Welcome to the VeloNews 2017 WorldTour fan guide. It’s tough to be a cycling fan. Riders jump around more than a loose cassette. Teams change kits like Sven Nys swaps bikes in a muddy ‘cross race. So, here’s a guide to your new favorite team. Don’t like these guys? Stay tuned for more previews.
Your team: Bora – Hansgrohe
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Your team’s fan base: Peter Sagan fanatics (OK, so all of us) will fill out the lion’s share of Bora fan base this year. They join a small but vocal cadre of Bora (formerly NetApp) early adopters, you know, the guy who has those silly Samsung Gear virtual reality goggles, or the hipster who was getting ristretto espressos at that coffee shop before it was cool. Also, there are the dozen or so German bike fans that didn’t give up on cycling after the Telekom doping revelations. Plus, foodies who love Bora’s crazy stovetop suction thingy that inhales the nasty stank from your dinner, as well as Hansgrohe’s stylish European faucets.
Your team’s star: Really? If you’re reading this, and you don’t realize it is Peter Sagan, it might be time for you to spend some quality time on our website. Yep, don’t worry about your job responsibilities. We’ll give you a hall pass.
In all seriousness, this team is 100 percent built around the Slovak star. OK, sure, Rafal Majka might win another polka-dot jersey, but he’s not doing spoof videos on popular U.S. films. Apparently the Germans are super excited about Emanuel Buchmann and Silvio Herklotz, although we’ve never heard of them.
Best-case scenario: Of the 27 riders on Bora’s roster for 2017, only 11 return from 2016. In a perfect world, the newcomers, veterans, and team directors Jens Zemke and Jan Valach are able to form a cohesive fighting force around Peter Sagan for the cobbled classics. Bora rides the front at these races, and is able to dictate tactics, rather than rely on Sagan to freelance. Now freed of any alternate team priorities (adios, Alberto Contador!), Sagan bonds with his new lieutenants Marcus Burghardt and Aleksejs Saramotins, and the threesome orchestrates dominating victories at Flanders, Roubaix, and some smaller classics like E3 Harlbeke and the Three Days of de Panne.
Sagan again travels to California where he dominates the race and delights fans with all of the wheelies. The season culminates at the Tour de France, where Bora helps Majka finish inside the top five, while Sagan wins another green jersey putting him on par with Erik Zabel at six. Oh, and Sagan keeps the man bun and reenacts “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” for a YouTube video.
Worst case scenario: The jump to the WorldTour is simply too big for Bora’s staff and team infrastructure, so team kits are mailed to Guatemala, bikes end up outfitted with Shimano nine-speed, and the team bus runs out of gas outside of Oudenaarde. Bora’s new hires struggle on the cobblestones, and Sagan finds himself in the front group at Flanders and Roubaix outnumbered by Quick-Step and Trek – Segafredo riders. Sagan still takes the green jersey at the Tour, but Bora riders are dropped repeatedly on the climbs, and no riders finish inside the top 20 on GC. Hansgrohe’s European showerheads are too low-flow to wash the shampoo out of Sagan’s man mane, leading to a greasy Eurotrash look, which lasts all summer. For his YouTube reenactment, Sagan chooses “Howard the Duck.”
Likability rating: 9/10. It’s hard to hate Peter Sagan. He’s just pure fun on two wheels. We docked them one point because Lukas Pöstlberger has a funny name, and team director Ralph Denk recently said the team isn’t just Sagan (ha — yeah right). Mostly we like this team because we’re ready to welcome zee Germans back to cycling with a hug and a steaming plate of wienerschnitzel. It’s time they moved on from Big Jan and the Telekom pink train. Plus, any team that attracts companies that make kitchen products and faucets into cycling’s sponsorship market is OK on our end.