2014 Report Card: Cannondale
WorldTour ranking: 17th (down from ninth last year)
Win count: 17 (down from 36 in 2013)
Top riders: Peter Sagan (15th), Damiano Caruso (87th), Davide Formolo (99th), Alessandro De Marchi (109th), Ivan Basso (127th)
A goodbye message from team manager Roberto Amadio and a half promise to create a new Professional Continental team in 2016 officially marked the demise of the Cannondale WorldTour team owned by the US-based bike brand and based in Italy. Many of the riders who wore the bright green kit and the staff who helped them have found teams for 2015, while the team buses will be sold to the highest bidder and other equipment and the service course moth-balled in the hope of a return in 2016.
Cannondale's involvement and investment in the sport continues thanks to the bike brand becoming the title sponsor and part owner of Jonathan Vaughters' team in 2015. But it was more of take over than a merger, with Slipstream becoming the team's management company and only eight riders moving across for 2015. The end of 2014 marks the end of the road for Amadio's Cannondale team.
The 28 riders in the 2014 Cannondale team ended the season with a total of 17 victories. Peter Sagan took seven of them plus the Tour de France green points jersey. Elia Viviani won six other races, Oscar Gatto took two and Alessandro De Marchi and Macief Bodnar landed one each.
The young riders on the team such as Davide Formolo, Davide Villella and Matej Mohoric showed their talents with some interesting placings and attacks, but Ivan Basso, Moreno Moser and even promising rider such as George Bennett, Cameron Wurf and Marco Marcato rarely left their mark on races.
True, the Cannondale team often focused on Sagan and rode for him in major races but the other riders failed to take their chances, especially in the second half of the season, as the demise of the team zapped their desire to win. It was a long goodbye, with everyone focusing on their futures rather ending the season on a high.
Only the De Marchi offered an alternative tactics to Sagan and the sprints. He made the headlines with a series of attacks during the Tour de France that gave him the most aggressive rider prize in Paris. He confirmed his ability with a stage win at the Vuelta and a strong ride for Italy at the road world championships. He was quickly picked up by BMC for the 2015 season.
Number crunching the season
Sagan's 2014 results include 10 second places and seven third places, giving him a total of 24 podium spots from 91 race days. However in 2013 he won 22 races and secured another 15 podium spots, confirming his fall off in competitiveness as his move to Tinkoff-Saxo matured. He won E3 Harelbeke, was third in Gent-Wevelgem but was outmaneuvered by Fabian Cancellara and the other favourites at the Tour of Flanders and was only sixth the following week at Paris-Roubaix.
Sagan clearly has the talent, ability and skills to win the Spring Classics but was often isolated and made mistakes in key moments of the races this season. Bjarne Riis and the strength of the Tinkoff-Saxo team in 2015 should change things but will also take away any excuses if Sagan fails to deliver next spring.
Team support will surely help Sagan at the Tour de France, despite ASO changing the rules to limit his domination of the green points jersey and awarding more points to stage winners. This season Sagan was never out of the top five in the first week but failed to win a stage when he should, and could have done. The silver lining of his result was a total dominance of the green jersey, so much so that it perhaps earned him less praise and attention that he deserved. Sagan is not quite as fast as the pure sprinters but can surely win a stage or two before the Pyrenees in the 2015 Tour. The only question is how or if Tinkoff-Saxo will ride to support both Sagan and Alberto Contador.
Viviani's six victories helped save Cannondale's numbers but his season was also somewhat below expectations. He won in Turkey, Italy and the USA but never in the WorldTour. He was in the mix in the sprints during the first week of the Giro d'Italia but failed to win a stage. He fought to finish in Trieste but that only left him tired for the Tour de France and consequently the rest of the season. A better race programme with Team Sky, one that allows him to mix in some track racing, can only help the likable Verona rider. However it may not be enough to ensure he breaks into the exclusive club of Grand Tour sprinters.
Basso turns 37 on Wednesday and his final year at Cannondale marked his transformation from team leader in the Grand Tours to domestique for Tinkoff-Saxo. He was only 15th at the Giro d'Italia and then struggled during the rest of the season. He may secure a place in the Tinkoff-Saxo team for the Giro d'Italia but we are unlikely to see him at the Tour de France in July.
What to expect in 2015: Amadio has confirmed that he will take a sabbatical from professional cycling next year but hopes to return with a new Professional Continental team in 2016 if he can secure a title sponsor. When sponsored by Liquigas and then Cannondale, Amadio's team was known for developing young talent identified in the Italian Under 23 system. Now other teams and especially Cannondale-Garmin will get to take advantage of that investment, as the riders and staff are spread across the galaxy of the 2015 peloton.
Biggest loss: Peter Sagan. The Cannondale team made Sagan and his agent Giovanni Lombardi a serious offer for 2015 and beyond but were unable to compete with the cash and opportunities offered by Tinkoff-Saxo, sparking a review of the bike brand's role and sponsorship in the sport and the decision to join forces with Slipstream. If Sagan had decided to stay, Cannondale would perhaps have landed a second sponsor and be in the 2015 WorldTour with Amadio.
Man to watch: While all eyes will be on Sagan as he rides a Specialized in the yellow and blue Tinkoff-Saxo kit in 2015, it will be fascinating to watch how the young riders evolve at Cannondale-Garmin. Formolo impressed at the Tour de Suisse and in the final part of the season, doing enough to securing a place in the Italian team for the world championships. He is a pure climber but has the determination and skills to fight in the toughest Classics. He could be the next Dan Martin.
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