Tag Archives: Tom Boonen

Eight things to look forward to in 2014 as well as a few predictions

There is so much to look forward to in the upcoming 2014 professional cycling road season, as there is every year and if I asked a dozen people for things that they’re looking out for the most I’d no doubt get a dozen different answers, so take of this what you will. These are eight things that jump out at me as things worth watching for as the Grand Tours make their starts in the UK, as British cycling tries to continue its dominance, and as the World Hour record comes back to prominence. I’ll also lay down a few predictions; though don’t be running to your bookie with them. Predicting cycling results on the day of a race is hard enough never mind months in advance. One thing I can guarantee however is that the season will be full of good action, beautiful scenery, and a few records here or there.

Giro in Belfast; Tour in Yorkshire

It’s a rare treat for any Grand Tour to start in the UK, indeed only the Tour de France has done that before, but for two to do it in the one year is almost as rare as the idea that back-to-back British winners of the Tour de France might have seemed a few years ago. The last time a Grand Tour visited the island of Ireland was in 1998 when that years ill fated Tour de France arrived in Dublin. Remembered for the ‘Festina Affair’ that year the Giro organisors will be hoping for none of the same when their big event arrives on that island with the start in Belfast. It’s a huge occasion for a city like Belfast and it should look fantastic. Likewise with the Tour starting in Yorkshire. Mark Cavendish seen last year’s mass start on Corsica as a big chance to pull on the Yellow jersey by winning that first stage sprint, but it didn’t go to plan. And maybe for the best because what better way to pull on his first Yellow jersey than on home turf?

Back to Back for Froome?

Chris Froome will be the favorite for the 2014 Tour. He won it in style last year and so long as his preparation matches what he did twelve months before and he can avoid any injuries there’s nobody I can see beating him. It could be tougher this time however with Vincenzo Nibali returning to the race and the most likely opponent to cause the Kenyan born, South African educated, British license holding Froome some trouble. There’s no such thing as a foregone conclusion in the Tour, but Froome retaining his title is about as close as it comes to one.

Boonen back

In 2012 Tom Boonen was the King of the classics. He won Paris-Roubaix, Tour of Flanders and Gent-Wevelgem, but injuries derailed his defense of those in 2013 and he watched from the sidelines as Fabian Cancellara and Peter Sagan took up the dominance of the spring races. Fighting fit again Boonen will be out to recapture his crown and that only serves us well. Seeing him, Cancellara and Sagan, among others, go head to head this spring will make for fantastic viewing. My money is on each of them winning at least one of the spring classics.

The continued rise of Rui Costa

At 27 years of age, Rui Costa is coming into his prime years as a cyclist and there’s enough there to suggest that it could be prime years full of big race wins. Back in 2011 he showed his ability as a big time racer by winning a stage of that year’s Tour de France and in 2012 he took the overall at the Tour of Switzerland. He repeated there last year and added to that result with two stage wins in Le Tour on the difficult stages of 16 and 19 before winning the World Road Race Championships in conditions even worse than those that faced him in one of his two Tour stages. Some think he even has Grand Tour potential in him and after moving to Lampre this winter to become a team-leader in his own right we’ll truly see how far his talents can go. At the very least this will remain a man who should feature highly in the spring classics and again for stages in the Tour de France as he looks to retain that rainbow jersey at the end of the 2014 season.

Classic expectations for Sagan

No doubt about it, Peter Sagan had a superb season in 2013. Victories at the Gent-Wevelgem and the Cycliste de Montréal to go with multiple stage wins at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, Tour of Alberta, Tour of California, Tour of Oman, Tour de Suisse and Tirreno-Adriatico, not to mention his Green jersey victory at the Tour de France, highlighted that. But to some there was too many second places at the classics and therefore too many missed opportunities. He was second at Milan-San Remo when those around him out foxed him and then he was beaten into second by his new spring-rival, Cancellara at the Tour of Flanders. It’s hard to imagine pressure being on Sagan to do even better than in 2013 and remember he’s still only 23 (24 later this month), but then, that age is a reason why we could well see better from him in 2014 and if he’s to truely prove to the world that he is going to be one of the greats then he might well need a win or two in one of the Monument classics this year.

