Riders to Watch for 2014 – What Happened?

Monday, 27 October 2014

Tony Martin Tour de France

Last year I nominated a dozen riders to watch for 2014 from promising neo-pros to established world champions. It’s been a mixed year with success, surprise and some misfortune. What happened?

Tony Martin was the first listed. The story was one of time trial domination while the question was whether could he transfer his power to other events, notably road racing. Surely he could enjoy some alternative wins and get a chance to practice a victory salute in front of the crowds rather than waiting in the hot seat to see if he’d won? 2014 proved to be a mixed year as he did win Stage 10 of the Tour de France with a convincing show of force. At first he rode with Alessandro de Marchi and then went solo. We knew he could do something like this but he picked a medium mountain stage of the Tour, a day when many wanted to escape for the day. If it was triumphant, he then spent the next day off the front again in the service of his team and later winning the time trial stage. But 2014 wasn’t a vintage one for time trialling, you’ll remember he was beaten in the World Championships by Bradley Wiggins but he had other losses too including the long stage of the Tour de Romandie.

Taylor Phinney Santa Barbara

For Taylor Phinney it was a question of whether he could breakthrough during his fourth year as a pro. Long tipped for the top, although upwardly mobile his rise had slowed in 2013. This season started well with a win in the Dubai Tour, a new race and part of the sunny races that help part of the peloton prepare for the spring classics. Seventh place in the grim conditions of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad boded well for the cobbled classics but it was to be his best result of the campaign. After a break he resumed racing at the Tour of California and took third in the time trial and then a solo win to Santa Barbara using his time trial skills to power away. Everything was building to the Tour de France where he hoped to make BMC’s team but disaster struck in the US national championships where he left the race with a broken leg, his season over before he could get a shot at the year’s big goal. Today the rehab work continues.

Romain Bardet Tour de France

Could Romain Bardet continue his progress? Bernard Hinault might want every Frenchman to break though immediately with big wins but this still says more about Hinault than the sport in general. Bardet is on a long term plan to improve and 2014 has demonstrated this. It’s been a mixed year for him, just one win but some very consistent results. French focus might have been on Jean-Christophe Péraud and Thibaut Pinot in the Tour de France but Bardet’s sixth in the Tour de France is huge for a 23 year old and even speculating about Alberto Contador and Chris Froome staying upright would probably still have him in the top-10. But look at the whole season, 4th overall in the Volta a Catalunya, 10th in Liège, 5th in the Dauphiné and he kept going after the Tour de France too, with 2nd overall in the Tour de l’Ain, 5th in the GP Montréal and 11th in Il Lombardia. 2014 hasn’t seen him strike gold but all these results impress for his age.

Kwiatkowski Ponferrada

Talking about impressive results for a young rider I wondered what Michał Kwiatkowski would do for an encore after an impressive 2013. He started the year well, deposing Peter Sagan in Siena to win the Strade Bianche was symbolic of his ascendency. He was 5th, 5th 3rd and 3rd in the Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne And Liège. As you’ll know summer was more of a miss with a DNF in the Dauphiné and the Tour not working to plan but he recovered via a series of results which culminated in the World Championship road race win. A consensus seems to be forming that he can excel everywhere except the high mountains.

Rui Costa Suisse

This was going to be Rui Costa‘s big year. The Onion Grower of Póvoa de Varzim wore the rainbow jersey and was planning a tilt at the overall classification of the Tour de France, even opting for a one year contract with Lampre-Merida so that he could sign with Fernando Alonso a new team once his value has risen further. But things didn’t quite work out. In the early season he was a regular runner-up but couldn’t get a win. It all came together at the Tour de Suisse where he won for the third year in a row, riding away to win the final stage and the race overall. The big goal of the Tour de France Was missed and he quit the race in the Pyrenees to bounce back with more results in the late season including a third place in the Tour of Lombardy. He’s been so consistent that surely he’s going to land something big in 2015?

Wiggins Roubaix

Finally there’s Bradley Wiggins. I wrote “it’s up to Team Sky to help him find motivation again while avoiding a clash with Chris Froome” and this proved a public affair with the soap opera over whether he’d ride the Tour de France or not. He started the year a bit like a child in a toy store, pointing at a race saying “I want that” only to look at another race and want that too but things settled down once the objectives were agreed with his team. Ninth in Paris-Roubaix was impressive, seeing a Tour winner on the cobbles is rarity these days but Wiggins is an unusual Tour winner. He was at his best in the Tour of California with a stage win and treating the mountain stage like a training exercise as he set a tempo up to Mountain High, the picture of bio-mechanical precision with legs turning and the upper body frozen despite the intensity of the effort. A maelstrom of form, Froome’s biography, illness and injury on Team Sky and a sofa interview with the BBC prompted a media frenzy over Wiggins’s place in Sky’s Tour team, it grabbed the headlines but has since been forgotten about. The season ended with a rainbow jersey in Ponferrada, a more enduring memory. A solid season on the road and arguably Sky’s best rider this year. He’s got that celebrity X-factor that’s bigger than the sport but remains an elusive character, often very private and often so public.

Tomorrow I’ll cover the neo-pros.

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Gtgtgt October 27, 2014 at 10:11 am

No list of riders to watch should contain Taylor Phinney… Well, not unless it’s ‘completely overrated riders to watch’.

