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What Happened to The 14 Predictions for 2014

Chris Froome crash injury Tour de France 2014

Just before 2014 started I made 14 predictions for 2014. The point wasn’t to forecast precise events, it was more a means to look at stories that could unfold in the year. Now it’s time to review them.

Prediction: Chris Froome will win the Tour de France
Well that didn’t work out. The prediction was actually more nuanced, an answer to the big question in the sport that people were asking all through the winter. All was going to plan and Froome did start the Tour as the bookies pick. “One slip, one injury and it all changes” I wrote and this proved quite true.

Tom Boonen Roubaix

Prediction: Tom Boonen will be back to form for the classics
I was thinking of the alternate year hypothesis, the idea that Boonen has often had a great season then a dull or unlucky one. 2013 was a stinker so 2014 should be great. In retrospect he did win Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and was a big factor in Niki Terpstra’s Paris-Roubaix win as the Dutchman could go up the road knowing others would hesitate in the chase because they’d just tow Boonen to the line. But 2014 wasn’t vintage Tommeke. At least he was there rather than the sorry story of injuries and crashes from 2013. 2015 looks like a big year, can he command team leadership at OPQS?

Prediction: Europcar will struggle in the World Tour
This was an easier call, made obvious with Europcar’s in extremis promotion to the World Tour despite a diminished roster as Damien Gaudin and Séb Turgot had quit for Ag2r La Mondiale, Séb Chavanel for FDJ. The team duly finished the season without a win in the World Tour. Thomas Voeckler was unlucky crashing in Adelaide before he’d started the Tour Down Under. Bryan Coquard’s an exciting talent but too young to carry the team. Pierre Rolland’s enigmatic, a big talent but seemingly adept at spreading himself too thin. Cyril Gautier’s is probably their next best rider and this doesn’t say too much. Worse they’ve now lost Kévin Reza, a big part in Coquard’s sprint train and the sponsor is pulling out and the end of 2015.

Prediction: Fernando Alonso’s new team might turn out to be an old team
The team never got off the ground but it had all the hallmarks of a duff outfit. It started out hiring suspect managers, briefly inflated the transfer market and then vanished because it couldn’t line up sponsors. In short it was just like any other ephemeral team and didn’t bring anything new beyond Alonso’s celebrity halo. There’s still so much to do in team management, for example basing all riders on one town or insisting they’re coached by the team (many top pros still use third party trainers). Hopefully Alonso will one day enter the sport with a serious and innovative project.

Prediction: Points will matter
With 18 teams in the World Tour and Alonso starting a new squad I foresaw a fight for ranking points. Only we got the opposite, we’ve ended with no Alonso team plus Cannondale merging into Garmin-Sharp. IAM Cycling have just been given their World Tour licence but it means 18 teams for 18 places so no fear of relegation. Consequently teams weren’t rushing to shore up their rankings, buying riders with sackloads of points. There’s a real structural problem here because with 18 teams or less the transfer market is predictable but the moment this equilibrium is broken everything changes.

Prediction: Orica-Greenedge will get a co-sponsor
Alas. Greenedge is Australian slang for “Your name here” but the team still hasn’t got a co-sponsor to part-fund the team despite prolific good publicity from the podium to the backstage passes. I suspectt the price has to be right, putting another name on the jersey means diluting Orica’s contribution and so far the team’s used other brands owned by cycling enthusiast Gerry Ryan like his Michelton Wines business.

Cadel Evans Crikey

Prediction: BMC get their act together
The team had been a regular disappointment, more a black hole of talent than a galaxy of stars given the propensity to recruit riders at the top of their game on generous wages and then watch them get comfortable. But as remarked last year they had many podium places in 2013 and only a bit of luck was needed, “as turnaround stories go this could be one of the easiest to achieve”. It worked with plenty of good results. Cadel Evans was no old crock as he got a string of wins and even wore the maglia rosa again, a race that first made him famous. Philippe Gilbert was effective all year while Tejay van Garderen was arguably only an energy bar away from the Tour de France podium. The test for 2015 will be whether they can turn Greg Van Avermaet into a classics winner.

