Another year, another attempt to inflate chatter with some outlandish predictions. I can’t do better than repeat my introduction from last year.
So, here are ten predictions that I think the majority of cycling fans would disagree with. I don’t think they’ll all happen, but I think they’re likelier than the herd would believe. You should probably think of them as provocative, and as a shortcut to me telling you some of the riders I’m “buying” or “selling” for the season, and some of the stories I see developing. Also, there probably isn’t a direct link to FSA-DS (join now!) but I’m sure you can find a few pointers to my thinking if you look hard enough.
In the interests of full disclosure, though, let’s look back at last year’s predictions and see how well I did.
1. The world champion and the Olympic champion will be the same person. Julian Alaphillipe won’t pick up a podium in either. Eek. He only got to go for one of the two, but he won it.
2. Thibault Pinot will become the first rider since 1987 to complete the Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Il Lombardia double. This hasn’t started well. T-Bo had a tough season and is clearly not focusing on one-day races, though I think he should for all sorts of reasons.
3. Daniel Martinez will finish on the Tour de France podium. Nope, but we’re getting warmer. He won the Dauphine but couldn’t keep it together for three weeks. Now in the Ineos train, which I think might rather suit him.
4. Remi Cavagna will pick up a medal in the Olympic time trial. I’ll call this an incomplete? He certainly stepped up as a TT rider.
5. At least one World Tour team will fold. Oh, and at least one World Tour race will be ridden for the last time in 2020. I don’t know how to classify this one yet. Probably?
6. The best British performance in a grand tour this year won’t come from a rider named Yates. Or Froome. Or Thomas. Or even Hart. James Knox, your time has come. Off the post. If I’d juuust stopped one name earlier that would have been brilliant.
7. Sorry, youth fans, but both Flanders and Roubaix will be won by a rider aged more than 27. And yes, this year that counts as an outlandish prediction. Nope.
8. This will be Jonathan Vaughters’ best year in cycling. By a margin. I think so? But then, no monument and no GT? I’ll leave this to the jury. Wasn’t as good as I expected, certainly. Only finished 10th on the FSA-DS rankings, so perhaps not.
9. In the battle of the young GC contenders, Tadej Pagacar will outride Bernal, Higuita and Evenpoel over the length of the season. At last. That’s a good outcome – though I wish we’d got there without the Remco injury.
10. Oh, that Olympic/World champion I mentioned? Can I interest you in… Michal Kwiatkowski? As a way of saying I though Flower would have a big season, this was on the brave side of outlandish. Brave as two short planks, one might say. Not a bad year, but no rainbows for him. Gold in Tokyo this year? Wouldn’t bank on it.
Now that everyone’s expectations are appropriately low, let’s have a look at ten predictions for the coming year.
1. I’ll double down on my “oldies in classics” prediction. The Roubaix podium will be filled by the over-27s. Yes, this should be MvdP’s ideal race but anything can happen. Would you be shocked by a Jasper S, Florian S and Peter S podium? Or an ultra-old (i.e. all younger than me) trio of PhilGil, Styby and Kristoff?
2. It’s been a while since we had an undisputed fastest bunch sprinter in the world. Pascal Ackermann will end that dispute this year.
3. Joao Almeida fans are in for a bizarre year. He’s going to ride much more impressively for much, much less reward.
4. Sorry, wolfpack fans. No monument wins this year.
5. Sorry again, wolfpack fans. 2021 will be the first year since 2012 your team doesn’t top the FSA-DS rankings. Yes, I’m one of those fans.
6. If we get racing in Tokyo, there’ll be an unexpected winner in the battle of the Slov (which I just made up). No road race medals for Rog or Pog, and Slovenia will surprise Slovakia as Matej Mohoric picks up a medal.
7. They don’t ride the Olympic time trial course in team colours, of course, but if they did it’d make a lot of MAMILs very happy. A 1-2-3 for Ineos? I think so.
8. Aside from significant success in Milan-Sanremo, there have been two wins for Germans in monuments since 1930 (Degz in Roubaix in 2015 and Thurau in LBL in 1979). There’ll be one more this year. No, that isn’t outlandish enough. There’ll be two more this year.
9. Here’s an interesting list of cyclists. Froome, Thomas, Roglic, Pogacar, Bernal, Hart, Carapaz, S Yates, Nibali, Quintana , Aru, Valverde. With all these grand tour winners (possibly joined by Dumoulin) it is outlandish to suggest we’ll have another first-time winner. But we will.
10. Here’s another interesting list of cyclists. Binda, Steenbergen, Freire, Merckx, Sagan. To which you can add van Looy, LeMond, Maertens, Bettini, Ronnse, Bugno and Schotte. For those without a detailed knowledge of cycling history, those are the three- and two- time winners of the men’s road worlds. My point is that it is pretty tricky to win three world championships. It isn’t even easy (even with Bettini’s methods) to win two. Mads Pedersen will be awfully young when he joins the list of double winners. He, Ala, and Sagan all have a chance to end their careers as the first four-time winner.
So there we have it. Mock away. But do add your own outlandish predictions too.