IAM Cycling: 2015 Report Card

First season at WorldTour a learning experience for Swiss team

WorldTour ranking: 17/17
Win count: 14 (down from 17)
Top riders: Mathias Frank (58), Martin Elmiger (68), Jarlinson Pantano (110)

IAM Cycling's first season in the WorldTour ranks got off to best possible start with Heinrich Haussler claiming the Australian national title in January generating press and buzz around the Swiss team on the eve of the Tour Down Under.

It would prove to a false dawn with Haussler unable to claim another victory although ninth place overall for Colombian climber Jarlinson Pantano in Adelaide gathered the team early points. However they would finish last in the team standings at the end of the year on just 189 points. Top team Movistar accumulated 1619 points by comparison.

Fourteen wins for the season was down on last year's haul of 17 although with nine riders celebrating victories, there is a spread of talent within the squad and the trick for 2016 will be to get those riders turning one win into two or three.

Mateo Pelucchi picked up the team's first European victories in Spain at the end of January to regain momentum, Matthias Brändle's Tour of Oman stage win suggested the Austrian was ready for a big season having broken the world hour record last October but then three winless months for the team followed.

Martin Elmiger's fifth place at Paris-Roubaix was a highlight of the classics for IAM Cycling but the 37-year-old can't be considered as a genuine favourite for in the future.

The team would make its Giro d'Italia debut in May with the aim of winning sprints with Pelucchi, animating breakaways via Chavanel and giving Sébastien Reichenbach grand tour experience with mixed results after three weeks. Chavanel displayed his aggressive approach to racing with a second and third place stage finish while Pelucchi was forced to withdraw mid-way thorough due to injury. Reichenbach was sitting in 28th place when he withdrew on stage 16 and the 26-year-old is now off to FDJ for two seasons.

Brändle got that winning feeling back at the Baloise Belgium Tour in late May, Roger Kluge won at the Ster ZLM Toer with Jerome Coppel (France) and Aleksejs Saramotins (Latvia) winning their national time trial titles on the eve of the Tour de France.

A breakthrough eighth place overall at the Tour for Matthias Frank was the highlight of July with little else to show for from IAM Cycling although stage wins at the Tour of Australia from David Tanner and Sondre Holst Enger added to the win tally.

Jonas van Genechten opened his IAM Cycling account at the Tour de Wallonie, Pelucchi grabbed two wins at the Tour de Pologne and the Belgian claimed a 14th and final win of the year at the Tour de l'Eurométropole. The Vuelta a Espana was a race to forget for the team and probably one Grand Tour too far considering its squad.

What to expect in 2016: A full WorldTour race schedule was always going to test the depth of IAM Cycling as they stepped up from Pro-Continental level. A year of experience at the top level of the sport, some experienced additions and the Swiss team should look to turn some of those second and third places into victory next season.

The team has stated its shifting focus to sprints in 2016, the decision not to re-sign Chavanel example number one, so expect IAM Cycling to spend the off-season working on its train and then getting it up up to speed in the early races. Leigh Howard could be a canny addition who adds a few wins but he hasn't raised the hands since early 2013.

Best signing: Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise is accustomed to seeing its best talents snatched by WorldTour teams and IAM Cycling have done precisely that with the signing of Oliver Naesen. The 25-year-old spent just one season with the Pro-Continental team, his performances in the classics displaying enough for IAM Cycling to bring the Belgian onboard.

Naesen's addition strengthens the classics squad to help the likes of Haussler and Elmiger crack the top ten's of Flanders and Roubaix and he could also be given the opportunity for himself at races such as Het Niewsblad and Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne. A promising rider, the test will be whether he can reach the next level with IAM Cycling who are able to provide a level of support and race program that Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise can't.

Seventh place overall at both Baloise Belgium Tour and Skoda-Tour de Luxembourg also suggests a versatile rider that IAM Cycling can craft and develop from the 2016 season onwards.

Biggest loss: The wins started to dry up for Chavanel in his last season for IAM Cycling but the Frenchman never gave up trying with numerous breakaway appearances at the Giro d'Italia. Reichenbach may end up being the biggest loss but with the team moving away from GC, he wouldn't have been given the opportunities needed in 2016.

Man to watch: At 26 Pelucchi is the prime years of his career and could see himself as Italy's premier fast man with a successful 2016 season. Two early season Spanish one-day wins were followed by numerous podiums finishes but he was then disappointingly forced to withdraw from the Giro d'Italia. Back-to-back wins at the Tour de Pologne suggested he was ready for a shot at Vuelta a Espana stage wins only to crash on the opening road stage and abandon his second grand tour of the season.

On his day Pelucchi has shown he can win at WorldTour level and with IAM Cycling putting greater emphasis on its sprints, he could overtake the likes of Elia Viviani and Sacha Modolo as Italy's top sprinter.

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