Things to Look Forward To In 2020

A new year, a new season and some things to look forward to around the corner.

E il prossimo anno, sarà data di nuovo la partenza e l’anno dopo ancora, di primavera in primavera…Finchè (ma vivremo ancora noi?) le persone ragionevoli diranno che è assurdo continuare; a quei tempi le biciclette saranno diventate rare, ferravecchi quasi comici, usati da pochi nostalgici maniaci, e voci si leveranno dando la baia al Giro.
– Giro d’Italia del 1949 by Dino Buzzati

That’s writer Dino Buzzati on the Giro in 1949 asking how long the sport of cycling will survive, suggesting bikes will become “almost comic lumps of junk used by a few nostalgic maniacs”. Fortunately he was spectacularly wrong and the decade ahead should see the bicycle flourish around the world because of the health and transport benefits it rings. The sport is doing fine too with more and more races, extra TV coverage and the women’s peloton takes a professional leap forward this year too. These are long term tends but here are a few specifics to look forward to in 2020…

An obvious one to start with but the road season is days away now. The Australian nationals, the the Tropicale Amissa Bongo, the men’s and women’s Tour Down Under, the Vuelta San Juan, the Tour Colombia are all fast-approaching. Suddenly we go from famine to feast with almost too many races to watch but it’s enjoyable to see the results flood in.

The spring classics. It needs more work but here’s a hypothesis: from March to April, almost all of these races enjoy small, local audiences and so there’s no good business reason for many teams to take the cobbled classics seriously. But they do, in part because they’re tradition and just good sport. And we can dream of a wet Paris-Roubaix, it has to happen sometime?

The Tour de France can’t come soon enough and for several reasons. First France is in a funk and the Tour is a three week show that even strikes can’t halt – only Mother Nature has that power – and it’s a rare festival the country can rally around these days. The start in Nice is intriguing, terrain that makes for a frantic finale to Paris-Nice is now the opening weekend.

Much of the Tour’s course is interesting, the Puy Mary volcano finish, the Vercors is back and the Grand Colombier should host the Beefeater Bend. The Col de la Loze awaits too, the literal highpoint of the Tour de France route and complete with some wacky sections. It’ll be fun to see the Tour tackle this but it’s also interesting for what it represents, essentially they’ve tarmacked a ski run in order to create a new road reserved for road cyclists. Once upon a time mountain passes were paved to move cannons or transport goods, now in the 21st century they’re paved for cyclists and more like this will follow.

The Jumbo-Visma team are going all in for the Tour de France, so central is this they’ve announced their starting eight. Plenty can happen between now and June whether injury or just a change of mind but it’s the intent that matters today. If either Primož Roglič or Tom Dumoulin are capable of winning then they need everything on their side rather than having half the team fatigued from the Giro or rooting from their sofas. Superteams of challengers don’t have a great track record. Movistar’s trident never worked, it was like three pilots each at the controls with their inputs cancelling the other out. Telekom and T-Mobile didn’t work out either but co-leaders like Andreas Klöden and Alexandr Vinokourov were more B-list material in July. Today the difference is a rider can work as a helper and still become a millionaire many times over and this tends to buy a lot of loyalty.

The Olympics are a strange event outside the structure of pro cycling but a target for many for varying reasons. Julian Alaphilippe can barely get any more popular in France but for other riders from other countries the Olympics reach into households that pro racing doesn’t and a range of riders have the road races as a goal. The Tokyo 2020 course is intriguing, and if it’s a clear day very scenic once they clear Tokyo and its suburbs. It’s not just the road races. Mathieu van der Poel has been sauntering from start line to start line in various disciplines but the MTB race is the one big goal he’s been aiming at for years now. If you like your track racing you should be spoilt by the Izu velodrome, it’s fast by itself but add in the probability of heat, humidity and maybe some low pressure and world records should tumble. Plus all this helps fill the void after the Tour.

Staying in Japan, Shimano are releasing a new version of their Dura-Ace groupset and it should appear on pro bikes this year. Cue “I don’t need 12 speed thank-you very much” comments, but the point is you can pick up a slick 10 speed groupset very cheap now. Most bike tech today is great; renting a mid-range bike last year was a pleasant surprise, it felt as good as a team-issue bike from only a few years ago.

