Time Running Out

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…

Roman Kreuziger
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.

Pierrick Fedrigo
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.

Tyler Farrar
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.

Damiano Cunego
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.

Nick Nuyens
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.

Bradley Wiggins
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.

Photo: cyclingfans.com

4 thoughts on “Time Running Out”

  1. Wow, you think Farrar has to prove himself? He has multiple classics and grand tour stage wins and is the clear leader in the sprints for his team. Wouldn't you say he is firmly established?

    And Kreuziger is only 24! Doesn't he have a few more years to develop?

    Fedrigo too seems to have made good on his promise as a winner of Criterium International and several Tour stages.

    I agree with your assessment of Cunego, Wiggins and Nuyens. I would go further though and say that Nuyens, even with Riis on his side, is washed up. Wiggins I never thought had any talent outside of time trials. Cunego looks like a clean rider, and his past results look like they were attained through doping.

    My two cents.

  2. I think that he was right that Farrar can probably still improve, and thus prove himself to be not only a good rider (which we know already) but possibly a great one. He seems to do better every year (the second to Philippe Gilbert in that gnarly uphill finish in Toledo this year comes to mind for some reason, despite the numerous stage wins), and it seems like, especially with the impressive team he'll be on next year, he could do something really special. I'll be rooting for him and watching him next season.

  3. I don't think Wiggins has "discovered his abilities", I'd suggest that he has already peaked, at least in terms of his GT aspirations. In 2011 both the Tour and the Giro are too hilly and short of TT miles for him to be even considered a top 10-er. With depth of talent at Sky he'll struggle to be their GC pick anywhere.

    Farrar will remain in Cav's shadow for as long as Cavendish is anywhere near his best; unless Garmin bribe his dentist it will be Cavendish bunny-hopping over the line with a fag dangling comically from the corner of his mouth while the rest trail in behind.

    Farrar would do well to think less about beating Cavendish than targeting races he wants to win whether the Manxman is on the start sheet or not.

    As has been pointed out, Kreuziger is still only 24 and I'd guess that Liquigas may have been good for his development but, with some big-name Italians in front of him, not for his results in big races. If Astana can muster good support and a favourable environment perhaps he'll find it to his liking.

    Both Fedrigo and Cunego appear to bubble up then go off the boil, probably for very different reasons. Hopefully each will surprise us in 2010; they and we deserve to see them really perform.

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