It’s impossible to talk about Astana without mentioning doping, especially while Alexander Vinokourov continues to be their general manager – the man who, incidentally, earned the team their first major win of the decade at Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2010.
Controversies and doping positives aside (which nearly saw the team lose their WorldTour licence in 2015), Astana enjoyed much success on the road, especially in stage races where their distinctive light blue jerseys became an especially familiar sight in the high mountains, with Vincenzo Nibali delivering the most success with three Grand Tour victories including the Tour de France in 2014.
One of the major success stories of cycling’s increasingly globalisation over the last decade has been Orica-GreenEdge, the first ever Australian WorldTour team who have thrived with a combination of home grown riders and foreign stars.
The men’s team has evolved gradually since the team’s creation in 2011, beginning as a unit of stage-hunters through the likes of Simon Gerrans (who delivered the team their biggest earlier wins at Milan-San Remo and Liège-Bastogne-Liège) and Michael Matthews, before switching their focus to Grand Tours, culminating in a first ever Grand Tour overall victory courtesy of Simon Yates at the Vuelta a España.
The women’s team were similarly successful, with Emma Johansson the team’s breadwinner during the early years before Annemiek van Vleuten took over the reigns in 2016 and produced even better results, while homegrown stalwart Amanda Spratt continues to be a reliable presence and retains the team’s Aussie identity.
For three years between 2016-2018, Boels-Dolmans were untouchable in the women’s peloton. From Lizzie Deignan and Megan Guarnier to Anna van der Breggen and Chantal Blaak, all the best talent from around the world assembled there and were able to flourish and sweep up all the major races.
Key to their success was a sense of selfless collectivism which ensured that each star rode for each other and took it in turns to be leader, a harmonious strategy that made them so dominant that, as a neutral spectator, you were hoping for some kind of internal fall-out to make things more exciting and give the other teams a chance.
Doping controversies might have persuaded Dutch bank Rabobank to withdraw from men’s cycling in 2012, but their sponsorship of a women’s team this decade proved to generate far more positive press. They were the dominant force in women’s cycling for most of the decade, not just through their star Marianne Vos, but also thanks to contributions from a host of other quality riders like Annemiek Van Vleuten, Pauline Ferrand-Prevot and Lucinda Brand.
The emergence of Boels-Dolmans, as well as the departure of several key riders and Vos’ dip in form, has since seen them wane a little, but they end 2019 as still one of the peloton’s best teams.
There was no finer sight in cycling during the early 2010s than the lean, perfectly-drilled train of HTC in their jazzy white-and-yellow jerseys leading out Mark Cavendish to yet another sprint win. They amassed an enormous 120 victories in 2010 and 2011 alone, all while sporting an admirable anti-doping ethos, before folding suddenly when a new sponsor couldn’t be found.
However, their women’s team – which was just as successful in those years with multiple wins being served up by the likes of Ina Teutenberg, Evie Stevens and Ellen Van Dijk – continued under new head sponsors Specialized with Lisa Brennaur as their star rider, and lives on today as Canyon-SRAM where riders like Kasia Nieuwadoma continue to deliver the goods.
No team were anywhere near as prolific as Quick-Step this decade, who went on an unbroken streak from 2012 onwards of topping the win list each year, never dipping below 50 victories and even rising to over 70 in 2018 and 2019. Much of their success earlier in the decade was down to individual stars like Mark Cavendish, Marcel Kittel and, most of all, Tom Boonen.
However, since Tornado Tom’s retirement in 2017, the team became a more collective, well-rounded unit, and now exercise such strength-in-depth in the Classics and such a flawless, peerless sprint train that virtually every rider in the squad contributes victories.
No team can claim to have had anything like the monumental impact on the sport that Sky did in the 2010s. When the British team first entered the sport with their imposing team bus, newfangled warm-down routines and talk of ‘marginal gains’, the old school establishment dismissed their antics as gimmicks and gobbledygook, and no-one took manager Dave Brailsford’s stated target of winning the Tour de France within five years seriously.
Fast forward just a few years, however, and they’d already won multiple yellow jerseys and established themselves as the best Grand Tour in the world, leaving the rest of the world frantically playing catch up and adopting the very practices they had initially mocked.
Sky had revolutionised the sport, and continued to dominate in stage races through their conservative but brutally effective tactic of suffocating the opposition through the hard work of an army of well-paid super-domestiques. The result was a stunning total of seven overall victories at the Tour de France, but their legacy has been complicated by years of doping allegations and obfuscation.
This content was originally published here.
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