Friday Group Ride #104

We usually have to wait a few weeks to see the sport’s biggest stars take their first scalps of the season—but not this year. Andre Greipel (Tour Down Under), Alejandro Valverde (Tour Down Under), Oscar Freire (Tour Down Under), Levi Leipheimer (Tour de San Luis), and Alberto Contador (Tour de San Luis, later DQ’ed) have all opened their 2012 accounts—and in some cases, more than once. Even the reigning world champion has enjoyed some success, as Team Sky’s Mark Cavendish took his first two wins of the season in Qatar this week.

But the by far the season’s biggest success story—so far, at least—has been Omega Pharma-Lotto’s Tom Boonen. Boonen’s already won four races in 2012 including two stages and the overall at the Tour of Qatar. Boonen’s also proven to be a dedicated teammate; he helped Francesco Chicchi win two early stages in Argentina before taking the final stage himself.

More than anyone else this season, I’m expecting (and hoping for) big things from Boonen. One of the sport’s most exciting cobbled hardmen, Tommeke already has three wins in Paris-Roubaix and two in the Tour de Flanders. But Boonen’s current streak leads me to believe he’ll be the big favorite when the Belgian season opens two weeks from tomorrow at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad—one of the few cobbled races Boonen has yet to add to his resume. As long as it doesn’t hurt his chances to win another Monument, I’ll be rooting for him there.

Which leads me today’s question: who’s the one rider you’re hoping will find the most success in 2012 and why?


Follow me on Twitter: @whityost

Image: John Pierce, Photosport International

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  1. Paul I.

    Igor Anton to win the Vuelta. Two years ago he was rolling when he had that freak crash. Last year he tried to save himself and came in undercooked. Hopefully this year he gets it right. Perhaps in winning it he can save Euskatel, who are always hovering on the borderline of Pro Tour acceptance. It would be a lesser peloton without the Basques.

  2. 4estrunr

    Anton, Boonen, and now for “C” Cunego. His cycling history is enviable, and yet many folks view him as an underachiever. I’d love to see him get the elusive “BIG WIN.” He rode well last year. Maybe this is his year to shine, again.

  3. Chris

    I’ll give a shout out to Heinrich Haussler. After MSR, (was it 2010?) he’s been mostly invisible. Maybe both he and Boonen will be able to put the last couple years behind them and win some big races in 2012.

  4. Mike

    Hoogerland, hoping he can break out even more this year. I’m also eagerly awaiting the battles between Cancellara and Boonen throughout the classics.

  5. Dave

    I am still a sucker for the attacking riding style of Thomas Voeckler. I hope he doesn’t let TDF aspirations (a race that he can never win) derail his racing where he can have an impact. I am keeping my fingers crossed for Voeckler this year, but have my worries…

  6. Mendip5000

    Cofidis’s Rein Taaramäe is due a big win – A young rider who will need to take his chances when the present themselves as Cofidis are not on the top level stage. He puts in the kind of day after day efforst that remind me of Jensie but also seems to be in evidence at the top end of GC come the end.

  7. Jesus from Cancun

    I have big expectations not just from one rider, but from a generation or riders.

    Phinney, Sagan, TJ, Jack Bobridge, Andy Fenn, Pierre Roland, Jesse Sergent, Ben Hermans, Ben King, Sergio Henao, Fabio Duarte, and whoever else comes up this year.

    I would love to see at least one Classic won and at least one GT leader’s jersey worn by any in this list. Hopefully more!

  8. saddlebag

    I see Peter Sagan in 3rd place there in the picture. I think he has the mental as well a physical abilities, that a sprinter needs and will become a force to be reckoned with this year in the sprints.

  9. Jesse

    I’d love to see Cav in green and gold. It is not often you see a sportsman with the chance to have a stand-out season and represent his country in the Olympics, at home, in the first event. I’d also love to Pierre’s star continue to rise.

  10. Nico

    I would love to see Boonen and Cancellara duel it out again this year, both great riders and gentleman. Personally the fat little World Champion needs to get a dose of reality. Ever since the Haussler spitting incident he disgusts me. A big win for Chavanel would be nice to see as well. He certainly animated ever race last year.

