In an interview this week, Garmin-Barracuda’s Heinrich Haussler said “the legs are back.” He was referring to his return to top level form after two years of crashes that dropped him out of contention for victory.
These days, you could say “the legs are back” to describe a good chunk of the Garmin-Barracuda roster. Also back and we’d guess, approaching his previous fitness level, is Dutchman Thomas Dekker. He was in the doping doghouse for a few years but submitted to Jonathan Vaughter’s exhaustive battery of tests before he joined the team.
This is the kind of smart reclamation project that Bjarne Riis used to specialize in. Vaughters claims Dekker’s physiological data is exceptional and we expect him to surprise more than a few people this year.
Joining Haussler and Dekker in the Legs Back party is Christian Vande Velde. His return to form began in May last season with a 4th overall in the Tour of California then in August, he took second overall in the US Pro Cycling Challenge. Finally healthy and super motivated, Vande Velde will make his mark is a major stage race this year.
A Legs Back argument can also be made for senior team member David Millar. In earlier years he was a workhouse, thrown into every race where Garmin needed to make an impression. Now 35 years of age, Millar has said that easing off his race schedule has brought dividends and that he feels as strong as ever. This could be an exciting season for Millar. It won’t be easy to get past Tony Martin or Fabian Cancellara in a time trial, but the right course at the right time could still bring a big win.
Twisting our Legs Back story, there is also the Legs Forward at Garmin-Barracuda. Sep Vanmarcke stunned the favorites in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad with a display of both power and confidence. Vaughters had tapped him as one of his riders to watch for 2012 and now everybody has their eye on Vanmarcke.
Then there’s Irishman Dan Martin, who Vaughters has slowly developed into a talented stage racer. It’s expected that he’ll finally make his Tour de France debut this year and the argyle genius expects Martin to score a notable result this year.
Despite an operating budget that is one half to one third the size of teams like BMC, Sky and Katusha, the Garmin squad continues to post big wins. This season might be even better than last year for the Boulder, Colorado ProTour team.
The only mystery for Garmin appears to be the case of Tyler Farrar. So far this season Farrar hasn’t delivered a result in a sprint but he’s said his focus was more on strength for the classics. That’s the mystery — is Farrar a sprinter or a one day classics hard-man? The jury is still out on that question but we’ll know a lot more in the next six weeks what role he fits best.
Watch out for Garmin-Barracuda this season. The legs are back and there are plenty of them.