2024 Team Previews: Men II
So, here it is: time to return to the fortunes of the remaining men’s World Tour teams (and a couple of Pro teams too). What does 2024 have in store for them? Can they outdo their 2023 successes, or make up for a disappointing season? And can I predict their fortunes merely by selecting an appropriate GIF? Let’s pick up where we left off, languishing somewhere in the middle of the alphabet…
(Part I can be found here).
Pidcock solos to Strade Bianche glory!
G pipped to the post in Italy!
Time trial victories aplenty!
Look, I’m not saying Ineos had a bad year. It’s all about perspective, and it’s taking a while to adjust to the team’s shifting focus and the fact that they’re a different beast altogether to the laser-focused Tour de France winning machine that they were back in the Sky days. But… it’s definitely different.
It wasn’t a bad season – Geraint Thomas narrowly missed out on victory in the Giro d’Italia, Tom Pidcock won Strade Bianche in style, and the team picked up two stages at the Tour de France and one at the Vuelta, with plenty more victories besides. Even better than that, was that the victories came from a wide range of riders, rather than all the pressure being on one GC leader. See, when you frame it that way, it doesn’t sound so bad, does it?
PERSONAL HIGHLIGHT – Tom Pidcock’s solo victory at Strade Bianche, and his typically honest post-race interview, kicked the 2023 cycling season off in style.
INS AND OUTS – it was a reasonably active transfer window for INEOS, but not the most successful, some might argue. Some major names skipped across the Channel in the off-season leaving the team somewhat lacking in GC talent, as Tao Geoghegan Hart, Dani Martinez, Pavel Sivakov and Ben Tulett all left for pastures new, along with Lucas Plapp. Incoming was one replacement GC name – Tobias Foss from (then) Jumbo-Visma, along with two exciting young talents, AJ August and Theodor Storm, and some climbing support in the shape of Oscar Rodriguez from Movistar.
PROSPECTS – OK, it’s time to address the elephant in the room. The fact that this is a team with a budget to rival Visma-Lease a Bike and UAE Team Emirates, and yet they lack the top level talent capable of delivering them the ultimate prize – Tour de France victory.
Once again though, it’s all a matter of perspective. The team are diversifying and as such, might actually have goals beyond that one (albeit marquee) race this year. They have no shortage of talent across disciplines, including track stars, time trialling machines and classics specialists. It’s an exciting and diverse set of riders, with young GC hopefuls in Carlos Rodriguez and Ethan Hayter; a great one-day squad including the likes of Jhonathan Narvaez and Magnus Sheffield; two time trialling giants in Filippo Ganna and Josh Tarling, and Tom Pidcock doing – well, whatever Tom Pidcock feels like. And they’re all versatile. Ganna has proven he can sprint. Pidcock will ride both Tour de France GC and one day races. They will delight and frustrate at times in equal measure but they have a lot going on and they will provide surprises, of that there is little doubt.
A WISH – only good things for Magnus Sheffield
A PREDICTION – the Elite World Time Trial title will go to Josh Tarling, narrowly edging out his teammate Filippo Ganna (who he’ll also beat as part of the GC team pursuit at the Paris Olympics)
AND A LONG SHOT – Tom Pidcock wins Amstel Gold Race and podiums at the Tour de France
Overall expectation in GIF form:
Costa dominates in Valencia!
And wins at La Vuelta!
Just one Grand Tour stage was the highlight of Intermarché's season but a range of other wins across one-day races and stage races told the story of a solid, if not remarkable, season for the Belgian underdogs. Following a stand-out 2022, with Biniam Girmay in particular shining for the team, 2023 represented only a slight step back in terms of actual victories, though it’s worth noting that a quarter of them came from the wheels of ruthless breakaway king Rui Costa, who departs the team for EF this season.
PERSONAL HIGHLIGHT – Georg Zimmermann outsprints Mathieu Burgaudeau for his first World Tour win at the Critérium du Dauphiné. Pure grit and determination.
INS AND OUTS – very much a steady state for the boys from Belgium, with six in and six out, though the most significant departure – that of Rui Costa – is likely to be a noticeable loss for the team. Of the riders incoming, there are no particularly well-established names, but they develop some interesting prospects, including both the Italian and French U23 road race champions, Francesco Busatto and Alexy Faure-Prost, and Belgian all-rounder Vito Braet.
