Garmin-Cervelo 3rd best team in world. Three isn’t one.

Jonathan Vaughters never said it was going to be easy. Like matching argyle with seer sucker and a fur coat and rubber galoshes. It’s a challenge to become the number one rated ProTour team. It’s the high bar, the mission statement, the raison de ride for the Garmin-Cervelo team.

So far the results are fairly darn good but no cigar or expensive bottle of Barolo from Angelo Zomegnan’s private stash. Then again, close does count in horseshoes and hand grenades and maybe even bike racing.

Based on the latest rankings, Garmin-Cervelo is currently third and 124 points behind the powerhouse Goss-fed HTC-Highroad but within three measly points of taking the number two spot from Lampre ISD. Things look on track if you’re a glass water glass overflowing kinda person.

However, the flip side is Garmin might just be the third best team in the United States. Johan Bruyneel’s Radio Shack gizmo boys are on a roll of late, just 16 points back and breathing down Garmin’s lycra collar.

In fact, if it wasn’t for the misfortune of Levi Leipheimer’s stomach obstruction and eventual withdrawal from the Volta a Catalunya, the Shack would have knocked Vaughters’ guys down to fourth. That was a huge point swing with Levi losing the guaranteed podium points and Garmin’s Dan Martin, who was fourth on GC, moving up to grab the goodies.

The upshot? The strongest classics team on paper better start showing it’s the strongest classics team on cobbles. Which brings up the expectations question. Until this season Vaughters’ squad has always benefited from the underdog role. They were the cool, funny, hipsters that were always good for a surprise win whether it was Wiggins, Vande Velde or Hesjedal.

Once the merger with Cervelo occurred, the underdog days ended and the pressures grew exponentially. This is really a shake-out year for the team; there’s a necessary transition period for the all parts to mesh. But the media isn’t too thrilled about transition stories — they want success or failure, ecstasy or agony.

Upshot? Time for Tyler Farrar and Thor Hushovd to get busy. Flanders and Paris Roubaix are coming up fast and furious. Two weeks to ride right past Lampre-ISD and lock onto the fast wheels of HTC-Highroad.

Stapleton’s crew is 124 points ahead. Time to close the gap.


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