. It’s a course that could suit the former world champion well, and, if he shows the form in the Tour beforehand, he’ll definitely be a strong favourite for gold medal.
Sacha Modolo and Roberto Ferrai will be the team’s sprint options, but, despite their pedigree and experience, they must be counted as second-tier sprinters when the wider peloton is considered. Expect them both to go stage-hunting in the Giro.
Lampre’s big prospect is the young South African, Louis Meintjes. Although he only has one stage win to his name (at the Coppi e Bartali), his standout performance at the Vuelta, with a top ten in G.C. was at a brutally tough edition of the race. He’s shown that he has the power in his legs across three weeks of hard racing — could 2016 be the year he steals a big general classification victory?
In: Tomasz Marczynski, Rafael Valls, Jelle Wallays.
Out: Vegard Breen, Kenny Dehaes, Jurgen Van Den Broeck, Boris Vallée.
André Greipel is the star player once again for Lotto, in this team, but they do have some other notable names amongst their ranks. The Gorilla will be eager to show that he can go toe to toe against a revitalised Kittel and Cav. His well-oiled and experienced sprint-train will be his main advantage, as his two rivals, both on new teams, won’t have had as much time to bond with their teammates. Greipel has again ditched his previous early-season appearance at the Tour Down Under in favour of the traditional European week-long stage races in February and March. It worked perfectly last year, when he peaked in time for the Tour, and he’ll hope for the same in 2016.
Tony Gallopin has turned into one of the best all-rounders in the peloton. He wore the yellow jersey of the Tour de France in 2014 and could easily do so again if things go his way in the first week of the coming Tour. He’ll also be targeting the Ardennes classics, the Olympic road race, and the end of season one-day races. He deserves a big win this year and we hope he gets it.
Lotto also have the potential next big thing in Belgian one-day racing on their hands in the form on Tiesj Benoot. A fifth place at his first Flanders last year showed great potential — can he snatch a podium this year, or even win in one of the minor spring classics? We could be watching the heir to Boonen.
Jurgen Roelants and Tim Wellens are the other key men for the one-days races. Roelants will be keen to show the young Benoot that he’s still the team’s main man on the cobbles – so that could be an interesting inner-team dynamic. Wellens will look to find again form he showed with his win at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal at the end of last season, and will hope to peak for the Ardennes as a back-up for Gallopin.
In: Jorge Arcas, Carlos Betancur, Daniel Moreno, Nelson Oliveira, Antonio Pedrero.
Out: Igor Anton, Eros Capecchi, John Gadret (retired), Beñat Intxausti, Pablo Lastras (retired), Enrique Sanz.
Given that there have already been displays that look a little like in-fighting between Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana, the addition of Carlos Betancur to the ranks might only serve to make matters worse. If Betancur wants any role other than super domestique for his quarrelling captains, he’ll need to prove himself in the week-long tours early season. Otherwise, his race programme will have to centre around the lumpier one-day races.
Expect Valverde to lead the team at the Giro, with Quintana taking command at the Tour. Both have the talent to come away with the pink or yellow jersey, but in each race they’ll be up against stiff competition. The have bolstered their domestiques with the signings of Daniel Moreno and Nelson Oliveira, but they are needed to fill gaps left by Anton, Capecchi and Intxausti. Moreno especially won’t have moved merely to support another Spanish superstar, and he and Valverde will be the leaders for the Aredennes.
The addition of Oliveria also boosts the team’s TT talent. Along side Adriano Malori and Alex Dowsett, they will have one of the best TTT team squads in the peloton. A shame that only the Vuelta has one in the road book this year!
In: Alex Edmondson, Jack Haig, Christopher Juul-Jensen, Luka Mezgec, Ruben Plaza, Robert Power, Amets Txurruka.
Out: Adam Blythe, Simon Clarke, Leigh Howard, Brett Lancaster, Cameron Meyer, Jens Mouris, Ivan Santaromita, Pieter Weening.
Orica is no longer a team focussed on targeting the first week of grand tours, or the odd one day win. Last year, with Esteban Chaves, they proved themselves serious G.C. contenders, and, with the twins Adam Yates and Simon Yates rapidly maturing as pro riders, 2016 might be the first year that the Aussie squad seriously threaten a grand tour.
Chaves will be targeting the Giro and the Vuelta again this year (the Tour opposition is just too strong, we think). He should be a favourite for both tours, given his incendiary performance at last year’s Vuelta. Both Yates twins had different programmes last year, before riding together at the Crit Dom and the Tour. Simon rode the main one-week stage races (Paris-Nice, Tour of Romandie) and the Ardennes classics, and Adam focussed on the other week-long races (Tierreno-Adriatico, Pais Vasco). Adam also took on the San Sebastian one-day race – so took family bragging rights for 2015. One-day wins and one-week G.C. podiums or wins are absolutely a possibility in 2016 for both Yates brothers.
Pint-sized sprinter Caleb Ewan will also want to add to his win tally from 2015 (he was the rider with most wins, overall). He and Michael Matthews will be jostling for lead sprint status, so, for each, early season form will be the deciding factor in who goes to the Giro and who the Tour.
