The holiday is over and it is time for the professional riders to start their serious training for the 2017 season. After the team building activities at the first team meetings in December, the month of December is traditionally the time for the first real training camps where the first drafts of the season schedules are made and just a few weeks later, the cycling season is in full swing at the Tour Down Under. During the next few weeks, CyclingQuotes prepares you for the coming season in a series of analyses where we take a detailed look at each of the 18 WorldTour teams and what to expect during the next 12 months.
Below we take a look at Dimension Data.
Igor Anton, Natnael Berhane, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Mark Cavendish, Stephen Cummings, Mekseb Debesay, Nick Dougall, Bernhard Eisel, Tyler Farrar, Omar Fraile, Nathan Haas, Reinardt van Rensburg, Jacques van Rensburg, Merhawi Kudus, Adrien Niyonshuti, Serge Pauwels, Youcef Reguigui, Mark Renshaw, Kristian Sbaragli, Daniel Teklehaimanot, Jay Robert Thomson, Johann van Zyl, Jaco Venter
Ryan Gibbons (neo-pro), Benjamin King (Cannondale-Drapac), Lachlan Morton (Jelly Belly), Ben O’Connor (neo-pro), Scott Thwaites (Bora-Argon 18)
Riders leaving the team
Theo Bos (retired), Matthew Brammeier (Acqua Blue), Songezo Jim (?), Cameron Meyer (left the team on June 15), Kanstantsin Siutsou (Bahrain-Merida)
Analysis of the transfer campaign
As the team was fighting very hard to retain their WorldTour license, it was a bit of a surprise that Dimension Data were very passive on the transfer market. The management only signed five new riders to replace another five, and none of the changes involved any of the marquee names. Even though it is not reflected in the official rankings, the team had a highly successful season and clearly wanted to stick to the formula that worked so well in 2016.
None of the signings are major names that can be expected to increase the win tally significantly and the focus has clearly been on the development of young riders. Scott Thwaites and Lachlan Morton stand out and both have shown that they have the potential in very different kinds of races.
Throughout the spring season, Thwaites showed himself as a future rider for the cobbled classics and he was not keen to be locked into a domestique role for Sagan and Bora-hansgrohe. Hence, he jumped on the chance to join Dimension Data where there may be more room to take his own chances. With his punch on short climbs and fast finish, he is ready to build on the top 20 finishes that he has achieved in some of the big races.
Morton is one of the most promising climbers and after his failed adventure with Garmin as a neo-pro, he has rediscovered his motivation and purpose. His overall victory in the Tour of Utah proved that he can climb with the best at the highest level. However, there’s a vast difference between racing in Europe and North America and the talented Australian has never managed to transfer his good results the more stressful races in cycling’s old continent. The potential is there but it remains to be seen whether a more mature Morton can do better than he did at his first attempt.
Ben O’Connor and Ryan Gibbons are neo-pros and work in progress that will need more time. The former is a very talented climber and the latter is a fast finisher. The final signing is Ben King but even though he showed much improved climbing in 2016, he is nothing more than a domestique.
In light of the team’s lack of WorldTour points, the loss of Kanstantsin Siutsou must be a concern. With his top 10 finish at the Giro, the Belarusian was the only rider in the team that could realistically target top 10s in most of the WorldTour stage races. Not to have retained his services leaves a big gap in the team’s already weak arsenal for GCs in stage races and there is still no real sign that the young African riders are ready to take over.
What to expect in the classics?
With a lack of GC riders, the team has to score its WorldTour points in the classics and so the spring season will be crucial for the South African squad. To make things even more difficult, the team does not really have any big-name riders for the Ardennes and so it will be crucial for the team to deliver in the cobbled classics and the sprint races.
Last year it was largely up to Edvald Boasson Hagen to lead the team in the classics as Mark Cavendish had his eyes partly on the track. This year the Manxman is back in full road racing mode and this means that the team will have a two-pronged attack in the one-day races. Boasson Hagen will be leading the team in the hard races like Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, E3 Harelbeke, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix and Cavendish will target victory in Milan-Sanremo and Gent-Wevelgem.