MTN Qhubeka cycling

Prediction: MTN-Qhubeka will ride the Giro
It seemed so certain a year ago. The team had based itself in Italy, hired Italian riders and Giro owners RCS were even doing fundraisers with the laudable Qhubeka charity. But it didn’t happen. Maybe the exit of Michele Acquarone and Giacomo Catano changed matters? Fortunately the team got a grand tour in the legs in the Vuelta and now it’s Operation Séduction as they try to woo ASO and a coveted Tour de France spot, helped by a much stronger roster.

Katusha Dauphiné

Prediction: Goodbye Katusha?
A wild call but I wondered if Katusha would stop or at least have a big shake-up. A year ago team owner Igor Makarov sold his Itera business for billions, did he want to continue? More existentially what is the point of the team? The “Russian global cycling project” has struggled to bring on any Russian riders, the team’s best are Spanish and Norwegian. Yuri Trofimov was their only Russian winner this year. I still can’t see the point of the team but then again it’s funded with loose change by its sponsors and as we see, sports have a big part to play in Vladimir Putin’s imperial projections.

Carlos Betancur

Predictions: the year of the Colombians
2013 saw many Colombian riders break through and I thought this would continue in 2014. I wrote “the question is whether they’re hungry to succeed and keep working”. Carlos Betancur got the “hungry” part right. Overweight he still outsprinted John Degenkolb in the Tour du Haut-Var and, still rotund, he won Paris-Nice. Nairo Quintana was the best in the Giro, the strongest and the most aggressive. But it’s not all been so joyous with Team Colombia’s financial concerns and politics getting the better of the impressive 4-72 Colombia team. Arguably 2014 was the year of the Pole thanks to Rafał Majka and Michał Kwiatkowski.

Battaglin Oropa

Prediction: the Italians will struggle
Right or wrong? Vincenzo Nibali won the Tour and this can be waved like a trump card to beat any counter-arguments. But look behind this and Italian cycling looks anaemic compared to past glories. Fabio Aru is promising but after him wins at World Tour are rare. Sacha Modolo is a versatile sprinter while Lampre’s Movistar’s Adriano Malori is becoming a top time trial specialist but at the World Tour there are few other winners while Diego Ulissi’s success is still qualified by an unresolved positive test. Enrico Battaglin’s win was an overlooked highlight of the year, recently picked by excellent French site Velochrono as their TV highlight of 2014. More fundamentally there is only Lampre-Merida left in the World Tour after Cannondale’s demise and the fuchsia team are quite international with a Taiwanese co-sponsor and molto foreign managers. The country still reheats Pirata mania with countless Pantani memorials and endless speculation over the cause of his death.

Belkin cycling

Prediction: Sponsorship will get more innovative
Yes but only by a small degree. There’s still plenty to be gained by a team having one co-sponsor for the spring classics, another for the Giro and then a new one for the Tour de France in order to mine each market. We did see Belkin try this… but they lost their prime sponsor. The Dutch squad trialled crowdfunding but it wasn’t well received, one fan wrote how he paid up and didn’t feel he got much back. One for the AIGCP, UCI, Velon and others to explore.

Prediction: the UCI’s truth and reconciliation programme won’t be what you expect
The T&R label was unfortunately hung on the UCI’s investigation in pro cycling’s doping issues. But it was never going to resemble the open process in South Africa. Nobody involved in doping who has gotten away with it has any incentive to come forward. Today the CIRC’s work continues in the background and we should get a report in 2015.

