We’ve already had quite a lively debate about the races and riders and the issues which shaped the 2012 season. In the third and final part of our end-of-year round-table we look forward to what 2013 might bring.
We now know the routes for next year’s Giro d’Italia and what will be the 100th edition of the Tour de France. Initial thoughts on both?
Jack: Both look mouth-wateringly exciting. There’s been some talk in the British media that the Giro route has been built with Bradley Wiggins in mind, but I’m not so sure it will suit him completely. Better climbers should be able to open up time gaps on the seven mountain finishes and uphill ITT. The stage with the Passo dello Stelvio, Passo di Gavia and the summit finish at Val Martello looks completely brutal.
Tim: I’m really looking forward to both races. At first glance they both sit just – but only just – on the right side of the paper-thin line which separates spectacular from sadistic, with some mega set-piece stages and plenty of opportunities for different types of rider to shine. I’m amused and bemused by the British media comments that Jack mentions though. As if the Giro organisers would build a parcours around a British rider! Can he win it? Yes, but I’d put his chances some way below 50% – and less still if Cannondale’s Vincenzo Nibali contests his home race. There are plenty of places for climbers to attack, and he won’t have all of Sky’s ‘A’ team around him – they’ll save most of them for the Tour. With or without Wiggo, both races should be fantastic.
Kathi: Both look amazing. The Giro is always so elegant and imaginative – my favourite Grand Tour, hands down. Now the Tour de France has risen to the challenge and put together an amazing and imaginative parcours. And how excited am I for the night-time finale on the Champs-Elysees, complete with fireworks?! I’m trying to get everyone I know to come – it’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of event.
Panache: I wish I could say that I have spent some time thinking about next year’s Giro but I haven’t because I’m planning my trip to the 100th Tour de France – I’m so excited! I’ll be riding Ventoux, L’Alpe d’Huez, and the Col de la Madeleine! Plus I’ll be meeting Kitty for the first time on the Champs, after Mark Cavendish wins the evening sprint.
Sheree: It’s the riders that make the race not the route and, as yet, we don’t know which of the big names will be racing the respective Grand Tours. Obviously I’m psyched about the Tour because it’ll literally be racing past my front door but, with my first trip to the Giro looming, I’m looking forward to it in equal measure. And let’s not forget the as yet to be announced Vuelta which last year provided us with some pretty exciting racing. [‘Pretty exciting’? A masterpiece of British understatement there – Ed.]
Tim: I’m looking forward to the Vuelta route being revealed, which should happen in mid-January. Rumours are already circulating that next year’s parcours might be even more brutal than this year’s!
Let’s play fantasy cycling. Pick your ideal 2013 team, one capable of dominating in both Grand Tours and Classics, in the mountains and on the flats. To spice things up you are not allowed to select any of the following: Contador, Rodriguez, Wiggins, Cavendish, Greipel, Sagan, Martin, Gilbert, Boonen, Voeckler, Voigt and Cancellara.
Tim: With Contador off the table I’d take Chris Froome as my GC leader – doubling up as a time trial contender – with Sylvester Szmyd, Richie Porte and Olympic silver medallist Rigoberto Uran as my mountain minders. I’d have Argonaut Marcel Kittel in the sprints, with Koen de Kort and Eddy Boasson Hagen as my nominated lead-outs, with the latter doubling up as my main man on hilly Classics-style finishes. Without Jens Voigt I’d pick Orica-GreenEDGE’s Svein Tuft to put in the hard kilometres and lay down the hurt – he’s not so well-known but, trust me, that fella can ride and ride forever. Finally, I’d have Taylor Phinney – if for no other reason than to keep Kitty happy – but also because the kid would brighten up any team and can time trial like the wind.
Sheree: Okay, I don’t think it’s possible to pick nine men who’ll shine in all the Classics and the Grand Tours but I do think that you can pick a team which will perform consistently – the key to winning fantasy cycling games – in both stage races and the Ardennes-type Classics. My team captain is Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp). You need an experienced, reliable guy at the helm – he can time-trial and win Grand Tours. My main man is Euskaltel’s Samu Sanchez [didn’t see that one coming! – Ed] and he’ll be taking Purito’s wing man Danny Moreno (Katusha) along with Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Sergio Henao (Sky) to shepherd him in the mountains. He’ll also have assistance from the experienced Maxime Monfort (RadioShack-Nissan), another solid performer in time trials and stage races. My sprinter is the under-23 world champion Alexey Lutsenko whom Alexandre Vinokourov claimed is “better than Sagan” and will be riding for Astana next season. My remaining two slots are taken by Euskaltel’s Izagirre brothers, Jon and Gorka, talented all-rounders whom I’ve watched with interest this past season and who’ll make Samu feel at home.
Panache: I would select my team by these categories: mountain goats and hard men. Like Tim, I would not pass up on Chris Froome. In my opinion, he is the only person who might be able to challenge Contador at the Tour. To help him I would add Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Tejay van Garderen (BMC), Thomas De Gendt (Vaconsoleil-DCM), and neo-pro Joe Dombrowski (Sky). All of these men are capable of possibly winning a Grand Tour. To win the Classics and protect our GC men in the Grand Tours I would add TT phenom and under-23 Paris-Roubaix winner Taylor Phinney (BMC). He would be accompanied by the experience of Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) and the most underrated Classics rider in the world, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC). The cherry on top would be the addition of Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) to clean up in the sprints.
