Predictions for 2024

Gazing into the crystal chainring brings twelve predictions for 2024 ranging from the Tour de France to tech and sports politics.

The central question has to be who wins the Tour de France. Jonas Vingegaard is the obvious prediction right now. No rewards for audacity but sorry, predictions are not the same as fantasies. The Dane has won twice before, and the past is a blunt clue to future performance. The route suits him with a tendency towards long climbs rather than anything irregular. Also his principle adversary is targetting the Giro d’Italia. So far, so predictable but sport springs surprises. It’s a scenario to revisit during the coming months and see if expectations change. Crucially we’ll see what happens in July with Primož Roglič now a rival to Vingegaard, Remco Evenepoel focussing on the Tour and UAE coming mob handed too. If Vingegaard wins, but only just, then that’s an exciting prospect.

Will Jumbo-Visma win Flanders or Roubaix? You need scientists from CERN to measure the tiny time gap between achieving a feat in pro cycling and the “yes, but can you do next” questions. After three grand tours, there’s not much missing in the trophy cabinet. Just look at the options with Christophe Laporte, Dylan van Baarle and Olav Kooij before we get to Wout van Aert. For Van Aert there’s a route to victory via consistency because he’s been close so many times. But ask Peter Sagan who always looked perfect for Milan-Sanremo and yet never stood on the top of the box. Van Aert can keep plugging away and being close means he’s bound to win but again converting a placing into the top step is the elusive part, especially when his nemesis Mathieu van der Poel is on the startlist. Still for the sake of a prediction, Van Aert will win Roubaix, it’s more cheerful to say yes of course but he won’t do it to please bloggers, he can avenge the mechanical bad luck of last year but we’ll also attribute it to his programme change, he’s targetting the classics, riding the Giro and aiming for the Olympics and so won’t be required to take pulls on the Tourmalet or Joux-Plane meaning he can put more eggs into the basket marked Heilige Week or “Holy Week”. As ever it’ll be fun to watch him try.

Bora-hansgrohe become a force (again). A galactic roster already in 2023 but they were poaching wins with Nico Denz in the Giro while Jai Hindley took a breakaway stage win in the Tour, excellent results but below what ought to be expected of the squad as a whole, with injury and illness ravaging the roster. Primož Roglič has been a winning machine in recent years and despite a team change should be able to replicate this, drop him into position in an uphill finish and he’ll take care of the rest and this widens up the field of contenders, think of the domino effect meme where Sep Kuss goes up the road in the Vuelta, Roglič joins Bora and some race this year is enhanced because of the contest. Meanwhile the rest of the squad should shake off the rotten luck.

  • An update as Red Bull is looking to takeover the German team. There has been talk and more that the energy drink has been looking an entry into the sport and looked at this with another route but now they’re trying to buy a controlling stake in the legal entity behind the Bora team. The team’s performance on the road is another thing though…

It’s a make-or-break season for Soudal-Quickstep. I’d like to write how the “Wolfpack” will be howling with delight, that’d be more fun. The problem for the team is they’ve been building a squad around Remco Evenepoel so far so good. But if he moves teams for 2025 given all the talk of a handshake with Ineos then they’re stuck with more than a story of unrequited love. There’s no in-house replacement while the next Belgian stage race wunderkind has just signed a long deal with Visma. If Evenepoel goes will sponsors stick around? This isn’t a rhetorical question given Soudal was ready to jump to Dutch rivals Visma. The sight of Mikel Landa in the blue kit is like seeing Leonardo Da Vinci sporting decorator’s overalls but they’ll miss Andrea Bagioli, Ethan Vernon and Fabio Jakobsen when they really need to find the win rate of old to show they’re a top team and keep the wheels turning. Put simply if they’re to lose Evenepoel can the rest of the team stand as a franchise?

More long term contracts will be broken. Whoever handles contracts at DSM could open a consultancy practice to advise other teams given more and more riders try to switch teams before their contract is up. There’s the asymmetry where if a rider wants to switch squads they can, yet if a team is frustrated with a rider they can’t unload them and that’s rightly hard to resolve. So far so obvious but for the prediction part, let’s zoom in on UAE as the team looks top-heavy and if one rider is frustrated by internal politics about selection and tactics they might want to see if the grass is greener elsewhere and while the squad has a big budget, they may be willing to let someone go, for a fee of course. Plus the team management might struggle to master it all, Dan Martin was inside and wrote about it in his autobiography, outwardly they back this up whether splashing the cash at talent, or small things such as Pogačar’s bike change on the Domancy climb in the Tour de France which surely cost him time rather than saved it.

If the previous pick was awkward to illustrate with a photo… No team will implode during 2024 but we will see the signs and clues of the next team to fold happen this season. Many, or at least some team managers, like to shout pro cycling’s business model is “broken” but it’s actually rather enduring. Should a team does vanish it’ll swiftly be replaced by another and at the top level there are protections to ease the disruption. But one paradox is that the millions flowing into the sport – World Tour team budgets have risen faster than price inflation and trade or consumer marketing budgets – can place some teams in trouble. Teams need significant budget increases just to stand still and if they don’t secure this they’re sliding down the rankings. Look around and some long-standing sponsors might want out after a good spell in the sport, or some teams may struggle to secure much needed co-sponsorship deals to stay afloat. Plus rider transfers can destabilise teams, a team that might have a star can find out it doesn’t any more. Pro cycling’s model isn’t broken but it is very brittle.

Covid will continue to disrupt the sport. It’s as easy to catch as a cold and can be as ruinous for form as the ‘flu, plus it circulates all year. While swab your sinuses is no more a regular thing, either for the mass public or among pro teams, proxies such as waste water monitoring show high prevalence. While the general public has much less to worry about, pro cyclists aren’t as lucky. Last year’s Giro d’Italia was sadly instructive with Jumbo-Visma scrambling for healthy riders at the start; then Evenepoel’s exit and the reminder that while the public health crisis is over, it’s still a factor that can ruin the best laid plans in sport. A downer but on a more optimistic note of sorts, the Vuelta benefits as it’s already the redemption race or season salvage operation.