Sam October 27, 2014 at 11:07 am

Hmmm. The guy’s got abilities, no doubt. But I do suspect a lot of over-hype.

Phil B October 27, 2014 at 3:23 pm

It depends on the extent of his injuries. He had a solid season without acheiving much, up until the US champs. those photo’s of his leg make my stomach turn!

Give him a pan flat TT course and i have no doubt that if 100% fit he could give Wiggins and Martin a reasonable run for their money. Whether the leg injury heals enoug, i’m unsure. if fit, i’d have said next year would have been his proper breakthrough year. as it stands, I’m unsure.

Sam October 27, 2014 at 3:32 pm

2013 Worlds. Pan flat course. Phinney came 5th, 2:08 down on Martin and 1:22 down on Wiggins. Kiryienka and Cancellara finished between him and Martin/Wiggins.

To date he has never given either a ‘run for their money’ on a long course, flat or otherwise.

Netserk October 27, 2014 at 3:53 pm

I’d say he did just that in the WCITT in 2012.

Sam October 27, 2014 at 5:57 pm

Netserk, quite right, you’ve pulled me up fairly re the 2012 Worlds. Wiggins wasn’t there, but Phinney dropped only 6s to Martin. My bad.

Anonymous October 29, 2014 at 10:40 pm

He’s young so still relatively inconsistent… And before injury, well I’d say he’d grow into someone that can challenge and beat them in the next couple of years. Not absolutely sure now…

Netserk October 27, 2014 at 10:12 am

Kwiatkowski was 5th, 3rd, 3rd, not 5th, 5th, 3rd, though I don’t blame you for mixing it up 😉

Netserk October 27, 2014 at 10:15 am

On another note I think Tony’s ride in Suisse was impressive as well, both as teammate and captain. Maybe he could’ve won if the last stage was raced more normally?

Toestrap October 27, 2014 at 10:34 am

I agree, suprised Inrng didn’t mention it. His control of the GC group on the penultimate stage showed his strength as a favourite for week long stage races, or even potential for a Tour challenge in the same mould as Wiggins.
My guess on his world ITT defeat is that he was knackered after the Vuelta, whereas Wiggo trained specifically for the race and arrived fresher.

Toestrap October 27, 2014 at 10:35 am

Incidentally, is Tour of Britain or Quebec/Montreal now seen as a better bet now for Worlds prep, rather than Vuelta?

Anonymous October 27, 2014 at 10:57 am

Wiggins said it was the climbing that made the difference. Tony Martin’s slight advantage in power output was counterbalanced by his heavier weight. Since Wiggo put out almost the same watts but was at least 5kg lighter, then he made time on the climbs. You can see this in the fact that at the first split which was dead flat, Martin was ahead.

Remember last year, Martin also rode the Tour and the Vuelta and crushed Wiggins and Cancellara in the TT, but that course was longer and almost totally flat allowing him to spool up that 58 tooth chain ring.

Anonymous November 3, 2014 at 1:54 am

Tony Martin rode the TTT as well.

Sam October 27, 2014 at 10:59 am

Martin’s talked previously (Procycling mag interview, I think) about what it would take to become a better climber in the high mountains i.e. to try to become a GT contender. Said he’d have to shed a lot of kgs and wasn’t interested (just as he isnt at all interested in the cobbles).

As for the Worlds TT. Wiggins really is his only peer. The pair are head and shoulders above the rest. Given that Wiggins has declared that he wont be at Richmond next year (though you never know with BW), it’ll be interesting to see whether Martin changes his programme next year – after all he followed the same programme last couple of years – it worked in 2013 Worlds but he got beaten this year. After Wiggins, Martin’s probably still got enough of a margin over Dumoulin for another year or two.

Anonymous October 27, 2014 at 7:14 pm

Do you have a link to that article?

Sam October 28, 2014 at 10:19 am

Nope – read it in hard copy. Last year some time.

Joe K. October 28, 2014 at 3:36 am

Disappointing performances by Colombians Uran Uran and Betancur, although Quintana did perform as expected in the Giro.

Toestrap October 28, 2014 at 10:08 am

Harsh on Uran Uran. Second on GC (and ITT win) at the Giro again is not too shabby!

RK October 29, 2014 at 9:00 am

Im really interested how betancur fares next year. its a talent vs. difficult character contest. will he become a tragic figure or not?

Anonymous October 28, 2014 at 3:41 am

I wanna see Kwiat have a huge season next year in his spiffy rainbow stripes, that guy is cool

Augie March October 28, 2014 at 5:32 am

The problem for Michał Kwiatkowski next season is that he’ll be a marked man in the way Peter Sagan has become, which will mean no more being allowed to go up the road and away for the victory. This would have happened anyway given his results this year, but the rainbow stripes will only make him easier to target. My prediction is that he’ll have to work far harder for results next year.

Joe K. October 29, 2014 at 9:45 am

The biggest disappointment for 2014 was the TdF blowout having Froome and Contador crashing out with no finale to the Nibali-Froome-Contador battle royale. Maybe Froome’s afraid of the cobbles now, so he’s dissing the 2015 Tour parcours. And with the low TT kms on offer, looks like he took it personally–like an invitation to stay away.

euro October 30, 2014 at 10:21 pm

I’m just Glad to see Rui Costa’s gay white World Champs’ bibs disappear, at least for a year!

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