Prediction: What if race-fixing replaced doping as the new new scandal?
A long-burning issue perhaps. Races are traded, sometimes for mutual gain and sometimes for cash. It’s a tricky subject, the “if you pull hard I’ll give you the stage win as I’ll get the overall lead” collusion is arguably part of cycling’s tactical repertoire but nevertheless amounts to a conspiracy to fix a result. The addition of cash to the equation crosses a line. The story of Alexandr Vinokourov’s win in Liège and his “loan” to Sacha Kolobnev is apparently still under UCI investigation, the Italian police have a file on it too while the case is still with prosecutors in Belgium. I did fear “Vino” might be engulfed by it but he’s ended the year with other worries. Still one of the few things that could derail Astana’s licence is the Licence Commission finding proof about Vinokourov’s commercial activities, it would be a clear breach of the UCI’s ethical criteria.

Conclusion
Since several predictions went wrong it was tempting to hope everyone forgot about the original post. Still it was worth revisiting, even if I did think of using the title “14 Predictions for 2014 – what went wrong”. Loyal readers will know even the weather forecast for a stage preview can go wrong but forecasting far out events is really a means to explore ideas rather than make phoney predictions and the idea of the original predictions was to raise themes that might appear, to think about future trends and maybe it’s too early for some ideas like race-fixing and better sponsorship. 2014 threw up plenty of surprises, good and bad, who would have bet on a Tour de France podium with Nibali, Péraud and Pinot? Later this month I’ll consult the crystal ball bearing for vision of 2015.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • BC Thursday, 4 December 2014, 7:08 pm

    I learned a long time ago not to try and predict anything, and I mean anything in cycling.

    It’s really just a game of chance. I even abstain from predicting the outcome of a race on the day the race is held.

    Having said all that, I am more than happy to read others predictions !

  • gus c Thursday, 4 December 2014, 7:34 pm

    Hi Mr Inrng: insightful as usual but I suppose Adriano Malori rides for Movistar, not Lampre.

    Just a friendly heads-up.

    Keep up the awesome work,

    G

  • Mickey McMook Thursday, 4 December 2014, 8:21 pm

    Chris Froome didn’t win the Tour, Tommeke wasn’t in form, Alonso’s team didn’t happen, points didn’t matter, Orica-Greenedge did not get a co-sponsor, BMC didn’t get their act together, MTN-Qhubeka didn’t ride the Giro, nyet Goodbye Katusha, 2014 NOT year of the Colombians, Italians didn’t struggle, Sponsorship didn’t get more innovative and the UCI’s truth and reconciliation programme was what to be expected: BS , while race fixing didn’t replace doping as the new scandal. Hmmmm…

    • Ben Roberts Friday, 5 December 2014, 10:59 am

      And your point is? The author revisited his predictions and openly discussed which ones came to be and which didn’t. What does your comment add?

  • Mike Thursday, 4 December 2014, 8:33 pm

    Thanks for taking the time to review, looking forward to what you think may happen in 2015.

  • Hipflexor Thursday, 4 December 2014, 8:52 pm

    ‘Exploring ideas and themes’, wonderful. I will use this when discussing predictions forever more.

    Great journalism as always.

  • TourDeUtah Thursday, 4 December 2014, 10:22 pm

    Another entertaining entry.

    As to Astana issues, race fixing, etc., Why is Vino allowed to be anywhere near this sport ?

    How does the UCI hold itself up to be an organization with any repute ?

    Why does their website suck ?

    • BenW Friday, 5 December 2014, 4:23 pm

      “Why is Vino allowed to be anywhere near this sport ?”

      I ask myself this most days there’s fresh news. I was really disappointed when he won the gold at London 2012, and didn’t think my opinion of him could sink much lower but he continues to surpass himself.

      • Dave Saturday, 6 December 2014, 6:46 pm

        watched the olympics at the roadside, and saw the finish on a big screen in the campsite. Vino taking off for the win was met by a chorus of booing from the entire crowd, “anyone but him!” shouted by the guy next to me pretty much summed it up.

