2009 SUMMARY: After 76 wins in 2008, who would have guessed that ‘Blue Chip’ Bob Stapleton’s ultra-competitive band could go nine better than that phenomenal mark? Sprinters Mark Cavendish and André Greipel stand out, having bagged half that total between them. Cav’s Milan-San Remo victory and six stage wins at the Tour made him Britain’s most notable performer in any sport in 2009. We’re being extremely picky by pointing out there was no outstanding major stage race contender but why devote overriding attention to one when wins are coming almost every day?
LOOKING AHEAD: We can’t see HTC-Columbia going nine better again but they should achieve at least 50 wins in 2010. If the lead-out train functions well, and Cavendish and Greipel remain injury-free, HTC-Columbia will be hard to stop. Despite the heavyweight losses, this management team are better than most at seeing unfulfilled potential. With Tony Martin advancing rapidly too, HTC may just turn up a grand tour contender as well.
THE LINE-UP: Stapleton admits that it’s impossible to hold on to so much winning talent without expanding the team’s budget. The departure of Boasson Hagen leaves the largest gap, given his immense potential, but all of the other departees were key performers as well. There are several intriguing names coming in, though, notably former U23 world champ Peter Velits, who advanced steadily at Milram without bringing too much attention to himself.
ONE TO WATCH: Pay close attention to Rasmus Guldhammer. Winner of the U23 Liège last year, he was expected to join Saxo Bank having tried out with the Danish team. Back then, his times up Monte Serra were reported to have been bettered only by Frank Schleck, with whom the Dane shares a rangy physique and, apparently, substantial climbing ability.
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