2012 Prognostications

 

Let’s get the new year off on the right foot. I think fortune telling to be worth only slightly less than the word of someone working on Wall Street. And predicting the future contains all the science found in an episode of Entertainment Tonight.

So I’m going to jump in with a few predictions for this year. They may constitute wishful thinking more than actual predictions, but going into this new year, I’ve spent some time thinking about what the new season will bring.

Change will be the watchword for the year. I suspect the various changes in behavior we will see on the part of various riders, teams and companies will require lots of re-thinking. In some cases that thinking will go as deep as identity, but it could require rethinking less who you are than how you do business.

Change in Strategy: If Fabian Cancellara’s attacks at Milan-San Remo, Ronde van Vlaanderen, and Paris-Roubaix were bold, expect him to be more guarded this year. Don’t be surprised if he waits until later in the race to make his move. That said, for such a strategy to work, his accelerations will have to be more ferocious. A late-race attack needs afterburners to succeed because more of the favorites are willing to burn matches to ensure their own chances. Of course, because Cancellara has one of the biggest engines in the peloton, don’t be surprised if he goes even earlier in a bid to catch competitors off guard.

Change in Goals: Of the many teams that will be invited to compete at the 2012 Tour de France, Thor Hushovd signed with the one guaranteed to prevent him from attempting to notch another stage victory at le Grand Boucle. It could be argued that Saxo Bank would similarly clip the Norwegian’s wings, but with Alberto Contador’s 2012 season a matter of much speculation and at least some doubt, it could be that he could have signed with Bjarne Riis only to arrive with plenty incentive (and direction) to get some result, any result. Hushovd will have a free hand at Roubaix, but can that really be his only goal for the season? And if he doesn’t find success there (how often does a rider achieve his sole goal for a season?), what will become his plan B? Complicating matters for him is the fact that he will share the non-Tour spotlight with Philippe Gilbert, a guy who wins more often. There’s not a team with more promise or more volatility currently licensed. Years from now we could look back on this team as the one that put La Vie Claire and Astana to shame.

Change in Mission: Omega Pharma-QuickStep is a team that will be forced to reinvent itself. Having signed Levi Leipheimer and Tony Martin, the team management will need to figure out how to support a rider at—at the very least—shorter stage races, if not a grand tour. Given the lousy year Tom Boonen had (and only a rider of his stature can win Gent-Wevelgem and still have a lousy year), it would seem unwise to hang the whole of the team’s hopes on him for their big results. To do so would mean wasting the investment on Leipheimer and Martin.

Change in Business: Electronic shifting is going to change the evolution of component groups. The move from 10 to 11 gears and from 11 to 12 will no longer require new control levers. Instead just a software update will be necessary. Riders using Di2 will be able to purchase a Dura-Ace 11-speed cassette and instantly have 11-speed Di2. Neat trick. The upshot here is that one of the traditional drivers/limiters to a new group is a redesigned control lever. If adding another cog is as easy as software code, then you have to ask just what will drive the introduction of a whole new group. The question isn’t as easy as it seems. Is weight enough of a driver? Almost certainly not. How much performance increase is enough? That’s almost impossible to quantify, but there’s a tipping point, most will agree. With this technical hurdle out of the way, we may see Shimano and Campagnolo doing more to update their groups each year and in that there’s the risk of turning off the bike-buying public. Caveat venditor.

Change in Scope: Well, Bicycle Retailer let part of the cat out of the bag, but it wasn’t all of the cat by any means. You’ll see a post regarding the other half of that story soon. A change in scope is what’s happening at RKP. I began this blog as a way to publish work that wasn’t finding a home at mainstream media outlets. Belgium Knee Warmers proved there was an audience for it and RKP gave me a way to follow my heart on subject matter and make some money, so that I could continue to do that work. My one promise to myself was that RKP would be a home to good writing. That promise has taken on a slightly more epic cast (and while the word “epic” gets overused, in my personal circumstance I get to use it this time).

 

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14 comments

  1. RayG

    They’ll produce a new group set when they stick a hydraulic master cylinder in the brake lever.

    Then they’ll be able to redesign that over and over, just as happens in MTB group sets.

  2. randomactsofcycling

    Padraig, RKP seems to me a little like Jack Bobridge: quality that has the potential to go in whatever direction it chooses and already a winner at a young age. Keep it up: if you write it, they will read.
    As for poor ‘old’ Cancellara, I wonder if Bruyneel will be the difference?….I can’t seem to recall how many Classics US Postal/Discovery won but Johan can surely be an asset to Spartacus.

    As for electronic shifting, I’ll wait until Apple release their iGroup. Rumour has it they’re just completing the voice recognition side of things and it will be unveiled quite soon.

  3. Adam

    Random: US Postal won a fat total of zero monuments. I don’t think it will be Bruyneel that makes the difference. Quick: name a Leopard rider not named O’Grady who lined up to Flanders and Roubaix with Cancellara? About as difficult as naming Euskatel’s lineup for those races isn’t it.
    For 2012 Spartacus will have the additions of Rast (4th in Roubaix), Popovych, Bens Hermans, Hayden Roulston and Jesse Sergant. They may not be the strongest eam in the races, but at least they won’t be starting on the back foot.

  4. grolby

    I’ve been kicking over some thoughts on electronic shifting (and master cylinders) in my head over the last few weeks. I’ll probably write them up on my own little site, but suffice to say that while I don’t think it’ll make things as simple as throwing on another cog and issuing a software update, I do think that you’re right to think that there are some significant changes coming. The move away from mechanical action and no need to get the mechanical advantage just-so could allow for designs to move in some interesting new directions that would not have been possible before. We’ll see.

  5. Souleur

    Di2 & Ui2….all i can say is HOLY CRAP that is an interesting issue. I did not realize the updates would be done that way. Of course i am still running old school cables and all…but that may persuade a change.

    Cancellara…will…be…A…OK
    clean the guns, he’ll be firing away soon

  6. DavidA

    Being the old-school guy that I am, I would have to agree with my adopted Belgian Family’s dad, Andre Vankerkhove, who told me that bike racing in its prue form is “Sweat and Pain” and that the 50′s and 60′s in Belgian racing was, ” More Beautiful”. His brother had won the Tour of Belgium as semi-pro I believe in the late 50′s or 60′s.

  7. Big Mikey

    Maybe OP-Quickstep will be the team to finally take one of those outside GT contenders (Leipheimer, Wiggins, used to be Cadel, etc.) and have them focus on winning lots of 1-week Tours. I think that’s an open ticket to glory, 3 or 4 of those in a year by a rider. There’s too much emphasis on winning the GT’s by too many riders, when the smallest mistake or misfortune can derail a year’s worth of preparation.

  8. Turning Circles

    From a bike store owner:

    I confess that in 1901, I said to my brother Orville that man would not fly for 50 years. Ever since I have distrusted myself and avoided all predictions.

    Wilbur Wright
    as quoted in the Globe and Mail

    Prediction is a daunting task but I am looking forward to continued good riding and the enjoyment of reading RKP.

  9. Jim

    Why are you talking about >11 speed casettes? Since the shifting is super accurate it might make more sense to go with three or even four on the chainring, and reducing the number of gears in the back in order to make stronger, less-dished (and lighter) wheels, along with slightly wider & stronger chains. They are running out of room in the back and the thinner chains tend to be weaker.

    One or two more rings up front and a more flexible, something-like-infinitely variable-ratio approach to the software, ordering the gears in ratio order rather than geographic order (where you shift, for instance, from Ring 4 Cog 3 to Ring 2 Cog 6, the next closest ratio) would be more rational. And since it’s all electronic you won’t need to worry about operator error; it will only require an up or down shift…


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Jim: >11-speed cassettes are a topic because I’m not driving component development. What I wrote was a response to how the market is moving, not a new idea I might dream up. Shimano doesn’t care what I think they ought to do, so instead, I addressed where the manufacturers are doing development.

  10. jaas

    Garmin-Cervelo will not find a sponsor and fold after this year. I will be no closer to a Cat 2 upgrade by the end of the year.

  11. Jim

    Right on Padraig. I gotcha. Yeah, 12 speeds on the back would be a Spinal Tap Sequel-caliber marketing move. But going to a single shifter that drops onto the next higher or lower gear (with no overlap and no worries about two handed coordination) would be the rational move.

    As such, you are probably wise to drop your money on a 12 speed cassette (and bold new graphics) rather than a scheme that logically and automatically sorts out the ratio overlap problem…

  12. yerma

    Just a shout out to the great job RKP is doing. As for the Change of Scope, VN lost it’s way long before it changed it’s name. It’s great that the Tubes give quality writers like Wilcockson and Pelkey (how you doin?) alternative venus for publication. I hope you invite O’Grady to write some of his classic diatribes here.

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