UCI points will be on team management minds a lot. Cycling fans can ignore the myriad of tables for UCI points and find team rankings rather, ahem, pointless but half the managers in the World Tour will be keeping an eye on their charts and spreadsheets… and the other half will be plotting calendar and even recruitment choices with this in mind. 2024 is Year 2 of the three year rankings system, the current standings are above. The pressure is on despite the counter case where the last two teams to get relegated have fared well and are set for promotion but this might not hold true the next time.

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Get ready to see and hear more from Amina Lanaya. She’s the UCI’s Director General, the chief executive if you like of cycling’s governing body after David Lappartient, the President. Lappartient’s second term is up at the end of 2025 and he’s probably leaving to pursue new ambitions. He became head of the French Olympic Committee in 2024 and probably has his eye on becoming big within the International Olympic Committee. So who will replace him? Lanaya is an obvious pick, ditto Tom van Damme who heads the UCI’s Road Commission which has often supplied the next president. There are more names who are probably pleased not to be named by bloggers yet but will want to raise the profile a bit more even if the electorate is not you or I, but the heads of national federations. Look to see who is on maneuvers.

The “One Cycling” project will continue to bubble away but won’t come to the boil, nor dry out. Bundling race rights makes sense but there’s a lot of work just to get all the race organisers on board, whether it’s pros like Flanders Classics or volunteer committees. This is a huge task and that’s before ASO think about whether it suits or not. Arguably it’d be easier to start with the women’s calendar although ASO have muscled in here. Plus it works best with calendar reform, a project the UCI is working on for the future which means any revolution is unlikely this side of 2025. The problem is that as a viable business proposition it is a hard sell to outsiders, yes it makes sense for pro cycling to package up TV rights and even streamline the calendar (although be careful what you wish for); but this is isn’t the same as allowing outsiders to cream off cashflow and rent. Pro cycling can be the most capitalist of sports with teams taking the name of their corporate backers yet it is underpinned by a web of social and political connections which makes it delicate for outside investors to unpick.

You will either improve your language skills or become poorer in 2024. Cycling fans will have to decide if they want to watch bike racing via a VPN in order to watch local language coverage of a bike race in Dutch, French, Spanish, Italian etc, or if they want to fork out for a comprehensive service like Eurosport in Europe or Max in the US which doesn’t just show cycling but plenty more and consequently you are not just paying for cycling every month but everything else on top. For anyone who says there’s a third option where you watch pirate streaming services, maybe your laptop gets ransomwared so that’s the “you’re poorer” pick but worse.

New bike tech is on the way… obviously. But there are some big product launches slated for 2024 which promise more than incremental change. One trend to look for this year is people shortening their cranks, the idea of having long levers is fading as a biomechanical concept and it’s happening in the World Tour and you might catch yourself checking the price for a shorter pair or hear from someone on your group ride who has just downsized.

That’s twelve predictions and with luck some will be wrong, for example nothing against Jonas Vingegaard but if he were to finish second in the Tour de France maybe we’ll have watched a vintage edition; if Covid doesn’t spoil things then woohoo!

Being more indulgent, three things I’d like to see this year, call them fantasies:

  • The winning move for Milan-Sanremo goes on the Cipressa. It’s unlikely for a range of reasons and loyal readers will remember it hasn’t happened since 1996… but this isn’t to say it can’t. It would need Mother Nature in on the job to provide the right weather. It’s a day dream but it can happen
  • A maxi breakaway in the Giro d’Italia sees plenty of riders go clear in the first week without any big GC contenders and they take molto time on the rest as UAE don’t want to chase too hard and take on the whole race from the start. This way Tadej Pogačar doesn’t have it so easy
  • Going into the final weekend of the Tour de France the yellow jersey has changed shoulders seven times already and there’s less than a minute between Jonas Vingegaard, Tadej Pogačar, Primož Roglič, Remco Evenepoel and a fifth rider who is a revelation…. ok enough.

102 thoughts on “Predictions for 2024”

      • Apparently that is the case but I don’t know the location for 2025. The problem here is that the interesting roads and the population centres are in different places.
        Plapp is still only 23 so I am guessing that he will become more visible this year.

        • The AusCycling board has decided to rotate the event after the previous contract (a legacy contract agreed by Cycling Australia before the merger) expired, and offered Ballarat a one year extension as effectively the first year of the rotation system.

          My thought is that interstate competition should be promoted by one of the four major races (men’s RR, men’s TT, women’s RR, women’s TT) being drawn from a hat at the start of the week, and hosting rights awarded to the state of that race’s winner.

    • I’m of average height and inseam and ride 150mm cranks on both my road and gravel bikes. They allow me to hinge forward at the hip more comfortably to ride in a more aerodynamic position.

      • 150mm.. interesting. I definitely could see even shorter cranks being useful off-road clearance wise.

        I can’t quite describe how, but 165mm definitely feels more “comfortable”. I didn’t lose any speed or performance. Before I would never have tried shorter cranks, but 165mm is kind of standard on track-like fixed gear bikes. Thought I’d end up changing the crankset, ended up preferring it. Definitely going to put shorter cranks on my road bike at some stage! And the experience makes me curious to try even shorter. So your experience with 150mm is interesting – I’m average height too, 178cm.

        • My newer bike has 165mm cranks, and it definitely feels easier than the 170 on the older bike (though there are other differences). Am about 178cm tall too.

  1. What will the Red Bull takeover of Bora-Hansgrohe mean for the individual sponsorships of riders such as Wout van Aert and Tom Pidcock? Would seem a conflict of interest for the top rider of one team to be prominently wearing the branding of the owners of another team in a race.

    • I think Dylan VB has a better chance at Roubaix than Wout. I’d like to see Jorgenson take a shot at as well but he seems focused on stage racing for some reason.