  11. gmknobl

    I am rooting for Garmin Barracuda collectively. I’d like them to win a Spring Monument again this year and do notably well in other races. I’d like them to win at least one stage of a grand tour this year as well but not a TTT.

    I have to say it is not looking good for Tyler Farrar so far as early season success frequently translates into consistent wins during the season for sprinters and the reverse is true too. It’s nice to see others are doing well, such as in the Tour of Med.

    I would love to see Chris Horner win something big overseas, not just a small event but a stage of the TdF or Giro or a hilly classic like LBL. While i’m in fantasy land, it would be nice to see a young American pop up and win something big and unexpected, perhaps one person we haven’t expected to, then go on to have a great rest of season and next year.

  12. Corey

    For professional and personal reasons I am a huge fan of all things Colombia. While they had some great cyclists in the 80s (Parra and Herrera) there is a new generation of riders with great promise, and they need to start delivering. Last year we lost Mauricio Soler in a tragic accident, but right behind him stand Sergio Henao, José Serpa, Leonardo Duque and Rigoberto Urán (and more). They put on a hell of a show in the Tours of California and Utah last year and won the hearts of many U.S. fans with gutsy performances and shoe-string budgets. We can all relate to these guys. If you ever get to spend time in Colombia – and I suggest you all do – get on a bike or watch the cyclists out on a Sunday. With many, many roads at 9,000 ft and up (all of Bogotá is at 8,600ft) this is a natural place for iron-lunged climbers.

  13. lawhaas

    My 7 Year old loves Hoogerland….”Daddy his butt is hanging out” watching Youtube videos of the breakaway crash from the TDF (She especially likes the Johnny all day, Johnny all night Euro club mix…so much that She calls him Johnny all day Johnny all night) He is beyond tough. I would love to see Roland bring some French glory….But as an American who is going to watch Paris-Roubaix from the side of the road this year for the first time..I would love to see any American with a five minute lead going into the velodrome. Since I know that is not likely for any rider, I’ll just take a good season where Cav does the Rainbow Jersey justice and a great year of cycling with no tragedies……..

  14. cormw

    I’d like to see a big result from Andrew Talansky. Routing for him this season…

    Additionally, I know it’s not likely to happen, but to see George Hincapie pull off a win in Paris-Roubiax would really be incredible.

  15. Souleur

    its a no brainer for me

    SPARTACUS…I’m with wayne on this

    Cancellara was a marked man last year, every time he lined up, he had the mark on his forehead. They sucked his rear wheel, they laid back on him, let groups go, made him work…and he did, and still did stellar IMHO

    Go Boonen, is what I say, go, take all the limelight. Spartacus is a perfect gentleman. Sitting, smiling, full of class, and has enough horsepower to be accused of MotorDoping

    Qatar is Qatar
    Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, MSR…LBL, thats when the real races will be sorted, and I really hope the best for Cancellara to have another great year

  16. Paul I.

    @Corey, I am with you on the Colombians. I was in Medellin last year, and was amazed to see people out on their bikes before the sun came up, riding up the brutally steep slopes of the pass that takes you to the airport.

  17. Corey

    @Paul, while I’ve never ridden it on a bike, that road from the airport in Río Negro to Medellín is indeed special, the kind of road you want to ride when you see it. It has been in many stages of the Vuelta a Colombia. Granted, the traffic is crazy, but the geography is insanely pretty and the climate is perfect for cycling. Fingers crossed that they produce another champion.

  18. Dolamite

    Pssst! Whit Yost! Omega Pharma-Lotto’s become a bit passe in 2012. They’ve moved around a bit to Omega Pharma-Quickstep.

  19. gmknobl

    Though this is supposed to be hopes, I will make a projection that bar bad accident, Boonen will win one classic or semi-classic. I’m afraid Farrar, who says he’s not trying to train for sprinting now, is taking the wrong path and will not do as well as he hopes. Better in the classics but when you train for the tough cobbled classics, you loose sprinting speed so I don’t see him doing well this season. I hope I’m wrong.

  20. Bongo

    I’m with Jesus form Cancun with that group of riders, but I’m also a big fan of Thor and I would like to see him take a couple of classics as well as some more TDF stages although I’m not sure Cadel will like that very much.

    And on a sentimental note I would love to see Hincapie win Paris – Roubaix

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