Tomo looks into his crystal ball to reveal his predictions for the year ahead…
In 2013, cycling’s resilience has really come to the fore. It seems to be able to rise above adversity and baffle non-believers – particularly in Australia, where the landscape has always been dominated by team sports.
I must confess the Australian Crime Commission’s investigation into drugs in sport came as an initial surprise when first announced in February and although no athletes from non-cycling backgrounds have been implicated and no infraction notices have been issued, it confirmed once and for all that the culture of doping has potentially existed in many forms of professional sport.
The calls to introduce harsher penalties have never been clearer given the practices of cycling’s recent dim past. But let’s not get carried away with the negative; I’d much prefer to look back on another extraordinary 12 months on two wheels.
What sticks out when looking back on the UCI WorldTour is the harsh weather conditions that took their toll on many performances during the European spring. This was never more evident than at Milan-San Remo in March when the Italian one-day Classic was shortened because of the snow and ice forcing organisers to shut the section to the Turchino climb. Riders’ bodies were frozen – some simply couldn’t put hands to handlebars because of the icy conditions.
The big-freeze continued in the Giro d’Italia where the warriors were confronted with similar conditions on the final week. The images of Vincenzo Nibali in the pink jersey on the climb to Tre Cime in the Dolomites emerging from a white winter wonderland will live with many television viewers for a long time, while the frozen frame of Cadel Evans being guided back to the BMC team car after crossing the finish line was another flashpoint.
On a personal level, the excitement of another Australian snaring the Tour de France yellow jersey in Simon Gerrans brought great excitement, while the doping admission of Stuart O’Grady the week after he completed his record-equalling 17th Tour was a major disappointment.
I believe there’s still a long way to go before a Grand Tour winner will emerge from Australia’s only pro-cycling team
But now to look forward. The off-season recruits by Orica-GreenEDGE have been impressive, though I believe there’s still a long way to go before a Grand Tour winner will emerge from Australia’s only pro-cycling team.
And what about a wet and muddy Paris-Roubaix for a change? It’s almost a decade since the spectacular Classic was bogged in bad weather – let’s collectively start a rain-dance now to ensure the Hell of the North lives up to its namesake.
Two others things I’d like to see:
1) Women’s cycling gain the worldwide equality and respect it deserves, and 2) The ban for doping gets increased to four years – with no exemptions.
As for my predictions, here goes…
1. CADEL EVANS WINS THE GIRO…
As Cadel turns 37, this could be his farewell year under the leadership of BMC Aussie chief sporting director Allan Peiper. And what better way to bow out…
2. …AND RICHIE MAKES IT AN AUSSIE 1-2
Heading the Team Sky challenge, he’ll make the pink jersey an all-green affair.
3. ANNA MEARES COMES BACK
Meares makes a successful comeback after a year off the bike to win a swag of gold medals at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
4. SIMON GERRANS VICTORIOUS AGAIN
Gerrans to repeat the dose of 2013 by snaring another Tour de France stage victory and wearing the leader’s yellow jersey.
5. NAIRO QUINTANA FOR LE TOUR
Quintana to deny Chris Froome