    • The rules are a bit grey here, a team owner can’t control or sponsor another team, and certainly they can’t race in the same event given the chances of collusion or just the perception of collusion. But it’s written via this team vs team aspect, it’s not so clear for individual riders in this Red Bull case but clearly the rules want to get rid of perceived collusion so it could be that the likes of Van Aert and Pidcock, at least when they race on the road, ride in plain helmets. But there’s a long way to get there, it’s just that seems the most obvious outcome.

    • There are other Red Bull cyclists you know? And it’s personal sponsorship, it will likely make no difference. If you watch other sports you’ll see RB sponsored teams, against teams with RB athletes…it’s not an issue.

      • Maybe this is why Red Bull want to sponsor a team… more visibility in the sport?

        How many of the readers know who the other Red Bull riders are without googling.. and not including the MTB/ Endurance/ Triathlon athletes.

        • I dare say quite a few readers can name at least two without googling or racking their brain: a certain Wout van Aert and Anton Palzer, the ski mountaineer turned road cyclist (and one of the Inner Ring´s riders to watch for in 2021).

          • It’s an interesting marketing move. Normally they are associated with things that make people go “wow”, as much stunts as sport so moving into the more traditional world of road cycling team sponsorship and even ownership is a change.

            But I’d heard this had long been an option and the company was also looking at another team but that passed last year.

          • «Normally they are associated with things that make people go “wow”, as much stunts as sport so moving into the more traditional world of road cycling »

            Wow things like clubs Leipzig and Salzburg in the very untraditional sport of football?

          • Ha, normally of course. The football deals stand out too, outwardly they look like pet projects, one as the local club for the firm; the other for Red Bull founder Mateschitz to find a lowly club in the Bundesliga and build up. Buying into pro cycling still seems like a change, especially when you see the markets where pro cycling has big TV audiences… and then the age of that audience. But perhaps Red Bull can help with the rejuvenation.

      • Turns out that Van Aert and Pidcock are the only two Red Bull cyclists that came to my mind when I thought about the topic. And I don’t follow other sports. I spent 800+ hrs riding my bikes in 2023 though. Sorry to disappoint.

  2. It seems that for those in the UK (I don’t know about anywhere else) that Discovery Plus (£7 a month) is showing all the cycling (currently has cyclocross races and the French National Track Championships, so that seems pretty niche).
    So, £84 a year, or £56 if you don’t pay for Nov-Feb (if you’re just a road fan).

    • I get Eurosport player for £40/year. Whilst double GCN+ I’d still consider this cheap enough for me to dip in and out. I like to watch winter sports as well so makes even more sense for me. Whether I have the time to watch much is a different matter!

      Not sure if the £40/year price is a legacy that I’m hanging on to though

      • Discovery + is now the only option for new subscribers in the UK. If you try to join Eurosport player, you get sent there. I suppose this might happen to you once you’re subscription is up.

        GCN was £49.99 a year.

        • In case it is useful, the Discovery+ player doesn’t work in Russia, even when using VPN, saying it is not available in your country. BUT I can access all the content through a web browser. This may help others.

  3. this issue of sports streaming is just rampant, cycling isn’t alone there. i’m in the united states and the local professional hockey team was geo restricted in the city they play. even the nfl—who you’d think would have figured it out—requires 3-4 platforms to view.

    all that’s to say, i’m not confident at all to watch cycling outside of europe.

    • ” you’d think would have figured it out—requires 3-4 platforms to view”
      Isn’t that THE idea? Getting money from you every which way? My wife likes to watch Italian football and has two teams she follows…but has to pay streaming fees to multiple platforms to see all their games. Only good thing about this in Italy is it’s easy to un-subscribe from these things if they’re not gonna have anything you want to watch and then subscribe again when/if they do. Cycling-wise, Eurosport’s pretty cheap here and has most everything (and choice of language so we can avoid those British people so many here love to hate) while Italy’s RAI over-the-air provides the weekly “RadioCorsa” talk show and some smaller races Eurosport doesn’t bother with.
      Just more reasons I couldn’t wait to escape from the USA and it’s “major shakedown” culture when it comes to consumers.

  4. Regarding watching bike racing, I think there’s a 3rd option to learning foreign language or paying more money. Not paying for the crazy packaged deals & not watching bike racing, making North America an even greater wasteland.

    • I agree. It is too much money going for TV. I didn’t even pay for gcn+. I used to love cyclingnews live updates and their race results but now things are behind a paywall. I think the live updates might not have paywall but I am not sure.

      • How much do you spend a year to watch cycling? I’m often bemused when reading complaints about the cost of X from people who ride very expensive bicycles dressed in very expensive kits when what they’re complaining about = the cost of one tire, or maybe a wheel?
        But I guess it’s now much interest you really have? For example, I refuse to pay to watch MOTOGP…if/when it stops being free over-the-air here in Italy is the day I stop watching. Not because I can’t afford it (I’m spending money to go in-person to Mugello this year) but I don’t care enough to hand the greedy pricks at my money. Pro cycling OTOH – I’ll pay in Italy Eurosport (for now anyway) is a pretty good deal IMHO.

        • Im a bit confused by this also.

          Could you elaborate on the USA wasteland comment?

          Do you mean because everyone was watching races in Europe no one was both to film or broadcast races in USA?

          I got one as a European thought GCN+ was a golden age. I watched an absurd amount of cycling because of it and am extremely sad to see its demise. Cycling isn’t perfect but GCN+ was nearly so, its only failure seems to have been charging too little for what was an outstanding service.

          I would love to know what price would have allowed them to keep enough subscribers and keep going. IE what would have made the most money. £100 per year to me would still have been a bargain.

          • GCN+ could keep going at that price, it’s just that its owners felt that the fish hook had gone deep enough and it was time to force some money sucking on the potential public, which they felt it was then the broadest possible under these general conditions. Now they’ll try to find the balance between purchasers’ contraction and price, but this first phase will be just forcing growing prices for worse products. It happens all the time, from Netflix to your local supermarket. Pure, classic, capitalistic greed, the same which is making the world a wasteland of progressively more expendable and less useful objects.