PROSPECTS – Whether or not it has been their intention, the Belgian side are steadily building a team of baroudeurs the likes of which has never been seen before. Sure, they will pick up points in bunch sprints through the likes of Gerben Thijssen, Mike Teunissen and Arne Marit, and continue to plug away in the lower echelons of Grand Tour GCs with Louis Meintjes. But scrolling through their list of riders is like looking at a who’s who of breakaway riders from the past couple of seasons. Kobe Goossens, Rune Herregodts, Georg Zimmermann, Laurenz Rex, Lorenzo Rota and the inimitable Taco van der Hoorn are all in with a shot of a big upset on any given day and with such an abundance of these brave and fearless escape artists on the books, the odds state that Intermarché surely cannot fail to accrue at least a few big wins this season. Oh and I can’t not mention Hugo Page – the 22-year-old Frenchman is a future star. Look out for him.
A WISH – Taco van der Hoorn returns to full fitness and wins a big race from the break.
A PREDICTION – Hugo Page takes a stage of a .Pro or above stage race, and features in the top 5 on GC
AND A LONG SHOT – a one-two breakaway win at a Grand Tour for a pair of Intermarche’s finest baroudeurs.
Overall expectation in GIF form:
Pedersen bags a Grand Tour hat-trick!
Team buys literally everyone!
2023 was a good season for the American team, but you could tell they already had their sights set on the future, with new sponsors, new kit and new riders announced early. Mads Pedersen was the star throughout, performing well across the board, in bunch sprints, in the classics, and in support of his teammates too, finding his best form and delivering power race after race. He secured one of the quickest hat-tricks of Grand Tour stage victories in the process, raising his arms at both the Giro and the Tour. There were a clutch of other top level wins along the way at all the marquee races including Paris-Nice, Catalunya, the Dauphiné, and the Tour du Suisse, along with a clutch of victories at national championships. Quality over quantity.
PERSONAL HIGHLIGHT – there were a few stand-out moments from Lidl-Trek’s 2023 season for me, including the unveiling of their banging new kit, but my absolute favourite was the all-out teamwork they displayed in the Tour de France, fighting for Giulio Ciccone’s polka dot jersey, MVPs Mads Pedersen and Mattias Skjelmose turning themselves inside out for their man. Was a joy to watch.
INS AND OUTS – well, this should be good.
Seriously though, it’s no secret that of all the men’s World Tour teams, Lidl-Trek have made the most ripples in the transfer market. More like tsunamis, to be honest – off-season basically featured a series of announcements coming one after the other, with big names rolling in, picking up others as they moved like the cycling equivalent of a snowball rolling downhill. Tao Geoghegan Hart, Jonathan Milan and Tim Declercq are the headline names, but with ten new signings, the team really did trade up, adding depth to their roster in all departments. They off-loaded eight riders in exchange, losing the experience of Kenny Ellissonde and Emils Liepins alongside some younger talent in Filippo Baroncini and Antwan Tolhoek. But on the whole, they’ve taken a big step forward, with the personnel to really achieve big things and go toe-to-toe with the top teams.
PROSPECTS – perhaps the only down side of their major investments and big ambitions is that expectation is heaped upon Lidl-Trek this season, and despite their momentum, they still have a lot of big teams to contend with, all the while embedding the new riders within the team. That being said, there’s no reason to think that the team won’t be highly competitive, and given the early season form shown by Mads Pedersen, this could be the season in which he really makes a serious mark on the Monuments. As for Grand Tours, Geoghegan Hart will be chomping at the bit to return to the form that he found in 2023, and Skjelmose will likely continue on his upward trajectory. Watch out world!
A WISH – Tao makes the Tour de France podium
A PREDICTION – Mads wins Roubaix
AND A LONG SHOT – Tim Declercq pulls so hard on stage 1 of the Tour that he ends up breaking away solo and rides to victory and the yellow jersey must be produced in tractor size. (Leave me alone I’m allowed to dream).
Overall expectation in GIF form:
Fourteen wins from seven different riders was the sum total of Movistar’s 2023, with signs that they were somewhat lacking in depth, in their first season post-Valverde. They harbour talent in a variety of areas though, with riders among the ranks who are really going places. Oier Lazkano was one of the revelations of the season, a bold and brave rider capable of pulling off surprises in the classics and in stages of Grand Tours, and in Matteo Jorgenson they had a rider who was pushing for both GC and classics success. They didn't see their best performances from their leaders though, Enric Mas performing consistently but going without a win, and Fernando Gaviria delivering just two wins and suffering a great deal of bad luck along the way. Not a classic season for the Spanish team, though hope for a life after Bala.
