Everyone else is looking back at 2006, something we wrapped up in November, so it's a good time to look ahead. After all, given all the sport did in 2006 to drive us away and ensure we never come back, I can't think of anything more delicious than turning the page on '06. Well, except maybe the biscotti my family sent me last week. But I digress...
Let's look ahead and talk about what we'd like to see in 2007. Obviously we'd all start with resolution of the doping problem, but since that's not happening, maybe we can aim a little lower and come up with a pretty good list.
Five things I hope to see in 2007, on the flip...
1. An agreement on the shape of the Pro Tour.
Really. Anything... all in, totally split, I don't care. Regardless of whatever grouping you assign the races, whatever status you confer on the pro teams, the teams that need to be there will show up and the riders will make it all worthwhile. Anointing a season champion has become tedious, after a mere two years... but nowhere near as tedious as the daily articles about who at the UCI said what about someone at the Grand Tour's hairstyle, or whatever. So file this wish under "peace on Earth," or maybe just "STFU."
2. Quick Step Controversy.
Paolo Bettini is telling everyone who will listen that he wants to win the Tour of Flanders before he retires, which means this year or next. Bettini is the reigning world champion, Olympic champion, and the peloton's most decorated classics rider. And a vreemdeling... an Italian, no less. His teammate, meanwhile, is the reigning two-time Ronde champ, recent world champ, and Flemish deity Tom Boonen. While Boonen has been a terrific teammate, even in the rainbow jersey, he presumably isn't going to take a pass on the Flandrian Super Bowl for his colorful little sidekick. Even if he tried, two million Flandrians would be lined up to tackle Bettini sometime between Geraardsbergen and the finish. This is the mother of all quarterback controversies, and I absolutely can't wait to see it play out.
3. Some outcome from Operacion Puerto.
I know I said the list couldn't include resolution of the drug issue, but of the matters outstanding on that front, this is by far the most urgent. It's been six months (since the Tour bombshell), and nothing has happened. Um, OK, fine, the wheels of justice turn slowly. But much of the doping debate is at a standstill til something comes out of OP, be it charges or dismissals. The status quo of innuendo and cryptic reporting as to potential future evidence is a complete fuck-up. Sheesh... at least Landis has a hearing date.
4. Damiano Cunego, la Maglia Rosa
OK, this is a rather selective wish, but I do have a larger point besides liking the Kid: the U27 Project needs a Grand Tour win. The current dichotomy in the sport consists of single-day riders, largely dominated by young studs with little or no suspicion clouding their feats (save for one Valv.Piti), and grand tour GC types, almost all of whom are older and seem on the verge of scandal. OK, you can't paint with that broad a brush, but the hope for the sport lies not only in the ethics of the youth movement, but in the incredible talent found in the U27 group as well. Let the entire Pro Tour calendar pass into their hands, save for a few sprints between the Hushovds, Zabels, McEwens and Petacchis, just for kicks.
5. One last clear shot at the Cobbles for Hincapie.
Now that his Tour GC dalliance seems over, thankfully, George Hincapie can re-orient his season around what he does best: ride the cobbles baby! Hincapie was a deserving loser at the Ronde last year, but seemed to have things much better in hand the following week before landing in a ditch in Mons-en-Pevele. Would he have watched the winning move in astonishment a second time? Not likely. Maybe Cancellara wasn't to be beaten, but it was the saddest story of the season for American riders that we never got to find out. Disco's cobble hopes have been kneecapped by the loss of Hoste, but George is still a legitimate contender, putting yet one more team on the front of those crowded fields in Flanders and France.
What would you like to see in 2007?