          • It’s not exactly a wasteland in the US, but with the demise of GCN+ I have to pay more for the content. Peacock (NBC) carries all ASO races. I have that coverage as part of my cable bundle so I’m “paying” for it, just not sure how much. Peacock also has two race streams – one with Phil/Bob Roll and the other (thankfully) with Nico Roche and Anthony McCrossan. To access the former GCN races (Giro, non-ASO classics) I now need a HBO Max subscription (USD 9.99/mo with ads) AND a sports add-on (B/R report, also 9.99/mo with ads). No ads version is 15.99/mo each. It more than doubles what I spent in 2023, but I’ll likely pay it for the Spring and then reconsider. And yes, GCN was outstanding….I’d have paid more.

        • Larry – I don’t spend a dime to watch cycling. Sometimes Flobikes puts races onto YouTube, and I’ll watch those. Otherwise cycling is NEVER on the TV channels I pay for (I live in Canada, so we have Rogers/Bell for TV).

          I’m sorry, I’m very reluctant to pay for more and more streaming services. Let’s see what highlights packages and races hit YouTube this year, and otherwise I can read SOME cyclingnews articles, or Inrng gives amazing coverage, or there is procycling stats to reference the exact results.

          But yes, I have kids and retirement to save for, plus I have to pay for a house and food, etc. My money for entertainment is very limited.

          • Not really on subject but my pet peace in relation to cycling coverage is the head on shot that is always used on the sprint finishes. It is not until they show the overhead view in replay that you can properly see what happened.

    • The first condition to him winning is being written off by everyone 😉

      It is a tough challenge but he and the team have done plenty to boost their chances since last July, improving the leadout and so on.

      • I lost two Westmalle over Cav not winning a stage of the Tour last year. And I’m betting on him again.
        He has a much better leadout this time. Of course Lady Luck may play her part, as she did last year.
        You can’t tell me that last stage of the Giro wasn’t beautiful !!

        • Absolutely, Cav’s win near his 38th birthday was beautiful! He sprinted for a long time too, it was excellent. Really really wish him the best of luck this year.

          • I really like Cav but I find it quite tough to care about this record chase whatsoever?

            With a new generation of extremely talented riders ripping up the classics and grand tours, sprinting is possibly not the discipline it once was for me at least.

            I kind of know how I’ll feel if he does it and how I’ll feel if he doesn’t and neither will change my thinking he’s an outstanding rider who’s great fun and entertaining.

            It’s quite a difficult one to get hyped for when you reach the inevitable will he, won’t he section of every podcast and every Tdf preview we’ll be getting later this year…

            The two things I do/would find interesting is:

            In pure numbers what is the comparison between Cav 08 and Cav 2022-24?

            If miraculously Cav managed another four/five’fer. That would be magical. Unlikely though.

          • OldDave – agree, it’s hard to assume that if Cav beats Eddy then he has “beaten Eddy” or any related narrative. Rather I think the narrative is that Cav has really battled against some ups and downs and continues to win well into the late stages of a great career.

            But also, you’re right, there are way more exciting riders to watch this year too, Cav’s not in my top-10 right now, but it’s a nice story nonetheless.

  5. Red Bull have been involved in pro cycling for 10-15 years – it just happens to be mainly off-road. The level of ignorance from road journalists/ fans never ceases to amaze me.

    And plenty of people dissing on them. without realising the good they’ve done, particularly for MTB racing…..Putting the MTB World Cup back on level footing after the days of Freecaster…..

    • Totally agree.

      More big sponsors coming to cycling is a great thing. If you like professional road racing we should really be rejoicing at another team getting strong and consistent backing, especially when not from state or oil company. I’m happy for the riders and staff it supports. Red Bull has also as you say been a good backer of many projects it’s taken on in the past and elevated multiple sports.

      Energy drinks in general seem to be dubious in what they offer to society but so is nearly every sport sponsor in some sense…

      (Doesn’t stop Christian Horner being an absolute wanker though)

  6. “One trend to look for this year is people shortening their cranks, ”
    Forgive me but this is like women’s dress hemlines or men’s tie widths. Nothing but change for fashion’s sake. Personally I can’t tell the difference riding between 170, 172.5 or 175 mm unless I look at what’s stamped on them. I’ve got three personal road-going bicycles down in my shop right now and I doubt any of ’em have the same crank length, not to mention my shopping bike.
    Reminds me of the story a component maker told me once – they’d give test-riders a new piece of gear. If they told ’em before-hand it was stiffer, lighter, etc. they’d come back singing the praises. If they told ’em nothing about it before-hand, they came back most of the time with just a shrug when asked about the new thing’s performance.

    • Exactly my experience: I’m very insensitive to the variations in bike geometry, component sizes, tyre pressure/width etc. But then I’ve got friends who can tell if their seatpost is one mm too low, or who sing the praises of riding a few psi lower pressure. Maybe some people are just more sensitive to these things. And/or it’s a personality type: always obsessing over potential gains? My preference is to be happy with what I have

        • Yes it is fashion.
          We all know this already?

          Is it suppose to revelatory that things change mostly because of fashion? Also what’s wrong with fashion?

          Life would be dull if humans didn’t make irrational choices based around the need for something new and later down the line, to fit in with the new and each other. All life is meaningless and silly on some level, I kind of think it’s part of the joy.

          Sometimes changes in fashion kind of lead to progress in the most scattergun sense, and I would’ve thought in some way changes in fashion could actually be linked to evolution, if you take evolution as something beyond just our bodies?

          Fashion is great! As are women’s hemlines and men’s tie’s and what colour is in vogue – millennial pink vs gen z yellow. I love these random markers of time.

          • OK, fashion is fashion. What annoys me is the claims that this season’s “fashion” is technologically superior rather than simply fashion.
            Maybe the biggest example is/was the constant back-and-forth in the world of cycling between aero and weight. The UCI weight limit for bicycles used in competition has damped down the weight side of things but you don’t have to be too old to remember the back-and-forth between the two…same as women’s hemlines, men’s jacket lapels, etc.

    • Watch Pidcock’s ride with Matt Stephens, he is very clear that it makes a huge difference. He’s already reduced the crank length but is looking to reduce it further.

