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Unique Casual Decks Anyone Can Make on a Budget, Volume 4

Looking for a deck that’s a little out of left field? The current meta making the game seem dull? Everyone telling you to just make a deck out of 3 copies of a Structure Deck make it seem like there’s no other way to play without breaking the bank?
Well, may I present: Casual decks, that ANYONE can make on a budget!
There are several decks for each type of Summoning mechanic, so you’ll be sure to find something you’ll enjoy.
Let me preface this with this: these decks are NOT ideal, as they are somewhat BUDGET. I've tried to not include any card that goes above $15 a copy unless 100% necessary. If you use these decklists, keep that in mind. Plus, my builds for these decks are made with my own idea of usability and budget in mind. In addition, because these are budget, no side deck options are included in the decklist. This is because side deck options vary from format to format, and can be potentially very costly. Since these builds are made for casual play anyway, side decks aren’t really necessary.
This is also NOT an F post. As this is made as introductory decklists, critiques or nitpicks are unnecessary and unwelcome. Unless there's a huge, glaring, unmistakable flaw the makes the deck 100% unplayable, then no changes will be made based on said unwarranted changes. These decks aren't meant to be the best; the best way to play them is to experiment with them and find how to make them work for you.




Not really a “summoning” mechanic per se, but these decks don’t rely heavily on any of the Extra Deck summoning mechanics, or Ritual Summons. That doesn’t mean they can’t/doesn’t use them, nor that they’re outdated, but most of the power is in the Main Deck for these.
Bamboo Swords
  • “Now hang on Conch”, you might say, “Bamboo Swords aren’t an archetype!” Well, that’s true. But, Bamboo Swords have the ability to skip nearly your opponent’s entire turn, if played right. Getting out Burning Bamboo Sword and playing a Bamboo Sword card will skip their Main Phase 1, and following up with Terminal World skips their Main Phase 2! Plus, Golden Bamboo Sword really helps out the deck’s draw power.
  • Cursed Bamboo Sword searches all of the other Bamboo Swords, and dumping it into the GY is of great importance. Thankfully, Fairy Tail – Rella can let you dump it to equip another from the Deck, and there’s plenty of ways to search/summon Rella.
  • For the sake of draw power, this deck runs Royal Magical Library, and for the sake of getting spell counters and extra bodies on board, it runs a small Endymion engine.
Ancient Warriors
  • It’s Fire Fists…2! Jokes aside, Ancient Warriors really are, more or less, Fire Fists that don’t care about being FIRE. The focus on Continuous Spells and Traps, being Beast-Warrior, based off of Asian history… alright, that’s not a whole lot of similarities, but it’s definitely enough to be kinda weird, especially given how recent the latest support for Fire Fists was.
  • Ancient Warriors are primarily a going-2nd, OTK focused deck. Many of the monsters have synergy with this, as they can summon themselves when your opponent has more monsters than you, such as with Virtuous Liu Xuan, or when your opponent is the only one with monsters, such as Loyal Guan Yun. Having access to a card that turns all your Ancient Warrior cards into Spell Speed 4 effects in East-by-South Winds doesn’t hurt either, and you have plenty of ways to trigger its effect.
  • Being Beast-Warriors, and having synergy with Continuous Spells, the Fire Formation cards fit right in. Tenki searches a fair amount of your Ancient Warriors, including Ingenious Zhuge Kong, who summons himself when searched (by an Ancient Warrior card, but even with Tenki it still helps, given he's your only in-archetype way of spot negation), and Tensu to help you summon the ones that won’t summon themselves.


