[Cyclists are a superstitious bunch, and as such, it’s important to go with what’s hot.]
Time for a round-up of this years racing from the start to May. It was a very decent Classics season by all accounts, with a bit less dominance from Spartacus, but a satisfying run all the same. On top of that there’s been some pretty decent stage racing too with the Basque and Trentino.
With my expert analysis (i.e. hours of drinking coffee watching men in lycra) I’ve compiled my list of what’s hot and what’s not from the first 4 months of 2014.
National Champions Jerseys
Come on, let’s be honest, national champions jersey’s are cool. And this year, the national champs have been doing the business. Michal Kwiatkowski, Polish national champ, has been on fire this year (incidently my pick for the white jersey at the Tour this year) and wins at Strade Bianche, the prologue at Romandie, the Volta ao Algarve, and top tens in La Flèche Wallonne, LBL and Amstel Gold – Kwiatkowski is on fire in the Polish champion’s jersey.
Another example is Simon Gerrans, who won the Australian championship in arguably the best field at the race ever, boasting Team SKY’s Richie Porte and Tour de France winner Cadel Evans. This set him up perfectly to grasp the Tour Down Under overall and sprints jersey, as well as a stage. He’s also had a classics season to mirror the 2012 season when he last won the National Championships, claiming his second monument, LBL, to add to his win in Milan – San Remo. It’s also worth mentioning that this year Gerrans equalled his best result in Amstel Gold, claiming 3rd for the third.
Also honourable mention to British Champ, Mark Cavendish, you only have to take a look at the stage results at the Tour of Turkey to see that the boy racer is on form.
Aero helmets have been a huge cause for debate in the past few years (I own one, Giro Air Attack to be precise, and although it looks like a mushroom cap, I have to admit it’s light and comfortable, and serves to keep your head warm in cold Scotland.) But this year they’re as popular as ever and Gerrans, in LBL, Niki Terpstra in Paris – Roubaix, have gone to show that aero helmets might just give a little bit more to the dark horses in the monuments.
Being in Omega Pharma Quick Step is pretty hot this year, let’s be honest. They’ve far more victories than you can count on your fingers and toes, and the names Tony Martin, Michael Kwiatkowski, Mark Cavendish and Niki Terpstra are synonymous with winning this year. Honourable mention also goes to Tom Boonen who didn’t have the Classics campaign he planned , although winning Kuurne – Brussels – Kuurne, personal circumstances probably left him on the back foot.
Beards ain’t cutting it this season. Although they may look good to some, hardly any of the dudes with facial fuzz have got their arms up this year. Notably Luca Paolini and Bradley Wiggins, arguably the beardiest men in the peleton, have been a bit of a flop this year. Paolini has looked strong all year, probably most so in Kristoff’s Koncerto at San Remo, but hasn’t been able to pull off the win that so many have tipped him for.
Being a World Champ
It’s probably the biggest curse in pro-cycling, the curse of the rainbow stripes. Rui Costa hasn’t had the best of luck this year in his road champs jersey, as some had tipped him for the Ardennes after his win in Florence last year. The same goes for Cyclocross world champ Zdenek Stybar who was tipped for the cobbled classics but never really had the impression he was tipped to have. Furthermore DH MTB world champ Greg Minaar lost on his home turf for only the second time ever at round one of the 2014 World Cup at Pietermaritzburg, where he claimed the rainbow stripes in 2013. Maybe the XC title will work for Nino Schurter in his brief intervention into the world of road racing…
Being in Team SKY has been a bit underwhelming this year, maybe it’s just due to their dominance in previous years. To be fair to them they had a decent classics season with Stannard winning the Omloop and Ben Swift getting second at San Remo. But their stage racing game hasn’t been so strong this year, with Froome struggling with injury and illness. Maybe he’ll come good for the Tour, but how do you deal with a problem like Alberto?