Basic staff evaluations: How has every squad developed?
Ag2r Citroën Team 7/10
Given the team's renewed emphasis on the classics of stage races, Ag2r Citroën would have liked to have won this spring. They didn't make it, but Greg Van Avermaet justified the team's decision to sign him. He looked like the old self all spring and finished it off with a podium on the Tour of Flanders.
You may not be on the WorldTour, but the mere presence of Mathieu van der Poel made Alpecin-Fenix one of the box office teams, and he produced some sensational attacks to Strade Bianche and the podium at the Tour of Flanders and the E3 Saxo Bank Classic to be won. Tim Merlier was not a one-man team, but sprinted in three of the Belgian semi-classics, and Jasper Philipsen came second in the Classic Brugge-De Panne.
Astana Premier Tech 3/10
The paved classics are more of an afterthought for Astana Premier Tech, whose roster is mostly climbers. Alex Aranburu got off to a good start with sixth place at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and seventh place in Milan-San Remo, but did not appear in any of the following classics while the rest of the team was largely anonymous.
Bahrain Victorious 6/10
There always seemed to be one of the Bahrain-winning red jerseys at the end of each of the classics, be it Heinrich Haussler, who sprinted for fourth place at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Marco Haller, who attacked at the E3 Saxo Bank Classic, or Sonny Colbrelli, in the top ten in Gent-Wevelgem, Milan-San Remo and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. However, they lacked a killer instinct and they failed to take a podium spot.
Team BikeExchange 5/10
When Michael Matthews wasn't driving, the team lacked a leader to rally behind. But on the occasions the Australian drove he often starred, made the selection and finished sixth at Milan-San Remo, then fifth at Gent-Wevelgem – and might have done better if he hadn't cramped in the final would have.
Star driver Peter Sagan decided to skip most of the classics after a Covid positive affected his start to the season and was still out of pace on the Tour of Flanders, where he finished 15th. In his absence, veterans Marcus Burghardt and Daniel Oss looked their age, and Nils Politt's form from a few years ago continues to elude him.
Not known for his cobblestone prowess, Cofidis couldn't have expected much this spring and will therefore be pleasantly surprised by Christophe Laporte's shape. Although the Frenchman was known as a sprinter, he proved to be skillful both in the cobblestones and in the mountain, managing to finish second at Dwar's Door Vlaanderen, narrowly missing the top 10 on the Tour of Flanders.
The rise of Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel did little to curb Deceuninck-Quick-Step's dominance in the classics, as the team won exactly half of the eight WorldTour classics this spring. Despite the hype surrounding world champion Julian Alaphilippe, Kasper Asgreen turned out to be the team's ace card, scooping the cherished Tour of Flanders and E3 Saxo Bank Classic doubles while Sam Bennett and Davide Ballerini were making revelations on the cobblestones and won Classic Brugge De Panne and Omloop Het Nieuwsbald.
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Team DSM 3/10
DSM might have expected more from their promising squad this spring, which seemed poised for some big results in theory but failed to hold together in practice. Søren Kragh Andersen couldn't keep the promising form he showed at the beginning of spring, while Tiesj Benoot seems better suited to the climbs than the cobblestones these days.
EF Education-Nippo 2/10
This was a source of sub-par classic specialists for EF Education-Nippo. Age seems to overtake Jens Keukeleire and Sebastian Langeveld, but a bigger mystery was the form of Alberto Bettiol, who had nothing to do with the man who won the Tour of Flanders two years ago.
Stefan Küng couldn't make an impression beyond sixth place in Gent-Wevelgem, and Arnaud Démare was missing his climbing legs. But Groupama-FDJ young British sprinter Jake Stewart was a revelation at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, where he sprinted to second place – by far the team's best result of the spring.
Ineos Grenadiers 8/10
The team's big new hope, which Tom Pidcock got into the classics like a duck in the water in the first few weeks of the spring campaign, sprinted for a podium place in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and finished fifth in Strade Bianche, but looked tired after the classics . He lost his form when Dylan van Baarle joined, and the Dutchman won his very first classic with a memorable ranged attack on Dwar's Vlaanderen door.
Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Materiaux 3/10
As a Belgian team with lots of rouleurs, the best hope of this newly inducted team was to prove that it was one of the paved classics in its first season on the WorldTour. So you will be disappointed with how spring went. The Van Poppel brothers had their moments and Andrea Pasqualon finished third at Le Samyn, but overall the team looked overwhelmed.
Israel Start-Up Nation 6/10
Always the bridesmaid and never the bride, this spring told a familiar story for Sep Vanmarcke, who drove impressively to finish fifth in Flanders and to stand on the podium in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad but didn't take a win. While they may be frustrating for Vanmarcke itself, these are good results for a team that adapts to the WorldTour level.
Jumbo Visma 8/10
Wout van Aert was once again one of the stars of spring, a leading actor of all the great classics and winner of Gent-Wevelgem. His Strade Bianche and Milan-San Remo titles defenses, which he won last August, may have ended in near misses, but repeating the extremely high standards he set at the time has always been a big question and Jumbo-Visma will still be satisfied with his return.
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John Degenkolb could not keep up with the climbs, Tim Wellens only impressed sporadically and Philippe Gilbert continued to struggle with the physical and mental consequences of a knee injury that he sustained last year. This was an overall disappointing spring campaign for Lotto-Soudal. Her greatest success was not the cobblestones, but Italy in Milan-Semo, where Caleb Ewan defied all expectations of the Poggio and finished second.
Spanish drivers and cobblestone classics are rarely a lucky match, and few of Movistar's roster include the Flemish classics. Iván Garcia was their leader for most of the spring and has been consistent without ever getting into the top 10 of a race.
Wout van Aert's superior sprint was all that stood between Giacomo Nizzolo and the Gent-Wevelgem win, a result that would have been enormous for a team that struggled to survive last year. Dimitri Claeys was subtly consistent without attracting much attention, and Michael Gogl finished sixth in the star selection at Strade Bianche.
Total Direct Energy 7/10
These French outsiders have passed their non-WorldTour status and are one of the surprise artists of spring. Anthony Turgis was her star, quietly riding perhaps the most consistent spring of all; His excellent legs deserved a higher result than the eighth on the Tour of Flanders. In addition to him, veteran Damian Gaudin also delivered a podium at Nokere Koerse.
The team's star duo, Mads Pedersen and Jasper Stuyven, continued to deliver the goods. The former used his sprint to win Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and finished second at Bredene Koksijde Classic, and the latter won his first monument in Milan-San Remo, also consistently garnering high placements in the great paved classics. As one of the outstanding teams of the classics, the absence enforced by Covid in Gent-Wevelgem was very noticeable.
UAE Team Emirates 5/10
Matteo Trentin was hired to bolster the team's Classics line-up for 2021 and delivered his usual consistent results with a top third place in Gent-Wevelgem. It was hoped he would form a fatal partnership with Alexander Kristoff, but the 33-year-old's star seems to be fading – this was the first spring in nine years that he failed to reach the top 5 on a monument.