The winter always seems long, spending the working week with your fingers crossed that the weather will be OK at the weekend while flicking through numerous Instagram posts of the pros at their training camps in much sunnier surroundings than your own.
Last week, at long last, the pros returned to racing duty with Caleb Ewan taking the People’s Choice Classic and Daryl Impey recording a second consecutive victory at the Tour Down Under. It was a good week of racing, Richie Porte took his sixth consecutive win on Willunga Hill, Chris Hamilton took a brilliant 6th place on GC and Paddy Bevin surely would have won but for a crash on stage 5 that prevented him from being 100% for the Willunga Hill stage.
It got me thinking about what I would like to see in 2019, not what I THINK will happen but what I am hoping for. Here’s my list:
Cav To Return To Top Form
Love him or loathe him, the Manx Missile is/was/has been one of the defining characters of modern cycling. His record speaks for itself and it would be great to see him back to his best after his battles with injury and long term illness. The Tour is poorer without him. The current fly in the ointment is the injury to his long term friend and lead out man, Mark Renshaw, but hopefully Cav can get in the mix and make those sprint battles interesting to watch. It’ll be interesting to see how the BMC bike goes in the sprints too.
Mike Teunissen To Win His First Major Race
Ok, so I have a real reason for wanting this to happen due to Mike being my #cyclinggame19 rider but I do think it could happen. He’s back at Jumbo-Visma with a decent team around him and a decent bike to race on. He had a good spring last year, 2nd in DDV, 18th in Flanders and 11th in Roubaix so he’ll be aiming to improve on those results. He looks happy and training camp seems to have gone well for him. Obviously I’m hoping he saves that major win for Roubaix as we’ll be there to cheer him on!
Michael Valgren To Win At Flanders
Valgren had an exceptional Spring in 2018. Wins at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and the Amstel Gold Race were backed up by 4th place in De Ronde. With a Flanders conquering BMC bike under him I really do think he can win over the bergs this year and give Team Dimension Data the wins that eluded them so badly last year. With their World Tour status in question, TDD need Cav and Valgren to flourish.
Dan Martin To Finally Win Fleche
Always the bridesmaid, never the bride! Dan Martin’s results in La Fleche Wallone will be a source of irritation to him; 2nd in 2017, 3rd in 2016; 2nd in 2014, 4th in 2013, 6th in 2012. Martin has gone so close on so many occasions but living at the same time as Alejandro Valverde is a tough proposition and, when he does falter (like last year), there are superb riders like Julian Alaphilippe to step up and take the glory on the Mur de Huy. Fleche is the one that Martin would love to win and I would love to see him finally cross that line in first place
Enric Mas To Be A Home Hero At The Vuelta
I remember watching Mas win Stage 6 of Itzulia earlier in the 2018 season and I was mightily impressed with him. He beat a good field that day including Landa, Teuns, Quintana and Roglic. He had a solid Vuelta but his crowning moment came on the penultimate stage when he slammed the door shut on Miguel Angel Lopez at the final bend and beat him to the line in Andorra. It was a wise and tactically perfect finish from the ‘next Contador’. He finished 2nd overall to Simon Yates which was a fantastic achievement and, with Yates targeting unfinished business at the Giro, Mas will be hoping to go one better.
Katusha Alpecin To Return To Winning Ways
Kevin Poulton (formerly Caleb Ewan’s coach) has joined so they will be hoping that his influence and skillset will get Marcel Kittel back and firing at the top level. Kittel looked completely out of sorts last year so he’ll have a job! There’s some good young talent there (Tanfield, Fabbro, Guerreiro, Pollitt, Wurz Schmidt) but they will be expecting much more from their veterans, in particular Kittel and Zakarin. Bit of a personal one this due to my fondness for the team after the Alpecin Cycling weekend last year, I hope they do well.
Viviani To Win Milan Sanremo
After years of waiting for an Italian to win MSR, Vincenzo Nibali stormed to victory last year in one of the most exciting finishes in the whole of the racing calendar. The tifosi will be hoping that Viviani can make it 2 in 2. By my count Viviani had 18 wins last year and he picked up right where he left off in stage one of the TDU. If the bunch stays together over the Cipressa and the Poggio, Viviani will sprint on the Via Roma and La Primavera will have another Italian winner. Fact.
Richie Porte To Stay Upright For Three Weeks
I did say this isn’t necessarily what would happen! Plagued with crashes and injuries, it would be amazing to see Porte complete a Grand Tour in good form and to see what he is actually capable of as a GC leader. Unfortunately it never seems to go right for him. On the Roubaix stage of the Tour last year (Stage 9) Porte managed to crash out before they’d even reached the first cobbled sector, the general response was “Well, it’s Richie Porte isn’t it”
Tao Geoghegan Hart To Get More Opportunities At Team Sky
There were a lot of unsung heroes in the pro peloton last year (Adam Yates and Richeze to name a couple) but Tao Geoghegan Hart stuck out for me. As a foil for Egan Bernal at the Amgen Tour of California he was absolutely superb, he towed Bernal round the West Coast of America and still managed to finish 5th on the GC himself. He then picked himself up and did another huge turn for Team Sky at La Vuelta. He’s a talented, level headed lad and I hope he gets a chance to shine
Tim Wellens To Take A Win, Somewhere, In The Spring
I don’t know what Wellens is doing half the time but I like it. He’s always looking to attack and animate the race and that’s great for the spectators, but he hasn’t got it quite right for him….yet. I think and hope this year could be the year we see Wellens take home a major title
Strade Bianche To Be As Enthralling As Last Year’s Edition
Brilliant race last year, just brilliant. Tiesj Benoot’s win after bridging across (with Pieter Serry, then on his own) to Bardet and Wout van Aert, then dropping them and powering up the climb to the Piazza del Campo was amazing to watch. The images and photos from the race were memorable to the max, whether it was Tiesj’s mud covered face or the anguished face of Wout van Aert as he cramped up on the way into Siena. It helped that I had a winning bet on Tiesj at 20/1 but it was a great race and we’ll be spoilt if it is as good again this year
Bardet To Return To Top Form At Le Tour
Well, he needs to doesn’t he?! The low amount of TT kilometres and the amount of 2,000+ metre finishes (5, I think) play more to Bardet’s strengths so this may be his best chance of a Tour win. Sky will be desperate to deliver a 5th yellow jersey for Froome and we all know that they are a phenomenal unit but, with uncertainty around the future of the team, riders could be more swayed by personal achievements and that could open up opportunities for others. I hope Bardet looks for those opportunities and injects some excitement into this year’s event, I’ve had a little bet on him at 40/1
So, there it is, plenty of fingers crossed moments! I’m sure it’ll be another great season of racing and that Eurosport subscription will be my best value purchase of the year (again).