Tied with Fusion for being the oldest Summoning mechanic in the game, Rituals fluctuate between being either extremely good, or extremely… not as good. Having the monsters in the Main Deck means that it’s far less consistent than most other Summoning types, by to remedy that, there’s also been far better generic support for Rituals than any other type of Summoning mechanic, by far.
  • Anyone smell fried chicken? Or, in this case, I suppose exploding chicken would be more accurate. Nephthys’ line of Ritual support was strange to say the least, but considering how old Sacred Phoenix of Nephthys is, it’s only right that it’s supported by an equally old summoning method.
  • Like most other Ritual Decks, this takes advantage of Impcantations, Manju, and not having to buy much of an Extra Deck. Therefore, the Extra Deck here is dropped for cost reasons.
  • As all the Nephthys cards love self-destruction, this build also employs a Fire King engine to assist in said self-destruction.
Dragon Ritual
  • With good Ritual archetypes becoming more scarce, it’s time to get a bit more creative. I’ve actually adapted this deck from my Hungry Burger deck… but that’s a deck for another time.
  • This deck doesn’t use Impcantations, as it is quite reliant on the Extra Deck. Instead, Hieratics are used to maintain field advantage while being used as Ritual fodder, along with Destiny Hero – Malicious. With Saffira, Queen of Dragons and Labradorite Dragon, you can get out Ultimaya Tzolkin, letting you get out Crystal Wing Synchro Dragon, and use whatever is left over for whatever plays you see fit.
  • Bonus points if Scrap Iron Signal is in your hand, as it lets you activate Tzolkin again, on your opponent’s turn.
  • This deck runs a small Bamboo Sword engine for draw power, but it also has its own searchable protection in Sauravis, the Ancient and Ascended, who can give your monster targeting protection via a discard.


Tied with Ritual for being the oldest Summoning mechanic in the game, Fusions didn’t start out that strong overall, but due to its lack of generic splashability, it has received a lot of generic support (though not quite as generic as Rituals). Regardless, Fusion has seen a LOT of meta relevance throughout the years, either as a deck mechanic… or as a removal option due to how insane Super Polymerization is.
  • They’re cute, they’re cuddly, they’re rip your face to shreds, it’s everyone’s favorite pet deck: Fluffals! Or Edge Imps. Or Frightfurs. Eh. Whatever you wanna call ‘em, they’re arguably the most competitive deck to come out of Arc-V’s repertoire (except PePe but we don’t talk about PePe).
  • Toy Vendor and Frightfur Patchwork are your main playmakers of the deck, so of course Fluffal Bear and Edge Imp Chain are imperative in getting to those two.
  • The new support, Edge Imp Scythe, allows you to Fusion Summon on your opponent’s turn, allowing you to use Frightfur Cruel Whale’s effect on your opponent’s turn, giving you far more disruption than in the past.
Triamid Fossil
  • Okay, before you say anything hear me out: even the cheapo Adamancipators make really stupid Rock decks work. But Adamancipator’s pretty played out… but damn if those new Fossil cards aren’t appealing, and I’ve always had a love of Triamids even though they’re dead in the water on their own… and so, this was born.
  • The Adamancipators let you cycle through your deck, but the real goal is to get out Adamancipator Rise – Dragite in order to have a negate on board. On the other hand Neos Fusion lets you dump Weathering Soldier, who in turn lets you get Fossil Fusion.
  • On the other hand, the Triamid cards give a steady supply of Rock monsters, an extra Normal Summon, and some situational Field Spells that can cover a fair few bases.


The Extra Deck mechanic that… well, caused the “Fusion Deck” to be called the Extra Deck. Synchros all began the shift in all decks to gravitate towards actually using the Extra Deck, as opposed to it being a somewhat gimmicky playstyle. It’s also the mark of when a large part of the playerbase began to grow out of Yugioh, so a lot of returning players have a 50/50 chance of knowing what Synchros are.
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  • Debuting in one of the least impactful Deck Build sets released (well… compared to Secret Slayers, anyway), Mathmechs never quite found the competitive niche Generaiders would receive nearly a year later, nor the waifubait of Dragonmaids. Regardless, it still holds up as a Trains-esque OTK strategy, and being Cyberse helps it have a bit more flexibility than one may initially think.
  • The main goal of the deck is to climb up the Synchro ladder, from Geomathmech Magma to Mathmech Final Sigma. The fact that a majority of the Main Deck Mathemechs can summon themselves from the hand makes this significantly easier.
  • In case you’re forced to go first, and simply slapping down an unaffected beater isn’t enough, since the deck is Cyberse, it can run some of the usual Cyberse Goodstuff.dek, to give it some more flexibility.
Flower Cardians
  • So, you’re tired of watching your opponent “play Solitaire”? Well, don’t worry, this is COMPLETELY different. You’ll be playing Hanafuda instead! …no? The name of the game wasn’t the problem? It was the fact that a turn can take half an hour without any interaction with the opponent? Well, too bad.
  • I will be 100% honest for this deck: there are far too many possible combos for me to go over any of them, because pretty much all of them are equally likely, and the all take a looooooong time. The only way to really get an idea of how the deck works is to test it yourself, in EDOPro or DuelingBook or something.