In: Søren Kragh Andersen, Sindre Lunke, Sam Oomen, Laurens ten Dam, Max Walscheid.
Out: Lawson Craddock, Thierry Hupond, Marcel Kittel, Luka Mezgec, Daan Olivier (retired).
One thing’s a certainty for Giant in 2016: they’re not going to be sending Tom Dumoulin to a grand tour without adequate support this year. After his electrifying Giro in 2015, he’ll be given the best domestiques Giant have in their ranks. It looks like Laurens ten Dam has been drafted for just that reason.
Giant have made the smart decision not to make Tom their leader for the Tour de France, opting instead to sign him up for the Giro. There will be far less pressure to take wins against the likes of Froome again, and, with an opening 9.8km time trial in Holland, it’s as if the organizers had been trying to woo him. Expect him to go all-out for the first day’s pink jersey. He should go on to focus on the Olympic time trial in Rio, and it would be surprising not to see him signed up for the Vuelta again. If he does make an appearance at the Tour, he won’t be riding to win it.
Warren Barguil will be their man for the tour, and we think he could challenge for a top 10 finish – he’ll need to improve his cornering though! He’ll also be challenging for the Ardennes classics and the Rio road race. We feel he could also take a week-long stage race like the Tour de Suisse, if everything comes together and he stays on his bike. Another bright young thing who we’ll enjoy watching in 2016.
The departure of Kittel leaves the team with a much simpler fast-man plan: they’ll put all their forces into guiding John Degenkolb to stage victories this year. His Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix double wins last year were spectacular, but he’ll be up against a rainbow-striped Sagan as well as Kristoff this year for the sprinter’s classics. He should be able to find one or two stages that suit him in the grand tours, and, with the team focussing on Dumoulin in the early and late season tours, the Tour de France might be the one for him to shine in.
Team LottoNL – Jumbo
In: Enrico Battaglin, Koen Bouwman, Victor Campenaerts, Twan Castelijns, Dylan Groenewegen, Steven Lammertink, Primoz Roglic, Alexey Vermeulen, Dennis van Winden.
Out: Brian Bulgac, Kevin De Weert (retired), Rick Flens, Barry Markus, Laurens ten Dam, Nick van der Lijke.
LottoNL had a very poor 2015, and must certainly be thought of as one of the weaker squads in the pro circuit. However, they’ve been recruiting predominantly young riders, and may well be shaping up as a future powerhouse. They also have one of the best one-day riders around, in the form of Sep Vanmarcke. Vanmarcke had bad luck across 2015, and we really hope he can avoid the many punctures that put robbed him of multiple shots at stages wins last year. The arrival of Enrico Battaglin on the squad suggests that LottoNL want to bring in new lieutenants for Vanmarcke, who often goes it alone.
Robert Gesink is sure to be leader at the Tour for LottoNL, and we saw a return to form with his sixth-place finish in G.C. last. It’s hard to believe that he’s only 29, as he’s been riding in the pro peloton for nearly 10 years. He’s got a busier run schedule before the Tour compared to last year, so we’d expect him to peak in time for the Tour de Suisse. If he rides like he did last year then a top 5 place isn’t completely out of the question. He’ll miss the loyalty of Ten Dam though.
The young Kiwi George Bennett went well in the Vuelta last year – he could be their man for stage wins in the mountains and the early G.C. battle at the Tour Down Under.
Moreno Hofland will be gunning for the sprints for LottoNL. His win in the 2014 Paris-Nice race seems a distant memory now, so he’ll be eager to show that he’s still got what it takes. Expect him to target the desert flats in Oman ad Qatar, which should set him up well for the season.
In: Michal Golas, Beñat Intxausti, Michal Kwiatkowski, Mikel Landa, Gianni Moscon, Alex Peters, Danny van Poppel.
Out: Nathan Earle, Bernhard Eisel, Danny Pate, Richie Porte, Kanstantsin Siutsou, Chris Sutton, Bradley Wiggins.
Sky may have lost an important component in the departure of Richie Porte, but they have gained the dual engines of Michal Kwiatkowski and Mikel Landa. Arguably, this makes the 2016 line-up one of the strongest Sky have ever shown. Keeping all those big names happy, old and new, will be Dave Brailsford’s biggest challenge this year.
Chris Froome‘s targets for the year are obvious – he’ll ride the early season stage races, attempt a third win at the Tour de France (with his new superstar support team), followed by a roll of the dice at the Olympic road race. He may also like another go at the Vuelta, given his late-season misfortune in 2015, but it’s equally likely that Sky will set up a team around Mikel Landa as Vuelta captain.
In our opinion, Geraint Thomas should keep his focus on the classics, despite the promise he’s shown as a G.C. rider. Sky simply have too many other talented grand tour riders, and Thomas is still young enough to put off that dream for another year, we think. His win at E3 Harelbeke shows that he has what it takes to win a monument, and we think he could realistically target the Flanders win. Roubaix will still be better left to Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe. The week-long stage races would be a good opportunity for Thomas, but you’d have to think Sky will be offering them to Kwiatkowski, by way of recompense for his new role as super domestique.