The Women’s World Tour is here. The label has been kicking around for a few years but it’s been next to meaningless. This has changed now and the 2020 version of the Women’s World Tour is a regulatory environment, a rulebook. This sounds dry and technical but the black and white text matters. For years women’s racing was based on a copy-paste of the men’s Continental rulebook, the pro-am third tier. Now several teams have signed up to the World Tour and there are real changes with a minimum wage, maternity pay and other contractual safeguards. It won’t solve everything but it’s a good start to accompany the increasing professionalisation of the women’s peloton which also gets more TV coverage this year too.

The World Championships look promising. Swiss towns of Aigle and Martigny are joint hosts and have mountains all around. We had an Alpine course in Innsbruck for 2018 but that was relatively tame, the 8km climb then felt gradual and was often 5-6%. This year’s road race features a long parade along the Rhone valley before a finishing circuit that’s got a sustained steep climb of 4km at 10%, a fast descent and then a flat section back to the climb, the men do this seven times. It’ll should be the hardest course since Duitama in 1995 or Chambéry in 1989 and if you fancy visiting it’ll should be wine harvest time too.

Will we see the cortisone/cortisol tests arrive? As a reminder the UCI is looking to go above and beyond the WADA Code and introduce testing for cortisol levels. Low levels of cortisol are a proxy for cortisone abuse (for a more on this see The MPCC Cortisol Test), something the sport should be doing more to regulate and close down. The UCI has introduced testing for Tramadol in 2019 and that’s been a success but it’s easier, a binary matter. Cortisol tests are harder as levels vary, there’s a complex protocol to follow and so there’s a grey area. It’ll be an advance if this can be introduced.

Lastly riding more. It’s easy to have good intentions in January but to write proper previews it helps to know the course so this blog is sometimes a good excuse to ride some fantastic roads from Torgon to Tokyo.

39 thoughts on “Things to Look Forward To In 2020”

  1. A great round-up with heaps to look forward to. It seems like Roubaix is immune to any kind of wet weather; either way, I can’t wait. Thank you for putting this together, INRNG!

  2. Awesome news about the Jumbo-Visma team for the Tour.
    We did speculate on this back in October when the route was announced and so the dream teams match-up with Ineos may come to pass.
    Regarding your slight disclaimer about this, Inner Ring, fair point but it is fascinating to consider that the riding characteristics of Froome and Thomas are so similar to those of Roglic and Dumoulin that a true contest looks like a natural conclusion?
    The dreaded Ineos mountain train,for instance, is as likely to favour both pairs of riders. Both teams have strong TTs also.
    The huge potential elephant in the room could be Bernal.
    Provided Froome is fully-fit, the three Ineos riders may have the edge on the two.
    Even if he’s not, a Bernal / Thomas pairing still looks more awkward in any case for Roglic / Dumoulin.
    I can’t wait for that clash to play out though.

    • Agreed, I can’t wait to see how it all boils out.

      I honestly think Bernal will smash everyone. He’ll come back at another level entirely from this year, and way higher than a 35 year-old Froome 15-months post broken femur. Roglic, Dumolin, Thomas, Kruisjwik, and Froome will have zero answer for him when the road hits the mountains.

    • Also the Jumbo-Visma super team is way better at TT than El Tridente, probably even better than Ineos this year.
      So they will less feel the need to take risks in the mountains to compensate TT losses.

      • TT doesn’t matter in the 2020 TdF. Very low TT kms (36) and it’s a mountain TT, so Bernal will not be at a big disadvantage to the TT specialists. Besides at that point in the race he could already be minutes ahead of his rivals.

        • I disagree there are more flat TT km this year than last year and the climb is not a place Bernal will take time on Roglic or TD, so he should have at least the same time he lost to Thomas this year as a buffer going into the TT, and given the smaller profile and lower altitude mountains this year I think it’s not going to be easy for him to win.

          • No way – Thomas won’t put in 1:20 to Bernal on a TT course with a 6km climb… 2019’s TT was rolling at best, it wasn’t mountainous. Besides Bernal has had 1 more year to develop his TT skills and Thomas to be on gradual way down… he’ll be 34.

    • They’re going to have a review ahead of the TDU, one of the stages crosses an area that has had big damage but at the moment most of South Australia is being spared the vast blazes in NSW and Victoria right now.

      • 2 women’s stages (including stage 2 passing through Woodside and Charleston to finish at Birdwood) and 3 men’s stages (including stage 2 starting with a loop around Woodside and Charleston) take place in the area or pass through the area of the Cudlee Creek Fire which is now in the mopping up stage.

