How did they do in 2011?

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Thibaut Pinot

Last winter I picked seven young riders to watch in 2011. Forecasting is a mug’s game. Even the best computers and science struggles to get next weekend’s weather right so trying to judge who will win a bike race in six months’ time is more an exercise in projective storytelling than prediction.

Still, with the season over, time to revisit the picks of 2011 and see how they got on.

Taylor Phinney
A big talent and big salary, his move to BMC was a sign of the team’s willingness to acquire talent at any price. His season was textbook stuff with some prologue wins and solid performances in longer time trials. I think it is possible to arrive as a sprinter or a climber as a neo-pro but time trialling is something else, it takes a few years to push a big gear – ask Tony Martin or Fabian Cancellara – and Phinney looks set to become a top time triallist. We’ll see in 2012 and beyond if he becomes more, perhaps a sprinter too or a rider for the classics as well.

Best story though was in the Tour of Romandie on the final stage to Geneva. His father won the same stage in 1988 but this time he was on team duty for Cadel Evans and after setting tempo on an early climb, got dropped. Soon he was overtaken by the broom wagon and had his race number pulled off his back. He also had injuries from a crash earlier in the race, Yet he asked for a map and rode to the finish. He’s not the type to sit up.

Dani Navarro
I wrote that “after winning a stage in the Dauphiné, the Spaniard was drilling the pace in the Tour de France to the extent where were wondering if the 27 year old can make the step up into something more. Certainly Bjarne Riis will be counting on this” only this didn’t happen. Navarro’s form of 2010 wasn’t replicated and if he worked hard all year, he was not setting the tempo in the mountains with the leaders.

Sep Vanmarke
He took fourth in the GP E3-Harelbeke and another fourth place in a sprint finish of the Vuelta which was decent but you’d hope for a tiny bit more, although not easy with so many others on the team and you wanted neo pro talent on Garmin-Cervélo, see Ramūnas Navardauskas.

Peter Sagan
There’s not much to say. If 2010 saw him emerge, 2011 saw plenty more examples to confirm his talent. In sprints, uphill and more, he seems to win in a nonchalant manner that masks his prodigious power, he can win mountain stages and bunch sprints alike.

Richie Porte
2011 didn’t prove better than 2010 in terms of the headlines and the suprise factor. But comb through the results and he cracked the top-three in several time trials and took a few wins too so I think the Tasmanian can be be happy. Now off to Team Sky, he should improve more but will he have the leadership opportunities alongside Wiggins, Rogers, Froome and Uran?

Yoann Offredo
Some strong riding in 2011 made his large frame a regular feature in the early season classics until he crashed out. But work with a sports psychologist to calm him for the big races doesn’t seem to have worked in full. Because he was often visible in the last 50km of a classic but not the final 10km, he admits to wasting too much energy too soon.

Thibaut Pinot
I saved Pinot til last and suspected many riders would wonder who he was. But FDJ’s Pinot made a lot of progress in 2011, with some good placings and even a stage race win in the Settimana Lombarda. The most impressive thing is not the results but his cool manner. He seems to be aware of his talents and abilities but works hard to improve things and is willing to take on a leadership role despite being just 21 years old.

Summary
I enjoyed keeping an eye on these riders during the year and they all did well although a few would have preferred more from the year, especially Navarro. Tomorrow I’ll pick six neo-pros to watch for 2012.

Darren December 20, 2011 at 9:46 pm

Have also been watching Sep Vanmarke since his gutsy performance in Gent-Wevelgem last yr against Eisel and Hincapie! Hope to see more of him in 2012! Also enjoy seeing ‘speed freak’ Sagan in action!

Champs December 21, 2011 at 1:01 am

I can only see Sagan taking several Worlds and Milan-SanRemo titles. He has so much more potential than Bettini and Freire ever did.

Mullummer December 21, 2011 at 2:33 am

Sep Vanmarcke does have an excuse of injuries. He missed season preparation.
First real race was late march.

The Inner Ring December 21, 2011 at 6:27 am

Mullummer: yes and I should add he was a part of the team win in Paris-Roubaix as he was the rider with Hushovd group when Van Summeren was up the road, giving the Norwegian more support and helping Van Summeren too. Phinney too was out for some time with injuries.

Gavin December 21, 2011 at 9:40 am

It’s hard to understand Porte’s move to Sky. I don’t see Rogers as a leader there but I suspect there are several other riders in addition to those you list who Porte will likely end up domestiquing for. Strange. As for Navarro I regard his drilling of the pace in the TdF 2010 in the same vein as performances in 2011 from the likes of Cobo, Froome, Horner, Leipheimer etc.

Rooie December 21, 2011 at 10:50 am

I don’t understand your choice for picking neo-pro’s instead of interesting young riders (neo-pro and second year pro) like you did last year. The last categorie is wider and seems more interesting.

Rooie December 21, 2011 at 10:52 am

Oh, and what about Michael Matthews? I view him as an interesting rider and am anxious to see if he can again win some stages in the TdU.

The Inner Ring December 21, 2011 at 10:52 am

Gavin: it’s a complicated story, he wanted to join Sky in 2010 (to ride in 2011) and so perhaps back then he didn’t know Rogers, Cavendish, Froome, Uran and all the others would be there.

Rooie: actually I was going to use the wider definition of riders still on a neo pro contract, not just those turning pro for 2012.

Rooie December 21, 2011 at 12:22 pm

@TheInnerRing Cool! Anxious for your predictions…

beev December 21, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Given the term “neo-pro” is somewhat wider than it’s literal meaning, i’ll list my 6 young young pro’s to watch out for more great things in 2012. So, in no particular order;

Luke Durbridge – much like his already well established young compatriot Jack Bobridge, i expect Luke to break the TT shackles in the near future and make his mark on the road scene – and still only 20!

Carlos Betancur – very classy and complete looking young Colombian who we all want to see more of next year

Marcel Kittel – along with the emergence in of John Degenkolb in 2011, i expect Marcel to go on to bigger and better things, even if his 2012 team is not among the Pro Tour ranks

Andrew Talansky – I would like to see him be allowed to try to make his mark in some of the one week Tours in 2012.

Alex Dowsett – obviously very well known by us Brits already, but hope to see a continuation in his successes in 2012. Only fear is the distortion that Olympic preparation may have on his season.

Steven Kruiswijk – ok, so i’m stretching the neo term a bit here for this 24 year old, but fully expect him to land something big in 2012.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank mr. inrng for his continued excellence in blogging throughout 2011. Long may it continue….

Larry T. December 21, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Compliments on an excellent blog in 2011. Best wishes for 2012 and beyond.

Rooie December 21, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Michael Matthews (Rabo)
Marcel Kittel (Skil)
Nikita Novikov (Vacans-Soleil)
Manuel Belletti (Lampre-ISD)
Mattia Cattaneo (Lampre-ISD)
Nairo Rojas (Movistar)

Vandalay December 21, 2011 at 6:16 pm

You say Taylor Phinney got a big salary from BMC? What are the rumored figures? I’d guess as a neo-pro big talen ton a long term contract $350k Euro per year?

The Inner Ring December 21, 2011 at 9:41 pm

Vandalay: not far off but it was in US$ and I believe team manager Jim Ochowicz is funding the contract.

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