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2013 Report Card: Argos-Shimano

Daniel Benson
December 22, 2013, 12:15,
December 23, 2013, 00:38
First Edition Cycling News, Sunday, December 22, 2013
Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) wins the Champs Elysees stage

Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) wins the Champs Elysees stage

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Kittel delivers in the sprints as team perfects its lead outs

Team Argos-Shimano

WorldTour Ranking: 16th
Win Count: 29
Top riders: John Degenkolb (41st), Marcel Kittel (56th), Tom Dumoulin (60th), Warren Barguil (101st)

Grade: B+

On the face of it a tally of 29 victories in their first WorldTour season should be marked down as a major success for Iwan Spekenbrink and his Argos-Shimano team. Marcel Kittel was the undoubted star of the team and his teammates proved they are the best at sprint lead outs.

The German joined the elite group of sprinters due to his all-conquering display at the Tour de France and surrounded his Tour haul with a second Scheldeprijs title, a stage apiece in Oman and Paris-Nice, three stages in the Presidential Tour of Turkey and the ProRace Berlin. Only one win followed his sprint victory on the Champs Elysees but by then his stock was so high that Argos-Shimano's most crucial victory came when their prize asset agreed to sign a contract extension to remain on the team for the foreseeable future.

Away from Kittel, and the team’s impressive aura and success rate wilted slightly. Apart from François Parisien and John Degenkolb picking up a stage win each at Catalunya and the Giro, no rider other than Kittel won a race until the middle of August. There in lies the team’s weakness and as well as their main strength.

In the last two years the team has built the slickest of leadout trains, purposefully signing riders with the job of protecting Kittel. A team such as Omega Pharma QuickStep undoubtedly has stronger athletes on an individual basis but Argos-Shimano's synergy is just as impressive as that of Mark Cavendish and HTC in 2009 and 2010. If you have one of the best sprinters in the world, why not work for Kittel?

However with Kittel taking more of a backseat in the second half of the year, we were then treated to a glimpse of the team’s other strengths and talents. John Degenkolb added to his already decent palmares with wins in Paris-Tours and Paris – Bourges, while longstanding servant Bert de Backer popped up with a win in GP Jef Scherens - Rondom Leuven.

However the star of the second half of the year was Warren Barguil. The 22-year-old 2012 Tour de l'Avenir winner had the pick of the French teams when he turned professional but instead chose Argos-Shimano. This speaks volumes of the Dutch team's ability to develop young talent. However even the team's management must have been surprised by how well the rider from Hennebont coped in the WorldTour, with top twenty riders in the Criterium du Dauphine and the tour de Pologne, backed up with two superb stages in the Vuelta a Espana.

What to expect in 2014

Argos-Shimano is a team that knows exactly what they’re about and in 2014 the plan will be to compete and win in the sprints once more. With no stand out rider for the majority of the Classics, and young but unproven GC talents for Grand Tours, Kittel and Degenkolb will be expected to provide the majority of the results.

Saying that, Barguil will be measured by how far he develops in Grand Tours and week-long stage races. A new sponsor is set to be unveiled in January and along with their women’s and U23 programme the team will be competing on a number of fronts.

Best signing

It’s hard to pick between Lawson Craddock and Chad Haga, who both rode on the US domestic circuit in 2013. The latter finished third in the season long NRS, with standout performances in Redlands, Joe Martin Stage race and Elk Grove, while Craddock backed up a strong-looking 2012 with top ten overall finishes in the Tour of California and the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. The signing of Daan Olivier has gone under the radar somewhat too, but the Dutch U23 rider already has some impressive results to boast about.

Biggest loss

An even harder category to narrow down given that the team managed to re-sign most of their 2013 roster. While Parisien has retired and William Clarke moved down the ranks to Drapac, the loss of Patrick Gretsch signifies perhaps the most important departure. The former track and HTC rider picked up the odd victory here and there since moving to Argos-Shimano but has moved to AG2R-La Mondiale for 2014.

Who to watch

Understandably all eyes will be on Kittel in 2014. After a disappointing Tour de France in 2012 due to crashes and illness the German bounced back in the best possible manner this season. The task now is for the team’s talisman is to repeat his success in 2014.


