Thursday, May 3, 2012

Liquigas-Cannondale: a House Too Full

Liquigas-Cannondale (LIQ) seems to have done everything right in terms of commitment: they are well-funded, they have sponsors who have stayed for a long time and will continue to stay awhile. They have invested in many exciting new riders, and they seem to have a genuine esprit de corps when they race. But could it be that Liquigas-Cannondale is a house too full?

Photo by Luca Volpi. Lincense CC BY-SA 2.0

For the grand tours GC battle, they have both Ivan Basso and Vicenzo Nibali. It will be fine if they were to approach the grand tours as a divide-and-conquer opportunity, as they did in 2011 when Basso targeted the Tour de France and Nibali targeted the Giro. But Basso's continued back-and-forth -- not helped by his poor performance in the TdF since his comeback from doping suspension -- is at the expense of Nibali's opportunities. Plus we still think it poor form for Basso to have reneged from his promise to help Nibali in the Giro, citing poor form. Maybe karma had it that he crashed heavily on a descent while checking out the route of the Giro in training. It surely sucked for the Giro d'Italia itself that, once again, the defending champ didn't bother to line up at the start. At any rate, Nibali's winning the 2010 Vuelta a Espana shows that he is a consistent performer in grand tours: indeed, he won the GC without winning a stage.

Not too long ago Roman Kreuziger had left the squad simply because he didn't feel like staying around as third pick, after Basso and Nibali who are two Italians in an Italian team. This, despite finishing 9th and 8th in the 2009 and 2010 Tours de France. It can be argued that Kreuziger is lacking that "winning way" that distinguishes aspirants from real grand tour winners. But LIQ had invested in him for many years, an investment that is now taken advantage of by his new team Astana. Under the guidance of Giuseppe Martinelli in Astana -- the man who was directeur sportif to the great wins of Marco Pantani, Stefano Garzelli, Gilberto Simoni, and Damiano Cunego -- who knows, perhaps this is exactly the extra ingredient he needs to succeed. Martinelli himself has said that this year's Giro is perfect for Kreuziger.

Now that Nibali's contract is expiring at the end of the season, surely he has no shortage of offers. He's an exciting rider who dares to try, having demonstrated his spirit in the Giro d'Italia, Milano-Sanremo, and nearly winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège recently. Is he wasting his talent at LIQ?

Photo by Helen K. Under license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

On the sprinting side of things, we find young sprinter Elia Viviani an exciting prospect. Yet due to his team's GC commitment, he will once again miss the Giro this year.

Finally, we would be remiss to not mention the great talents Peter Sagan and Eros Capecchi. Between the two of them, plus Nibali, LIQ has a great classics team that can win in many different ways. We think that they will have their great success very soon. Their 2012 Milan-Sanremo play ultimately didn't succeed, but to have Nibali attack earlier and have somebody the caliber of Sagan to finish off the job if it came down to a sprint, is a full deck of cards other teams can only dream of.

Do you think that LIQ is a house too full, and how do you think they should manage their talents?


  1. Isn't Viviani missing the Giro because he is focused on Track for the Olympics?

  2. Hi Paul, I think he was slated to start the Giro d'Italia this time around, but he was injured. If I recall correctly, last year there was discussion about how he was going to plan his 2012, and the Olympics came up. Not sure though. If you have a reference, please do share. His injury is mentioned here: