Done with the brown paper packages tied up with strings? With the new season less than a week away there’s plenty to look forward too and with this in mind, here are a few favourite things for the year ahead.
I was thinking of doing “ten predictions for the year” but the prime question of “who will win the Tour de France?” felt impossible to call and so all the rest of the predictions got binned as well. If our central forecast is a new duel between Jonas Vingegaard and Tadej Pogačar, there’s little between them. UAE’s recruitment, and they way they rode in Lombardia, shows they’re upping the support for their leader while Jumbo-Visma have been hiring well too, although Primož Roglič is going to the Giro. Whether it’s a duel or something else happens thanks to action from other riders, who knows but it should be fun to watch. This time last year the battle to salivate over was Egan Bernal taking on Roglič and Pogačar in July and of course all changed.
Staying with the Tour de France, one thing that won’t change is the route. It’s intriguing because of the hard start in the Basque Country and then the Pyrenees coming up fast, nobody can ease their way into the race. The Puy de Dôme summit finish is enticing although the fear is we’ll all be sick of the Poulidor-Anquetil duel tale from 1964. The Alps have a lot to offer right to the end. It’s the whole route and the way the race is approached these days, even the sprint stages come with added pathos if Mark Cavendish is trying for that extra stage win.
The Tour Down Under is back after the Covid hiatus. Sure it’s a hors d’oeuvre to open the season but when you’re hungry after the long winter fast it’s mouthwatering. Past editions have been an interesting for the delicate way time bonuses settled a lot of the top-10, the TDU’s had the finesse of a track points race, only raced in the Outback, only his has been something for connoisseurs of countback. Now the men’s race has a prologue time trial and a more classic feel of a stage race with added climbing, this year’s course has the the climbs of Corkscrew, Willunga – sans Richie Porte, nor a summit finish – and Mount Lofty. Will it be better? Hard to say but it’ll be different to watch and as ever seeing the new bikes and jerseys in the austral sunshine is a special moment.
The spring classics offer action galore and arguably the period from late March to April is an extra grand tour. Two particular races come to mind, Strade Bianche and Paris-Roubaix. Strade Bianche is a new race in a sport where the Amstel Gold Race look is still an upstart. There’s no settled tactic to triumph in Sienna, the winning move can go anywhere and it’s this element of uncertainty that makes it compelling, plus it is so seductive with the Tuscan landscapes, a grande partenza from the Flemish landscapes. Paris-Roubaix is much less scenic but it too can take many forms with breakaways coming and going and where riders can seem out of the action after Arenberg only to be contenders later on, it’s the sheer length of this race with slow motion form of action at times that can be so gripping.
The Giro d’Italia is shaping up nicely. The bid to attract Remco Evenepoel with three time trial stages was dampening spirits, because sure it’s exciting that he plans win a second consecutive grand tour… but watching him do it if he rode away with the maglia rosa with ten minutes on his next rival then it might not be so gripping. But now there are plenty of more contenders with Primož Roglič, Geraint Thomas, João Almeida and Aleksandr Vlasov, all are excellent against the clock. Viewed from here just the thought of writing the Giro contenders preview is interesting, and Evenepoel and the others will be worth watching closely this spring.
Talking of things worth watching, hopefully this includes the Netflix Tour de France documentary due for release this summer. There are films about teams but too often “behind the scenes” access is really staged scenes filmed by communication agencies, it’s PR. There are some exceptions, “El Día Menos Pensado” about Movistar an obvious example. And while Netflix seems to be casting around for subscribers by supplying content for every niche interest, this docu-series is promising thanks to the access and amount of footage accumulated, it’s across many teams.
Not that we need dramatised series for excitement. Live TV is often so great that there are days when you turn off the TV or close that browser tab and know you’ve watched something special. We seem to be in period where the breakaways have more chance of making it. Long range attacks in the mountains can pay off, creating a virtuous cycle as it encourages more to try them, blowing the race apart and so making them work. Similarly those “nailed on sprint stages” aren’t so certain either, in part with organisers throwing in something to spice up the finale, or just because teams race everything more aggressively. Seeing scripts being ripped up can confound a race preview or two but all the better.
The dash for points isn’t over but as a new three year promotion and relegation contest begins it’ll just feel less urgent, no need for weekly spreadsheets here or in a team car either. But the battle to get the automatic invite to the Tour de France for 2024 could be interesting, Total Energies and Lotto-Dsnty qualify automatically because they topped the rankings last year but who will be the top two teams in the Pro Conti ranks by the end of the 2023 season? Israel should mount a good charge as well, Uno-X can keep up their progress and then there’s a second group of teams in this level who will be scrapping for results in the short term but in the medium term will be after more than points in order to move up, they’ll want to sign star names and become “must have” teams. Also if one or two can secure deeper funding then they’ll be set to qualify for the invitations and in time move up. In short, the scrap among these second tier teams is a secondary story with less urgency but one to watch both for in-race tactics but also slower, longer terms plans.
Back to bigger things and the World Championships in August should be great. For starters, August means many racing with their Tour de France form and this in turn means we could get a more interesting start list in Glasgow. Also there are all the other disciplines at the same time meaning even more action together, like a cycling-only Olympics. If this concept works – and France is hosting a multi-discipline worlds in 2027 but the format’s untested – it could be a good showcase for the sport. Ideally we’ll even see riders mixing and matching, if someone’s in peak form for the road race then why not also use it for the track or mountain bike?
Women’s cycling continues its rise with more races, more TV airtime, more professional teams and more to enjoy. This blog’s niche focus is on the men’s side – click elsewhere for women’s race coverage, I try to link to previews from others – and so I can just be a fan of women’s cycling and sit back and enjoy it all, especially as it’s increasingly aired on regular TV so there’s sport but also more with many interesting characters and personalities. The big test is to see how many broadcasters who show the men’s Tour live will exercise their option to show the women’s race live as well.
The Vuelta a España feels like a long way away and the route announcement due this week never gets as much attention as the Giro and Tour. Round here I don’t know Spanish roads so well so analysis is harder but it’s more general to the sport, teams diligently do pre-Giro and Tour recon rides but the Vuelta much less so. Anyway the various white jersey competitions are in need of a rethink given they are designed to signal promising Under-25 riders. Only gone are the days of admiring an eighth place in the Tour de Romandie or nodding approvingly when a neo-pro survives deep into a Monument classic. Now they win outright and reshape the sport. The Vuelta will see Juan Ayuso and Cian Uijtdebroeks in action, plus many of Groupama-FDJ’s new recruits so it’ll be interesting to see these names in action together, a big version of the Tour de l’Avenir.
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Thanks for the wake-up call! Is part of the worlds in Edinburgh as in the photo?
A keen eye, and yes it’s the Glasgow worlds but the road races include Edinburgh and other events are in different parts of Scotland.
That photo has freaked me out a bit. I once ran to the top of Arthur’s Seat slightly hungover at about 7am in the morning, while on a break in Edinburgh. It was really foggy with about 10m visibility so I was pretty cautious as I knew there was a drop there. I had no idea it was that big…
Great preview as always INRNG. Looking forward to the return of the TDU.
Michael B – don’t worry, that photo shows the top of Salisbury Crags which is adjacent to Arthur’s Seat. The seat itself isn’t quite so steep, but still treacherous! I studied in Edinburgh for 5 years and was on the XC and Orienteering teams, so must have run up or around Arthur’s seat several hundred times. A great place, can’t wait to see the road race route (is it available to see anywhere?)
Pleased to hear I wasn’t as close to death as feared, Ben!
The detailed route has not been published yet. It will include some spectacular sights in the area between Edinburgh and Glasgow and should offer some good racing.
(I know this because I got a sneak preview from someone in the know, although I’m not really familiar with the area.)
I’m hoping to be at the roadside for at least one of the races. Let’s hope for better weather than when the Worlds came to Yorkshire!
To clarify my own comment, that’s the men’s race route. The others start further west. The road races all finish with circuits in Glasgow.
ha! I was a student there and was stuck halfway up some cliff at about 7am with a beer and a mate after a very long night out!
I thought it was just some on-point trolling. Only the Men’s Elite Road Race features Edinburgh though, for the start. The Women’s Elite, and other categories, stay over in the west
The championships website showcases the same photo, presumably because it is so scenic but a pity more races won’t travel further.
Any locals know more about the roads used? Similar to the European champs won by Trentin?
The finishing circuit in Glasgow includes Montrose St 1km from the finish, which was used in the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Silly steep, but quite short for the pros.
The Crow Road will be the big one, gorgeous views as the race comes in through the Carron Valley (from different sides for the Men’s and Women’s races) then onto the Crow. Not a difficult climb, but it is stunning scenery and about 300m veritcally IIRC (average 7% with jsut a couple of steep ramps and the bottom, then an even gradient that flattens out towards the top, although, that section is into the teeth of the prevailing wind and there is no shelter). At the top, you get stunning views across Glasgow & the descent will pass the new Robert Miller mural at the bottom. On a map, it’s the road between Fintry and Lennoxtown to the North of Glasgow. Every Glaswegian cyclist will have done the climb numerous times & it used to be one of Robert Millar’s favourites. They missed the Tak Ma Doon, which is far harder, but less famous…
Wot! No mention of the Tour of Flanders ? The Spring classics offer everything for the enthusiasts.
