Jonathan Vaughters is a damn sharp guy. He’s a masterful team manager, a hilarious tweeter, a beacon of sartorial style and a shrewd evaluator of talent.
The signing of Thomas Dekker to the Garmin-Cervelo ProTeam squad is a brilliant addition on several levels. It makes beautiful sense from a financial and sporting perspective.
In fact, the resurrection of Dekker’s career is the kind of assignment Vaughters loves. The argyle genius will take some personal ownership of Dekker’s climb back to the top.
First off, Dekker comes relatively cheap and that’s good news for Slipstream. In the year before he was caught for doping, Dekker had become insufferable, a difficult rider to deal with for team management at Silence-Lotto.
Then came the two year ban and he was finally forced to take what Alcoholic Anonymous calls “a searching and fearless moral inventory.” Unlike many riders nailed for doping, he openly admitted his mistakes and desire to work hard and ride clean.
He knew Garmin-Cervelo was the right place for him to avoid the temptations of doping again and willingly took whatever contract Vaughters put on the table. Ever since the sponsor deal with BigMat fell through, Vaughters has spoken often of the difficulties of competing with super teams like Sky and BMC. A inexpensive rider of Dekker’s quality is the best way to win races and stay within his restricted budget.
Quality doesn’t disappear
It may take a little while for Dekker to come up to WorldTour speed and make an immediate impact in a race, but it’s going to happen faster than most people think. There’s plenty of rust to be knocked off after two years. It was the same for Heinrich Haussler — he’d had so many crashes that he needed this year just to build himself back up. Dekker is going to fly again.
Vaughter’s himself summed it up best: “Should I turn down an athlete who’s in the top five per cent of guys from a physiological standpoint because he got caught [doping] when many others in his generation didn’t get caught? That’s a wrong decision.” At the team launch in Boulder, Colorado, he went on to say how far Dekker has already come — “his last tests when he won Duo Normand were world class.”
The ideal environment
The Garmin-Cervelo crew is a tight-knit, very stable group and the core — Millar, Zabriskie and Vande Velde — has been together for a while. That kind of leadership and cohesiveness will provide the perfect environment for Dekker to succeed. That will not only provide inspiration but strong moral support. David Millar knows exactly what Dekker has been through and all the steps on the way back to the top end of the sport.
Garmin also happens to be the funniest team in the ProTour. Humor takes the pressure off and keeps everybody loose. For perhaps the first time in his career, Dekker is going to enjoy riding for his team. He is still only 27 years old and a massive talent. We predict a long and successful career for Dekker at Garmin-Cervelo. Twisted Spoke thinks Vaughters had pulled off a real coup.