Can you name the teams in this year’s Tour that have never won a stage?
Cue the Jeopardy music…and don’t read down if you don’t want it spoiled.
Here’s a hint: there are 4.
Had enough? Okay, here are the answers:
Well, I practically gave you one: Milram.
Two more should be easy since it’s the first year they’ve participated: Skil-Shimano and Katusha.
The fourth? Garmin-Slipstream.
Of the four, Milram has to be the most disappointing. They’ve been in the race since 2006, and after more than 3 tries still have no wins to their credit. And with riders like Alessandro Petacchi, Erik Zabel, Gerald Ciolek, Fabian Wegmann, and Linus Gerdemann, you can’t say that haven’t had the firepower (though the latter two have been on the team only since the beginning of this season). Milram’s been an active presence at the front on most days. Several times they’ve placed a rider in the day’s big break, and on several sprint stages they’ve been seen working to set-up their sprinter. So you can't say they haven't tried.
But no wins since 2006? Milram Corporate is either the most patient or the most oblivious title sponsor in the sport. Or maybe General Manager Gerry Van Gerwen (a really nice guy, by the way) has some pretty "interesting" photos of the company’s President/CEO?
Skil-Shimano deserves a bit of a pass as it’s their first go-round in le Grand Boucle. The team's made its presence known in breakaways and has made an attempt here and there to set-up Kenny Van Hummel in the sprints. If they keep it up, a stage win could be in their future (but people have been saying that about Milram since 2006).
However, Katusha has more reason to be a bit disappointed. Mikael Ignatiev’s been in a few breakaways, but that’s pretty much it. We've all been waiting for Filippo Pozatto to show himself at some point, but he’s received more headlines for his jersey design than his results. Worse still is the fact that Robbie McEwen and Geert Steegmans, the team’s two best stage options, didn’t even start! I still see Pozatto or Ignatiev taking a stage later in the race, but if they don’t, this will be the last year Katusha is given the benefit of the doubt.
And finally, there’s Garmin-(We Ride in the Winner’s)Slipstream. Close, but no cigar seems to be the motto for Jonathan Vaughters and his riders—close to the stage win, close to the podium. Despite the near-misses, there are positives though: Tyler Farrar’s consistently crept closer and closer to a sprint win and still could get one in the final week. Bradley Wiggins and Christian Vande Velde both lie in reach of the podium on the GC (but both need to lose some time in order to have a shout for a mountain stage win). As for breakaways, I think it’s safe to say the team is content to preserve its energies for the remaining critical stages.
This is the second year for the cleanest team in cycling to participate in the sport’s biggest race. At some point though, they’ll need to do more than just "be there". Will they take the next step between now and Paris?
What do you think?