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Pelotonian Landscape: Part 2 – The Promoted Teams

The Landscape of the Peloton Part 2: The Promoted Teams

If sponsors want a good return for their money, Division 1 is the place to be. The higher the profile, the better.

For example, Berry Floors used to be associated with Lotto, but have hitched their wagon to the US Postal road show in 2003. The accountants should be pretty pleased come the last week in July, after lots of lovely, yellow-hued publicity on LA’s jersey.

Thankfully, despite the doom surrounding cycling’s dope-stained image, some sponsors have stuck around, some even increasing commitments. Several teams have jumped up from division 2, searching for the bigger races and rewards.

We’ll see much more of Team Fakta who won Division 2 last season. They’ll rely on the experience of Scott Sunderland, praying that he doesn’t suffer any more injuries, and Frank Hoj for the Classics. Kurt-Asle Arvesen, Magnus Backstedt and Jorgen Bo Petersen should also figure, especially in the short stage races around northern Erope.

Also on the up are Gerolsteiner giving Germany a healthy 3 teams in Division 1. Rebellin can be relied upon to provide a steady stream of near misses in the big races, but veterans Faresin, Bolts and Peschel, along with one of 2003’s rising stars, Rene Haselbacher, will all have a big role to play.

Phonak from Switzerland have grown steadily in recent years, and have reliable stars like Oskar Camenzind and Juan Carlos Domingeuz on board, and look out for Alexander Usov.

Portugal is represented by Milaneza-MSS, a solid squad of largely Iberian riders. You might be surprised that they have 4 guys in the top 100 on UCI rankings, but Claus Michael Moller is always good for the Vuelta, while Angel Edo and veteran Swiss Fabian Jeker will produce enough results to get the name noticed.

Palmans-Collstrop have made it into Div 1, picking up the useful Fabian De Waele from Mapei, and Steve De Wolf from Domo.

But fellow Belgians Landbouwkrediet-Colnago have spent like a Div 1 team, taking 12 new riders, including Tom Steels and Ludo Diercksens, which guarantees them a lot of support and points. Their star will be Yaroslav Popyvych who finished a brilliant 12th at the Giro last year aged 22, and should go even better this year.

Rounding out the top division are 2 teams with radically different profiles and budgets. CCC-Atlas-Polsat won’t have many names that will register unless you’ve been following the likes of Baranowski and Brozyna, who’ve come home from iBanesto.com, or Piotr Przydzial who always seems to register at least a couple of decent wins a year.

The UCI finally confirmed Team Coast as a Top 10 team, despite their (allegedly shady) contract dealings with former riders. Coast are now qualified for the 3 big tours as well as the World Cup events. Coast are solid and the always classy Alex Zuelle had a great season last year. Angel Casero (Vuelta champ in 2001) will have to do considerably better to get his name on the results sheet in 2003.

Other factors indicate a major transformation. Many riders have changed teams, but a significant number have retired or become unemployed thanks to the sponsorship drain. Scores of riders are still scrabbling for a contract, even as we head into January. Normally, deals would have been settled long ago. And it seems to be the traditionally strong cycling countries – Italy, France and Spain – who’ve suffered most.

Star names who could once have commanded big salaries have dropped out of the sport, some taking a swipe at their former employers as they go.

Factor in the uncertain future whereabouts of Ullrich and Pantani, whether Jiminez will return to racing at iBanesto.com, and what will befall French hope Florent Brard when his doping suspension is up, and there could still be many changes to unfold.

And what about the huge number of riders dropping Elite-2 or lower level teams? Cycling’s financial problems are a double-edged sword. Some riders are having their ambitions stifled. But those teams that opt for inexperienced riders or neo-pros may find the rewards will be longer term.

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