Commentary: These were the 10 most important stories in US cycling in 2016

by Neal Rogers

December 22, 2016

8. Cannondale-Drapac goes without a WorldTour victory

by Neal Rogers

Out of 172 days of WorldTour racing in 2016, Cannondale-Drapac won none.

There were six Americans out of 30 riders on the Cannondale-Drapac squad in 2016, so an argument could be made that the team’s inability to win even one WorldTour race this year isn’t a story about U.S. cycling; Americans made up only 20% of the team’s roster, and international riders make up 80% of its squad.

However, Cannondale-Drapac is a U.S.-registered team, with an American sponsor, and is home to more American riders than any other team in pro cycling. It’s a team that has existed for over a decade, and it’s the team that American fans gravitate towards. For those fans, and the team, the 2016 season can only be described as disappointing.

Top-dollar recruits Rigoberto Uran and Pierre Rolland both fell flat at their intended Grand Tour targets, and went winless throughout the season. Collectively, Cannondale-Drapac riders took just 10 victories in 2016; the team was twice beaten at major races on North American soil by riders from the upstart Axeon-Hagens Berman development team  — once at U.S. nationals, and once on the opening stage of the Tour of Alberta. The team’s top-ranked rider on the WorldTour standings was Italian Alberto Bettiol, who was ranked 20th. There were painful, oh-so-close second-place finishes at Milano-Torino (Mike Woods), Bretagne Classic (Bettiol), and a stage of the Giro d’Italia (Moreno Moser, pictured). The lime-green team finished second in team classification at both the Giro and the Vuelta.

Still, Cannondale’s last WorldTour victory came in May 2015, when Davide Formolo soloed to a stage win at the Giro.

Among these statistics, it’s also worth noting that squad had both the youngest (average age 26.6 years), and one of the lowest budgets (about US$10M), in the 2016 WorldTour.

Among the team’s six American riders — Nathan Brown, Lawson Craddock, Joe Dombrowski, Phil Gaimon, Alex Howes, Ben King, and Andrew Talansky — there were wins, and promising results. Talansky finished fifth overall at the Vuelta a España, behind three Grand Tour champions, and was also in the top five overall at the Tour de Suisse, Amgen Tour of California, and Larry H.Miller Tour of Utah, where he won a stage. King won a stage of the Amgen Tour of California, as did Latvian teammate Toms Skujins. Dombrowski finished third on the final climbing stage at the Giro d’Italia. Craddock finished ninth overall at the climb-heavy Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco.

Stretching the North American curtain further, Canadian Mike Woods had a breakthrough season in his WorldTour debut, finishing fifth overall at the Tour Down Under.

Even with the youngest squad, and one of the lowest budgets, the team rode consistently enough to finish eighth out 18 in the WorldTour team standings, behind Etixx-Quick-Step and ahead of Trek-Segafredo. Etixx, however, had 18 WorldTour victories, and 55 total wins. Dimension Data, which finished last in the team standings, won five stages at the Tour de France and had five additional WorldTour wins.

Consistency is to be admired, but it’s no substitute for victory.