Despite the departure of several key riders such as Edvald Boasson Hagen, who took 13 individual wins in 2009, the Columbia-HTC team has its sights set on another very successful season in the year ahead. Sport director Allan Peiper says that he remains confident that the US-registered ProTour squad will take dozens of victories.
“We didn’t think that we’d do as well this season as in 2008, but things worked out very well. We had 80 wins then, this year we had 85,” he told Cyclingnews.
“At the end of last year we said that things wouldn’t get better than this; that if we win 50 races, we would be very happy. We are saying exactly the same again [for 2010]. If we can have Cavendish and Greipel step up and win 15 to 20 each, that is close to 40. If we can pick up another 10 wins from the rest of the riders, we are at 50 again.
“That would be super – you have got to keep realistic aspirations. I mean, we had a one in three victory rate this year – we rode 255 races and we won 85. We took six stages in the Giro, six stages in Switzerland, six stages in the Tour and five in the Vuelta. That is how you really crank it up.”
Teams such as the new Sky and RadioShack squads will be keen to start racking up some wins of their own and that could make things tighter at the top. Peiper insists that Columbia-HTC doesn’t feel under pressure to match the victory tally it achieved in the past two seasons; the changes within the team mean that some of the younger riders may spend 2010 learning and improving, but long-term he feels that they should flourish.
“We are keeping our feet on the ground, knowing that we have got a big turnover of riders,” he explained. “A lot of success in the past two years has made our riders very attractive [to other teams], but we are really excited about the young kids who have come on board. We have got 11 new riders coming on for next year, and it’s going to be an exciting time to see what we can make of it. There’s really some great young talent coming through…I think everything is fine at Team Columbia.”
Thinking ahead to the Geelong worlds:
With two of the best sprinters in cycling on its team and a fairly flat parcours lined up for next year’s worlds, Columbia-HTC knows that next autumn presents a strong opportunity for the team to grab a rainbow jersey in the road race.
“We have got a lot of guys who have their focus on it as well – not just Cavendish and Greipel, but Eisel and Mark Renshaw would also like to have a go,” he said.
Preparation for the race will be important and, with that in mind, some of the riders are going to check out the course in the next few weeks. For those that aren’t in Australia, data will be collected and given to them so that they too can have an insight into what can be expected next.
Peiper revealed that there would be two trips to the course. “The team for the Tour Down Under is arriving in Australia on the 3rd of January – that will be Greipel, Eisel, Grabsch and Sieberg, as well the Australians. We are going to ride from Melbourne down to Geelong and see the course, because if it is windy that will be a dangerous part. There are quite a few doglegs getting down to Geelong, with a possible side wind if the wind is coming from the south.”
Three days later, on the Friday just before the Australian nationals, the whole Tour Down Under team will head to Geelong once more and cover the course three or four times. Peiper will also check out the time trial course with Michael Rogers and Bert Grabsch, two former champions.
The data collection will be done then. “We have got our equipment - we have got stuff for the GPS to record it and a video camera and all the rest,” he said. “We will have enough info then to let them see what they need for the worlds.”
Peiper has yet to see the course, but believes it is not a certainly that it will come down to a gallop. “From what I have heard, it is still going to be a difficult race. I’ve been told the climb is pretty tough, with 200 or 300 metres of 15 to 18 percent. That’s at the top of the hard climb, with still about eight kilometres to go to the finish.
“From what I have heard, the sprinters will still be in a chasing position, with other guys trying to go away in the last couple of laps. So that is going to be a bit of a jack in the box, I think. That said, nobody thought there would be a sprint in Salzburg, yet it nearly did. They went under the railway bridge and a little split happened there…otherwise, there would have been a bunch gallop.”