Friday, August 10, 2012

Fall Classics: What We Look Forward to in 2012

With the end of the Tour de France and Olympic cycling competitions, we turn our attention to the Fall Classics, perhaps the lesser cousins of the Spring Classics.  What do we look forward to this Fall? There are a few factors that brings us more excitement than usual. In this post we first discuss these factors and we will follow up with short race previews.

Loire Valley in Fall.

Recovering riders are making their way back into the peloton
Among these, we have Fabian Cancellara and Andy Schleck of RadioShack-Nissan-Trek (RSNT), Matti Breschel of Saxo Bank-Tinkoff, Sylvain Chavanel of OmegaPharma-QuickStep (OPQS), the Philippe Gilbert - Cadel Evans duo of Team BMC, and Sammy Sanchez of Euskaltel. We are especially interested in seeing what Evans might bring in the Giro di Lombardia, a race near his hometown just across the lake in Switzerland, and one where he has played strong cards in the past. Of course, he has had to give up his opportunity to support Gilbert when both were riding for Silence-Lotto, but this year has been disappointing one for Gilbert and we have higher hopes for Evans.

Fabian Cancellara traditionally has a fairly quiet second half of the year except for his near-sure wins in the Worlds ITT race. However with his spring season ruined by injury, he may spring a surprise.

Team transfers, both news and rumors, have wreaked quite a bit of havoc
The biggest question of this transfer season is of course what will happen to team RadioShack-Nissan-Trek (RSNT). With their demise appearing in many crystal balls, the likes of Fabian Cancellara, Jakob Fuglsang, and Andy Schleck are unexpectedly available on the market.

Sammy Sanchez, having stayed with Euskaltel (EUS) his entire career, is now rumored to be moving across to Saxo Bank-Tinkoff. In the past EUS has rewarded him with unwavering loyalty, but given that team is always short on UCI points, will they bank all on a rider who might carry those points away from them?

For a complete team transfer news and rumors, check out Cycling Fever's excellent page.

Vicenzo Nibali's impending move to Astana
There is no hiding the fact that we think Nibali has great potential for the classics. We also sympathize with him as he has aspired to leadership but often has had to give it up for Ivan Basso. We think that Astana v.3 is a good choice for him. Team manager Giuseppe Martinelli has guided many riders to great wins both in the grand tours and the classics. We shall soon see whether Nibali's career will flourish or flounder. Either way, we hope that he won't give up the classics for his grand tour ambition.

Return of the Dark Prince Alejandro Valverde
We have shared our misgivings on the return of Valverde from suspension. An exciting rider and accomplished classics winner, he has done well in many fall races in particular his "home" race Clasica San Sebastian. Participation in Tour de France has perhaps improved his endurance for long races, something we think had held him back this year. If Valverde doesn't deliver, then new member Giovanni Visconti will be keen to show his worth in his home race Giro di Lombardia where he has shown his potential before. Add to this Olympic gold medalist Alexandre Vinokourov's goal of retiring with a bang, a head-to-head battle between Movistar and Astana will make an exciting race.

Some Teams Are Keeping Their Stars
While RSNT and EUS contend with the possibility of their demise, others teams such as Lampre-ISD, OPQS, Astana, Katusha, and Movistar are able to keep many of their stars. After a very quiet year, we'd love to see Lampre-ISD put a strong showing with youngster Diego Ulissi and veteran Damiano Cunego. Or perhaps Katusha with Joachim Rodriguez. But it's hard to bet against another strong showing from Astana and their stacked roster. With two significant spring classics victories (La Flèche Wallonne and Liège), they cannot be discounted.

The Rise of French Sprinters
For a very long while the term "French sprinter" was an oxymoron. Now with Démare et al. we are excited at the prospect of French wins in the classics or perhaps even the world championship. We have been wrong before, such as when we gushed over young Italian classics warriors. Will the French rise up so that Les Marseillaises will be sung proudly?

What do you look forward to in the Fall Classics season? What do you think of Garmin-Barracuda and Argos Oil-Shimano? Share your thoughts below.

No comments:

Post a Comment