As a follow up to the item about young talents to watch, I thought I’d review some riders who have to deliver in 2011, the guys who are carrying a burden on their shoulders whilst also knowing that they haven’t got too many more seasons to impress.
I’m concious that in naming riders here that it could look like a “must try harder” list but that’s not what I mean, it’s more about looking at some cases where a rider, and indeed his team, need to make a leap from contender to winner. In no particular order…
The Slovak rider has moved to Astana and will be hoping to fill the spot left by Alberto Contador. A tough call. He won the 2008 Tour of Switzerland with some strong all round riding in the mountains and time trials but has struggled a bit to progress from this. In 2009 he rode a strong Tour de France but again hasn’t quite backed this up. For me, 2011 is the year when we’ll see if he’s a real contender for the overall in stage races or if he’s going to have to review his options.
The Frenchman has a giant talent only I can’t help feel it gets wasted. His training is amateur to say the least, he turned up for the 2010 season without even knowing how many kilometres he’d done in training, yet alone data like watts. As I wrote back in March, as much as I admire artistry on a bike, this is careless. He is one of those “force of nature” riders with the ability to win Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Perhaps it’s a tall order, especially as some riders are too well prepared but all the same, it’s now or never to win something big.
Not much to say here, it’s simply a question of whether he establishes himself as a genuine threat to Mark Cavendish or whether he ends up jostling with André Greipel and others for second place.
In some ways the Veneto rider is a metaphor for the whole sport. He burst onto the scene in 2004 but not without a few question marks. Since then he’s faded a bit, only to still land some very impressive wins. More recently he started sporting an anti-doping tattoo and now says the plan is to target one day races. He should succeed but again, if he’s not quite got veteran status yet, at 29 he’d probably love to land an Ardennes Classic.
The Belgian has never quite confirmed his early talent. Now he’s left Rabobank for Saxo-Sungard and will have the pressure of… relieving pressure from Bjarne Riis. The team is obviously struggling even before it has been officially launched and Riis’s team is substantially weakened for 2011 but you sense a win by Nuyens would “save” the teams spring campaign.
It’s almost a compliment that Wiggins is in exclusive company. Until June 2009 he was pigeonholed as a decent time trial specialist but obviously the Tour de France changed all this, although we saw flashes in the Giro before this. A move to Team Sky saw a unique focus on the 2010 Tour de France but this didn’t work with Wiggins in trouble on the first of the race’s proper summit finishes. It’s a shame it took so long to discover his abilities, he doesn’t have too many years left. But hopefully next year will see him take more enjoyment from the sport and with it, success.