Team Sky has topped the Cyclingnews poll for best team of 2013 for a second consecutive year after securing a second consecutive Tour de France victory.
The British-registered team achieved 7252 votes, almost more than double that of second placed Movistar, who scored 3640 votes and Garmin-Sharp, who was third with 3602 votes. Mark Cavendish's Omega Pharma-Quick Step team was a close fourth with 3434 votes.
The Orica-AIS team was the best women's team, securing 1034 votes and beating Specialized-Lululemon who scored 721 votes. Both did better than Vincenzo Nibali's Astana team, who garnered only 616 votes despite Nibali winning the Giro d'Italia and dueling with Chris Horner at the Vuelta a Espana.
Tour de France
Team Sky no doubt won the best team award thanks to its domination at the Tour de France. Chris Froome may not have the style and pedigree of Bradley Wiggins but proved he has the determination and ability to climb onto the top step of the podium in Paris.
The skinny Kenyan-born Briton combined his time trial speed with sudden, low gear, high cadence accelerations in the mountains to take control of the yellow jersey. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) was perhaps his most dangerous rival, especially in the final week, but lost precious time in the time trials and so finished 4:20 behind, a comfortable winning margin for Froome, with Joaquim Rodriguez third at 5:04.
Froome also won every stage race he started leading up to the Tour 2013, bar Tirreno-Adriatico, with wins in Oman, Criterium International, Romandie, and the Dauphine. He rightly enjoyed the summer before his embarrassing flop, along with his Great Britain teammates, at the world road race championships in Florence.
The Classics conundrum
Team Sky's riches and performance ability means its success in stage races help distract from its failures in the Classics. The team picked up a batch of impressive results with Richie Porte winning Paris-Nice, Rigoberto Uran winning a stage and taking second overall at the Giro d’Italia. Yet the Classics remain Team Sky's Achilles heel and empty slot on the team's palmares.
This year head physiologist Tim Kerrison persuaded the riders to ditch tradition and train at altitude before the Classics. That left them with the form to be competitive but they lacked the race skills, route knowledge, weather adaptation and experience when Fabian Cancellara, Peter Sagan and Omega Pharma-Quick Step went on the offensive. Geraint Thomas and Ian Stannard showed flashes of their potential but Edvald Boasson Hagen again failed to live up to hopes. Team Sky clearly still has to find some more marginal gains to be a true Classics team.
Bradley Wiggins' cameo role as former Grand Tour winner was also a disappointing moment but the Briton has admitted he does not have the hunger and desire to challenge for another Tour de France victory.
His descending problems in the rain, injury and eventual withdrawal from the Giro d'Italia revealed a vital weakness and left the team embarrassed and looking foolish in Italy. Jonathan Tiernan-Locke's biological passport violation also damaged the team's carefully constructed image and raised questions about its zero-tolerance policy and rider vetting strategy.
Changes for 2014
The spat between Wiggins and Froome still simmers on despite the denials. Wiggins seems to want to ride the Tour de France in 2014 because it starts in Britain but will Froome want him in what needs to be a strong, tight-knit squad of nine riders?
Team Sky has lost Rigoberto Uran to Omega Pharma-Quick Step and so Richie Porte will get a chance to lead the team at the Giro d'Italia, with Sergio Henao as the next potential stage racer on the production line.
The team's line-up remains little changed, with Basque climber Mikel Nieve joining from the defunct Euskaltel squad and Philip Deignan coming on board from UnitedHeathCare. Nathan Earle will also pull on the distinctive Team Sky kit in 2014.
The team is perhaps weaker on paper in 2014 after the loss of Uran but Ben Swift should be back after his shoulder injury and the many talented young riders will be stronger and more experienced.
Movistar, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, BMC, Tinkoff-Saxo, Belkin, Katusha and Cannondale will all be trying to get the better of Team Sky in 2014 but the British team will be trying to stay one step ahead of its rivals and so continue its run of success and stage race dominance.
|1||Team Sky||7252 votes|
|4||Omega Pharma-Quick Step||3434|
|9||Astana Pro Team||616|