It’s the boring part of the season – transfers are over and done with, doping is all anyone talks about, cyclo-cross hasn’t really kicked off yet, it’s miserable weather in Europe, and we have to look forward to January 1st and hope all the riders post pictures of their new kit on Twitter. So why will 2013 be worth looking forward to?
10. The most open season in years
This coming year should produce the most open races in years – all the main contenders will be back and the list of possible winners of Grand Tours, classics and sprints, even time trials, is at high, with no one man truly dominating each discipline.
9. Fresh new teams
Well, they’re technically not new, unless we count that odd IAM effort that Heinrich Haussler and Thomas Lokvist have joined, but Liquigas are becoming Cannondale and Rabobank are becoming a blank team, or possibly Giant, we don’t really know yet. Add to that the aforementioned new kits they’ll all be debuting, given Sky have changed from Adidas to Rapha and Radioshack, OPQS and the like all look like rebranding their kits, it’s going to be a busy winter for the seamstress’, and their works should be on show from January for us all to behold.
8. Sprinter showdown
As discussed in an early article, the sprinters are getting increasingly close to each other. Whilst we’d still bet on Cavendish to win most of the time, 2012 was the first year that someone equalled him for stage wins at the Tour, as both Greipel and Sagan took three each. More interestingly, Greipel can beat Cavendish, Sagan can beat Greipel, and then there’s still Goss and Farrar as well as young guns like Guardini, who beat Cavendish in a straight drag at the Giro, so the field is crowded and many want to make a name for themselves against their more established forebears. With another new team to settle into, could this be the year Cavendish loses his crown? He’s already going to have to suffer the indignity of the infamous Innergetic mattress shoot…
7. A all-round World champion
Gilbert will be looking to reclaim the form of 2011 and storm the Ardennes, but we must remember that he’s a man who could realistically win all but one of the monuments (Paris-Roubaix) if form and more importantly luck are on his side. Gilbert is always agressive in San Remo and Flanders, and whilst in one way he’ll be hoping that one component of the rainbow jersey, the curse, has struck a year early, he’ll also hope it can spur him on to another Ardennes triple. Rodriguez, Sagan, Contador and co will want to defeat him though, but as long as he doesn’t repeat the appaling ensemble he rode in Lombardy, he’ll be furiously cheered on.
6. The emerging youngsters
Whilst Sagan is already established, men like Moreno Moser, Andrea Guardini, Marco Haller and Thibaut Pinot could make big leaps this year, with Moser already ‘The New Sagan’, Guardini and Haller looking good for sprints and Pinot looking to improve on the his Tour stage win. It doesn’t look like we’ll have any Schleck-esque astounding Grand Tour debutants, but the youngsters should still do a good job of giving the older guys a run for their money. The new American generation of Phinney, Van Garderen and the new Sky recruits of Dombroski and Boswell will be keen to get into the news more then their predecessors, although obviously not for the same reasons.
5. The riders being used to Flanders’ new course
Yes, The Tour of Flanders was a bit rubbish this year – the circuits meant that the race was just a case of everyone watching eachother, with no one willing to take the risk, until Pippo ;The Shadow’ Pozzato got fed up with his nickname and of the media bashing him and almost dropped Boonen. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get rid of him for the sprint, but this year, people will know the course, and will thus hopefully take more risks. The race was always going to look bad after the epic 2011 edition (Also known in my household as The Best Race Ever), but it was dull – with Cancellara, Gilbert and Boonen hungry, the course should become more friendly for the spectator as a whole, not just those able to see it pass by live three times as it seems the route is designed for.
4. The Tour winner concentrating on another Grand Tour
Lance Armstrong always got criticism for concentrating only on the Tour de France at the expense of the other Grand Tours, with people claiming that winning all three would be better then winning one seven times (…). Oddly, now that Bradley Wiggins says he wants to go for the Giro, people critisise him for not wanting to defend his title, which is novel. Personally, I think he would be better suited to defending his title, as that’s a real show of a champion of you can win again with everyone gunning for you, but winning all three Grand Tours would put Wiggins on a pedestal as well, and it’s honourable to try and help someone else when you;re the defending champion. It should also help draw the new British fan base away from the Tour, and the Giro’s internationalisation policy will be very happy, but most of all, it’ll be nice to see two of the podium finishers from the Tour try to win something else – Nibali will be there, and lets hope to God that Astana change their kit or he wears pink most of the race.