For a long time, this was the most generic Summoning mechanic. No spells, no Tuners, no hoops to jump through: just 2 or more monsters with the same level, and BAM: a monster straight from the Extra Deck. Even today, Xyz monsters are one of the most used Extra Deck mechanics across all decks, as nearly every deck can get out 2 Level 4 monsters and sit on an Abyss Dweller or something.
Heraldic Beast Time Thieves
  • No one remembers Heraldic Beasts, and everyone remembers Time Thieves, so clearly, by the law of averages, putting them together results in the perfect kind of deck for a list like this.
  • Time Thief Regulator and Charged-Up Heraldry are both the main starters of the deck. Either card results in, at minimum a Time Thief Redoer, whose very nature enable using cards like Time Thief Bezel Ship, Time Thief Chronocorder, and Time Thief Winder, which enables Time Thief Perpetua
  • Heraldic Beast Leo is a searcher that can’t miss timing, similar the White Stone of Legend. No muss, no fuss: if it hits the GY, search a Heraldic Beast monster. This makes it perfect for getting a Heraldic Beast Eale for more free bodies on board.
  • Though this deck is meant to go first, it has Number 27: Dreadnought Dreadnoid (which goes into Super Quantal Mech King Great Magnus) and Number F0: Utopic Future as solid going second options for a Rank 4 engine on a budget.
Digital Bugs
  • Yes, these are a series of monsters based off of computer viruses. No, they aren’t Cybserse. Should they probably be Cyberse? Yeah, but sadly, foresight isn’t Konami’s strong suit, so Insects they shall forever be. These buggy boys focus on swapping battle positions, so they’re kind of obsolete against any decks that focus too heavily around Links, but they can still get up to some schenanigans with monsters like Number 3: Cicada King and their in-archetype boss monster, Digital Bug Rhinosebus.
  • Despite having an entire archetype for its own Xyz monsters, Galaxy Worm is probably your best playmaker here, or at the very least, typically your best Normal Summon. This deck also makes use of Battlewasp – Twinbow the Attacker for an easy Level 3, and Transcicada for that sweet, sweet token. Of course, being an Insect deck, Inzektor Picofalena and Seraphim Papillion are the go-to Link monsters for a bit of play extension.
  • The Main Deck Digital Bugs all benefit from battle position changing, but the Extra Deck Digital Bugs are all about being able to Rank-Up, or sometimes Rank-Down into whichever one best fits the current situation.


Easily the black sheep of the Yugioh family, Pendulums are oft-reviled, even by Konami by times… and not really for any good reason other than looking different. Despite the claims, Pendulums just aren’t really as overpowered as many would make them out to be, especially since they tend to lean more heavily on the other Extra Deck types for boss monsters, especially since they’re the only pre-Link Extra Deck method that still needs Links to summon themselves from the Extra Deck.
  • The culmination of a huge story taking place throughout the artworks of dozens of cards, Zefra is quite the archetype to look at, though it saw sporadic play at best. Still, like any deck that has a searchable Counter Trap: where there’s searchability, there’s a way.
  • The archetype’s “boss monster”, Zefraath… should probably never hit the field as a monster. It’s main use is its ability to copy any scale in the archetype, while setting up the Extra Deck with said in-archetype monster. The best target of this, usually, is Zefraniu, Secret of the Yang Zing, as it searches the aforementioned Counter Trap, Zefra Divine Strike, but it also searches the archetype’s great field spell, Oracle of Zefra, which in and of itself searches any Zefra monster on activation.
  • Like most Pendulum decks, the strength of the deck lies in its ability to use the Extra Deck, so this one has a variety of Synchro, Xyz, and Links to make use of this. In addition, this deck runs a Psy-Frame package, both because PSY-Framegear Gamma is a great negate, and because having PSY-Framelord Lambda not only ensures the Framegear is always live, but that you have a good generic Link monster with down arrows for your Pendulum summons.
  • Despite Oracle of Zefra being more helpful on your field, giving it to your opponent via Set Rotation isn’t a horrible idea either, as unless your opponent is playing any Zefra monsters in their deck, the can’t activate the Field Spell, locking them out of their own Field Spells unless they’re willing to waste S/T removal on it.
  • The names aren’t exactly groundbreaking, but at least you’ll never forget which one is which level. These Tranformers…Super Sentai… chibi… things are all about hitting hard for the OTK with BEEG NUMBER.
  • The main playstarter of the deck is Deskbot 003, who can summon Deskbot 002, who in turn can search whichever card is necessary. The combos in general are pretty fluid, and whatever gets you bigger number in the current situation is the road you should take.
  • There’s a small Infinitrack engine for the sake of getting bodies on board for a Link, and Cyber Dragon as a removal option.