There’s a general mention of the classics but as much as I like the popular fervour of the Ronde, a cultural event for Belgians, the course is getting a bit predictable with the finishing circuits even if there’s plenty of action. The E3 can sometimes be as good or even better. But stress it’s all relative, it’s a great day but so are others.
Speaking of De Ronde and Behind the Scenes video, I’ve always enjoyed watching the #RondeTreasures posted on the Flanders Classics YouTube channel. Focusing not on the racing itself but on other aspects of the event – tv production, team car video, etc, – makes me appreciate the live coverage that we get considering the chaos of the day. They haven’t posted one for the 2021 Ronde and hoping they haven’t finished the series.
They didn’t post the one for 2021 on youtube yet but it was on tv the week before rvv 22, its called ‘de ronde 105’. great series to watch in the week before the race
“TDU’s had the finesse of a track points race, only raced in the Outback”. You just said what most of us in Australia know. Adelaide is such as backwater its a part of the outback. LOL.
But i am looking forward to the TDU at least being on and that goes for all the covid cancelled races because the sport needs as much money injection and sponsor promotion as possible. As far as i am aware the tdu pays for a lot of the expenses of the teams so it does not cost them much.
What is unique to the TdU is the Ochre jersey … inspired by the Outback!
The Vuelta had one like that… and España has got its small outbacks indeed 🙂
Could be why I like the Vuelta best!
While the UCI did cancel the TDU from the international calendar for the last two years, the organisers showed their commitment by continuing to run a replacement ‘Festival of Cycling’ as a national calendar event – and a multi-disciplinary event at that with the road races joined by track, cx, mtb and so on.
It should serve as a good audition to put Adelaide in the frame for hosting the next multi-discipline Worlds after France.
Who knew that Jay Vine could TT!
He’s been alright in this area but the title’s a surprise. Feel for Durbridge too, keeps finishing second (last three years, six runner-up places)
Back in November when Vine signed for UAE, we read,”Vine said he’s especially excited about being fitted out with a time trial bike and working with team technicians to improve his ability against the clock.
UAE Team Emirates boss Mauro Gianetti told VeloNews that Vine will see his chances in 2023.
“We think that he can also go for GC in the future,” Gianetti said. “We need to work with him on his time trialing because with the numbers that he has he can for sure do a better time trial. We’ll invest time and energy helping him improve his position because he can be a complete rider.”
I thought it sounded a bit hopeful, but who knows. If he can “live like a monk for 6 months” then maybe he’ll surprise us all.
I’ll say it here first: the Europeans in Assen and the col du VAM will be spectacular…
Surely it’s time to make GT white jerseys for u23 riders, and not u25.
Also, look out for mechanicals. J-V going on to SRAM and it wouldn’t look good for one of the team to come to a halt on the Koppenberg with a dropped chain… on which subject, will Ineos continue to have issues..?
Last year certainly was a year for equipment issues seemingly. Never did hear what was up with UAE’s Campy issue. Others patching together rigs… The big spring races won’t be too far off. Let’s hope a big race isn’t decided by the equipment.
Thanks to Inner Ring for the insight and entertainment!
Nothing wrong with Sram – if it happened all the time, then you’d have a point. However, it doesn’t, it works just as well as other groupsets. Most of the issues will be user error…., or poor set up by mechanics.
A typical uninformed roadie comment…
Considering SRAM is very popular for MTB & other off-road cycling, I would think that won’t be their biggest issue. But the ergonomics of switching gears with SRAM are quite different from what I understand, so I suppose we can expect some of those riders to make errors, especially earlier in the season…
Thank you for this post.
As a self declared Pog fan I’m all on the bandwagon for him to regain the crown.
Although if I’m honest, I have a feeling you have to make Vinny favourite?
(…and not just because of his team.)
As I see it he’s outclimbed Pog three times now in the high mountains – Ventoux, Granon and Hautacam. One of those can be put down to poor tactics from Pog and Roglic’s help but I’m not convinced the other two are because either Pog had checked out in 2021 on the Ventoux knowing he’d won the Tour or all because of the crash on the descent before Hautacam.
Maybe I’m wrong but it seems to me that V has a couple of % extra on the long climbs and can keep pace on the shorter climbs and time trials.