Broth3r 10 months ago
I guess you can add something else to their achievements: because of Warren Barguil and Warren Barguil alone, I no longer hate this team. Not by much, but yeah.
nepetalactone 10 months ago
Why? They've been outstanding debutants to the world tour. They are a sprinting team sure, but look at it this way: You've basically got one day races, grand tours, sprint stages, or week long races. The cheapest scenario to build a team around is sprint stages (Cavendish can't be everywhere!). This year essentially every week long race or GT was won by a big (2 million Euro/year+) name rider (Vuelta and maybe Switzerland being exceptions). The classics require Gilberts, Cancellaras, Sagans, JRods, all on huge contracts, and then you're still gambling for every voctory (see Gilbert or 2011-2012 Canc). Building a sprint team and working from there is the only real option without an, e.g. OPQS type budget.
nepetalactone 10 months ago
...or victory...
Todd Wilson 10 months ago
Really? Man, you could have kept that comment to yourself. This team fought all year to bring in results and all you have to say, is that you hate them? You have some anger issues.
Broth3r 10 months ago
That's exactly why I profoundly dislike Argos, because they don't do what you say. They can't "fight all year to bring in results" until the entire cycling calendar is made to fit their "sprint of gtfo" mentality. The ideology fostered by the DS or the sponsor or whoever it may be, and reflected in the roster's abilities and performances of completely disregarding mountainous terrain and stage races, and having few who can fight in hilly and cobbled classics is the antithesis of what your're suggesting. All of this was valid until Warren Barguil's shocker, however. There may yet be hope for this team, if he's not a one-off.
Peter von 10 months ago
I think it's pretty sound what they are doing, maybe one day one of their young lads will be capable of doing top 10, 5 even 3 in the GTs and then Argos can shift it's focus accordingly, until that day Kittel and Degenkolb will headline the team. I think it's pretty cool they don't go out of thier way to sign older mediocre GT riders just because they wants to top 15 in the GTs, but maybe thats just me. I do dislike them a bid for not doing their share of the work before the last 5 km of a stage, this also goes a long way explaining why OPQS dispite better riders are doing worse lead-outs. Not to take anything away from Kittel and Degenkolb, they are very good, but that's why the team should take some responsibility, OPQS could make sure the sprints never happens and have the riders to win stages if it doesn't.
Jar West 10 months ago
We all know a team betting on two horses is not working to its maximal potential , Wiggins/ Cav wasn't working for Cav (we'll see what Cav/Uran brings...), Sagan/ Nibali wasn't working for Sagan, Greipel/vdB isn't working for for vdB, I dont see any real plan when Pinot and Bouhanni/Demare are riding together and Bos, Nizzolo and Guardini aren't even really getting a fair chance. I'm not saying it never works but if you have an absolute world class rider you should have the guts to bet on that one guy. Also, saying that they disregard the mountainous stages... Aren't there a lot of teams disregarding the flat stages? they chose an option that is giving them victories, if they went for the mountains who could they get? A Kruiswijk, Slagter, Poels, Coppel or Perhaps if they are lucky a Fuglsang or Henao? What will that bring? Another team that tries to get a tenth place in a GC? I'd rather see a team dominate with Kittel then another team shoot for such a pseudo result. We've got enough of those (Lampre, Ag2R, Cofidis, Belkin, Lotto, Garmin, BMC). I'm not Saying these teams, with these goals, are not needed and not valid, but someone who controls the flat stages and therefore chooses not to participate in the mountains is also needed and valid....
Raoul Duke 10 months ago
Kittel was totally exciting, Degenkolb fantastic, shame on me I don't know the names of more riders on this team as their jersey's always seemed prominent. Kittel and company have really put the pressure on Cavendish and Omega-Pharma to lift their game. Really looking forward to see head to head battles in 2014!
Manuel Schoel 10 months ago
Here we go again. Omega-Pharma is praised for their one/two-man-show (Cavendish and Tony Martin had more than half of the teams victories) and other teams like Argos or Cannondale are considered weak for the same fact. At that is coming from a fan of the belgian squad. :D
kevinzamora 10 months ago
Can't compare OPQS with those two, at Omega there were riders like Meersman (with 5 wins and MANY podiums), Stybar (with beautiful victories at important races and a promising performance at P-R), Trentin with a victory at the TDF, and the many otherw that if not won at least 1 or 2 races they gave great shows like Terpstra, Chavanel, Vandenberg, etc. OPQS is definetly not a two man team (specially if you remember Boonen was just not lucky) while Cannondale and Argos are much closer to that...
Cance > TheRest 10 months ago
+ Kwiatkowski, even if he didnt add to the team's winning list. However, Cannondale is probably a bit underrated by CNE. Even if the team merely is a solo show by Sagan most of the time. Cannot say I disagree with the rating of Argos Shimano. In fact I find it to be pretty fair. For once CN journalists did their work properly.
kevinzamora 10 months ago
TDF, and the many otherw that if not won at least 1 or 2 races they gave great shows like Terpstra, Chavanel, Vandenberg, etc. OPQS is definetly not a two man team (specially if you remember Boonen was just not lucky) while Cannondale and Argos are much closer to that...
Torrrr 10 months ago
This is definitely a team that has gone up in my estimation this season. As much as I like Kittel and especially Degenkolb, it's Barguil who really excites me as a rider. The margin and style of his victory against Uran for his second Vuelta stage was one of my favourite moments this year. It'll be interesting to see how he develops. For a talented young Frenchman, maybe it's to his advantage to spend these early years away from French teams where, I guess, the spotlight from the French public and pressure to succeed are greater.