        Roads are open everywhere, electricity has been restored to all but a handful of properties, businesses are open. The local economy needs people to come and start spending money there again, and the TDU stages will be a desperately needed boost.

        No need for anything but possibly some minor changes to account for safety issues or possibly local objections to the multiple loops of the men’s stage 2 starting circuit.

        • Hopefully the peloton will agree to donate the day’s prizes (which are equal for the men’s and women’s races at the TDU) on stage 2 of both races to the local relief fund.

        • To add to this I’d add that if you watch the race on TV it’s very promotional for the area – Phil Liggett breaks out from live commentary into voicing adverts for wineries and coffee bars – so it feels like the “we’re open, come and visit” message is especially important.

          We see similar things in other races, eg entire roads rebuilt in a hurry for the Tour de France as a priority so they can show the world they’re open; hopefully the Poggio gets the same luxury refurbishment too after torrential rains last year.

    • TDU is 100% going ahead. It will go through some areas burnt by the Cudlee Creek Fire and there may be some minor changes to routes if needed for safety, but the locals want people to come up into the Adelaide Hills and start spending money in the local economy again. Only if there are new fires will any major revisions to stage routes or cancellations need to be considered.

      Air quality will not be a problem for the TDU, AQI is currently 29 at the Southern Adelaide monitoring station that is passed within 400m by the route of stage 5 and about 10km from the McLaren Vale area where stage 6 is contested. It will be some of the cleanest air the peloton will race in all year.

      Torquay and Cadel Race should be fine, no fire impacts anywhere near there. Geelong South AQI is currently 35.

      The stages of the Herald Sun Tour to be run in north-eastern Victoria are the ones most likely to need major revisions due to shortages of police (for traffic control) and needing to keep roads open for emergency services. Air quality could be a factor, AQI in Shepparton is currently 147 and Mansfield is 154.

  3. Thanks Inrng, Looking forward to watching an emerging group of world champion road and TT American kids continue to perform at high levels during the upcoming 2020 season .

  4. So many real contenders for the Tour de France crown, can’t recall when this was ever the case. Anticipation starting already from January! Bring it on, baby!

  5. A (very) rough translation of Buzzati: “And next year, the departure will be given again and the following year again, from spring to spring … As long as (but will we still live?) Reasonable people will say that it is absurd to continue; in those days bicycles will have become rare, almost comical old metal tools, used by a few nostalgic maniacs, and voices will rise giving the bay to the Giro. ”
    IMHO Buzzati’s not counting himself as a reasonable person but he’s right, as who rides a bicycle these days (in the age of motorcars) compared to 1949? I think plenty of us fit the “nostalgic maniac” description, especially when I dust off my epoca bike and take to the dirt roads.
    I’m looking forward to the return (next month) of the RAI TV show Radiocorsa, then Strade Bianche, MSR and the other spring Monuments followed by my beloved Giro d’Italia, including stages we plan to see live in Sicily and in Piedmont.
    LeTour should be interesting if all the big stars collected by two big teams all show up – who will work for whom…and for how long?
    Both the Olympic road race and the World’s should be good in 2020, might even have to fly up to see the latter as we may be able to do it as a day-trip from a lodging here in Italy 🙂
    Happy New Year to all!

  6. Agree with you Larry, it’s great to have RAI coverage chugging away . MSR comes with the added spice of one Philippe Gilbert seeking to complete his Monuments collection. That will be something to see, but it’s a burden.
    Sepp Kuss and many more young riders will keep rolling the old guard out of the way. Down with the Kapos.

    Hardest Worlds course in years, you say? What, since Harrogate..?

    • Larry, you missed the leap from the first paragraph to the second paragraph in plurien’s comment! You were obviously the “you” in the first paragraph, but I believe that to most readers it was equally obvious that the “you” in the second paragraph was our esteemed host who had written that the 2020 World Championships course “should be the hardest course since Duitama in 1995 or Chambéry in 1989”.

      But, nevermind, watching Philip Gilbert during this year’s Milano-Sanremo will be one of my sentimental highlights as well.

      PS “Dare la baia” happens to be one of the quaint old Italian idioms that I know. It means to mock or to make a fool of someone. (I don’t think I’ve ever heard or read “giving the bay to (someone or something)”, but maybe it means the same?)

      • I can’t see how Gilbert does it in Sanremo, for example it’d have to be an unusual race with bad weather that sees the race split and others worn down a lot before his chances go up. But the beauty of the race (and the difficulty of writing the preview) is that it’s so open to everyone, it’s the one race the likes of Caleb Ewan and Vincenzo Nibali can start and legitimately hope to win.