The new kid on the block, and at the time, more divisive than even Pendulum Summoning. Now that Links aren’t 100% required for playing other deck styles (besides Pendulum), its reputation has mended pretty quick, even if older fans tend to steer clear of it. Regardless, Links are decidedly the easiest monsters to use in the Extra Deck, so they aren’t going away anytime soon.
  • Gouki saw some meta relevance near the start of the Link era… but decidedly not in the way it was intended to be played. Ever since the ban of Number 86, they’ve completely fallen off the map… but since nearly every card they have is in low rarity, they’re a fantastic cheap Link deck to build.
  • All the Main Deck members search out other Gouki cards when sent from field to GY. Getting out 2 of them (usually via Gouki Suprex or Gouki Headbatt), linking into Isolde, Two Tales of the Noble Knights, searching Gouki Re-Match and Gouki Face Turn, using Isolde to summon another Gouki from deck, all this can let you end on Gouki The Powerload Ogre, and then have enough left over to do the Codebreaker combo.
  • Using the aforementioned Codebreaker engine, it’s easy to get additional Link monsters out such as Knightmare Griffon in order to shut down your opponent’s monster effects.
Cyberse Lock
  • So this falls more into the general Cyberse Goodstuff.dek territory, but it takes very budget options for a cheap, yet effective end board.
  • The end board is Cyberse Wicckid, pointing to a Cyberse Magician and a Cyberse Clock Dragon. This results in all 3 being untargetable for attacks, by card effects, and being unable to be destroyed via card effect. There’s multiple ways to end on this board, but the main combo starter to shoot for is getting out Link Disciple, then Link Devotee, using their effects, then going into Cyberse Witch to search the Ritual stuff, and going from there.
  • As a backup plan, this deck also runs Update Jammer and Transcode Talker for going second, to enable the OTK.


Casual Decklists Nostalgia Decklists
Volume 1 Dark Magician, Blue-Eyes, HEROes
Volume 2 Red-Eyes, Cyber Dragon, Stardust Dragon / Junk / Synchron
Volume 3 Ancient Gear, Blackwing, Utopia/Onomatopoeia
Volume 4
I'll be making more decklists in future posts. If you have any suggestions for decks that tend to fall under the radar (i.e, no Structure Deck based ones, currently meta relevant ones, or extremely popular casual ones), feel free to leave a suggestion below.
In future posts, I’ll likely only do one decklist per summoning type. I’ve exhausted most of my personal builds and knowledge, and this way I can go more in depth for each build.
As a side note to the above statement given there was some trouble in the previous post: this is not an invitation to advertise your Discord server or YouTube channel. Just the deck name will do.
submitted by TheConchNorris to Yugioh101

An abridged history of Deceuninck-Quick Step (Part 2)

In the first part of my grand epic on DQT, we started off at the roots of the team. From the MG-GB team and Mapei-Viner teams a new giant in cycling would be born. Over the coming years, the Belgian-Italian team would dominate the cycling classics, but would also come close to its end.