The breakout of Michal Kwiatkowski

Michal Kwiatkowski broke through into the big time last season and he’ll be looking to show the world that Sagan isn’t the only young talent capable of big wins and 2014 will be a year for him to prove it. And unlike Sagan, Kwiatkoswki appears to have the ability to climb in the higher mountains and compete at the sharp end of Grand Tours as well as time-trial and sprint. He didn’t have any big victories to his name last year but he was in the mix at a number of races and finished 11th overall at the Tour de France holding the White jersey for best young rider between stages 2-7 and 11-14 before falling short of phenom climbing sensation Nairo Quintana. And it was in the Tour that his talents truly began to shine. He was right near the front on several early race sprint stages, he was 5th and 7th in the respective individual time trials and never far off the pace in the high mountains fading only towards the final days of the Tour. He’ll be one to watch in 2014.

What will Wiggins do?

Sir Bradley Wiggins had the world at his feet as the 2012 season came to an end. He had won the Tour becoming the first British cyclist to do so and then he won a Gold Medal in the individual time-trial at the London Olympics. It was a supreme season and many wondered how he could top it. Well … he couldn’t. An off season rift with Chris Froome over the leadership of the team boiled over into the early season with both of them racing apart. Wiggins went to the Giro d’Italia for his Tour prep, but as we all know in this day and age if you try to win the Giro you probably aren’t going to then win the Tour and Wiggins was out to try and win the Giro. But he couldn’t do that either. A sudden fear of descending struck him followed soon after by an illness and before the racing had even got serious, he was gone. An injury followed and Wiggins was ruled out of even competing in the Tour leaving his season in tatters. He won the Tour of Britain but aside from that and the Worlds, in which he also failed to finish, little has been seen of him. Has he finally succumbed to working for Froome at the 2014 Tour as some have suggested, or is he out for one last throw of the dice? A penultimate stage time-trial at the Tour might allow for it, but chances are Wiggins will help where he can in the Tour before turning his attention back towards the track. I’d love to see him take a run at a spring classic, but who knows. And therein lays one of the great mysteries of the upcoming season: What will Wiggins do?

Cancellara world hour

This one has me the most excited of all. The World Hour is a special record in cycling history, though the way so few have tried to break it of late you would be forgiven for thinking the cyclists themselves didn’t think so. Then again, that is a tribute to its difficulty that so few have felt able to go for it. But that looks set to change this year as big Fabian Cancellara gets set to take a run at the record. Currently held by the relatively unknown, Ondrej Sosenka (49.7 km), if anyone can beat it, it’s probably Fabian. Prior to Sosenka taking it in 2005 it was held by Chris Boardman who had taken it under conventional methods (standard bike as used by Eddy Merckx when he set a record in 1972 (49.431 km) that stood for 28 years) in 2000. Before that Boardman had got into a head-to-head with Graeme Obree on superman like bikes that seen the top names of the era — Miguel Indurain and Tony Rominger — all come out to have a crack at it. Cancellara taking on the record might well perk up the interests of another time-trial specialist, Tony Martin and don’t forever rule out someone like Wiggins having a try. And with that the World Hour rivalry might yet be born again.