      • So Sky had marginal or not so marginal losses with their longer cranks (which in fact nearly had Nibali losing a Giro when he tried to copy that in 2016)…!!!
        Imagine how fast they’d be going with shorter cranks.
        A classical example of what’s being used to explain extraordinary performances, only to discover years later that it couldn’t explain anything, after all. Read now aero, feeding, better organisation or whatever.

        • All I’d say is I had a comprehensive fit for a new bike built with custom components. The fitter suggested moving from 172,5 cranks to 170 and they do feel better, although not like the difference between a £200 supermarket bike and a £5,000 machine.

    • Fashion? It is a lot of fashion in sports, but i do not consider seat height, stem length and crank length fashion. It is bio mechanics. Good fit means 1000x more than weight and this years color.

  7. “And/or it’s a personality type ”
    Those who follow trends and/or want to be seen as trendsetters. Reminds me of a guy I used to work for – each year he’d obsess over what would be the “color of the year” when choosing the paint color for his new bicycle. He didn’t choose a color he liked, more important was how modern/trendy it was. One year he chose an awful green…as I put the thing together I couldn’t help dubbing it “The Kawasaki” 🙂

  8. I find the WVA & MVDP rivalry fascinating this year in particular. MVDP is already leaving WVA in the dust with monument wins and general road success (despite WVA’s TDF heroics and arguably being the more rounded rider) and if that trajectory continues in pure monument wins this year it will become harder to keep thinking of them as the gruesome twosome we currently do, as opposed to WVA being a more Poupou/Eternal second like figure.

    Considering the amount of times WVA has been beaten by MVDP in the big races, whether in cyclocross or the road, I’m surprised when it comes to road races in particular he ever commits to ride with MVDP in any context.

    Sometimes if they were two different riders collaborating makes a lot of sense, but considering their history collaboration seems to equal defeat nine times out of ten for WVA so why do it? Even if it’s just about getting inside MVDP’s head.

    Truth be told though I just think in terms of pure racing brains MVDP is not only a slightly better rider than WVA in one day events, he’s also just tactically cleverer and in combination that just elevates him higher, so maybe any negative tactics from WVA would actually leave us just where we are – WVA as the eternal second.

    • I expect, but stop short of predicting the WVA-MVdP rivalry will change in 2024. WVA seems to have decided it’s now or never for his legacy and wants to be free from too much slogging around helping the pasty Dane in favor of his own exploits. MVdP seems to have sights firmly set on goals that WVA isn’t as interested in so I think the big clashes will be fewer in 2024.
      In contrast, with Roglic now on an opposing team and WVA less duty-bound to help the pasty Dane, Pogacar and others might have a better chance at Le Beeg Shew 2024. I would love to see Pogacar win both the Giro and Tour 2024 if for no other reason than to shut up all those who say it’ll never be done again or can only be done with the help of PED’s.

    • VdP vs Wout is an interesting rivalry. They’ve been riding against each other since they were kids.
      I’m usually for Wout. It just seems to come so easily for VdP. Like Wout has to work harder for everything he gets. I’m not against VdP at all. The battles are great to watch. And he just does spectacular rides. See any CX this year? VdP is head and shoulders above everyone else. Wout is not at his best for CX currently. Normally he is head and shoulders above everyone but…VdP.
      They are both two of the greatest riders we will ever see.
      I think VdP simply is more talented, but only by a small margin.
      I know two things about Wout for sure.
      He is sick and tired of being on the podium listening to the Dutch anthem.
      And Wout really NEEDS De Ronde.
      Roubaix is secondary.
      Best of luck to them both.
      Bring on the classics.

      • Interestingly, when he was on G’s podcast he said the the one he wants to win most is Paris-Roubaix. He noted its uniqueness compared to the Ronde, which comes at the end of the round of Flemish classics, all on similar roads.

    • A very interesting debate – I see them as both very strong riders, but with VERY VERY different skillsets. Of course on paper MVdP’s win list is more impressive, but some of the rides that WVA has put up are absolutely epic and I think the only other rider who could have matched those was Pogacar (if he was inclined to do so).

      WVA is more like Kwiatkowski to me than Boonen or Cancellara. All 4 have legendary power, but WVA/Kwiat are known by real cycling fans more for their top rides for their teammates than for their win-list. MVdP obviously falls into the Boonen/Cancellara category and has won a tonne of races, but WVA/Kwiat are much more selfless and as a consequence, they may either have burned their matches riding for the team OR they simply don’t have the same selfish/killer instinct.

      However, there is zero chance (in my opinion) that MVdP (or Boonen or Cancellara for that matter) could ever have matched WVA in the 2022 Tour. End result, 22nd on GC, green points jersey, and third on the Hautacam stage – ONLY third – but he was in the break all day, and then led his team’s Maillot Jaune wearer on an epic battle with Pogacar, even DROPPING Pogacar at one point, allowing his leader to take a full minute on Pogacar that day. So note, it wasn’t Vingegaard who dropped Pogacar… JV was hanging on for dear life as WVA blew up the top GC riders in the world.

      Anyways, that was the type of ride that Kwiat would do on a regular basis, and was crucial in several Froome yellow jerseys. It has to stand for something, so in my books it firmly keeps WVA as one of the top few riders right now – WVA, MVdP, Pogacar, Vingegaard, Roglic, Remco all on a separate level from everyone else right now.

  9. Apologies. Clearly commented too much.
    Thank you for another entertaining post INRNG and everyone commenting for a fun read during breakfast.

    • Did you get the “slow down, you’re commenting too much” notification? I’ve had that before haha.

      Interesting comments, great debate. And thanks to our host for this forum!

  10. Thanks again for some thought provoking posts.
    Will Bora’s new found majority owner get them past Lotto on the UCI points table?
    Lappartient must be desperately hoping for an Olympics with lots of “feel good” French success and no scandals or disasters (like protests or worse).
    Will 2024 be Patrick Lefereve’s last year in pro-cycling? I can well see Pogacar finding it harder then he planned to win the Giro.