1995 season

Let’s go over what we have. At the start of 1996, Mapei took up GB as it’s new cosponsor, and with it, the Belgian core of the GB-MG Magliaficio squad. Losing a few other riders like aging ‘90 Vuelta winner Marco Giovannetti and the decent Swiss puncheur Mauro Gianetti and gaining Museeuw, Peeters and Bomans, this meant a serious improvement to the team’s core. With a cobbled squad consisting of Museeuw, Tafi, Ballerini, Peeters and Bortolami, all featured in the previous chapter of our story, wins were surely guaranteed. Not to mention the shirt. I promise it's getting it's own chapter.
The early season is full of promise: the classic squad scores with Museeuw in the Italian opener of Laigueglia and with Ballerini in the Belgian opener Omloop Het Volk, and even the traditional domestiques get to share in the glory as Bart Leysen wins E3. On April 1st, the day before the Ronde van Vlaanderen, the biggest shockwave in Belgian cycling for that year happens: the shining diamond of the Lotto team, Frank Vandenbroucke, makes a midseason transfer to Mapei. After showing streaks of brilliance last year at the age of 20, Lefevere wanted him and Mapei wanted to pay for him: they offered him enough money to buy out his Lotto contract and he went to make what looked like an unavoidable move, desperate to learn from some of cycling’s biggest stars. Later in the season he would have a spectacular win in Paris-Bruxelles.
In high spirits, the team attacks the Ronde Van Vlaanderen in typical fashion: with brutal and overwhelming force. Museeuw breaks clear on the Muur and is protected by his strong teammates Bortolami and Ballerini, with Peeters, Tafi, Willems and Leysen being essential in the setup for the victory. He wins with 1:30 lead over ex-teammate Fabio Baldato. And the wins don’t stop coming: the ‘95 Paris-Roubaix is a prey for Franco Ballerini, who attacks from far out and gets protected by Museeuw, Bortolami and Tafi who finish in the 15-man group which sprints for 2nd place. Museeuw gets beaten by Tchmil, but it’s a glorious day: 2 teammates on the podium of a monument is quite the performance.
Meanwhile you might have forgotten that Mapei-Clas didn’t only have its Italian classic riders, but also strong and impressive Grand Tour contenders. Tony Rominger is one of them, and he shows he’s in good for by crushing his homerace in Romandie before absolutely destroying the Giro d’Italia by winning 3 TTs, a mountaintop finish and the general classification with a 4 minute lead over the Gewiss-Ballan duo Berzin-Ugrumov. The Tour de France was a rather sad affair, due to Escartin losing 6 minutes in a 54km hilly TT, and Rominger not being able to compete with Indurain, Riis and Zülle in the high mountains.
In the Vuelta, Abraham Olano gets crushed by 3 dominant ONCE riders: Laurent Jalabert wins the GC, 5 stages, the points jersey and KOM jersey, and teammates Bruyneel and Mauri end 3rd and 4th in the GC to sweep the teams classification as well. Olano snatches the 3 time trial victories and another stage is won by the Italian sprinter Baffi. However, Olano had planned a different peak...
On the inhumanly brutal Duitama course, 15 laps with a 4,2km climb averaging 7,8% with the lowest elevation at 2491m, Olano would go on to win the World Championship ahead of his compatrion Indurain and Marco Pantani. Mapei would go on to have plenty more World Champions on their ranks. At first glance, I’m seeing a total of 10 road race championships for riders of Lefevere’s team since 1995. It showcases the talent of Lefevere to assemble a team of the best one day racers in the world, but also of his skills in pressuring national teams to assign his riders as leaders for the championships. If we include the 4 team trial championships in the 7 years it was organised, and the handful of ITT championships won by Michael Rogers and Tony Martin, it shows an impressive resume in sniping down the rainbow jersey.
The “new” Mapei-GB team would end the season as the #1 ranked team on the UCI ranking, with 50 total victories, 3 World Cup victories (Museeuw also won the legendary Zuri Metzgete), dozens of semi-classics and plenty of GT stages.

1996 season

The 1996 transfers are relatively mild. Sure, the team loses out Fernando Escartin, but it recruits some Italian youngsters and a fresh young Belgian sprinter: Tom Steels. And since you don’t change a winning team, why make more transfers?
The year starts off delightfully: Fitte Peeters leads out neopro Tom Steels to a win in Omloop Het Volk. Nowadays they form the powerduo in Deceuninck’s team car, and it was in these years that their bond was forged. The year continues nicely with Carlo Bomans winning E3 and Museeuw snatching victory in the Brabantse Pijl, still held with finish on the Bruineput, which is the real finish of that race.
Spirits were high for the Ronde Van Vlaanderen. And of course the race was won by...Michele Bartoli, of the MG Maglificio team. Museeuw has a flat just before the Muur, where Bartoli distances the elite group. Oh, and to rub salt in the wound, Museeuw gets outsprinted for 2nd place by another ex-teammate, Fabio Baldato, leading to a very sour podium for Mapei-GB. This would not stand: furious calls were made between the Mapei company headquarters and the cycling team. Company manager Giorgio Squinzi put it quite frankly: They better pull something out of the bag for Roubaix, or the season would be ruined. Tom Steels won a 100-man mass sprint in Gent-Wevelgem the wednesday after the Ronde, but the real exploit was expected on sunday.