        • It would probably have to have been an unusual race for him to win Roubaix too? But it wasn’t. If Nibali can win it, if Alaphilippe can outsprint who he outsprinted last year etc etc then Gilbert can win it. 290 odd km is a long way and a little bit of luck and good timing can go a long way.

          • There, now it’s been said about Gilbert and MSR we should all shut up about it so can ride his bike without our expectations on his back.

            Eskerrik is right about my paragraphs. Point being that a parcours is made hard by the conditions and the way in which a race plays out. Whether its echelons and crosswinds, unlikely alliances or a moment of inattentiveness it is great to see a race go off in ways that are not dictated by the roadbook’s prescription.

          • PhilGil at MSR will be pretty good to watch. IMO MSR is “THE” monument, moreso than all the others. If he can target it, and actually win it, one couldn’t overstate how massive an accomplishement it would be.
            Here’s to a 290km solo breakaway.

        • I can’t see it exactly either, but that’s the beauty of this race. Kwiat won with a really crafty move and I feel that’s the type of scenario Gilbert needs. There are so many factors that it’s so hard to predict.

  7. I’m intrigued/amused that Sagan has already said Tokyo is too hard for him. He said the same about Rio, didn’t enter and Van Avarmaet won. I’m not sure anyone had Vino down as a favourite in 2012 either. The Olympics are a bit of a basket case as no team can control such a long race with such a small team. I wouldn’t be surprised if the winner this time is equally as surprising.
    I’d probably pay to see a wet Roubaix this year. What would are the chances though that if we get a real wet one like 1994 or 2001 they’d either re route it so it was an all tarmac affair or cancel it altogether?

    • Agreed, but on the other hand it would be great to see Sagan go up against MVP on the MTB XC. He tried in Rio but could not protect his bike enough when going around from the back.

      • You can’t just turn up expecting to be challenging the top guys; his preparation wasn’t really up to it – did he actually enter a World Cup? A few domestic races isn’t really going to help.
        And whilst he made a great start, his bike handling let him down, and there’s no way anybody can say he’d have stayed with the leaders for the whole 90 mins.

    • It depends on the scenarios and so on but the Rio course has the Mikuni pass towards the end (7km at 10%, with some 15% sections) so it’s long and it’s very steep, much more selective than the Vista Chinese climb in Rio which had 4km at 10% but then eased up.

      As for a wet Roubaix, we’ve had them in the Tour de France to the point that sections were flooded and had to be skipped but if they’re just a mud bath then the race goes through.

      • Is the desire for a wet Roubaix overplayed? Some recent dry editions have been wonderful races, while wet races can often seem pretty miserable events with smaller crowds (e.g. Yorkshire Worlds).

        • I’m of a similar opinion also, I’m not sure why a wet Roubaix is something to so look forward to? Rain and mud cause more crashes and DNFs when the course is hard enough as it is.
          Watch CX if that’s your thing?

          • Maybe the skill set of the modern riders isn’t as good as people think it is; with the equipment choices nowadays, a wet Roubaix shouldn’t hold any fears. However, maybe the technical skills simply aren’t there, as they’re not needed in most races.

    • Cancel Paris-Roubaix…because of weather? Surely you jest!!!! I too would love to see something other than the dust clouds of way-too-many editions in the past, one where the really hard men could again shine through the mud and muck. I’ll never forget those CBS TV shows in the 1980’s when I first began to pay attention to pro cycling. I think most of ’em can be seen on Youtube these days – including the one with Theo De Rooy’s famous quote 🙂

      • 1000% agree with Larry T on this one – it is illegal to put the words “cancel”, “Paris-Roubaix” and “weather” in the same sentence.

  8. Well, a DNF on the cobbles of TdF would have put you completely out of the most prestigious stage race on the calendar. Surely no rider would want that. Me thinks they chose to ride conservatively to remain in the race.

    • Precisely UHJ, that was a poor point by IR and the Tour’s use of the Roubaix cobbles bares considerably less resemblance to the true race also.
      There are other places in the world where rain would be more welcomed rather than a cycle race in northern France?

  9. “Me thinks they chose to ride conservatively to remain in the race.” assumes that is going to somehow prevent a crash – I’m not so sure, as I believe riding well on these kinds of surfaces is a skill (just like descending, where you hear talk of “death-wish” and the like from those who don’t have it) rather than a choice.

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