Jonathan Vaughters Interview: Garmin-Barracuda in best-ever shape heading into a new season
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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Jonathan Vaughters Interview: Garmin-Barracuda in best-ever shape heading into a new season

by Shane Stokes at 3:44 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews
“We’ve got eight or ten guys that all are all on a really high level”

Garmin BarracudaWith the 2012 racing season continuing to ramp up and many of his riders about to make their debuts, Garmin-Barracuda chief Jonathan Vaughters has said that he is very encouraged by the condition the team is showing at this point of the year.

“Going by the overall fitness level from the physiological testing perspective, visually from the road and anecdotally, I think we got the highest fitness level that we’ve ever had on the team,” he told VeloNation. “It’s a very high mean level, everyone is hungry, everyone is really ready to race.”

Vaughters set out a goal last year of Garmin-Cervélo being the world’s number one team by the end of the season. While the squad didn’t achieve that, finishing sixth, it hit the bullseye in many other places, including victory in Paris-Roubaix plus four stage wins and the team classification in the Tour de France.

He wants the team to build momentum this year and sets out his wish-list for the season. “There are a few things to target. I would like to win in the Classics, and I’d like us to be a little more consistent than last year. In 2011 we won the big one [Roubaix with Johan Vansummeren], and we fell on our face in a couple of them. This year, I’d like to be consistent week-in and week-out in the Classics.

“That’s not just the cobbled Classics, but the Ardennes Classics was well. With [Fabian] Wegmann on board, with Ryder Hesjedal and Dan Martin, we are starting to get a good team for the Ardennes. For the cobbled Classics, we have got Haussler, Vanmarcke, Vansummeren, Klier, Maskaant - that’s going to be a very strong unit. I’m very confident with what they are going to do there, but also in the Ardennes races.

“Then moving into the Grand Tour season, we’ve got Christian Vande Velde and Tom Danielson, obviously, while Dan Martin is starting to poke his head through. We’ve obviously also got Tyler Farrar chasing the sprint stages.

“All in all, a specific goal is to make sure that the whole group of those riders perform at the absolute highest level that they can, physiologically and naturally. It’s hard to say how things will end up, but I believe if we execute on the fitness and the motivation that everyone demonstrated at the camp, then we are going to take our fair share of races. I think we are going to win than we did last year but, that said, you do have to execute in the races.”

Wide spread of talent:

One thing that excites Vaughters is that the team is not about one rider, as is the case with other squads, but about a collectively strong unit where there are several who can win. If each of those riders can reach their best shape for their major targets, it means that the team will have several options on any one day, and will also be very difficult to control.

An example of the team’s ability to fire more than one bullet was in Paris-Roubaix last year, where Vansummeren went clear in a break, taking pressure off the team’s dedicated leader Thor Hushovd, who was deadlocked in a battle with Fabian Cancellara.

The Belgian rider was the strongest in the move and ended up winning the race.

Vaughters said that spread of talent means that it’s difficult for him to single out the riders he most expects to shine in 2012. “The thing is, the whole group is so good, it’s hard to pick out any stand outs,” he explained, when asked which riders he expects to shine. “It’s a bit of a shotgun approach. On most of the other teams, if a guy like Contador is doing well, the team is going well. If Contador is not doing well, the team is whatever. But with us, we’ve got eight or ten guys that all are all on a really high level.”

Vaughters was speaking from the team training camp in Calpe, where he could see the riders close up. He states that one of those who he believes could have a very strong season is the Irishman Dan Martin. He was passed over for a place in the Tour last year due to uncertainty about how he would recover and also because Vaughters wanted to target the team time trial – which Garmin-Cervélo won – but Martin later went on to underline his development in the Vuelta a España.

He won a stage there, finished third and fourth on other stages and was thirteenth overall. He also took second in Il Lombaria, the best Irish Classics performance in two decades, and ended the year ninth in the UCI rankings.

Vaughters recognises that he could be on the cusp of a superb year. “I’m certainly hoping for big things from Dan Martin this year,” he said, “he certainly got the motor to do that.”

That means that he could well get a start in the world’s top race. “I think the Tour is very much a possibility. Of course he still has to earn his spot on the team, just like anyone else. But there aren’t any barriers that are holding him back on that, that’s for sure. I’m very open about him going to the Tour this year.”

If he does, he will be part of a strong general classification lineup with should also include Christian Vande Velde, fourth in 2008, Ryder Hesjedal – seventh in 2010 – and Tom Danielson, who was ninth last year. It was the latter’s first time to ride the race. Vaughters hopes that he can continue to build on that good start, while also recognising that there’s no absolute guarantees.

“It’s always hard to predict how things will go…when you have that breakthrough year and everyone’s pushing on you to follow it up, there’s a lot of pressure,” he explained. “So it’s always hard to know whether the sophomore year will go as well. But Tom’s really focused, he’s training well right now, he is already at his race weight. He seems to be focused and psychologically on a right track, which is exactly what he needs.”

Vande Velde recently spoke to VeloNation and said that things have been going very well for him in training. Having had a couple of seasons hampered by injury, he got his confidence back last summer when he took second in the US Pro Cycling Challenge. He has now said that he wants to aim for a Tour podium place.

Vaughters believes that he too could be in for a very good showing. This is a further example of the spread of talent on the team. “The reason why I can’t really pick out one rider standing out out at the camp was because everybody is pretty good. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a camp where the riders are consistently outstripping the expectations. Everyone showed up fit, everyone did great on the power tests we put them through, everyone was good out on the road. So the homework’s been done…now we just need a little bit of luck, and to execute in the actual races.”

Pressed on which of the new signings stood out to him, Vaughters had one in mind. “Jacob Rathe was very impressive at the camp,” he said, picking out the 20 year old American. “I think he’ll get a few starts at some of the bigger Classics. That will be a big deal for a new pro…”

Vaughters also has other promising newcomers on board such as Nathan Haas and Jack Bauer, and a range of existing young riders who have been making good progress and should continue to improve. It’s clear that the team is on the up, and 2012 could be the best season yet.


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