3. Spartacus v Tomeke
As with people who claimed Wiggins won the Tour because Contador wasn’t there, some claimed Boonen only completed his Cobbled Quadruple because his major adversary, Fabian Cancellara, destroyed (yes, destroyed, it was in five pieces) his collar bone in a crash at Flanders, which apparently meant Boonen could just waltz away and win. I’ve always found the ‘But x wasn’t there’ argument stupid – the rider still has to win the race, and still has to beat what’s in front of them, so if you claim its null and void because someone wasn’t there, you;re basically saying you should have just given the absent rider the trophy before they even started and packed up there and then. Anyway, rant over – 2013 will see the rematch of the two Cobbled Gods as the duke it out for Supremacy. Boonen has won more Cobbled momuments then anyone else, and Cancellara will want to prove he is at least his equal…it’s all set for a thrilling showdown in April.
2. Return of the GC contenders
Last year, the Tour suffered for the absence of Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador, who for differing reasons weren’t able to compete. As mentioned above, this didn’t make Wiggins’ triumph a doodle by any means, but as the Vuelta showed, riders who actually attack make the race much better for the fans, rather then time trialling around France. Andy Schleck will be a big unknown, but hopefully come July we’ll be talking of a Contador-Schleck duel once more – they have unfinished business from 2010.
1. A balanced Tour route
And of course, the two will be duelling on a route that I still can’t find too many faults with (aside from the dead patch after the 1st individual time trial) at the centenary Tour de France. The only thing the route doesn’t have is the very steep uphill finishes the Vuelta and Giro have played with recently, but the shorter time trials and increase in hard mountain stages should balance it off nicely. Contador will be favourite, but not by much.
And 5 reasons it wont…
1. Team Sky
The men in black have conquered the Tour, and have now set their sights on the Giro, the last true bastion of Euro cycling. Where will their horrendous black ensemble and terrifying marginal gains attitude end?! Let’s hope they can summon up some more emotional performances then the cold, sterile time trialling destruction they wrought this year, because lets face it, with Wiggins, Froome, Boassen Hagen, Henao and Uran, they’re going to win lots, so lets hope they can do it with some style that the Rapha kit, which will no doubt still be black, will endow them with.
2. Jonathan Vaughters
I make no bones about the fact I vehemently dislike this man, just as I don’t mind admitting I haven’t really warmed to Sky. I’ve discussed why he’s the worst thing in cycling before, so I won’t bore you with it again, but suffice to say that once Garmin get rid of their hypocritical argyle-purveying doper, the better for everyone. Unfortunately, with all the anti-doping stuff kicking off again, he and Saint Millar will no doubt be out in force claiming to have all the answers and to be the moral heart of the peloton. The only hope is that many are calling for all ex-dopers to be thrown out – so perhaps they’ll get their comeuppance.
3. Christian VandeVelde, David Zabriske, Tom Danielson, Levi Leipheimer
If these four win anything, it will show what a shambles the system is. Testifying for cleaner cycling is all well and good, but then arranging your bans so that you can race next year as well as staying quiet for what, 7 years is pretty pathetic. Leipheimer’s reward for the pretty arrogant request to be allowed to race Paris-Nice next year and to not ride in Canada this year so that the ban wouldn’t have any effect was to be fired, but Garmin and Vaughters of course saw no problem keeping on the cheats on the self proclaimed ‘clean team’. It’s preposterous that Sky have come under pressure for having a dodgy doctor and a coach who admitted to doping on their team, cited as evidence for their not being 100% clean, yet Garmin keep on dopers, casually mention they’ve doped clearly with no concern for the repercussions, and seem to get away Scott-Free. Luckily, these guys are getting on anyway, so lets hope Phinney and Van Garderen destroy them in all the US races and they don;t get a stage of the Tour of California between them.
4. No Tour de France time bonuses
A tricky one this one, as the pros and cons of time bonuses are still up in the air, but they helped encourage the attacking racing at the Giro and Vuelta that the Tour lacked, so would certainly benefit. I’d like to see them on KOM points as well, but we’ll see. Hopefully all the contenders should be so psyched to prove points this year, they’ll attack anyway rather then watching each other up the Ventoux for 19.9km before a 100m sprint.
5. No more Freire or Vino
Yes, maybe its hypocritical to say I’ll miss Vinokourov given the comments about the American quad of dopers, but at least he actually did his suspension (yes, I know he retired to get it reduced etc). His attacking style will be missed, as will the loss of the cool cat Oscar Freire, who popped up for a classy victory every so often. Peter Sagan is possibly a replacement for both.