Unfortunately, it is hard to believe that Boasson Hagen will take a big win in a classic. In late 2015, it looked like the Norwegian was back on track and his great start to 2016 indicated that big things were to come in the one-day races. His campaign was partly destroyed by illness and he managed to take a fine fifth place in Roubaix but the days when the Norwegian can realistically aim for a win at the highest level seem to be over. Nonetheless, he is likely to play a prominent role from February until late April. It will also be interesting to see whether Scott Thwaites can continue his classics progress and improve on his 20th place in the 2016 Tour of Flanders.
The team’s biggest chance of classics success is probably Cavendish. The Brit has already won Milan-Sanremo once and this year there is a big chance that he will make it a really big goal. He was already close in 2014 and his performance at the Worlds was another confirmation of his ability to shine in the one-day races he has singled out. He has always dreamed of Gent-Wevelgem too but the race has become a bit harder in recent years and the addition of dirt roads won’t make it more likely for the race to be decided in a bunch sprint.
The team is likely to be less prominent in the Ardennes where it will all about an opportunistic approach. Boasson Hagen finished second in the Worlds on the Cauberg in 2012 and so he could do well in the Amstel Gold Race. However, it has always been hard for riders to back up a cobbles campaign with a good ride in Limburg and this year the Norwegian was clearly beyond his best in the first of the hilly classics.
The best shot at a good result is probably Nathan Haas who has all the skills to do well. After a bad start to the year, he rode well in the autumn season and if he can carry that momentum into 2017, he could deliver a surprise. Serge Pauwels is also a solid card but the inconsistent Belgian has never made a big impact in the long classics. He needs to ride aggressively to come away with a result. On paper, Natnael Berhane has the right skills too but the Eritrean has never impressed. Finally, it is worth mentioning that Igor Anton has done very well in Fleche Wallonne in the past. There were signs that the Basque was getting back to a better level in 2016 but he was set back by illness every time. If he can avoid those health issues, he may be capable of a top 10 finish on the Mur.
In the autumn, it will again be up to Cavendish, Boasson Hagen and Haas to shine. Boasson Hagen has the skills to target the races in Plouay and Canada and Cavendish can win in Hamburg, Plouay and London. Haas is tailor-made for the Canadian races and with his fifth and sixth places in 2016, he must be keen to go for the podium in 2017.
What to expect in the grand tours?
Dimension Data is probably the WorldTour team which is least equipped to go for GC in a grand tour. In 2015, they finished in the top 10 at the Vuelta with Louis Meintjes and in 2016 Kanstantsin Siutsou repeated that feat at the Giro. However, both have now left the team and it is very unlikely that the team will be able to place a rider among the best 10 in one of the three-week races.
Instead, it will be all about stage wins and again the main focus will be the Tour de France. The team will again go into La Grande Boucle with a team dedicated to the sprints and after the success of 2016, there is no reason that Cavendish can’t add to his haul in 2017. Nowadays, the sprints have become a lot more confusing and unlike Kittel and Greipel, the Manxman thrives in the chaos. The nature of modern-day sprinting in the Tour seems to suit Cavendish and he is likely to win another stage there.
Stephen Cummings will again be in attendance and given his recent success rate as a stage hunter, nothing suggests that he can’t make it three in a row on a course that seems to suit the attackers. This should also open the door for Boasson Hagen who should find plenty of terrain to his liking. Finally, Serge Pauwels will also have a shot a win in a medium mountain stage and an aggressive ride could result in a high overall placing for the Belgian like it did in 2015.
