Hello again, friends. It has been far too long. I’d say this marks a return to regular writing, but I fear that’d be a promise I can’t keep. Whenever I can write, I will – that I can promise. The “good” news is that I’ve found the time to pull together one of my favourite gimmick columns for the third consecutive year. Here’s the reheated introduction:
I didn’t want to leave you without the chance to mock me again. 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.
So form a queue to start the mocking, but while you’re at it, put your head above the parapet and make a few outlandish claims of your own.
Last year’s projections were… outlandish indeed. If a column could have an aroma, that one would be “four day old fish”. Still, that’s the nature of taking risks. Looking through the list, I can’t actually see a single one I got right, but one of them will reappear below. It will by neccessity eventually become right.
1. Here’s a complicated but fun one. Other than Pogacar, we’ll see the same three monument winners, each taking home a different monument. Doesn’t it make more sense than the 2021 results to see Colbrelli winning MSR, Asgreen winning RvV and Stuyven winning Roubaix? (Oh, and I checked. That treble pays 1956.5/1, which I don’t think is enough, but it is worth thinking about).
2. Speaking of Asgreen, he’ll be the leading point-scorer of the Quick Step boys by FSA-DS or any other metric. Top-10 overall scorer, too. Yes, I wrote this before he got Covid. No, I’m not changing it.
3. This is the year Pogacar turns mortal. He’s been brilliant so far, but he’s also been lucky with injuries and crashes. I say he has a year off winning grand tours and monuments.
4. With that in mind, 2022 really will be the year of a new GT winner. (A reminder – the current GT winners lining up are Froome, Thomas, Roglic, Pogacar, Bernal, Hart, Carapaz, S Yates, Nibali, Quintana, Dumoulin and Valverde.)
5. I said last year that Pascal Ackermann would take the crown as dominant sprinter, and boy was I wrong. This year Fabio Jakobsen will be the man.
6. We haven’t had a Dutch winner of the (men’s) world championship (road) race since 1985. That ends this year.
7. Remco Evenpoel. Let’s all just settle down, okay? I think he’ll be good. As good as last year? Doubt it. Making the leap? Very much doubt it. On the other hand, that isn’t outlandish enough. Try this: his day one win in Valencia will be the biggest of his season. That’s more like it.
8. If we’re happy to think of the Danes and the Norwegians as basically the same (and, let’s be honest, we probably are), this is the year we officially see the hegemony coming. Add Foss, Johannesenn, Skjelmose, Leknessund, Jensen and Bjerg to the long list of young and talented riders who have been competing on the biggest stages for years now.
9. I don’t think there’s a wrong Yates this year. Even if you want a GT winner.
10. Back to sprinters – thanks for the resurgence, Mark, it was a journey. Thanks for the years, Arnaud, Elia. What’s that, Caleb? You’re only 27? Tim, you’ve only just got your place among the elite? Sorry, fellas. There’s a new crew in town. Fabio and Jasper make the cut, but expect some new names to join them at the top table. This won’t be the last time I have to check how to spell Biniyam. I might brush up on Kaden, Marijn and Olav, too.
So, there we have it. Anyone else feeling outlandish today?