Predictions

Milan-San Remo (23 March): Peter Sagan
Tour of Flanders (6 April): Tom Boonen
Paris-Roubaix (13 April): Peter Sagan
Liège–Bastogne–Liège (27 April): Rui Costa
Giro d’Italia (9 May – 1 June): Nairo Quintana
Tour de France (5-27 July): Chris Froome
Vuelta a Espana (23 August – 14 September): Alberto Contador
Giro di Lombardia (5 October): Philippe Gilbert
World Road Championships, Ponferrada, Spain (28 September): Peter Sagan

The unstoppable Thomas Boonen

If his victory last week at the Tour of Flanders didn’t quite cement his place as the worlds number one cyclist so far in 2012 and perhaps the finest classics rider of his generation, then his solo win — for the fourth time in his career — at the infamous Paris-Roubaix certainly did. Boonen has now won the Gent-Wevelgem and Tour of Flanders to go with his Paris-Roubaix win and he’s quickly making the accomplishments of Philippe Gilbert twelve months ago look nothing out of the ordinary.

Coming into the race a few had been critical of Boonen over the fact he only had to follow moves knowing that he could outsprint his rivals when it got down to the final two-hundred yards, but Boonen put that theory to bed when he attacked with 52 kms to go and rode solo to victory by 1-39 over Sébastien Turgot in second place and Alessandro Ballan in third.

Boonen won’t be any kind of favourite for the Grand Tours this year, it’s not his style of riding, but just as they are geared for a specific type of cyclist, so to are the one day classics races and Boonen is proving to be better at his discipline than anyone else is at theirs. Until you go broadly across the spectrum of cycling disciplines and meet the dominance of Chris Hoy on the track, Boonen stands alone in 2012.

Winning Paris-Roubaix for that fourth time makes Boonen the king of the cobbels. His previous victories at Roubaix came in 2005, 2008 and 2009 and it ties him for the most wins at the Hell of the North with Roger De Vlaeminck. Sadly De Vlaeminck was far from content to see someone level his record describing Boonen’s rivals as “third-rate”.

“I hope Cancellara participates next year, then we see a different race,” de Vlaeminck moaned. “I knew beforehand that he [Boonen] would be next to me [on the list of all-time career victories]. Tom can not help it that this time he had no opposition. They were not second, but third-rate riders.”

Next up is this weekends Amstel Gold Race followed by Le Flèche Wallonne the following Wednesday and the Liège – Bastogne – Liège the weekend after that to conclude April’s classics. Boonen won’t be racing at the Flèche Wallonne though who could rule him out of winning or or both of the other two. My money is on a big result at Liège. It’ll be fascinating to watch how the others try to stop him.

Boonens surprising low-key celebrations; Cav a dad; Contador accepts fate; and a caption competition

STICKING TO THE VINO (THE WINE, NOT THE KAZAK CYCLIST)

There was no lines of coke, double vodkas and strippers at Tom Boonen’s post-Tour of Flanders party this year. No, the Belgian who is off to a superb start in 2012 had a low key celebration with his attention already turning to the Paris-Roubaix this weekend.

“On Sunday evening it was a normal evening at home. I arrived at home, drank a good glass of wine with my family and that was all. I went to bed immediately. I was really tired,” he said, as if trying to convince us that things didn’t get out of hand after that second glass… “On Monday, I didn’t really have a lot of time to enjoy my victory. It’s unbelievable.” It is, you’d think after such a win, a man would be given a few days out on the tiles, but not so in the fast paced world of professional cycling.

“In cycling you have to turn the page immediately, and next weekend is Paris-Roubaix,” he confirmed. “I am still really motivated. Mentally I have no problem. I work a lot to be competitive at this period of the season so I really want to try to do my best even on Sunday and fight for the victory. I don’t know if I will make the recon or not on Friday. The parcours is still the same and I have pretty good experience with it.”

With confidence like that who would bet against him? Not this fan.

***
DADDY CAV

It’s not often I beat Mark Cavendish in a race, but yesterday I officially beat him to being a dad by 26 days! Yes the man from the Isle of Man, also known as the fastest man in the world, yesterday announced the birth of daughter, Delilah Grace Cavendish, born to his partner Peta Todd. “Delilah Grace Cavendish was born a couple of hours ago,” Cavendish beamed via Twitter. “She & @petatodd are doing very well. So proud of my girls! Happiest day of my life.” Congrats Cav on the new born, it’s a hell of an experience.

