Report Card: Omega Pharma-QuickStep
Boonen drives team to history, more needed in Grand Tours
Omega Pharma-QuickStep can look back on the successes of 2012 with great satisfaction. The Belgian-registered squad achieved 51 victories - the same as Team Sky - to sit in equal first-place on the ProTeam victory scoreboard. Tom Boonen was the standout rider for the year and inked his name into the record books by taking a second double-win at Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix - his fourth celebration in the famous velodrome. He also became the first rider in history to win E3 Harelbeke, Gent-Wevelgem, Flanders and Roubaix in the same year.
Despite the victory haul that was spread across 18 different riders, grand tour results were almost non-existent. It took Dario Cataldo until stage 16 at the Vuelta a España before the team could toast a grand tour win while he achieved the team's best general classification result earlier in the year with a 12th-place at the Giro d'Italia.
The team may not have been built to contend the overall classification at the three-week races however, and Levi Leipheimer's move to the team should have brought more than it did. However, the American's signing really delivered more damage than good. His involvement in the fallout of USADA's Reasoned Decision, and his subsequent admissions to doping and six-month suspension put a dent in the otherwise impressive year for the team that was third in the UCI's ProTeam classification.
The team can still be proud of the nine national champions that were part of the squad for 2012. The team's win in the team time trial at the UCI World Championships is further proof of the cohesion that has been instilled in the powerful classics and one-day squad. The team may lack contenders for the overall classification but come the Classics, they will be one of the few teams capable of influencing the day's outcome.
What to expect in 2013
Without placing too much pressure on results, bank on numerous victory salutes over the following 12 months. Mark Cavendish's addition to the team is unlikely to conflict with Boonen's aspirations but if anything the towering Belgian may prove to be a vital lead-out man for the races suited to the Manxman. Cavendish will aim at the green jersey at the Tour, as well as stage wins at the Giro. Another crack at Milan San-Remo is also on the cards.
Boonen has already shifted his season start due to illness but the current Belgian road race champion will head to the spring classics as a heavy favourite. Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack) will undoubtedly be his greatest rival in the cobbled races.
Away from one-day races, Tony Martin will look to have a more consistent season against the clock.
Cavendish may have won 15 races in 2012 but he could have quite easily beaten André Greipel and Peter Sagan's 16 win total if he had more support at the Tour de France - to name just one race. Arguably the fastest sprinter in the world, the move to a team willing to fully support his ambitions, without the distractions of the general classification, brings nothing but good news to the team managed by Patrick Lefevere.
Leipheimer may failed to deliver at the Tour but his ability to aim for the US-based races will impact the team's results outside of Europe. Twelve of the team's wins came from riders who have signed for other squads; Fransesco Chicchi (five), Gerald Ciolek (one) and Cataldo (two) while the removal of Leipheimer and his four wins may prove to be difficult to replace.
Man to watch
Young sprinter Andrew Fenn, who won two races in the early season Majorca Challenge in 2012 may be ready to step up and deliver this year. He's only 22-years-old and managed to achieve podium places throughout the year, racking up plenty of race days for a neo-professional. With a year of experience behind him, the team should be pushing this young rider for more. Former 'cross world champion Zdeněk Štybar is also committed to his road ambitions for the coming year and with two wins in 2012 with a road/cross season, he could also be a factor in some of the small one-day spring races.
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By Barry Ryan