What Happened to the 10 Predictions for 2015?

For fun at the start of the year there were 10 predictions for 2015. If you make predictions for the future it’s valuable to revisit them and see what happened… and what didn’t.

Prediction 1: The Ardennes week will have a different feel
This one fell flat, got up and then stumbled over gain. First the mooted change in the finish of Liège-Bastogne-Liège didn’t happen, it’s still in Ans – a contract ties ASO to the shabby suburb – and so the rhythm of the race took on a familiar pattern. The second stumble was in the Flèche Wallonne where experience of racing up “the wall” was deemed essential ahead of the Tour de France’s visit. Yes, this did bring plenty of Tour de France GC candidates but they didn’t feature too much, a star billing where the race orbited around the usual specialists. Yes Alejandro Valverde won and stood on the podium in the Tour but he’s the prototype rider for a finish like this. Chris Froome crashed, Vincenzo Nibali was 20th and the real surprise was the inclusion of the Côte de Cherave, just 5.5km from the finish and 1.3km at 8% average but mostly over 10%. This novelty shook things up a bit compared to the traditional dash along the Meuse and hopefully it stays for 2016.

Contador Giro 2015

Prediction 2: Alberto Contador will win the Giro
This one went right but was this the predictive equivalent of saying night follows day? What really mattered was whether Contador could win the Giro d’Italia and then perform in the Tour de France. Contador’s Giro-Tour double attempt was a big attraction of the season only it seems he went too deep in May. The prediction suggested Contador could try to establish an early lead and manage this – tapering off during the race if you like – only his best plans were countered by other teams making life as hard as possible. Astana in particular were rapacious and a serious shoulder injury made it worse for Contador. He re-emerged in June to beat Nairo Quintana in the Route du Sud. His relative failure in the Tour de France was bad for him and a blow for the sport in general as it’s killed interest in the double for some time, although it’s worth remembering this was one case including a heavy crash injury rather than sports science proof that it can’t be done. It leaves the Giro as the alternative grand tour, a test event to groom budding champions before a tilt at the Tour: an outcome with political and financial implications as ASO and RCS do battle.

Dauphiné 2015 Valfréjus

Prediction 3: The Critérium du Dauphiné will be a very different race
The idea was the 2014 Dauphiné was so good it surely couldn’t be repeated plus the lively racing had left Contador and Froome so rinsed it was better to back off and leave the door open for some younger riders to make their mark in June. Instead we saw two captains of two of the largest teams battling it out as Froome chased down Tejay van Garderen to win the race by ten seconds on the final climb, thrilling race with a great day in the rain across the Vercors plateau plus that Allos descent by Romain Bardet. It was a great edition and already many are announcing they’ll ride the Dauphiné in 2016 again. Riders seem willing to push themselves very hard in this race knowing they can back off for three weeks before the Tour begins.

Prediction 4: Marcel Kittel will be the sprint king and his Giant-Alpecin team will thrive
A safety in numbers pick given everyone was surely thinking the same. We still don’t have a full story of what went wrong with Kittel, just a “virus”. There’s been the sporting equivalent of the “tricky second album” after his smash hits of 2014, there was illness and fatigue, possibly more and then came contractual disputes in the team with his wish to ride the Tour de France extinguished by a steely management and the rare shredding of his contract to free up a move to Etixx-Quickstep. The broader point behind Kittel did work out, this is the story of a team that thrived without him though, Luka Mezgec didn’t flourish as predicted but John Degenkolb won two Monuments while Tom Dumoulin had a great season with the Vuelta as confirmation for the lanky Limburger rather than revelation. Once they were a small outfit with wooing ASO for wildcards as a central plank of their strategy; today they’re a big slick team with a pipeline of sponsorship but the foundations are still visible: their whole Tour team was a product of their rider development program.

Prediction 5: A year without a major doping scandal?
The crystal ball was brilliant here: we have indeed had a year without a major doping scandal. The closest was Astana whose licence was almost taken away by the UCI. Did they find a fridge full of blood or vat of vials? No, turns out they weren’t following suggested guidelines on coaching support and language barriers. Later the Tour de France had speculation and suspicion in the place of scandal and samples with Team Sky caught in a public relations bother. As written back then “not to say there’s no more doping but it looks like athletics is becoming the whipping boy of anti-doping”. Indeed.

Prediction 6: Cycling will remain impossible to watch
This turned out right too and in fact too much so. One obvious clue to the sport’s dysfunctions is that it’s very hard to watch a season’s racing without resorting to illegitimate means. Even the keenest fan could equip themselves with more satellite dishes and cable connections than a CIA listening station only to be thwarted because there still are no ways to watch a race on TV. Of course nothing is impossible and you can turn to the web and many races via a pirate stream on the internet but this is a black market in TV rights which is bad for race owners and teams alike and usually terrible for fans who are left to consume the sport on a low-fi stream that drops out before the finish, although just in time to sneak some malware onto your computer. For US fans things have got even worse with NBC dropping some coverage. It’s frustrating partly because the television can be brilliant, Sporza’s coverage of the spring classics is brilliant while both RAI and France Télévisions offer superb HD images for the Giro, Tour and more.