***
CONTADOR MAINTAINS LACK OF FAITH IN SPORTS LAW

Alberto Contador has decided not to appeal his savage six month ban for a positive doping test at some Tour de France or other that might have taken place sometime before World War II. Contador had a month to put in an appeal but decided against it after discovering that he would be safe to return to the sport on August 5 rather than receive the full two year ban that a less significant cyclist might have otherwise faced.

“According to my lawyers, it made no sense to appeal the case, as it would have ended up again at the CAS anyway. Meanwhile, I have lost all faith in sports law,” Contador quipped angrily. The Spaniard will be missing from this years Tour de France but will return in time to win his home Vuelta a Espana in September. The course was made with him in mind after all.

***
CAPTION COMPETITION

Exact prize to be decided but give your best captions in the comment section below on José Joaquin Rojas’ latest podium celebration at the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco…

Boonen back to his best in what is clearly his favourite race

The Gent-Wevelgem, also known as the Tom Boonen classic, took place this weekend. One of cycling’s popular spring classic races taking place in the heartland of cycling — Belgium — the race is a big notch on any good cyclists resume. Former cyclist turned cocaine sniffing party boy, turned cyclist again, Tom Boonen, took the win for the second year in-a-row and third time in all. It was his seventh race win of the season for a man really looking like he is back to his best. He out sprinted a group of 13 men including Peter Sagan, Oscar Freire, Edvald Boasson Hagen and Fabian Cancellara to take the glory, or at least that’s how the result sheet suggests it was won.

I sadly didn’t get to see it myself as I had hoped. Time and other stuff didn’t allow for it which is a shame because I’d have liked to have seen the video shots of Gent, a beautiful city that I’ve spent a good bit of time in over the years and of which i have many fond memories.

2012 Olympic Champion, Mark Cavendish missed the break and could only finish in the large second pack in which he didn’t feel there was any pride to be gained by sprinting for 37th place.

“I’ve found back my sprint,” cheered Boonen after the race. “I’m not the fastest man in the peloton — that’s probably Mark Cavendish — but if everybody is tired then I’m one of the best.” And Boonen makes a good point. It’s only worth being the fastest man on the planet if you’re at the stage of the race were being the fastest is most important. Granted, Cavendish often is, especially on those flat stages or in last years World Championship and British hopes are being pinned heavily on him being in the mix with 200 meters to go at the upcoming Olympics.

The Olympics though isn’t an out and out flat course however and that’ll be Cavs biggest challenge. There’s been talk that one day the man from the Isle of Man will one day amend his racing style to become more a classics rider and perhaps hang in over some of the tough climbs to put himself in contention by the finish, but right now he’s going to have to find a way to stick in there in the Olympic race in a way he couldn’t at Gent-Wevelgem.

Still, a big win for Boonen in what is becoming a big season for the Belgian. With three of the big Monuments just around the corner in the Tour of Flanders, the Paris-Roubaix and the Liège-Bastogne-Liège Boonen must surely be a favourite to win at least one of those.

Evans in yellow again

Following last years Tour de France it is clear that Cadel Evans is getting used to wearing a yellow jersey and holding a cuddly toy upon a podium. The defending Tour champion won the Critérium International by eight seconds over Pierrick Fedrigo and fellow countryman Michael Rogers, spelling out the Australian’s good form heading through spring. Given the nature of the 2012 Tour de France Evans will be confident about retaining his title, and wearing the Maillot Jaune on the top step here will only remind him of the pleasure.

A tip of the hat to Albasini

A tip of the hat to Swissman Michael Albasini who came from relative obscurity to take Green Edge’s first ever overall victory by winning the seven stages of the Volta a Catalunya. He thumped second place man Samuel Sanchez by a good 1-30 to take the general classification as other such cycling hero’s Daniel Martin, Damiano Cunego, Denis Menchov and Tom Danielson could only battle it out for third place from which they all finished on the same time, 1-32 behind Albasini.