PERSONAL HIGHLIGHT – the team’s performance in the Classics was great to see, and in particular the development of Matteo Jorgenson into an all-singing, all-dancing machine of an all-rounder, who was up there and challenging in stage races and one-day classics. His 9th place in his debut Tour of Flanders was a particular highlight.
INS AND OUTS – Movistar lose a raft of relatively big names in 2024, including Jorgenson, Carlos Verona and Gorka Izagirre, but they have brought in no less than ten new riders in the hope of filling in the gaps and providing some depth in the squad. Manlio Moro, Pelayo Sanchez and Lorenzo Milesi are among the young talents they have acquired, and Sanchez has already brought in a win. They add the experience of Davide Formolo and Remi Cavagna, and the return of Nairo Quintana will excite the fans - whether it will bring success is difficult to predict.
PROSPECTS – after a good off-season in terms of acquiring resources, I fully expect a better season for Movistar, despite the losses they have incurred. With strength in both one-day racing and stage racing, they have a chance to return to a more competitive level and challenge for victories over a variety of terrains. They’ve already made a strong start to the season, with Will Barta winning in Valencia, Fernando Gaviria in Colombia, Pelayo Sanchez in Mallorca and just today, Spanish national champion Oier Lazkano at the Clasica Jaen, which speaks to the confidence in the camp and the potential they possess to pull off some big results.
A WISH – the team really throws themselves full force behind the classics and stage hunting at Grand Tours rather than chasing GC placements. They have the potential for upsets and fireworks, going down this route.
A PREDICTION – Oier Lazkano wins a Grand Tour stage
AND A LONG SHOT – Nairo Quintana podiums a Grand Tour
Overall expectation in GIF form:
BONUS PRO TEAM: Israel-Premier Tech
Gee goes whizz at Giro!
Woods wins on Puy de Dome!
Sheehan stuns in Paris-Tours!
Being demoted to ProTeam level – don’t knock it ‘till you’ve tried it. It would be easy to assume that losing their World Tour status would be a major blow to Israel-Premier Tech but on the contrary, the 2023 version of Sylvan Adam’s team was rejuvenated and galvanised into something fresh, exciting and ultimately, really and truly entertaining to behold. The Giro d’Italia was something else – involved in the breakaways almost every day, a young, hungry team driven on by their brand new DS Sam Bewley took it to the big boys and were unlucky not to come away with a stage or four.
There were reasons to celebrate, with Michael Woods’ Grand Tour hat-trick atop Puy-de-Dôme in the Tour de France a testament to the Canadian’s gritty determination, and American trainee Riley Sheehan earning himself a pro contract by shocking everyone and winning Paris-Tours.
PERSONAL HIGHLIGHT – from Derek Gee’s constant attacks and agonising collection of second place results, to Marco Frigo’s joyful celebrations in his home town, and from Sam Bewley’s brutally honest encouragement to Seb Berwick in the final stages of his breakaway effort, to youngest rider in the race Matthew Riccitello sitting in the hotseat on the final time trial, I loved literally everything about IPT’s Giro d’Italia campaign in 2023. It reminded us what cycling was all about.
INS AND OUTS – the team have been busy in the off-season, strengthening on a number of fronts, particularly in the sprint department, with the addition of Ethan Vernon from QuickStep, Pascal Ackermann from UAE, and Jake Stewart from FDJ. They strengthen their climbing detail with veteran domestique George Bennett and add versatile sprinty classics hard-man Hugo Hofstetter from Arkea. They also bring in a few more riders from their academy, and based on the evidence of Frigo, Gee and Berwick making that transition in 2023, it’s easy to be excited for these new additions too.
PROSPECTS – on paper, the team have added depth and given themselves a chance to succeed on a broader range of terrains and types of race in 2024. Whether it will translate to victory remains to be seen, but I’m cautiously optimistic given the quality of the new additions and the indomitable spirit they displayed in 2023 that they will once again be up and challenging across many types of race.
A WISH – a big win (or really, just any win) for Derek Gee
A PREDICTION – Hugo Hofstetter wins a one-day classic
AND A LONG SHOT – George Bennett takes a GC win on a week-long stage race
Overall expectation in GIF form: