Friday Group Ride #57

Enough, enough, enough of all this doping-related blather. Just because the Tour of Qatar is as entertaining as watching someone do their taxes, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be spending this time chatting anxiously about the coming season, rather than sticking pins in our Pat McQuaid voodoo dolls or trying to understand how the body takes in and stores dime store stimulants.

There is actually a racing season coming.

And, as it does every year, the landscape has shifted. Whether it’s the renaming of Team SaxoBank to Team Leopard – Trek (What? They’re not the same team?), or the merger of Cervelo with Garmin, the talent has been thrown up in the air like a deck of cards and then quickly reshuffled. How will it all play out?

Will Taylor Phinney’s move to BMC put them on more podiums? Will Tejay VanGarderen improve on last season’s promise? What of Jack Bobridge, the new owner of the world individual pursuit record? Will Radio Shack, the de facto retirement home for aging racers, have more to offer than they did last year, in Lance’s swan (dive) song?

Can Tyler Farrar help Thor Hushovd pour glory on the rainbow stripes, and can Hushovd help Farrar best Mark Cavendish? Can they even coexist? Will Andrei Greipel rise up to compete at the very top of the sprint pile? Can Phillipe Gilbert win big in the Spring? What does Fabian Cancellara do for an encore after complete lighting up 2010? Will Tom Boonen come back to the form from his early career?

So many questions. This week’s Group Ride tries to keep it simple: What is the most interesting unanswered question for the 2011 season?

Image: John Pierce, Photosport International

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14 comments

  1. James

    For me, the most interesting unanswered (and unasked) question is…Can Sammy Sanchez stand on the top position of the Tour de France podium this year? I think he has to be a big favorite.

  2. Champs

    And I’m more inclined to ask which bridesmaid will finally win the Tour. Andy Schleck enters as the de facto favorite. Evans and Basso are fixing their programs.

    It will be interesting to see who makes midseason sponsorship changes. The cats at Team Layopard-Trek are losing the fight to be called LEOPARD TREK, maybe because it is not terribly important even in the near term, and Bob Stapleton would surely have someone besides HTC and his checkbook making payroll for Mark Cavendish.

    But of course, the elephant in the room is whether we will see Contador this year.

  3. Mike

    All great questions. I think it will be an exciting year of racing. I am neither pro nor con Radio Shack, but, despite the fact that they do have some quality riders that are quite likeable, the team just doesn’t evoke much of … well … anything for me. Maybe this is where they go quietly into the night …

  4. Brett

    Will I be able to talk my dad into visiting the North-East for a Tour of the Battenkill based camping trip?! I’m sure it’ll be cold and rainy, how could he resist!

    Don’t care about Contasnore. Excited to see what Gilbert does this spring. If your Fabian Cancellara, why not add the Giro di Lombardia to the belt?

  5. michael

    My biggest question – how long will it take until cycling fans discover that they are sleeping on the SpiderTech team and attempt to jump on the bandwagon ;)

    2nd question (yet more Canadian content) – will Dom Rollin finally be able to ride for himself in the spring, and will be surprise a few folks (not just fans and other riders, but also his own FDJ teammates!) during the classics?

    3rd question – Which young rider will be the 1st to break through with a big win? I don’t think it will be one of the American lot either ;)

  6. Randomactsofcycling

    I have many questions that spring to mind, all related to the Tour. I am sure we have enough time to debate those.
    I have been pondering the following since Padraig’s interesting post a couple of weeks ago: how long before ASO acquires a stake in the Giro (or a business partnership with Mr Zomegnan) then sets up their own ‘UCI free zone’?
    Then, How about this: can any race possibly be as exciting as last year’s Giro?

  7. Souleur

    1. what more will Spartacus add to his palmares? another Flanders, Roubaix or how else may he enter the record books? Was last year nothing in comparison to what he can do in 2011? What more can maturity bring him?

    2. is there a such a thing as a ‘true GC’r’ riding in the ranks anymore? Alpha. One who is pissed when he doesn’t win and hates second place. One who won’t give congratulatory hugs and kisses when he cross’s the line. One who promises to break legs and pass out suffering for all in his wake? One who yields a power of submission of the wills. is he out there?

    3. for round numbers, what will team sky do this year? No pressure now, no promises made, so what will they produce? I know they can, so will they? Will leopard bring more to the table?

  8. Champs

    Right, the boring Contador who wins grand tours on time, not some arbitrary metric like panache. You can’t ride like Gilbert every day for three weeks and expect to win. Lest we forget his win as the Spanish time trial champion (that’s a big country with lots of good riders, I hear) or when he emerged as a GC contender and pummeled Rasmussen on the Peyresourde.

    If that’s not work to be praised, then I don’t know what is. Why not reduce the classics rider to someone who just grinds down the competition, or a sprinter as some guy who only puts his face in the wind for 250 meters?

  9. Bikelink

    Ah, but we want to see things that wouldn’t necessarily be the ‘smart’est way to race, but would make it more exciting (such as might have happened with the radio ban).

  10. MattyVT

    Most people seem to think the Garmin-Cervelo team is going to run the table on everyone else at the Classics this year, but they still don’t have a single rider on their squad who’s won a monument. I like Hushovd, Farrar, Haussler and even Roger Hammond, but I don’t see it coming together for them this spring. Hushovd will have a couple of top 5′s, Farrar will win some smaller races, Haussler might get a reasonable win in Gent-Wevelgem and Millar might win the De Panne TT, but I think they still won’t take a monument. Honestly I think it’s going to go like Team Sky’s 2010 Tour- lots of noise and not much to take home at the end of the day.

    I think Greipel is only the fastest guy if there aren’t any other fast guys in the race. Against decent competition his record is pretty mediocre.

    There’s one big question for me- is 2010 vintage Cancellara going to show up again and own the spring or is Tom Boonen going to be able to get back to his cobble crushing ways?

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