  11. Yes! Someone please show Pogačar films of Fignon’s MSR wins. Going on the Cipressa may be his only chance at bumping up to the top step of that podium.

    • Really? Too bad he doesn’t read this blog, then he’d REALLY know how to race a bicycle! I guess Vincenzo Nibali doesn’t read it either, otherwise he would have won MSR with an attack on the Cipressa….oh…wait 🙂

      • Yeah – Larry’s spot on here. Absolutely no way any favourite can win or will attack on Cipressa. Apologies but unless there’s a crash bike racing has changed, it would be tactically poor for anyone but a complete outsider.

        • Note that the same was being said for the Poggio itself, when, say, a monstre ‘scattista’ as Gilbert was trying his luck there, whether alone or along with solid allies like Riccò or Pozzato, during the late 10s (2007-2010), with fast and explosive performances which had him brought back all the same.
          Then Nibali and even more so Sagan made it look possible although others were taking advantage of their efforts more often than not. Now the Poggio attacks look nearly too obvious…
          1997-2007 had 8 (!) mass sprints… and only 1 successful attack before the last km (Bettini).
          Cycling…, or just the Sanremo?…, is changing all the time, as generations go by and a different rider mix creates different approaches, expectations etc. Things change radically in a less than 10 years time.
          Tactics unlike strategies are determined on the spot by circumstances and intertwined decisions, so defining anything as “tactically poor” by default, out of mere pre-judice, makes little sense for me.

          • Someone will break the run, not saying that, and surely then we’ll all have egg on our faces and I hope as much as anyone this changes – I do not like MSR as a race and get angry every year that we get excited for ten minutes of entertainment.

            But there is absolutely no evidence currently to even vaguely suggest a win will come from an attack on the Cipressa, and there were attempts from the Poggio before it became more normalised – not even last minute catches from Cipressa attacks so it’s very difficult to surmise anything other that any favourite attacking there would be foolhardy.

            Cycling has definitely changed and will change again but without a crash or something else I don’t think we’re currently at a place where an attack can go from the Cipressa and win – but I would very happily like to be proved wrong.

            I don’t always agree with Larry T but on this one I do think he’s spot on, and would expert there’s an arm chair DS out there who could put some underlying numbers into peloton max speeds and single rider max speeds to show us even a Remco or Ganna at top speed would struggle to hold off a peloton and then attacks from Cipressa to finish.

          • @oldDAVE, no hints at Sanremo itself, I agree, but plenty in other races. What about the Redoute? Check the distance from the line of decisive attacks in, say, Lombardia, Ronde, Strade Bianche, Amstel… can’t you see any change happening?

          • I’m desperate for change, I just think all those examples are such different parcours they’re incomparable – which is obvious as every road is different but for me at least that particular run to MSR is so specific that until we either see an attack start to get close or succeed without a crash I just can’t see it being a genuine goer right now, tailwind or no tailwind – but if it happens I’ll be the first to celebrate and happily say I was wrong!

      • Ah, you are absolutely correct LarryT. My bad. cycling has changed. No way anyone could win on the Cipressa these days. And no way a Tour winner could win Flanders. I stand corrected and bit your enormous experience, wisdom, and aggressive confidence.

        • LOL – exactly, it’s absolutely IMPOSSIBLE in 2023 for a former Tour winner to do this in 1 season:

          ~ win P-N
          ~ win Flanders
          ~ win Lombardia
          ~ win Amstel, Fleche, third at E3,
          ~ third at Worlds (in epic battle)
          ~ second at TdF with 2 stages and win White Jersey
          ~ oh, and he broke a bone 2 months before the Tour

          YES, that’s not possible in 2023.

        • Hold on! I did NOT claim nobody could win MSR making their attack on the Cipressa.
          My post was about the idea that Pogacar needs help in his racecraft and he’s gonna get it from the likes of commenters here. I guess it’s social media that creates all these keyboard directors, though most of their expertise consists of merely 20/20 hindsight since they’re not in the car (or on the bike) when it’s time for decisions to be made and actions taken….they’re at home on their sofa watching on a video screen.
          The only “experience, wisdom, and aggressive confidence” I have is not to pretend that Pogacar (or anyone else) needs advice from me, OK?

          • “The only “experience, wisdom, and aggressive confidence” I have is not to pretend that Pogacar (or anyone else) needs advice from me, OK?”

            I guess the “or anyone else” doesn’t include our host or the commenters here, because you give your patronizing advice to any and all on a regular basis.

          • Look I think Pogacar or MVdP or WVA or Remco could make a Cipressa attack work. All have massive engines and if they go and people watch each other (and there is a tailwind) it is over.

          • KevinK – I comment on what I know and share an opinion, which is always just that – opinion.
            If that’s “patronizing advice to any and all on a regular basis.” in your view, there’s not much I can do about it, sorry.
            Feel free to tell Pogacar how to win MSR as if he’s reading these comments 🙂

          • Lol – I love to tease some of Larry’s old school comments, but I value the opposing viewpoint, plus, I have a lot of respect for an American who did the reverse migration.

            Keep up the healthy debate, and haha… yeah, Pogacar isn’t asking us bozo’s for any advice.

          • Ha – I can’t disagree KevinK – but it’s more a tone thing with Larry T, and see above he did acquiesce on our silly fashion chat so we’re all capable of change! He’s definitely over zealous on occasion but I think like all of us it comes from a good place of loving cycling so we can be a little more understanding that we’re all different ages, from different places and have varying life experiences so our phrasing and terminology is a bit different – plus as above, would be boring if someone didn’t put the cat amongst the pigeon’s every so often! I’m not a Larry-stan as the kids would say, but I think we could be a little kinder to him on occasion as the comments would be a poorer place without him, even if he’s not necessarily the first to afford others the same!

  12. I appreciate that Inring is willing to make specific predictions (as he also does regularly with his star ratings for major races). Most of us have the sense that we’re correct more often than we’re wrong about our predictions, but almost no one documents and tracks their predictions. Because of confirmation bias (i.e., we tend to forget when we’re wrong, but remember when we’re right) we think we’re better predictors than we are. Putting predictions in writing, and then checking back on them, is humbling.

