2014 Report Card: Garmin-Sharp

A season marked by crashes but rescued with wins

WorldTour ranking: 11th (down from 8th last year)
Win count: 23 (up from 17 in 2013)
Top riders: Martin (9th), Talansky (38th), Navardauskas (41st)

A return of 23 wins – up from last year's 17 – is not to be sniffed at, and with major wins in Il Lombardia and the Critérium du Dauphiné, thanks to the team's brightest talents, Garmin-Sharp can look back on a season peppered with successes. The campaign, however, was also defined by a number of setbacks, crashes, and valiant yet ultimately unsuccessful near misses. Dan Martin's tumbles at Liége-Bastogne-Liége, the Giro d'Italia and Worlds almost ruined his season, while Andrew Talansky's injuries and abandonment at the Tour de France took some of the shine off of his sublime ride in June.

Rather promisingly, the team's wins were spread among 15 riders, with Ramunas Navardauskas topping out with four victories and Philip Gaimon winning a stage of the Tour de San Luis on his debut for the squad.

New signing Tom Jelte Slagter kicked off the team's European season with two highly-impressive stage wins in Paris-Nice, thus justifying his move from Belkin but in the cobbled classics the team were largely disappointing with Sebastian Langeveld consistent but unable to break into the top five at either Flanders or Roubaix. Farrar picked up second places in in Dwars door Vlaanderen and Scheldeprijs, before Martin followed suit in Fléche Wallonne.

'That crash' in Liége-Bastogne-Liége remains one of the most astonishing and agonising moments of the entire season but it was Martin's Giro fall that had the most implications for the team's season. In the blink of an eye and the width of a drain cover, the fall not only took out the team's overall leader but injured a number of riders on the team and saw Ryder Hesjedal lose significant time.

The Canadian rallied and dug in to finish with a credible ninth overall but it was a rather scant consolation given the confidence and hope the team were brimming with as they set sail for Belfast.

Talansky's Dauphiné triumph saw the team regain their course after Chris Froome and Alberto Contador allowed the American to ride clear but the team were thankful for Navardauskas' stage win at the Tour after Talansky crashed out and Jack Bauer came up short in his quest to win a stage.

Post Tour and the team appeared to find more of a groove. Dylan Van Baarle came from nowhere to win a genuinely exciting Tour of Britain, Tom Danielson picked up a stage and the overall at the Tour of Utah, Alex Howes took a popular stage win at the US Pro Challenge and the Vuelta a España saw Hesjedal win a stage and Martin finish inside the top 10. They closed out the season in even stronger fashion with two wins at the Tour of Beijing - courtesy of Martin and Farrar – while Haas won the Japan Cup and Martin won Il Lombardia.

Away from the road and behind the scenes the team became locked in discussions with Cannodale over a partnership for 2015. The result being that a handful of riders and the title sponsor would move across to the Slipstream set up. All rather reminiscent to the Cervélo merger of 2010, except this deal appears to represent more of a power shift within the Slipstream administration and one of the new challenges will be over how the squad defines its identity, a term that on the face of it appeared pivotal in the past.

What to expect in 2015?

If they stay upright and healthy there's no doubt that Martin and Talansky can build on their already impressive palmares. The American's talent is well worth a top-five finish in a Grand Tour, while his ability to race both aggressively and intelligently in week-long events should see him pick up the odd win either side of the Tour de France. Martin's consistency is perhaps of greater significance. His year-saving ride at Il Lombardia papered over a season of what ifs, yet he still remains the team's best ranked and most complete rider. He's simply world-class and every time he wins a race it's usually of the highest calibre.

Behind the two-pronged leaders, the team have a band of riders in Langeveld, Tom Jelte Slagter, Moreno Moser and Navardauskas, who are all capable of chipping in one or two wins throughout the season but without a thoroughbred sprinter the team will struggle to make an impact in a number of events. More crucial will be the team's need to fine tune their killer instinct. To put this into some context, QuickStep won nearly three times as many races this year yet had just as many second places.

The old guard of Danielson and Hesjedal are nearing the end of their careers but they could still play crucial roles. Hesjedal's top 10 in the Giro and stage win at the Vuelta show that he can still pick up results in Europe, while Danielson remains a threat in the US domestic scene. Haas, Howes and Janier Acevedo will be expected to build on decent seasons.

Best signing: A tough call between the signing of former U23 World Champion Matej Mohoric and the re-signing of Talansky, a rider Vaughters has fought tooth and nail to keep hold of ever since he turned professional. Mohoric's first season at the top level was all about experience and there's little evidence that the team will seek to rush his development but he's certainly the pick of the bunch that have come across from the merger in terms of long-term promise. His young age should be an advantage when it comes to making the transition to an American team.

Biggest loss: On paper David Millar's experience will be missed but the team still have the likes of Hesjedal and Danielson to remind them of what racing the Classique des Alpes and Midi-Libre was like in the early 2000s. The measure of Farrar's departure will be entirely dependable on the American's transition at MTN but the mid-season move for Rohan Dennis could be the biggest loss. The talented Dennis made Vaughters' Tour de France cut in 2013 after a highly mature ride in that year's Dauphiné but the mid-season move from BMC sees the rider link up with another American team. Vansummeren's move to AG2R lightens the team's Classics experience but Marangoni and Bauer will try and cover the grunt work the Belgian used to do when it comes to riding 200km-plus on the front.

Man to watch: Moser was one of Italy's most promising stars in 2012 after he took a number of high-profile victories. A year later he was beating a world-class field in Strade Bianche and looked a genuine contender for the Classics and hilly one-day races. However, since then it's all gone a little stale for the man from Trento. A fresh start, different surroundings and a new management team around him could be all the 23-year-old needs in order to discover his form. The Cannondale riders will be looking to him as their talisman and the responsibility could well be the re-making of a rider who promised so much but has yet to really deliver.

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