        Given Leige allegedly involved a “loan” of 150,000 Euros, I wonder how much he would have had to “loan” for an Olympic gold…

    • SeeingElvis Saturday, 6 December 2014, 8:34 pm

      I have a not-particularly-daring prediction: if Astana retains full World Tour status (which, if it does, I believe, is only because of Nibali), it will be contingent upon the immediate resignation of Vino. He’ll still be a troll under the bridge, so to speak, but no longer the poster boy for Astana.

  • Phil Thursday, 4 December 2014, 11:09 pm

    Honest of you to analyse your predictions for 2014. (You could have not bothered, as you hint.)

    So, you got several wrong, by your own admission. I recall tehm being provocative at the time; they added an (informed) edge to what we might have expected from the season.

    The actual season turned out to be most dramatic (+ and -), in unpredictable ways.

    So, be bold, and give us your predictions for 2015, as promised – and especially for the Hour record!

  • Qwerty Thursday, 4 December 2014, 11:56 pm

    Good read. If only those Wall Street economists would visit their predictions… they’d be out of a job I guess.

    • garuda Friday, 5 December 2014, 3:09 am

      or doomsdaysayers. impending economic collapse… global pandemic … governments toppled…

  • KB Friday, 5 December 2014, 12:29 am

    OK, so the Colombians didn’t break through or dominate 2014, but Quintana’s Giro win and Arredondo’s KOM shouldn’t be forgotten nor overlooked. The Giro win perhaps wasn’t a total surprise after TdF 2013, but as the Vuelta TT showed, nothing is a sure thing no matter how good you are (ask Messrs. Froome, Contador, et al).

  • MJJ Friday, 5 December 2014, 12:29 am

    I wouldn’t call the Boonen prediction a clear cut miss. His form seemed to be there before his personal tragedy took him away from racing. Given the disruption, I would say he showed good “form” for the classics and he arguably did more work than any rider at Paris Roubaix.

    • The Inner Ring Saturday, 6 December 2014, 10:33 am

      That was more my point above and he was a great foil for OPQS, Terpsta could solo up the road because of his presence.

  • Don Macrae Friday, 5 December 2014, 1:18 am

    Fascinating post. Predictions are sometimes interesting and lots of journalists make them, but revisiting them is rare – and more than doubles the value. I look forward to your 2015 predictions, and the subsequent review.

  • Anonymous Friday, 5 December 2014, 9:11 am

    Excellent piece. I’m with those posting above that, as with Nibali in the TdF, Quintana’s win in the Giro (against Uran Uran no less) trumps other so-so Colombian results across the season.

  • paddydunne Friday, 5 December 2014, 9:21 am

    Keep on Keeping On, fella. Outstanding work. The difference between punters like me, shooting from the hip with a predictions, and your work is an embarassingly huge gulf. Thanks for keeping us reading and thinking, all season long.

  • Alpen Friday, 5 December 2014, 10:01 am

    ‘Carlos Betancur got the “hungry” part right.’ – got a coffee spit out of me 😉

    For the Italians, you’ve gotta put Sonny Colbrelli in there as he had a real purple patch against some WT competition and won consistently at the end of the season in some very select company.

    • The Inner Ring Saturday, 6 December 2014, 10:34 am

      Good pick and big teams have their eye on him.

  • Barry Friday, 5 December 2014, 11:33 am

    Predictions were wrong? Nothing unusual there, how often do people predict anything in sport. Loved reading it last year and lovd reading this follow up. As always the analysis and insights on this site are a cut above the rest and put most cycling news sites to shame. Keep up the good fight Mr. Inrng, another enjoyable year. Do you think the analysis will move into a full time job at any stage?

    I have to agree with the Battaglin win as a TV highlight also, a great finish that was.