Jack: My main man would be Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas), ably assisted by Laurens ten Dam (Rabobank), Maxime Monfort (RadioShack-Nissan) and Rui Costa (Movistar) in the mountains. Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) is an excellent all-rounder, Jeremy Roy (FDJ-BigMat) would be my resident breakaway lunatic, with Daniel Oss (Liquigas) a handy rouleur who can mix it in a sprint. Giacomo Nizzolo (RadioShack-Nissan) would be my sprinter, with the legend that is Koldo Fernandez (Garmin-Barracuda) riding as an ever-helpful domestique.
Kathi: Okay. GC contender: Tejay van Garderen. Time trial, Classics and all-round superstar: Taylor Phinney (hell yeah!) Breakaway guys: Andrey Amador and Johnny Hoogerland. Classics man and road captain: Bernie Eisel. Sprints: Kittel, with Koen de Kort and Greg Henderson in support. Pure climber: Pierre Rolland. I would be a very happy DS with so many of my favourites on the team. And I think we’ve got all the bases covered!
You’re asked by a casual fan who has only ever watched the Tour de France on TV to suggest one race for them to see live in 2013. What’s your recommendation and why?
Sheree: Go and watch the Tour of the Basque Country. It’s without question my, and many others’, favourite race to go and watch. The setting is spectacular – the countryside in the Basque country is really beautiful. The natives are extremely friendly and passionate about bike racing. Stay in an inexpensive, family-run hotel in the heart of the region which will allow you to easily follow the race. It’s no problem to get up close and personal with the riders and the event has a very relaxed and laid-back atmosphere which will afford plenty of opportunities to sample the local cuisine and culture. In addition, the race is book-ended by two one-day races – the GP Miguel Indurain and the Klasika Primavera – which you can also go and see. I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be over Easter.
Panache: The Queen of the Classics, Paris-Roubaix. Belgian fans, pavé, and the finish in the Roubaix Velodrome – what’s not to like? But … Sheree has been to more UCI races in person than all of us combined. So listen to her!
Jack: Paris-Roubaix for the toughest racing in the world, or the Strade Bianche for the rolling hills of stunning Tuscany.
Kathi: I would have said Tour of Flanders if the parcours hadn’t changed, so I would say Paris-Roubaix. It’s just got so much drama and guts and dirt and pain and passion – from both the riders and the spectators. If your heart is still hardened towards cycling after seeing that, there’s no hope anything will soften it.
Tim: In an ideal world I would say Paris-Roubaix or one of the week-long races which has gradients to die for: Basque Country, perhaps, or the Giro del Trentino. In reality it doesn’t matter. Pick any race that’s accessible to you and go for whatever takes your fancy, whether it is a mountain stage where you can see riders attack and suffer or a city circuit stage which combines the excitement of a sprint finish with the opportunity to see your heroes up close several times in one day. Basically, anywhere with good enthusiastic crowds. While it’s true that the riders make the race, it’s the spectators who make the day.
Sheree: If you’d asked me to pick my favourite one-day race it would be the Clasica San Sebastian for the reasons listed above and in my humble opinion it beats Paris-Roubaix – which I’ve also seen live – hands down into second place. But I would agree that the latter is a better TV spectacle.
We’d all agree that 2012 hasn’t been the greatest year ever for the UCI. Let’s say you get to be UCI president for the day. What’s the one thing you would do to improve the sport’s image for 2013?
Sheree: Just a day? I did have something longer in mind … Okay I’d hand over responsibility for drug testing to WADA and I’d sell off the race promotions company.
Kathi: I would give all doping controls to an independent body so that there was no conflict of interest.
Tim: Appoint a credible replacement with a genuine mandate to change the sport for the better, starting with Sheree and Kathi’s suggestions. And then make the Tour de France a race consisting of 21 sprints, just for my man-crush Mark Cavendish. Seriously. Okay, not seriously. I’d have 19 sprints, a time trial and Alpe d’Huez. I’d say that’s pretty well-balanced …
Panache: One day? Just one thing? I can’t live with these constraints. Ok, the one thing I would change is EVERYTHING! [Here we go again … – Ed.] Here is a bulleted list of just a few changes to start:
- Place the responsibility for doping control in the hands of an independent agency
- Jettison Global Cycling Promotions, which is a clear conflict of interest
- Overhaul the ridiculous UCI WorldTour points system which encourages doping
- Work with race organisers to get a share of television rights for the ProTeams
- Allow race radios
- Develop new policies for ensuring the safety of riders before and after a crash
- Allow the bicycle industry to innovate without such tight regulation
Jack: I can’t add anything to what’s already suggested above.
Finally, gaze into your crystal ball and predict who will win the Tour de France and the World Championships road race in 2013.
Kathi: Tour de France: Alberto Contador. World Championships: Fabian Cancellara. One day he will be in the road race rainbow jersey!
Panache: Alberto Contador and ‘Purito’ Rodriguez.
Jack: Alberto Contador and Peter Sagan.
Tim: I’m with Jack. Bertie and SuperSagan for me too.
Sheree: Sadly the battery needs charging in my crystal ball and it’s all gone a bit murky but I think I can see Alberto Contador wearing the maillot jaune in Paris and Samu Sanchez triumphant in Tuscany.
Tim: And on that note I’m off to check the odds on Contador for the Tour!