What was the last half of the 2008 season like for the 18 ProTour teams, and how did the whole year turn out? As the Cyclingnews staff asked, "What went right and what went wrong?"
Here is part one of a team-by-team analysis, with the teams listed in no particular order
AG2R La Mondiale
What went right: The French team's season could stand or fall with the Tour de France, and Vincent Lavenu was lucky: The team's top Frenchman, Cyril Dessel, did not surrender to pressure but delivered the all-important stage win (stage 16 from Cuneo to Jausiers). The 2006 wearer of the yellow jersey scored a total of four important victories this season. The team's foreign riders, like Tadej Valjavec and Vladimir Efimkin, also performed very well in the Tour, finishing tenth and eleventh respectively. Efimkin even placed second behind Riccardo Riccò on stage nine to Bagnères de Bigorre – if the Italian is disqualified, it would mean a second stage victory for AG2R La Mondiale.
What went wrong: It took the team a while to come up to top form this year. From early March until mid-May, the squad remained completely anonymous on the ProTour races, and it missed out on the French Cup completely. A drop of performance was also observed after the Tour de France.
Holding out for: Lavenu hasn't changed his rider roster much for 2009, except for adding Irish up-and-coming talent Nicolas Roche for next season, as well as Sébastien Hinault and Efimkin's twin brother Alexander. The younger riders cannot keep up at the moment, but experienced riders like Dessel, Valjavec, Efimkin, Nocentini and Elmiger make up for it.
Overall: Even though the first half of the 2008 season was dominated by a feeling of frustration, success in the Tour de France saved the team's season. Dessel came back successfully from the toxoplasmosis infection that ruined his last year, and other newcomers to the squad confirmed their competitiveness. Lavenu can be satisfied.
Read the full review, part one.