Welcome to the first of our monthly preview guides. At the beginning of every month, we will look ahead to what’s coming up. January is always an exciting time, as it sees the 2012 cycling season kicks off in earnest. As usual, we start with the now traditional curtain-raiser.
Tour Down Under (17th-22nd January)
We’re unlikely to see any of the overall Grand Tour contenders here, but the race does provide a springboard for sprinters, local riders and the stars of the future to make an early name for themselves. Last year Sky’s Ben Swift won two stages while Australian youngster Cameron Meyer claimed overall victory.
This year’s route includes a summit finish on Old Willunga Hill which will open up the competition for the overall, but expect sprinters to claim at least four of the six stages. The race will also see the debut of the Australian-backed GreenEDGE team.
Look out for a more complete preview closer to the race, but if you can’t wait you can find out more on the official website here.
This month’s birthdays
A selection of the more notable birthdays in the peloton this month:
Today (3rd): Alessandro Petacchi, Lampre (38 years old). Winner of 48 Grand Tour sprint stages, and also the points classification at all three Grand Tours. Buon compleanno, Ale-Jet.
4th: Yaroslav Popovych, RadioShack (32). Now a super-domestique, but finished third and fifth at the 2003 and 2004 Giros, and has twice placed in the top 12 at the Tour.
7th: John Degenkolb, 1t4i (23). A double-stage winner at the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine, and yet another product of the HTC-Highroad production line of sprinters.
11th: Cameron Meyer, GreenEDGE (24). Last year’s Tour Down Under overall winner, and went on to become World Track Champion in the Madison.
12th: David Zabriskie, Garmin (33). A time trial specialist and winner of six Grand Tour stages. He also held the yellow jersey at the 2005 Tour for three days.
18th: Thor Hushovd, BMC (34). Winner of 14 individual Grand Tour stages and 2010 Road Race World Champion. At last year’s Tour he held the yellow jersey for seven days, won two individual stages and the team time trial.
26th: Peter Sagan, Liquigas (22). 2011 was a stellar year for Sagan, with his many achievements including three stages at the Vuelta, two stages and the overall at the Tour of Poland, two stages and the points classification at the Tour de Suisse, the overall at the Giro di Sardegna and the points classification at the Tour of California. And a whole lot of other stuff that would take too long to mention here.
30th: Richie Porte, Sky (27). The young Tasmanian won the young rider classification at the 2010 Giro and spent three days in the maglia rosa as overall leader.
Also on the blog
Look out for parts two, three and four of our start-of-year round-table, where we will discuss what to expect from our favourite riders, teams and races in 2012.
Profiles of each of our favourite riders and teams will continue daily for the next two weeks. (We will update on their progress regularly over the course of the season.)
Throughout January we will publish weekly book reviews in what we hope will become a semi-regular slot.
And finally, look out for our regular Friday features for a mixture of in-depth analysis and more light-hearted magazine-style content, including an exclusive rider interview later this month.