Tour de France Champs Elysées

Prediction 7: The Tour de France gets sold
This was a cautious claim because while bidders were circling there are many obstructions, notably the government decree in France that insists the Tour is shown free to air (this exists in other countries too) so for all the Parisian stockmarket speculation it was stated that the probability of a deal was low. It seems exploring a sale has convinced the Amaury family that the Tour is a valuable asset with a promising future and they’ve sold off print titles like Le Parisien. RCS is copying this with a recent press release explaining their new strategy includes bolstering their bike races rather than selling them.

Prediction 8: The UCI’s 2020 reforms get diluted and delayed
This proved right too. A year ago the forecast was that the teams and the UCI would be at loggerheads and it seems this happened to the point where the UCI pivoted during 2015 to make the reforms less suitable to the race organisers and more for the teams although it seems to be a compromise solution where three year licences are seen as only the minimum by some team owners while the likes of ASO see it as way to much. More dilution and delays?

Prediction 9: Oleg Tinkov will continue to provoke
Right again. At first glance this is like saying “a dog will bark” but below the headline of provocations the real story was whether Tinkov would stay in the sport, at the start of the year some were saying the Russian rouble crisis could see the team fold before the Tour de France . But Tinkov always had the cash reserves and an undepleted passion to keep the show on the road. Still bark he did and Tinkov kept up the provocation whether the taunting tweets, public criticism of his riders and, during July, calling for teams to boycott the Tour de France which is a bit like visiting someone’s house for dinner and then telling other guests to stop eating and go home.

Trek Domane brakes

Prediction 10: Bike tech won’t bring anything new
It’s hard to name a big new product that appeared in 2015, we’ve seen trends continue for example Trek’s Madone sees the integration of components to make the bike more aero. For those who say disc brakes are new, we’re still in a trial phase of tech that’s been used on MTBs for ages. A change to the 6.8kg rule was mused but this is yet to happen, maybe in 2016? If anything there’s a reversal in some areas, carbon rims have got heavier with manufacturers citing the aero gains of wider rims but these are stronger thanks to the wider arch too while electronic shifting from Shimano and Campagnolo sees firmware used to prevent backwards compatibility, a unwelcome novelty. A potential novelty in the World Tour was the introduction of rider telemetry and again it’s been done before, just not on this scale and solutions now exist to capture every rider’s position, speed and more in real time and with luck this will feature more in 2016.

57 thoughts on “What Happened to the 10 Predictions for 2015?”

  1. Just loving the Prediction 6 photo. I’ve got some fond memories a bit like that ^__^
    Very nice piece (as always).

    Again about P-6: this year the Giro went public & national in Spain’s RTVE after more than ten years or so, and, despite being broadcast on the sport channel, it hit the 1M mark (whereas the Tour and the Vuelta are usually broadcast fully or partially on the generalist channels, which in itself normally doubles the number of viewers). The Tour came back strong in Germany, adding to the previous 200-300K survivors who had gone on watching thanks to Eurosport, about 1M spectators on the public TV. That is, cycling *became more visible*, thanks to different broadcasting platform, for at least 2M persons.
    This apparently goes against your point (that is, against the literal content of the prediction), but in a sense it underlines what you say… even in Europe, and even in historic countries, “pockets” of willing potential spectators do exist and can be massively recruited with a different broadcasting policy.
    The problem, at least in Italy and in Spain, is that the public TV as such is under pressure and faces the closing of sport channels (even when they’re doing really fine… which sometimes makes you wonder…) – that’s were you’d need some strong institutional subject within cycling able to look after the interests of the sport in a complicated phase which might need a good deal of negotiation.

  2. 6/10 for your predictions, solid job sir. Another great article.

    Can’t wait for your 2016 predictions. Good luck, looks like there’s a lot of potential things happening!

  3. I to am sure that improved TV coverage would help the sport on every single level. That the EU is still unable to agree on cross border TV transmission, when the guards have long left their posts, is yet another example of a dysfunctional political system. How this technological blight might be resolved is difficult to see. In the meantime we are all left switching our location electronically, in order to view suitable pirate feeds, with the problems and inconveniences INRNG describes.

  4. A very Merry Xmas to you Mr Inring, Thank you for an excellent blog which is a must first read in the morning!

    Looking forward to next years coverage

  5. Not sure which is the worse photo: Sky’s expressionless automatons or Cookson’s ‘aging MOR rockstar’ look.

    The best one is definitely the one with the tent.

