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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.