The Leopard Trek team left Belgium with an unprecedented string of podium places in the classics but will be remembered as the bridesmaid of the spring after failing to land a big win.
In the cobbled classics Fabian Cancellara was by far the strongest rider but the lack of team support in vital moments of Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix left him isolated and vulnerable and the other teams made sure he did not win.
The Leopard Trek team was far stronger in the Ardennes and took control of the racing, but could do little to stop Philippe Gilbert securing his historic trilogy of victories in front of his Wallonne cycling fans. The likes of Jens Voigt, Jacob Fuglsang and Maxime Monfort executed a near perfect race strategy at Liege-Bastogne-Liege but Andy And Frank Schleck did not have the punch to put a 'puncheur' like Gilbert on the ropes.
Team manager Brian Nygaard was rightly proud of the consistency of his team across both the cobbled and Ardennes classics but admitted he would happily swap some of the podium places for one big victory.
"I would have liked to have traded some of those podium place in for a victory but if you look at the whole stretch of the Classics, we've been absolutely there in all of them: podium, second, third, in every single Classic. I don't think any team has ever done that," he pointed out.
"Victory would have been nice but if you have to be satisfied with finding yourself with Gilbert in the form of his life and creating history. Maybe not satisfied with the results but it's always a question of if you've done your best. And I'm absolutely convinced we did our best and our results show that."
You tip your hat and say congratulations
Leopard Trek tried to isolate Gilbert in the hope of attacking him on the final climb of the Cote de la Roche aux Faucons. He was out numbered two to one by the Schlecks but proved he was stronger than both of them.
Nygaard was happy to acknowledge that Gilbert totally deserved victory.
"It didn't work out perfectly but when Gilbert is unbeatable, you have to settle or second and third. It's not a problem. You tip your hat and say congratulations. That's all you can do," he said.
He played down the lack of attacks from the Frank and Andy on the gradual climb up to the finish in Ans, conceding his riders did not have anything left to try a worthwhile attack and knew they did not have the speed to beat Gilbert in the sprint.
"I think that it was a question of the legs, I don’t think it was a poor tactical choice. I don’t think they were playing the tactic: 'Lets see if we can beat Gilbert in the sprint'," he said.
"Andy kept it together and tried to keep it together, in case Frank had something left. But it was obvious that the legs were as they were. I don't think even Mario Cipollini would beat Gilbert on that finish line."
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.