The plans for the other grand tours are less evident and much will depend on what Cavendish does. In the past, he has often done the Giro-Tour double and he could be tempted to return to that schedule in 2016. If that’s the case, the team in Italy will also be heavily built around the Manxman but it is likely that there will also be room for Igor Anton to go for a stage win in the mountains and possibly the GC. If he can’t avoid his usual illness, a top 10 is not completely impossible. Omar Fraile is also likely to go for a mountains jersey in another grand tour. If Cavendish skips the race, Kristian Sbaragli is the protected sprinter but even though he is fast, it looks unlikely that he will again win a sprint in a grand tour.
The Vuelta will probably be very similar to the Giro. Anton will again take charge in the mountains and Fraile will probably go for a third consecutive mountains jersey. Again much will depend on whether Cavendish will make his first appearance since 2011. He is likely to prefer the Tour of Britain but if he opts to head to Spain, he will again be the big leader. If not, it will probably again be left to Sbaragli to lead in the sprints. The race will also be a good opportunity for Jacques van Rensburg and Merhawi Kudus to continue their development as climbers. Finally, Lachlan Morton is penciled in for a grand tour debut here. He could be a big surprise in the race but as he is untested in three-week races, he will probably focus on one or two good rides on select mountain stages.
What to expect elsewhere?
With a lack of GC focus, Dimension Data will mostly target sprint wins throughout the season. Cavendish has made it clear is that his goal is to win as much as possible consistently throughout the season so as soon as he pins on a number for the first time – probably at the Dubai Tour – we can expect him to start a winning campaign. He is likely to go for victories in races WorldTour like Tirreno-Adriatico, the Tour de Suisse and maybe the Tour of California and he could look for stage wins in the Tour of Britain too. He may also try to defend his overall title in the Tour of Qatar
Nathan Haas could deliver a rare GC result in the Tour Down Under where he has been in the top 10 in the past, and Edvald Boasson Hagen has a real shot at victory in a race like the Eneco Tour, the Tour of Qatar and his home race, the Tour of Norway. Igor Anton could deliver a good result in some of the mountainous races with no individual time trials like the Volta a Catalunya (even though the rare inclusion of a TTT will make it a lot more difficult).
In the Tour of Britain, Stephen Cummings proved that he can win stage races with a time trial and a limited amount of climbing so it’s not completely impossible that the Brit can achieve a GC result somewhere during the season. However, Cummings is likely to focus on stage wins. Last year he won a stage in every WorldTour stage race in his calendar and it will be a disappointment if he doesn’t pick up something along the way.
Kristian Sbaragli will be the team’s second sprinter and he could be given more opportunities in races like Pais Vasco, Romandie and Catalunya which suit him well. In the RideLondon Classic, Mark Renshaw also proved that he can still lead even though his main job is still that of a lead-out man.
Who’s ready to surprise?
The most interesting rider in the team is probably Lachlan Morton. The Australian’s win at the Tour of Utah has provided him with the confidence that he can climb with the best. However, his first attempt in Europe was very ill-fated and he is not suited to the heavy fight for position that characterizes racing in cycling’s historical continent. It will probably take some time for him to adapt but if he can overcome those hurdles and turn it into a matter of pure climbing skills, his potential is very big.
As said, Scott Thwaites has shown his potential in the classics. Unfortunately, he won’t have the freedom he had at Bora and he is likely to sacrifice himself for Boasson Hagen. We don’t expect him to take a significant step in 2017 but if he can continue his steady progress, he should get closer to the top 10 in the big races.
We will also point to Nathan Haas. The Australian has been hugely inconsistent throughout his career and he has never really lived up to his great promises from his days on the domestic scene. However, his good autumn season with top 6 finishes in both the Canadian classics and a stage win in a tough uphill sprint in Burgos indicates that he has taken another step so if he can add a bit of consistency, we can expect him to finally flourish in 2017.
Merhawi Kudus was once destined to become a great climber but he progress has clearly stalled. However, he is still only 22 years old and there will be plenty of time for him to get his breakthrough. The 2016 season was pretty poor but it is still too early to write the exciting climbing talent off.
Finally, we ae curious to see what Ben O’Connor can do in his neo-pro season but it is probably still too early to expect any big results from the talented Australian climber.
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