So alongside his team it just feels like Vingegaard on current evidence has to be the favourite?
I’d welcome anyone who can put forward w/kg comparison performances to show Pog has previously climbed as hard as V did on any of those three climbs and I’ll gladly change my opinion.
Either way though, I’m fully supporting Pog who I still think is by far the better overall rider with his incredible versatility.
I’m hugely enjoying this era of classics and grand tour riders – since Alaphillipe came on the scene followed by Bernal, Van Aert, Van Der Poel, Pogacar and Vingegaard cycling has gotten a whole lot better, we either have battles between the above or a great day from another talented rider. I hope that Girmay, Sheffield, Pidcock, Ayuso, Hindley, the Hayters and as many others as possible can join the party and keep making this a decade to savour.
Although I do feel a little sorry for those inbetween the Froome/Thomas generations and now – Landa, Dumoulin, Bardet, Pinot… wish they could have won more but that’s all gone now.
Fingers crossed one day the calendar will get sorted one day so we can enjoy each race more and open cycling to new audiences and participants.
Interesting that you did not mention the current World Champ.
Peculiar, indeeed, as the rider in case was also the overall best male cyclist in 2022. But I can understand that, in a way 😉 I’m also a huge Pogi fan by the way.
Oh – only because he’s riding the Giro?
No, riding the Giro just makes him the best in 2023 😉
Evenepoel 2022 won a GT, a Monument and the Worlds, and mostly in impressive style (even when suffering at the Vuelta, or especially so). Plus further small change throughout the season. Quite hard to match. Yes, Pogi 2021 was better, but, alas, Pogi 2022 wasn’t, although to my very personal opinion he doesn’t come that far. Van Aert 2022 was the athletically most impressive rider, only it’s just incredible how little personal victory value he managed to actually bring home.
“Van Aert 2022 was the athletically most impressive rider, only it’s just incredible how little personal victory value he managed to actually bring home.”
I totally agree with the first part. WVA regularly blew my mind. I still don’t know what to make of the “personal victory” or selfless teamwork, though sometimes I couldn’t figure out if it was true teamwork, but it worked out for his team.
“Although I do feel a little sorry for those inbetween the Froome/Thomas generations and now – Landa, Dumoulin, Bardet, Pinot… wish they could have won more but that’s all gone now.”
I have a completely untestable hypothesis about this – that the rise of the anglo riders (and Team GB in particular) is a result of doping.
No, wait, hear me out…
I don’t mean that the anglo riders doped, but instead I think that the ‘two-speed cycling’ theory had got so deep in the minds of continental pros, teams and coaches, that the generation just after the dopers (Landa, Bardet, Pinot, etc…) had to have been a little depressed about their chances and, consciously or subconsciously, lowered their expectations a little as a result of their desire to stay clean.
Meanwhile, the anglo teams didn’t have the same background, or the same fatalism to the doping, and were trying something new, something different to succeed. I don’t think that the marginal gains philosophy actually helped that much in itself, but it gave the riders a reason to commit, and think that they still had a chance to compete.
This confluence is what gave the ‘outsiders’ a brief window to succeed – and it’s noticeable that the heartlands of cycling are much better represented in this latest generation – while the anglo riders have maintained their presence.
As mentioned at the start, it’s probably complete drivel, but I like to think it’s true.
And what’s the relation between this theory and all that has surfaced meanwhile about Team Sky and doping products? 😉
Or all of those Matt White issues, if you prefer a different side of “anglo”. Or Hesjedal. Or before that what about the presence of ex Telekom at the head of Team Highroad? Oh, and, speaking of kind of a timeline, according to this theory when was it that we had a “last” generation of “dopers” of sort?
Don’t really feel like a retrial of Team Sky via the blog comments, that used to happen every July and nobody really learned much but had their starting points and stuck to it. It just raised tempers among readers and cost me bandwith.
The obvious counterpoint is Landa rode for the most anglo team in Sky and didn’t get the big results he/they wanted.
I don’t think Thomas would appreciate being referred to as anglo.
I assume the reference is to anglophone teams, not their nationality. Thomas doesn’t speak fluent Welsh, despite the best efforts of his native speaking wife.
In French the term “anglo-saxon” is used frequently as shorthand for English speakers/the British but obviously it’s a bit dated these days when it comes to historical accuracy.
It’s about as accurate as calling Dumoulin a Hollander.
Guess you regard nibali and valverde as outliers?
On “my things to look forward to in 2023” posts on the Inner Ring blog are at the top of the list!
Definitely, Inner Ring is always something to look forward to.
