LYON, France (VN) — It was not the first time in the Tour — or even the first time this season — that Omega Pharma-Quick Step was pronounced dead.
On Friday, a day after Omega Pharma sprinter Mark Cavendish got pipped on the line by a brilliant come-from-behind effort by Argos-Shimano’s Marcel Kittel at the end of stage 12, the question was plastered, huge, across the front of the French paper l’Equipe. Is the reign over? And, implicit, in that question, another: Is Omega Pharma sunk again?
We should know better by now.
It happened before, when Tom Boonen crashed early in the Ronde van Vlaanderen, taking with him the team’s hopes for the spring classics. Then, too, the whispers circulated: Was Omega Pharma cooked? But then came the Giro d’Italia, and Cavendish’s five stage wins, and the answer was a resounding no.
So when bad luck befell them at the Tour — when Cavendish missed his early opportunity for both a stage win and a yellow jersey after a massive first-stage crash threw the peloton into chaos, and again when Cavendish came up short — of course the question was premature.
Cavendish answered his doubters Friday, latching on to the critical move when the peloton was splintered by crosswinds and racking up his 25th career win at the Tour. And on Saturday, Omega Pharma did it again, earning a another victory with a textbook breakaway sprint by the young Italian rider Matteo Trentin.
Those two wins, together with Cavendish’s stage-5 win and Tony Martin’s time trial victory, brought Omega Pharma’s tally at the Tour to four wins, the most of any team so far at this year’s race. And with each of their four wins coming in very different style — a bunch sprint, a time trial, a late-race attack, and now Trentin’s slick move at the end of a long breakaway — they showed they may also be the most well-rounded team here.
“Of course [we all think about Cavendish], but enough different riders are waiting too,” said Omega Pharma sport director Brian Holm after Trentin’s victory.
“Like last year with Omega Pharma, I think we had 18 different riders [win], and normally I think we’d have six or seven riders for the team. Matteo, he’s like, second last in the leadout train, so he’s fast….
“He was tired today, he was really having a hard time, but he came back in the final. We just told him to stay calm, take a chance, don’t move, don’t move and try to win the sprint, and I think he came from eighth. It’s very nice.
“Of course, it’s fantastic when Cavendish is winning, but we’re kind of used to it, aren’t we? But here’s a young rider coming, not many people probably heard about him before, I think it’s very beautiful.”
Team manager Rolf Aldag echoed Holm, saying he was glad to give an up-and-coming rider a chance to take a major victory and pointing out how the team has constructed a versatile roster of cyclists capable of playing multiple roles within a long race like the Tour.
“Matteo’s not always in a position to ride for himself,” he said. “And how coolly he handled it, that’s very special to me, he deserved it. We knew how good he is, and he had bad luck in the spring, and sometimes that’s not bad for the second half of the season.
“We all remember how bad the weather has been, how rough the conditions were this spring, and he missed that all. So he was super, super fresh, he went to the Giro, and after that there was not a lot on his agenda, but we believed in his talent, we knew he would be part of the team, and we will see where he ends up.
“He’s too good to just be a leadout guy. If he gets his own chances, he turns it into a win, and that’s pretty impressive. He’s a really good leadout guy, but he can do more than that.”
But the diversity of success they have had is hardly a surprise coming from a team that has spoken twice in two days about how close they are and how effectively they can work together. Trentin, echoing Cavendish’s comments Friday, said his victory on Saturday was a team victory.
“We’re all super happy,” he said. “All my teammates came behind the podium to congratulate me and that was really nice.”
As the race enters its final week and tackles the mountains, Omega Pharma’s role will inevitably shift, from delivering Cavendish to stage wins to chasing points and the race’s final sprint prize on the Champs-Élysées in Paris. With four wins, it’s clear the team remains a force, and equally clear they will chase every remaining opportunity.
Asked if the team would leave the Tour satisfied after Saturday’s win, Brian Holm’s reply was unequivocal.
“You always want more,” he said.