Analysis behind the headlines at the Tour de France.

Words by Edward Pickering in Chateauroux

Friday July 8, 2011

Any which way but win
Jose Joaquin Rojas is a bit of a cult hero in the CS office, for his incredible run of third to fifth places over the last few years. It’s got so that when he actually wins a race, we ask ourselves, what the hell went wrong?

Since turning pro in 2006, he’s finished between third and fifth an astonishing 80 times. Admittedly he’s also won six races, including three this year, but more than any other rider, he’s made an entire career of being a Zelig-like presence, just behind the winner, in sprint finish photographs.

However, the 2011 Tour has been kind to Rojas. He’s one of the better climbers among the sprinters, which means he’s been able to pick up points on the uphill finishes as well as the flat ones. His run of results in the road stages since Les Herbiers: what else but fourth, third, 12th (Mûr de Bretagne being just a touch too tough), third and fifth.

That consistency has put him only one point behind Gilbert in the green jersey competition, but 31 points clear of Hushovd in third. Everybody’s talking up Gilbert for the green now, several days after us, and weeks after we speculated about it in our Tour Preview magazine, but it would be foolish to rule out Rojas. While we’d be surprised to see him actually win a stage, a continuing good run of thirds and fourths may be enough for him.

Who’s having a stinker?
Katusha. That’s who.

We’ve been amusing ourselves (read: making a rod for our own backs) by recording a mini-classification of which teams are having a good Tour. A “good Tour” is a very subjective thing, depending on the goals and size of a team, but the overall aim of every single sponsor is to increase visibility of their product.

So we’ve divided the results of the stages into wins, seconds-thirds, fourth-fifths and sixth-tenths. We’ve also looked at podium time – every classification lead counts as advertising time for the sponsors. And finally, we’ve counted the number of times teams have got a rider into a break.

We’re weighting results in the Olympic medal table style, so one stage win beats any number of classification leads, or other stage results.

Putting all this into table form, you get the following:

Position Team Wins Days leading classification 2nd-3rds 4th-5ths 6th-10ths Escapes
1 Garmin-Cervélo 2 10 2 0 5 0
2 Omega Pharma-Lotto 1 9 1 2 4 0
3 Sky 1 6 1 2 1 0
4 BMC 1 2 2 0 0 0
5 HTC-Highroad 1 0 1 2 1 0
6 Movistar 0 2 2 2 0 3
7 Vacansoleil 0 1 1 1 2 4
8 Astana 0 0 1 0 1 0
9 Saxo Bank-Sungard 0 0 1 0 1 0
10 Ag2r-La Mondiale 0 0 0 1 1 2
11 Cofidis 0 0 0 1 1 2
12 Leopard-Trek 0 0 0 1 1 0
13 RadioShack 0 0 0 0 4 0
14 FDJ 0 0 0 0 3 5
15 Euskaltel-Euskadi 0 0 0 0 1 2
16 Quick Step 0 0 0 0 1 1
17 Saur Sojasun 0 0 0 0 1 1
18 Liquigas-Cannondale 0 0 0 0 1 0
19 Rabobank 0 0 0 0 1 0
20 Europcar 0 0 0 0 0 3
21 Lampre-ISD 0 0 0 0 0 1
22 Katusha 0 0 0 0 0 0

What we can see from this is that Garmin-Cervélo are having a fantastic Tour. Two stage wins, and 10 separate calls to the podium – Thor Hushovd in yellow, plus the team classification lead for a few days – are making them a visibly successful team. Omega are doing almost as well.

Further down, other patterns emerge. None of the teams who have won a stage, nor teams seriously contending for the yellow jersey, are going into escapes. Vacansoleil and FDJ have had five different men up the road already, but not much else in the way of results. Radioshack have done nothing except record a series of finishes between sixth and 10th, much as we suspect they’ll do in the overall.

Three teams haven’t even had a top 10 yet. Europcar and Lampre have at least got men into breaks. But Katusha have not had a single top 10 result, nor got into an escape. If we hadn’t seen one of their team managers get their credit card rejected at a motorway service station the other day, we’d think they weren’t even here.

We’re going to start calling them “Katushambles” at this rate.

Cycle Sport’s GC of favourites

1 Cadel Evans
2 Frank Schleck at 3sec
3 Andreas Klöden at 9sec
4 Bradley Wiggins at 9sec
5 Andy Schleck at 11sec
6 Chris Horner at 17sec
7 Robert Gesink at 19sec
8 Jurgen Van den Broeck at 38sec
9 Ivan Basso at 1-02
10 Ryder Hesjedal at 1-21
11 Levi Leipheimer at 1-22
12 Alberto Contador at 1-41
13 Christian Vande Velde at 1-56
14 Roman Kreuziger at 2-28
15 Samuel Sanchez at 2-35
DNF Janez Brajkovic

Riders who we’ll start incorporating into our GC of favourites if they persist in hanging around the head of the race:

Jakob Fuglsang at 11sec
Tony Martin at 12sec
Peter Velits at 12sec

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