    I made two bold predictions before last season began: that we’d seen peak MvdP and peak WvA. I didn’t suggest that they were washed up, or that they wouldn’t win big races and be successful, just that they had peaked already. I got a ton of derision for that, but after 2023 it might be that I was at least half right. Don’t get me wrong, WvA had a good year, especially compared to most in the peloton, and perhaps most of his near-misses came down to bad luck, but he clearly wasn’t close to the world beater he’d been in 2021. And his plan for 2024 is to not even try for the kind of across-the-board success he had before, and target certain big races. I think he’s smart for doing that, but I think it’s also an admission that he can no longer do it all.

    I have to admit I was wrong about MvdP, though I can make some excuses that his amazing season came down to just three race days. Looked at overall, his win rate was (as in 2022) down significantly from his peak, and half of his six wins were in ‘nothing’ races. He also had a spectacularly lame TdF, never finishing a single stage in the top ten. Yes, he was a good lead-out man in some stages, but peak MvdP was never about being a domestique.

    I think both MvdP and WvA have realized something that Sagan never realized – that one’s legacy ultimately may not about winning everything (ala Merckx and Kelly), but about winning the biggest races. MvdP has had this strategy for a few years now, while WvA seems to have come to this point only during this off season. So I don’t think we’ll ever again see them (1) winning lots of races, and (2) winning a high percentage of races entered, and (3) winning some of the very biggest races. That’s what they both did during what I would call their peak years.

    • Few days since I went on a posting rampage so feel like it’s okay to post again!

      Enjoyed this KevinK – I remember this prediction and glad you took time to come back on it again.

      Not sure whether I agreed or not or anything at the time or even now actually… as my view of peaking isn’t quite as cut and dry but I do think it’s a fair argument for most sportsmen and women when speaking in hindsight, post retirement, that they’re performance peaks usually came before their fame peaks so are a little earlier than generally people realise aside from experts. Which is why I don’t think your prediction was particularly outrageous.

      On Sagan – I simply don’t think he cared that much about those races and preferred money, sun & summer and even if for the fans this was a tiny bit of a shame because we all know he could and should have won more, it feels like he got what he wanted and earnt bucket loads for himself and team whilst enjoying the limelight while it shone. In a sense I think it means he might end up having a happier life because things like results seem to bug him less. Although maybe his divorce says something different! Who knows!

      • My definition of a performance peak is pretty straightforward – it’s when someone was doing their best stuff and having their best results. In a sport like road cycling, it’s obviously tricky, since the sport is such a patchwork quilt of wildly varying races, and the competition from race to race is never consistent. For the riders I mentioned, part of their ‘greatness’ is that not only have they won huge races, they’ve won a high percentage of races they entered, and when they didn’t win they were often in the top three.

        I think Sagan cared a lot about winning more monuments. I think his problem was he cared almost as much about winning a bunch of other races, with the result that he tried to do it all. During a couple of what should have been his best years he was doing 91 race days a year, and overtraining on top of that (to save anyone the trouble of checking, WvA’s busiest road season was last year, with 54 race days, while MvdP’s was 47 race days two years ago). I agree he enjoyed the hell out of it, at least until the latter part of his career.

        • His sponsors had huge responsibilities, in that sense (was really Sagan so much interested in winning at Alberta or US Pro Challenge? And same is true for other races where it’s less obvious or manifest. It’s even true for the Tour of Cali, which Sagan of course enjoyed, but I doubt he cared as much about). Sagan’s responsibility was not thinking much about what wasgoing to be his legacy when sponsors required him to do this or that. In fact, at the end of the day to me the saddest sight wasn’t Sagan racing without the slightest hope to get a big result, it was him racing without enjoying it that much. Which just proves that ultimately he was subject to that broad range of interests which didn’t match his own as a sportsman, maybe as a product or a business(man).

          • If we weren’t making very reasonable assumptions all the time, we’d struggle to live everyday life even.

            So you assume that Sagan was trying to “do it all”, although he never started Liège, for example, or Paris-Tours, or Waregem, and of course yours is *not* mind-reading, while imagining that he rode Cali, Alberta or the likes because of the Big S is an exercise of imagination (I believe that there even were some explicit declarations on the subject but I won’t bother looking for them, it’s not even the point…). Now, what assumption is the reasonable one? ^__^

          • “In fact, at the end of the day to me the saddest sight wasn’t Sagan racing without the slightest hope to get a big result, it was him racing without enjoying it that much. Which just proves that ultimately he was subject to that broad range of interests.”
            Agreed. It seemed all the fun went out of it for him. He IS the guy who had the tattoo “Why So Serious?” so I guess it shouldn’t be a big surprise that commerce eventually squeezed the fun out of the sport for him. I was there in 2015 when he won in Richmond, VA.

    • Sagan sadly decided *very* soon to leave aside the idea of “winning everything”. He decided to win a few competitions many times, several not that significant, either, rather than exploring his own potential. OldDAVE might be partially right in his answer, although, as he himself makes clear, some question marks are still there under his conjecture.

      MvdP 2023 edition is quite clearly on an athletical and technical absolute peak. Are you watching him racing these days, by the way?

      Generally speaking, what you win depends on your rivals, too, especially percentages. Anyway, comparing 2023 with, say, 2021, you’ll notice that MvdP raced more days at top level, won bigger races and just won a couple of races less, but it’s not like in 2021 he was winning bigger races, quite the other way around. In 2022 he had as many wins as in 2023 but not as big. He only raced a couple of days more at the top level. Same for 2020… 2018… the only year he won significantly more races was 2019 (11), but the two biggest ones were Amstel and Brabantse.

      In 2023 he raced more kms overall, had more days on the road by far than in any other season barring 2022 (1 single day more), plus scored by far more points.
      If MvdP doesn’t comply with your 3 points this year, he never did (and probably nobody else ever did in recent seasons barring Pogacar).

      It’s like we’re forgetting is also practicing different specialties… I’m only worried by how strong is he going this late 2023 CX season, looks like Wout at the end of 2022.