Book a holiday or plan a big ride for the summer etc 😉
First, the obvious counterpoint is the team Bassons was riding for… in, let’s pick a random year, say 1998.
Many teams (notable exceptions are notorious) albeit practising structure doping still allowed whomever preferred so to ride clean.
Note that I’m not saying this is Landa’s case, just that the above counterpoint is not a valid counterpoint per se.
Second, I think I didn’t partake much in publicly-shared accusations to Team Sky before facts surfaced, less so in July. I obviously held personal views on the subject, which I didn’t really share on these pages until something more fact-related could be stated. Really, I don’t think it’s fair at all to consider that the seasonal conjectures which went wild during the TDF can be associated under any POV to what entered public knowledge once the political conditions started to change. The latter, by the way, was cited above only to show that the sort of psychosocial theory sketched by David simply struggles to stand, and not at all as any kind of ad personam attack on a given team, as my further examples also make clear.
That said, I think that there’s no need to delve any further into all the above, sure.
(An answer to inrng 10 January 8:48 pm)
It seems to me that the top riders are a very likeable crop at the moment so I am generally happy just to watch what unfolds. Having said that I am on team Roglic for the Giro.
The Giro at the moment seems to be the most interesting – Remco, Roglic & Thomas, all at different stages in their careers and yet similar riders.
Indeed. Are any other top riders other than Vlasov, whom I think I read is going, committed to the Giro so far?
As inrng pointed out above, Almeida looks committed to the Giro.
Not anymore or not yet top riders, really, but I’ll keep an eye on Pinot and Haig, too, who both already showed they can manage podium zone in a GT.
Although supposedly supporting Thomas, Arensman will be surely one to watch, especially if Geraint’s bid comes undone because of some crash.
On a wholly different level, I’ll be interested to see if Gino Mäder can resume his growth process which had a step back last season for different reasons, if Dunbar can become a leader in a smaller team & bigger races, if Vine will have already a taste of GC now that we know how he can TT, if Buitrago can be good in a bad moment for Colombian cycling.
Finally, not GC but the Danish stage hunting duel among Mads and Magnus looks promising.
I used to love Roglic… but I just can’t get over that Wright incident – well not the incident but the classless follow up.
I’m interested to see what Vingegaard does outside of the Tour this year. Sounds like he struggled a bit after his Tour win, while his build-up seemed to be Froome-esque – mainly shorter stage races with some DNFs in big one-day races. He seems punchy enough (plus big TT power) to compete in some spring classics, although I assume his year will again be fully structured around the Tour.
Yes, fully around the Tour and from the sounds of things, not many distractions before, even less racing than last year.
Paris-Nice & Itzulia Basque tour so far for Vingegaard. Mas, Gaudu, Bilbao, Landa & Ayuso are all down for the Basque tour as well in April so it’ll be interesting.
In a way, that’s a shame – with Pogačar, Evenepoel and Roglič (along with the old guard of Valverde and Nibali), it’s been refreshing to see the best riders compete across one-day races and GTs. Given last year’s result, is it possible that Pogačar will focus more on the Tour and less on early season one day races?
At the moment it seems Pogacar will do the UAE tour, Tirreno-A & tour of Slovenia stage races before the Tour, and it’s nearly all the big one day races. A real contrast to Vingegaard.
You could argue that Froome was never the most interesting rider, just a GT machine, and it appears that Vingegaard might be following a similar path. Definitely not the same overall rider that Pogi is. But come the Tour (provided everyone stays healthy), I think Vingegaard will provide plenty of excitement as Pogi and others will be forced to try to crack the Jumbo armor. And with WVA and others (Kuss and Laporte come to mind), Jumbo provide interesting stories that Sky didn’t always bring to the table.
I guess that Jumbo V have since 2020 realized that they can not beat Pogacar mano a mano, so have been forced to come up with team tactics instead. Lucky for us, as it’s makes interesting viewing.
I am surprisingly hyped for the UAE Tour. Pogacar needs to win it for the sponsor, but Evenepoel will start this year and those wide, steady climbs are prime Remco material.
“If this concept works – and France is hosting a multi-discipline worlds in 2027 but the format’s untested – it could be a good showcase for the sport.”
Not really untested, just going back to an earlier format (albeit now with added mountain biking). Up until 1995 track and road worlds were held together; and until 1994 they were in August. That year Chris Boardman won individual pursuit (track) and time trial (road) at the same championships. I suspect (but hope not) that the increasing specialisation in cycling will make it harder these days, but we can dream of Ganna emulating Coppi and wining track and road medals a few days apart.