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Brajkovic balances team duties and personal ambitions in 2014

By:
Barry Ryan
Published:
January 4, 22:00,
Updated:
January 6, 01:46
Edition:
First Edition Cycling News, Sunday, January 5, 2014
Janez Brajkovic goes for a solo spin

Janez Brajkovic goes for a solo spin

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Slovenian decries WorldTour points system

Janez Brajkovic's predicament is one faced by many in the contemporary peloton. His primary task at Astana is to ride in support of Michele Scarponi at the Giro d’Italia and – perhaps – Vincenzo Nibali at the Tour de France, but with one year remaining on his current contract, the Slovenian is also keenly aware of the need to score WorldTour points of his own in order to secure his future.

For some, the WorldTour rankings effectively make the domestique an endangered species, and in the dying weeks of the season, some riders feel almost obliged to defy team orders and chase points for themselves. At the other end of the spectrum, certain teams in recent years have refused to field high-value departing riders in autumn, lest they carry additional points with them to their new squads.

"It's a mess, it’s just wrong," Brajkovic told Cyclingnews of the current WorldTour points system. "For a domestique who does his work all the year and sacrifices himself for the leader, at the end of the year, he has no points and he’s not valuable to the team and he risks not getting a contract. I think that’s wrong."

Brajkovic is pencilled in to ride the Giro in support of Scarponi, although depending on the circumstances, he and Fabio Aru may have a degree of freedom in May. "The main goal is to get a good result with Scarponi, but if I ride really well, I think I’ll have my chances too," he said. In any case, Brajkovic’s aim is to pick up a smattering of points early in the campaign, so that he can ride unfettered by thoughts of WorldTour standings come the summer.

"My primary goal is to start the season strong. If I can ride really well at the start of the season and get a few good results, there are not going to be problems with the contract,” he said. “But if I don’t start so well and struggle through the first part, it’s not such a pleasant situation. Then you are under pressure, because you have to do your work for the team and you have to get a result for yourself."

Brajkovic’s early-season programme will see him line up at the Challenge Mallorca, Tour of Oman, Critérium International, Tirreno-Adriatico and Giro del Trentino as he builds towards May. Understandably, it is the WorldTour race that whets his appetite the most. “I’m not doing so many races, but I would really like to do well at Tirreno,” he said. “That’s one of the goals.”

While Vincenzo Nibali is the undisputed leader at Astana, the team has assembled a formidable roster of stage racing talent, with Brajkovic, Scarponi, Aru, Jakob Fuglsang and Tanel Kangert all vying for opportunities of their own. After sharing leadership duties with the likes of Chris Horner, Andreas Klöden and Levi Leipheimer during his final year at RadioShack, however, Brajkovic is confident that they can work together.

"If you have two really good riders, and one is better than the other, he will go for the result,” he said. “It’s not a case of ‘he’s the leader and you have to do everything for him.’ It’s just whoever goes better is the main guy. I don’t really see any problems here and I don’t have any problems working for others."

Touted for stardom during his seven years under the tutelage of the since discredited Johan Bruyneel at Discovery Channel and RadioShack, Brajkovic has never quite recaptured the remarkable form that carried him to Critérium du Dauphiné victory in 2010, although his consistent first season back at Astana in 2012 included his best three-week stage race performance to date, a ninth-place finish at the Tour de France.

Brajkovic cites repeated early-season illnesses and recurring springtime allergies as impediments to his progress in recent seasons, although he is confident that he now has some sort of a handle on the latter problem. "I’ve tried medicine but it didn’t work for me because it made me retain a lot of water. In three weeks, I gained five kilos," he said.

"But I’ve learned over the past couple of years that it’s also about the food I eat. If I don’t eat certain things, the allergies aren’t as bad. Pure sugar, for instance, is really bad for me, so now I go without it when it’s not necessary."

Although Brajkovic admits that he has yet to deliver fully on his considerable potential, at 30 years of age, he believes that time is still on his side. "I think I haven’t shown what I’m capable of yet, so I would like to show that to the cycling world,” he said. “Hopefully it’s going to happen pretty soon, maybe this year."

Cragz01 9 months ago
In a sport in which the highest recognized achievements can only be attained by the use of a team why would the governing body have a points system based entirely on individual results?
boombastic 9 months ago
there is other, more important question. why uci maintain a system where you can buy a place in a pro tour y hiring new riders even if your team would score 0 points in previous season? this is just surreal. (also this system promote doping by forcing a domestique in his final year to get a result no matter of costs associated with it)
LemonFriend 9 months ago
The point system used to determine a team's "value" is not based entirely on individual results. It is a complex system (perhaps overly so) that includes the points earned by the top 10 individual riders on a team, but also gives team points based on standings in GC, special jerseys (such as points, mountain, youth, etc), team time trials, and so on.
boombastic 9 months ago
just read it. still is more than possible to buy the place in pro tour with ease, especially that all what you need is to buy more points than 17th team had (which was FDJ with 338 points. i guess that buying rodriguez alone you would get enough points.
LemonFriend 9 months ago
Don't confuse the UCI ranking point system with the team value point system. 338 is FDJ's ranking points, not their team value points. But your main point is still valid. In fact, that is why GT winners are usually quite sought after.
boombastic 9 months ago
i know the difference i just estimated the number of points needed basing on the uci rank and multiplying it by 2.
geezer 9 months ago
There was not the pressure on the riders this year, it was all the UCI could do to muster 18 teams Pro Tour Teams points were not improtant, it will be a different story next year if Alonzo brings in a team, then the likes of Chris Horner would be in great demand for their points if their had been 19 teams applying Chris would have no problem finding a team!
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LemonFriend 9 months ago
Only the top 10 riders bring points to a team. Brajkovic's concerns are unfounded. The fact that Brajkovic would not understand this is a tribute to how convoluted the whole point system is.
wirral 9 months ago
Riders who score WT points should have a window of a week to donate some or any of their points to any other team members who took part in the same race. That would be awesome. Just imagine the permutations and deals that could go on.
Fignon 9 months ago
or rider gets 50% of the points they earn in the race. Team splits the other 50% b/w them. If a rider fails a drug test, the whole team loose points for that race.
leftbehind 9 months ago
None of it really matters anymore. The whole system - ProTeams, ProContys, Contys, races, points - undergoes a major overhaul beginning in 2015.
nuvolablu 9 months ago
Not in 2015, maybe 2016 most likely 2017!
leftbehind 9 months ago
As far as I know, the entire revamping will take 4-5 years, but it begin with the 2015 season. Unless you know something that hasn't been published yet?
movingtarget 9 months ago
This is one guy who has under achieved. I expected much more. He reminds me more and more of Popovych. Plenty of potential and good results early but then disappointing.
deboat 9 months ago
He thinks you under achieved too!!