1996 Paris-Roubaix

Yes, the race that gets it’s own chapter. I could write about it myself, but allow me to cite mmitchell30 ‘s piece for ProCyclingUK.com - and you can also watch from 7:45 onwards in this highlights video.
*“With 86km to go in the race, 4 members of the Mapei team escaped off the front of the peloton. They were Johan Museeuw, Gianluca Bortolami, Andrea Tafi and Franco Ballerini. It’s very very rare to see most of a team just disappear off the front so far from the finish. It’s even rarer to see no-one from another team able to make the move. The most recent race where I can remember a similar event is the famous 2015 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. In that race, Ian Stannard bested a trio of Quickstep riders.
Whilst trying to get away Franco Ballerini punctured 3 times within 12km and ended up falling back. Ultimately he’d be caught by Lotto’s Andrej Tchmil and Gewiss’ Stefano Zanini. He got to enjoy a nice draft to the finish line once he stopped doing his own chase. Andrej Tchmil missed a corner and ended up 3 minutes behind the other two riders by the finish. Museuuw himself punctured on the Orchies secteur and his teammates had to wait for him.
The managing director of team sponsor Mapei called the team director Patrick Lefevere with 15km to go. The director wanted to ensure that Johan Museeuw won the race. With 8km to go Museeuw punctured which caused confusion amongst the 3 riders at the front. Eventually Tafi and Bortolami waited and once they arrived at the Velodrome, Museeuw won without having to sprint. The sponsor’s directive being adhered to. The pair of Zanini and Ballerini finished 4th and 5th. They were 2 minutes 38 behind the podium and a similar gap ahead of the next group.
The 1996 Paris-Roubaix race eventually became the quickest race in terms of average speed since the route had been altered in 1968. Museeuw’s winning ride was at an average of 43.31kph.”*
The picture of these 3 teammates crossing the finishing line in perfect harmony is one of the most iconic pictures of 90s cycling in my opinion. It showed the utter dominance of the Mapei team in the classics of that era.

Rest of the 1996 season

Well, you have to come down from such a rush. Mapei would go on to win the Scheldeprijs with an attack from Frank Vandenbroucke and Museeuw got 3rd place in the Amstel Gold Race. Frank Vandenbroucke went on to win 4 stages and the GC of the Tour of Austria and the GP Plouay. The “old” Mapei-Clas core also had a decent season. Olano managed a 3rd place in the Giro and only very nearly lost the Olympic time trial in Atlanta, Rominger got 3rd in a Vuelta where Mapei won 5 stages. The only disappointment was the Tour de France: despite a promising opening, with Olano and Rominger ending week 2 on 2nd and 3rd place of the GC behind a surprisingly untiring Bjarne Riis. In stage 17 however, Riis, his Telekom team with young Jan Ullrich and the Festina riders Dufaux and Virenque, went on a massive mountain raid and put the Mapei riders on 8 minutes in the flat end of the stage. Olano and Rominger dropped to 9th and 10th place, and ended the TDF in those positions and without a stage win.
In the ‘96 world championships on a hilly parcours in Lugano, Johan Museeuw would go on to win the rainbow jersey after a dominating sprint against his Swiss opponent and former Mapei-Clas rider Mauro Gianetti, keeping the title in the team. His real rival, Michele Bartoli, would be frustrated by the work of Axel Merckx who covered his every move to protect Museeuw’s break. And to close off the season, Andrea Tafi would go on to win Lombardia from an early break, despite his rather large body frame. This was the era of big riders winning mountainous stage races and classics, and Mapei formed no exception.
The season would however also be marked by a true exodus. A lot of the Clas-core riders saw their contracts expire, and they chose to cash in on their results. Rominger and Olano would go on to lead Cofidis and Banesto respectively, Bortolami would transfer to Festina team as their new leader. A lot of domestiques and riders for the smaller Spanish and Italian races also left, requiring a rebuild of half the squad.