    • It appeared in 2014 at the Tour of California, no? Also it seems to be very rare in the peloton, an ongoing prototype for most of the year.

      Good to see this move towards integration, the idea of buttons connecting cables to motors seems almost retro these days even if there are practical arguments, eg a central battery.

      • Question is, are they an improvement? Cancellara, for instance, won’t use electronic gears (he also won’t be using disc brakes this year). I don’t know about bikes, but in every other realm electronic things break down far more frequently than mechanical things.

        • Well it depends who’s asking that question, I reckon – from a manufacturers POV they’re great, because it’s a whole new line of product that’s incompatible with previous generations, thus ‘forcing’ the consumer to upgrade all parts at the same time (ie. spend the most money).

          From a rider’s POV it’s probably not much of an improvement – but many people enjoy the novelty of new kit, and if they’ve got money to spend, then why not? Keeps the industry going after all – if we all stopped buying bikes/new kit, because what we had 5 years ago is ‘good enough’, bike brands wouldn’t be so keen or able to sponsor teams.

          I’m strongly of the opinion that the push for disc brakes is largely down to manufacturers wanting to sell new bikes that ‘force’ consumers to chuck out all their old kit and buy in to the new ‘system’, but it’s still a free choice whether you do so or not (I probably won’t for the foreseeable future), so it doesn’t really bother me much at all. And, as mentioned, I don’t personally see that bike manufacturers wanting to sell more bikes is inherently a bad thing anyway.

          Ultimately, how hard someone is able to turn the pedals still counts for a practically everything in almost every race out there, so I reckon some get a bit too wound up about tech these days – plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. If you do, knock yerself out.

          It’s funny to hear pro’s moaning about disc brakes – it’s almost as if those few don’t realise their job isn’t really to win races, but to generate positive brand exposure for their sponsors 😉

          • It’s true that some senior riders have their say but because they’re also experienced at winning or being close to winning that they don’t want to be be the beta testers for new kit.

            Electronic shifting is very good but then again the performance of Dura-Ace, Super Record etc is excellent too. One pernicious thing is the apparent use of firmware to prevent backwards capability, ie a new Shimano patch apparently includes code to stop parts working together, I’ve not verified this but others are saying it and if true that’s very sneaky.

          • The wireless gear does have some advantage: it eliminates the need for cables or wires.

            Whilst it does not have apparent advantage for riders, it does have significant advantage for mechanics. This would significantly cut maintenance time (especially for team mechanics) as they no longer need to tie those cables/wires down, and adjustment of gears would become a lot easier & precise. It also simplifies the structure of the frame as there would be no longer need for hidden grooves/cable runs to house the wires or cables. As price of electronics fall further, their cost maybe recuperated by simplified mechanical design at some future point.

            From a design and team procurement point of view, it’s whether this slight advantage of simplified maintenance would worth the monetary investment (equipment would be sponsored however) or the risk of things breaking down.

            Whilst a equipment failure at critical time would cost teams wins, we could also imagine the following scenarios: when whole team adapts wireless gears, they save days in terms of bike assembly/maintenance time over the year. The equipment creatively use the extra time to experiment on equipment combination and find a winning formula that provides their riders that much more grip in PR or that little better bio-mechanical fit so that they have advantages in races; or simply because the save on maintenance time, team mechanics have to pull less all nighters (this is very real situation as we know mechanics had to dope to keep themselves awake during grand tours), hence make less mistakes, which in term saves races.

        • Agreed, electronic or wireless gears are a debateable improvement. Change for the sake of change doesn’t matter.

          You still have to press a button to change the gear, cables can still wear out, therefore it’s just the same as the current gear system, except there are way more breakable parts and you have to charge your batteries regularly. That sucks. Imagine being out on a group ride and your battery dies, so you’re stuck in 53×11 (or whatever gear it defaults to)? That double sucks. Oh, and it’s way more expensive, you can get a really good bike for the price of these groupsets. That triple sucks.

          Now, wake me up when they get a system that changes gears when I think about a gear change.

          OR, even better, wake me up when the industry realises they’ll sell more products if they take the existing technology and make a sick bike for $500 with it! That’s technological advancement.

        • Here’s a query for our little community: I remember watching a stage of this year’s TdF on TV. A mountain stage where a guy on Ag2r was chasing the leader on a descent to the finish. He seemed to be using SRAM’s new stuff. On the descent it seemed he was not able to shift into his big ring after cresting the climb. He was kicking at the front mech with his heel! I quipped, “Hey, look, it’s SRAM’s new electronic, wireless double-tap, but this one you work with your feet!” while the guy struggled with the recalcitrant machine. His chance to win was gone by the time the team car arrived with a replacement bike. I saw nothing about this afterwards, no comments or video. Did I fall asleep during this stage and dream this SRAM nightmare or does anyone else recall this situation actually being shown?