  • Phil B Friday, 5 December 2014, 11:58 am

    The phrase “The test for 2015 will be whether they can turn Greg Van Avermaet into a classics winner.”
    could be truncated to getting Greg to win (though he did have a few but nothing major). he was pretty much the best all rounder at the classics, looking at his results he was always there or thereabouts, and his ability to shake up a race and create the final selection was pretty good. I hope 2015 will be a better year for him in terms of wins. he deserved Flandrian of the year…

    Also seems odd though that Gilbert has an interest in the cobbled stuff, whilst we all know he has the engine, i don’t think he’s the same kind of rider as the outgoing Hushovd, and i think he should stick to what he does best, i.e. being a classy puncheur and targetting Amstel and LBL as well as stage wins at 1 week races and the vuelta.

  • Oliver Friday, 5 December 2014, 2:36 pm

    Great stuff. I really like that you took a look back at your predictions, that prolongs and makes the exercise somehow more credible. I really look forward to your predictions for 2015.
    I have many predictions for 2015 (one of which is that more folks will realize that little has changed in terms of doping today as compared to say the Lance years) and one wish: to see big tex go to jail… I won’t hold my breath, but if it does happen — champagne pour tout le monde!

  • Christopher ATX Friday, 5 December 2014, 2:41 pm

    Great job! Applaud the revisit. The vast disparate variables and unpredictability is a big part of what we love about it all. Keep up the keen insight. I look forward to mulling over thoughts on 2015.

  • davidk Saturday, 6 December 2014, 1:23 am

    How about a competition to predict the hour record by the end of 2015? rider and km

  • Alex Saturday, 6 December 2014, 5:52 am

    As far as the “Year of the Colombians” — 1st and 2nd in the Giro plus the Mountains classification, that ain’t too shabby! The rest of the year may have been a bit quiet, but several big stage wins for Colombians, too. A great year for Colombians all in all. Besides Spain, and maybe Italy, what nationality had a better year? The poles had some great performances, too, but the rainbow stripes kind of skew perception.

    • The Inner Ring Saturday, 6 December 2014, 10:35 am

      Agreed, it was more about thinking of the story and headlines, the Colombians hit the headlines in 2013, I suppose expectation meant the story was different in 2014.

  • Alex Saturday, 6 December 2014, 5:54 am

    ^^ I should have qualified “in grand tours”

  • The Inner Ring Sunday, 7 December 2014, 11:35 am

    Turns out Katusha could stop in 2015, their licence is up and team boss Igor Makarov says he’ll decide next year whether to continue: http://rsport.ru/interview/20141202/792140485.html (Russian)

  • Atlaz Tuesday, 9 December 2014, 12:00 pm

    Not sure if you know, but there is ONE F1 driver (well, former F1 driver) who does have a cycling team; Ukyo Katayama.

  • Disfrutalaruta Wednesday, 10 December 2014, 4:19 am

    Thanks…. More honest commentary and true insight from inrng. Most outlets love making predictions (readers love reading them) but never follow up.

    As far as Italians struggling, I think we have heard the same for all of the traditionally successful countries, save maybe Spain. With Sagan, the Brits, the Colombians, etc. winning more and more races the old guard’s wins (France, Italy, Belgium) are spread thin. Doesn’t bother me but it really seems to garner press.

  • KG Thursday, 11 December 2014, 7:39 am

    That’s a bit of a bummer about Katusha. I really do hope they stay on.

  • Anonymous Thursday, 11 December 2014, 11:19 am

    predictions for 2015:
    – next december there will be an INRNG piece explaining why all their 2015 predictions didn’t actually happen, but were nevertheless still interesting.

  • noel Thursday, 11 December 2014, 11:52 am

    and here’s another… at some point in late 2015, a newspaper will print a load of damning, but not quite conclusive evidence of continuing doping in a major team, but the UCI/ASO will be hamstrung by it’s own rules from doing anything much, and nothing will change….

  • Velovibes Sunday, 14 December 2014, 12:10 pm

    The former Belkin team have now changed sponsors and is called Team Lotto NL. This is an interesting sponsoring model as this is a combined cycling and speedskating team whereby the skating team will generate most publicity in the months where the cyclists are not racing.

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