For a team that came into being pre-loaded with talent and organisation like no other before it, Leopard Trek has been an early season disappointment, writes Philip Gomes.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:36 PM

Two months have passed in the road cycling season and a few thoughts are
beginning to take shape on the team front for me.

Most noticeable
at this stage is the absence of Leopard Trek on the winners podium. Yes
they did put Daniele Bennatti there at the Tour of Qatar (3rd) and win
the team prize in Oman but that's it.

In fact I've received more
press releases from Leopard Trek that they have had results, in the past
two months.

For a team that was immediately given a number one
billing by the UCI using a super-secret system no one knows about, their
season so far has been a bit of a disappointment.

And saying
that this new team needs time to 'gel' is also no excuse. Leopard Trek
emerged into the new season after being pulled wholly formed and
screaming from the narrow loins of Bjarne Riis. Given this we expected
more.

Sure Leopard Trek is a team largely built around two
riders, Andy Schleck and Fabian Cancellara - and their ambitions (The
Tour de France Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix) are yet to be raced -
but the rest of the season is the time for the lesser lights of the
team to grab their opportunities - to show the team means business.

In
contrast Garmin-Cervelo, HTC-Highroad, Liquigas-Cannondale, Rabobank,
Omega Pharma-Lotto and Sky are just a few of the teams similarly loaded
with a mix of GC and one-day talent that have already made their mark on
the early season.

Even an underdone (medium rare?) Alberto
Contador has had a sniff at a win for a Saxo Bank-Sungard team that
really is rebuilding, after the mass exodus of many of their key riders
to Luxembourg.

And these teams are showing their range by
performing at a high level across both the one-dayers and smaller stage
races common to this time of the year. With Leopard Trek no-where to be
seen.

Take Liquigas-Cannondale as an example. They were the best
Grand Tour team of 2010 with Ivan Basso winning the Giro d'Italia and Vincenzo
Nibali the Vuelta a Espana.

Like Leopard Trek, Liquigas-Cannondale is
loaded with talent and contains one of Andy Schlecks major rivals for
the Tour de France, Basso.

Elia Viviani won the GP Costa degli Etruschi and unoffical overall at the Tour of
Mumbai while Simone Ponzi came second in the Trofeo Laigueglia.

Peter
Sagan made the recent Giro di Sardegna his own with three stage wins and
the overall. Liquigas-Cannondale placed three guys in the top ten at GP Insubria and
unusually, Basso himself posted a one-day win in the GP Lugarno.

Liquigas-Cannondale
looks fit and organised well ahead of the major engagements of the
season. Without results it's hard to say the same for Leopard Trek. The
lack of results probably means they are not.

Another team that
has horses in both the the Grand Tour's and one-day races is Rabobank.
Robert Gesink, Theo Bos, Oscar Freire and Michael Matthews have all
featured for the Dutch outfit.

Gesink looks like he has taken
another step up, albeit with an admittedly minor win in the Tour of
Oman. But the signs are there nonetheless, he did it with style and
surprised with an interesting ride against the clock to secure the win.

There
isn't much to say about Freire that hasn't already been said but the
evergreen Spaniard continues to post results as has the imperfectly
formed speedster Bos and the irrepressible Matthews.

Young to
old, GC riders to one day specialists and sprinters, Liquigas-Cannondale
and Rabobank are just two of the teams that have left Leopard Trek with
a lot of work to do in order to make their first season a successful
one.

I understand that with Cancellara and Andy Schleck in the
lineup their focus would be on the Flanders/Roubaix double and Tour de
France overall, but there are no guarantees on race day.

A modern well
supported and highly talented team like Leopard Trek needs to perform
across the board, from January to October, and this team increasingly
looks like they have too narrow a vision for the times.

At this
stage of the game Garmin-Cervelo and Sky looks a better bet to win
Flanders and Roubaix than Leopard Trek. Basso, Gesink and even Jurgen
Van Den Broeck sharper than Andy Schleck ahead of the Grand Tours.