1997 season

A solution was found in the failing Panaria-Vinavil team. Despite a good year with Pavel Tonkov winning the Giro, Jan Svorada showing he has some of the fastest legs in the peloton and Oscar Camenzind showing flashes of puncheur brilliance, the team doesn’t recover from losing main sponsor Lampre the year before and gets absorbed into Mapei. Targeted recruitment also happens: Gianni Bugno is brought on as a road captain, and despite only winning a Vuelta and Langkawi stage in his final 2 years, his experience provides value to the countless youngsters on the Mapei squad. Other notable recruits include Nico Mattan, Belgian baroudeur who would form a strong bond with Frank Vandenbroucke, Stefano Zanini (the only non-Mapei rider in the top 5 of the ‘96 Roubaix) and the aging Zenon Jaskula, who got a 3rd place in the ‘93 Tour for GB-MG Magliaficio. Lefevere picking up cheap deals? Where did you hear that before?
Well, the year wasn’t quite as glorious. In terms of raw wins, they certainly performed quite nicely: 78 victories sounds like a typical Lefevere year, but they lacked a certain zing. Only one World Cup victory was achieved, with Andrea Tafi winning the Wincanton Classic, but in “their” races the harvest was rather meagre. Museeuw got punished by a badly timed flat tire in the Ronde Van Vlaanderen, where Ballerini got outsprinted by Rolf Sorensen and Frederic Moncassin in their 3-man breakaway. In the ‘97 Roubaix race, a rather large group stayed together until deep in the final, with 27 riders finishing within 30 seconds of the winner. The race was decided with a sprint between 8 of the best riders of the cobbled classics, with Frederic Guesdon (Francaise des Jeux) beating Jo Planckaert (Lotto) and Museeuw.
Another 3rd place, and no improvement was to come: Museeuw sprinted to a consolation 6th place behind LBL winner Bartoli’s breakaway, and Andrea Tafi finished off the classic season with a 2nd place in the Amstel Gold Race. With only wins on Kuurne and Brabantse Pijl, this year had a dreadful spring campaign for what looked like a dominating Mapei team. The hopes for a recovery in the rest of the year were high, but couldn’t quite deliver. While plenty of smaller races like Tour of Austria, Volta a Portugal, Romandia and Luxembourg were won and even dominated, nothing quite went their way.
Pavel Tonkov won 3 stages and got 2nd in the Giro GC, behind Ivan Gotti, and the Mapei squad got 2 more victories from breakaways. In the Giro, Tonkov suffered badly in the first weeks and lost half an hour, but recovered with 2 mountaintop finishes while Jan Svorada got 3 sprint wins. In the Tour de France, dominated by Ullrich and his Telekom team where Riis got thrown overboard stage after stage, things were worse though. Tom Steels, frustrated by several missed sprint chances after his 2nd place in the first stage, got disqualified from the race for a mid-masssprint bidon toss towards Frederic Moncassin. This overshadowed the 2nd place Frank Vandenbroucke got in stage 3, where he looked like he was gonna win an uphill sprint if it wasn’t for Eric Zabel. Vandenbroucke would go on to get another 2nd place in a sprint of the GC favourites in a medium mountain stage, but Mapei had to leave Paris empty handed. Camenzind got 12th place in the GC, Jaskula and Nardello turned out too weak to contend for a GC placement, and ex-Mapei riders Olano and Escartin had decent races with a 4th and 5th place behind a brutally impressive Ullrich.
The 78 wins would seem impressive, but no Tour de France victory and no Monument victory absolutely crushed the spirit of the team. Even the World Championships didn’t bring relief: a small break without Mapei riders contested the victory on the San Sebastian parcours, with Laurent Brochard being a surprising winner. Another 2nd place in Lombardia, for Paolo Lanfranchi, who I genuinely hadn’t heard off before, put the nail in the coffin of the 1997 season.
The season ended with some more news: GB would disappear as a sponsor of the team, and would be replaced by it’s DIY store’s brand Bricobi. Transferwise the season would end calmly, Carlo Bomans opted for a pre-retirement year at Palmans, while Zenon Jaskula ended his career with another year at a smaller Eastern European team. A few neopros were recruited to fill the void, on a one year-contract: GB’s sponsorship was expected to run out at the end of the coming season, with no expectations for a renewment. Was this the ending of a team that had been so bright over the last few years?
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