      • We seemed to have watched the careers of two different people named ‘Peter Sagan’. The guy I watched raced all year long, in all kinds of races, won a sh*t-ton of those races, and finished in the top three in a double sh*t-ton of races. What are these insignificant races that he chose to focus on to win repeatedly? I believe he won more WT races than anyone he raced against, by a wide margin, and I don’t know who has a longer list of different races won. And nonsense like “he didn’t explore his own potential” is, frankly, a meaningless and unfalsifiable charge. This sounds like something a social-sciences academic would say to insult someone without the possibly of a concrete rejoinder. In retrospect it’s safe to say he over-raced, and he admitted he over-trained for several years. Looking back I wish he’d been more focused, but at the time I loved watching him show up and animate race after race, year after year. He made the choices he made, and we fans might regret certain things, I don’t think (as OldDave suggested) shares those regrets.

        As for MvdP, yes, I watched him. I watched him look mediocre in the biggest race on the calendar, the TdF. I watched him mail it in during some other races, too. I saw him win a few second-rate races against lesser competition. And I saw him have five exceptional days, during which he won three huge one-day races. Was he better on those five days than he’s been in the last few years on his five best days in previous years? Maybe. It is clear that this is his best year in terms of winning big races.

        And please note, I didn’t suggest that I had been correct when I predicted we’d already seen ‘peak MvdP.’ I said so far I think I’m half correct on those two predictions, referring to WvA as the one that so far I’m correct (and happy to have that one falsified with a standout 2024). I’m not arguing that 2023 wasn’t MvdP’s best, but as I said, compared to other super talented riders, he’s always been picky about where and now much he races, with the result that even when he wins big races his PCS points are barely in the top ten. As you noted, he’s only had one year with double-digit wins (barely, as in 10 wins, and only one of those a WT win). He’s had a funky career on the road. He started late, had a slow ease-in during which he raced in some absolutely trivial races (8 of his first 9 wins were .1 races), he’s been conservative in his race days, and he’s seemed to struggle with connecting his best days with important races (until 2023). If you want to talk about someone who has wasted potential in road racing, I say look no further. But then maybe this has been how he’s reached his full potential. Maybe if he’d started road racing WT races as a 20 year old he would have already be toasted. Not that it matters. Like Sagan, like WvA, I think MvdP does things the way he wants to, and doesn’t worry too much about the rest.

        • PCS points LOL… “WT races” ROTFL…

          I’m a big Sagan fan, by the way, but he didn’t live up to his potential. And not because he wasn’t enough picky with races, he just picked the wrong ones. Without even starting to speak about Liège, he just won too little on the cobbles, and that mainly depended on him racing too little and without enough effort through more of the Belgian campaign. Maybe even those which “aren’t WT”.
          OTOH I must say that he was so unlucky never to have won Sanremo despite trying a lot, that was less of his fault (or his sponsors’).

          By the win, you constantly seem to forget that MvdP looks currently the strongest CX rider ever or so and WVA is often thereabouts. I’m not defending that it’s a good choice or a merit or whatever, it’s just a big fact you’re ignoring all the time.

          • My last comment on the subject – you write that Sagan won too little on the cobbles. Isn’t he the last rider to win all four of the cobbled classics (Ronde, PR, GW, E3)? He won six in total, compared to WvA and MvdP having won only two of the four races, and a total of three cobbled classics each. There’s still time for them to get more, but through age 28 Sagan won as much in the cobbled classics as WvA and MvdP combined.

          • @KevinK
            You seem to have missed the point. The objective is to win Ronde and Roubaix. The rest is small change. But if you struggle to get the big ones despite your potential, you’d better run through the whole campaign. Ronde and Roubaix are a bit of a lottery of course but unlike Sanremo the strongest rider, physically and technically, gets a very serious ticket for victory. To me, Sagan could walk different paths, all around classics rider, cobbles strong man of course with an eye on the very compatible TDF etc. At the end of the day, he was a super-Freire, or super-Zabel, which is great, but not what he could probably achieve.

    • “I made two bold predictions before last season began: that we’d seen peak MvdP and peak WvA. ”
      IMHO (yep, OPINION) it’s too early to start patting yourself on the back for those bold predictions…if these guys win some big races in 2024 how are you gonna argue that 2023 was somehow their peak?

  13. I’ve been someway harsh with Sagan above because of sheer dialectics, more than anything. Given that we are several PCS fans here, suffice it to say that the “500 most favourite riders” poll held by that page always has Sagan in the very top spots despite his lack of sporting results. That’s just a curiosity, but hints at something bigger. In a sense, we could even say that Sagan “sacrificed” some results for the sake of his popularity but especially cycling’s (like Van Vleuten’s move to Movistar, in a different way). He had a global impact both among committed fans and casual viewers few riders (or none) can compare to in recent years.
    Plus, of course, his results are *huge* and can only be questioned, as I do, because the bar of expectations was set very high, and not at all due to excessive hype, but simply watching him perform on the top of his game, which he started showing from a very early moment in his career.
    Add to that the, quite surprisingly, he rarely was a “protected” rider within the “environment” of cycling, especially, by institutions like ASO and the UCI… sometimes it even looked the other way around!

  14. The 5th rider in the tour will be Tao, backed by a Lidl-Trek running their GC bid like they ran Cicco’s KOM campaign, and doing it well. Mads P will first bristle then embrace the “Lidl-version of WvA” moniker, and make journalists awkward OR enamoured with his oneliners around it.
    Tao won’t win, Jonas will, but I can legit see him podium if he gets back to his pre-crash Giro23 form and continues his strong ITT development.

    The offbeat prediction will be that the Bora rider of the 5 won’t end up being Roglic, but Jai as Roglic’s unfortunate run-ins with French roads wasn’t a Jumbo issue after all. A lot of fans get really upset and the until now Danish – Slovenian online war is surpassed by the new Aus – Slo battle.

    The really rogue bet will be that no Slovenian will podium in TdF24, but I can honestly see it happen in about 13 different ways…

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