          • a lot of folk I ride with have had SRAM parts in the past, but have for the most part shifted on to shimano or campag parts for future builds. A lot say it’s down to the front shifting, being pretty poor and the life of the shifters not being great.

            I think the wireless product looks good, but am concerned by longevity and reliability.

            Also SRAM in polish means sh*t 🙂

  6. Several years ago I remember watching several of the Belgian classics (incl. de Ronde) & P-R on Sporza via the Internet. Haven’t been able to do that recently. Geo restricted or something like that. It’s a shame really, that the general public in Europe gets access like this but not the USA. I’m sure there’s a legit reason why, though.

    • It’s country specific in Europe, ie Belgians can watch Sporza but live in a bordering country and you can’t as the geo-restriction is Belgium only. Of course this doesn’t stop those right on the border tuning in their TVs, many Dutch fans to just this for the superior coverage.

  7. this is a black market in TV rights which is bad for race owners and teams alike

    This goes back to the rights owners insisting geographic restrictions still apply in 2015.

    I will gladly pay ASO/RCS/etc. for an HD-like feed that I can time shift (AKA record) over the Internet. I don’t need a commentator. I’ll pay USD 60 for a grand tour, USD 20 for each of the Spring Classics.

    I watched the road world championships for free, English commentators, by proxying my Internet connection through Mexico. It was a perfect feed provided by the UCI. I could not be bothered to figure out where it might have been shown ( in part?, full?) in the U.S. And yes, I would have paid for it too.

    Rant over.

    • I completely agree. No idea why this hasn’t been available for at least a decade. I would happily pay for the local language coverage of key races, they could even leave the local ads in.

  8. There is about as much cycling coverage as you could possibly want thanks to Eurosport. I pay about £4 a month for the subscription and I’m pretty sure I can watch it wherever I like – have done so in Europe as well as at home in the UK but not futher afield.

    • Yup, doesn’t work outside Europe, though – different subscription needed in Asia, for instance.
      Otherwise, illegal feeds of Eurosport tend to be the best option – the likes of Sporza are often geo-blocked outside of Belgium.

      • I subscribe to Eurosport but use a VPN connection to get the English commentary in Russia (the Russian commentary is dire). I don’t think that could be considered illegal or immoral and would work anywhere.

    • Yes point 6 must be a problem only for people who don’t live in the UK, or elsewhere in Europe. I have Eurosport and between March and halfway through October there is a bike race on pretty much every day. Even outside of that there is sporadic bits of track racing and cyclocross to have a look at.

  9. J Evans & Richard S: There is really nothing in the US besides the very limited coverage we get with NBC Sports, and coverage looks to be decreasing. We do not have Eurosport over here. My personal favorite would be to use Sporza and whoever else locally covers these races. Would even pay a small fee. I don’t understand why the geo-blocking. Limiting coverage is bad for the sport, you’d think they would recognize this.

    • Eurosport player is on the Internet. Is there no possibility to subscribe to it legally from the US? If not ask them to make it available or use VPN as others are doing to get the UK version if you want English commentary or some other country if you don’t. There are highlights repeated at many different times of day and you can see more or less everything. It costs £4 a month I think and I pay £6 for the TV version. That is the reason though that only the TdF is noticed in the UK because that is the only race that is live free-to-air and most people interested in sport will have Sky or BT instead and not be interested in paying more for something else.

    • That looks pretty dramatic, with the drone dropping out of nowhere, but would a drone crash be any worse or more likely than the numerous accidents involving motos over the last few seasons?

    • Haha, or the dozens of rider crashes each race?

      Or the potential collision with a spectator…

      Or bike failure crashes…

      Or crashes on the cobbles at P-R…

      Sounds like a drone falling from the sky is the least of the riders’ problems!

      Also, speaking of P-R, a drone would be a great way to cover P-R!!! Oh, of course you’d have to have a qualified pilot! But, assuming the pilot knew what he/she was doing, it’d be a great way to cover P-R or Flanders.

    • This type of incident can be avoided by never flying over neither towards spectators or participants. Airshows adopted this rule after a spate of deadly accidents in the 1950’s.

  10. I wanted to take this end of year opportunity to say thank you to Inrng as well. Like others, I’ve started pretty much every day with this for 7+ years. It’s the most insightful cycling blog and dialogue on the web. Enhanced by the very knowledgeable views of all you from around the world. Happy holidays.

  11. Re TV coverage of races it is worth noting that in Australia we can watch almost every pro race live with a combination of free to air (SBS) and pay TV (Eurosport via Foxtel). Even down to lesser b-grade races such as the World Ports Classic or Eneco Tour. From what I constantly hear on InnerRing about the need for pirate feeds elsewhere, I feel blessed. #notshowingoff

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