Indeed, Sky’s list of domestiques is as impressive as ever. Below the triumvirate of Kwiatkowski-Landa-Thomas, we find Nicholas Roche, Wout Poels, Leopard Konig, and Beñat Intxausti. These are all riders who are entirely capable of taking stage wins, and all of whom can put the power down up a long climb for their leaders — precisely the sort of support Froome will want and need if he’s going to take a third Tour de France.
For the flat sprints this year, look once more to Elia Vivianai. After an impressive last season, including three stage wins in the Tour of Britain alone, Viviani should still be able to take opportunistic wins if the sprint trains break down and things get a little hectic. Ben Swift will, we think, be looking for another crack at Milan-San Remo, as well as the lumpier sprint-friendly stages of the tours. New addition Danny Van Poppel will have to work hard for wins on the few days when Sky won’t be prioritising Viviani or Swift, and we might discover that he’s been retrained as a Renshaw-like sprint-train driver.
In: Erik Baška, Adam Blythe, Oscar Gatto, Michael Gogl, Yuri Trofimov.
Out: Ivan Basso (retired), Edward Beltran, Matti Breschel, Christopher Juul-Jensen, Michael Mørkøv, Bruno Pires, Chris Anker Sørensen, Oliver Zaugg.
Mad old Uncle Oleg Tinkoff, after a series of dispiriting controversies involving errant motor vehicles, as well as Tinkoff’s own accusation of conspiracies against his team, is throwing in the towel after this season. But his last year in cycling might well be the best year for his team.
The team has brought in Adam Blythe and Oscar Gatto to boost support for their one-day race champion (and reigning world champion), Peter Sagan. A clean sweep of the cobbled and flat monuments is not at all out of the question for Tinkoff – but we’ve all been expecting Sagan to steal every big race for years now, and he always misses out on the top spot. However, with the rainbow bands across his back, he may have got the much-needed confidence boost that could see him score big in the classics. The green jersey contest at the Tour has become a little stale, thanks to the fact that Sagan always wins it so emphatically — it would be foolish to bet against him this year, too. He is the most versatile and consistent rider around, and he’s set for another solid year of racing. And why not go for gold in Rio, too!
Alberto Contador is also hanging up his cleats at the end of the season. Last year’s brave but ill-advised Giro-Tour double attempt has been replaced with a no nonsense final assault Tour. Expect him to be at all the key one-week races in Spain and France in the lead up to the big one. He’ll then hope to crown it off with a final win at his home grand tour, La Vuelta.
Rafal Majka will be the leader for the Giro and then he’ll go a stage hunt during the Tour and the Vuelta. He’ll also look to lead the team in any of the one-week races that Bertie isn’t signed up for.
Roman Kreuziger will be leader in the Arennes, and he’ll be hoping to find the form he had in 2013 to take a big win there. Otherwise, it looks like another hard-working season guiding Alberto through the Alps and Pyrénées.
We’d also expect the young Dane Micheal Valgren to have his break-out year in 2016. He looks to be the man for G.C. in the Tour Down Under, and he could spring a few surprises as the season progresses.
Trek Factory Racing
In: Julien Bernard, Jack Bobridge, Niccolo Bonifazio, Ryder Hesjedal, Kiel Reijnen, Peter Stetina, Edward Theuns.
Out: Matthew Busche, Bob Jungels, Hayden Roulston (retired), Jesse Sergent, Fabio Silvestre, Gert Steegmans (retired), Danny van Poppel, Kristof Vandewalle, Calvin Watson.
Fabian Cancellara will hope to have an injury- and crash-free season this year, not least because he has said he will be hanging up the bike at the end of 2016. Can Fabulous Fabian take one more big race to round off a brilliant career? It’s going to be hard for him to better Sagan, Degenkolb, Kristoff, et al in the spring classics, but he’s still a cunning old fox and can turn on the power when he needs to. It will be great to see what sort of tactical play he has up his lycra sleeve.
Meanwhile, Trek may have already found themsleve Cancellara’s successor in the form of Edward Theuns. The young Belgian was second in last year’s Dwars Van Vlaanderen and in the Schneldprisj. He and Benoot are likely to be the future of Belgian classic superstardom.
Ryder Hesjedal and Bauke Molema will be the lead G.C. men for Trek. Former pink-jersey winner Hesjedal will look to target the Giro once again, after which he will most likely be Mollema’s back up for the Tour. It will be a real test for Mollema, though, who has proved he’s a world-class rider, but never quite manages to stay with the best of the best across three-week tours. Second at Tirreno-Adriatico last year, and a maximum of top 5 in the Vuelta (in 2011) are his finest showings for tour placement.At 29, this could be the make or break season for him.
Giacomo Nizzolo and Fabio Felline will be the lead rouleurs, and will be targeting races like Strada Bianche and Milan-San Remo, as well as stage wins on the lumpier stages.
Jersey Images from Pro Cycling Stats
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