Annual kiss-of-death Tour predictions

June 30, 2012

As many a rider can attest to, if I predict you’ll do well, you’re already with one foot in the ambulance. So I apologize in advance to anybody mentioned here.

Wiggins is the favorite to win this Tour in many reviews. That in itself is a stunning development. We’re talking about a rider who has been very strong this season, who is among the best in the TT and is difficult to drop in the mountains when he’s on form. And the course certainly favors the time trialers.

But he’s also a guy who has never finished on the podium at the Tour, and who in his last Grand Tour (2011 Vuelta) wasn’t even the top Sky rider on GC or in the time trials! It’s not that I disagree with him being one of the favorites, and he has been impressive in the Dauphiné, but I’m amazed how he’s been thrust in the absolute favorite role over:

Cadel Evans. Maybe Cadel hasn’t had a spectacular run-up to the Tour, but it’s been solid. When he’s on-form, he can time trial with the best of them, also on the last weekend of a 3-week race (something Wiggins hasn’t shown to the same degree). In reality, he’s not that different a rider from Wiggins (when it comes to TT strength and steady climbing), and he’s got the experience of a Tour win and several Grand Tour podium finishes to back it up.

What’s more, I think Evans is one of the few riders in the modern peloton who has a keen tactical eye. He doesn’t need to wait for somebody to talk into his ear, he can spot opportunities and more than that, he’s willing to take them when they appear. That can really make the difference in Grand Tours nowadays.

Instead of burning through all your helpers in the lead-up to the final climbs, after which it is a fairly predictable mand-to-man combat between the leaders anyway, modern Grand Tours see a lot of activity on the descents and other unexpected moments. Quick math of who is gone and how to respond is paramount then, especially for those who are short on teammates. You saw this almost go spectacularly wrong at the Giro this year when De Gendt attacked towards the Stelvio.

Also note that when it really matters, everybody will be short of teammates. As impressive as Team Sky was in the Giro and Dauphiné, when the big boys start riding there won’t be 5 Sky riders hanging on.

So how about Hesjedal with his new-found confidence. Can he be the first rider since Pantani to do the Giro-Tour double? I don’t see why not, I completely believe it’s still possible to win the double. Last year Contador tried and failed, but there was so much going on with him, it’s hard to draw a definite conclusion from it.

I am afraid that Hesjedal will fall a little bit short compared to Wiggins and Evans overall, and also compared to a few others in the mountains, but confidence is a powerful drug. If he pulls this off, and with the World Championships on the Cauberg (where Hesjedal once finished second at the Amstel-Gold Race), Stephen Roche and Eddy Merckx could even get company as triple crown winners!

But as we now know, all of the above is nonsense. Trek has unveiled a new Madone that saves 2min per hour, so that’s around 3 hours saved over the entire Tour. I know Frank Schleck says he’s not a contender, but that’s a nice buffer I would think. So my final prediction is Frank Schleck as the winner of the 2012 Tour, with a 2 hour advantage over the rest of the field.

16 Responses to “Annual kiss-of-death Tour predictions”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    But Frank cant ride without Brother, so the New Bike doesnt help.

  2. Bob Says:

    agreed!!!! suddenly this 2 last months its all about wiggins, and just before the tour he became the top fave???? nobody can be suddenly good for tour……… morover I really dont get it when people underrate Cadel’s TT prowess, few seconds below Tony Martin at the end of 3 weeks racing is damn awesome.

    As for the radio SN team, something is wrong with them this year, they wont get anything, nothing. Not even the prologue, bad omen is all over them.

  3. Greg Says:

    Nice dig at Trek. :-)

  4. LD Says:

    As a fellow BC guy I secretly harbor hopes for Ryder but thats a huge ask……… yeah I know about all the favorites and stuff but I actually could see someone completely of the pundits radar taking the whole thing this year…….. I don’t know why……..

    • Well you could be right; there are two big favorites who need to keep everything together in the mountains to then pounce in the TT. So there are a dozen riders who can only win if things go crazy in the mountains and even the other stages. And two teams cannot keep the group together in the mountains if 12 GC contenders are hellbent on not making that happen. The question is, will there be enough GC contenders with the gonads to blow the race up.

      • Marcello Says:

        GC contenders go into defense mode in the last week. They do everyting to protect their 7th or 4th place, etc. You wish they would gang up on the leader but they NEVER do.

  5. Simon Davies Says:

    I’m glad someone has questioned Wiggins’ ability in the final week of a grand tour. The only other commentator I’ve heard refer to the mythical third week is Stephen Roche (and he would know).

    If Froome had been allowed to ride for himself earlier at last years Vuelta he may have won it. Also Froome beat him in the TT.

    Based on Evans only 7 seconds behind Tony Martin on the final TT last year he wins the tour with a stronger final TT than Wiggins.

    What do you think?

    • Well, Evans had a very good final TT in 2011, a lousy one in 2008. There are so many factors going into a Tour, the fact is it’s hard to predict. Crashes, illness, all of that can affect the outcome. Even if nobody crashes out, these factor can have a major impact on how the riders feel in week 3.

      Of course once has to be the first time, so maybe Wiggins puts it all together this year, we’ll see.

  6. LD Says:

    kinda of reminds of a car or motorcycle race where you have two guys at the front battling it out….. and actually slowing each other down in their bid to be at the front and some third guy comes along at takes it while the leaders aren’t looking. Maybe that “third” guy is Van Garderen, Gesink, Froomen (I especially like him considering what he did today but alas, he’ll have to ride for the “favorite”) maybe even Nibali (but to me seems to never pull through in the end) and of course my boy, Ryder.

  7. Great, provocative analysis! Plus your comment “The question is, will there be enough GC contenders with the gonads to blow the race up.” I reckon there will be some, it’s a wide-open race this year.

  8. stuartlynne Says:

    Please don’t talk about Ryder’s chances being good… his secret weapon is being the least talked about candidate.

  9. As always a very entertaining & thought provoking read from Gerard.
    I’ve not bitten the *twiglet* (Brad Wiggins – zero fat + snaps easily = twiglet. An english savoury snack) belief. Good bike rider, but not someone who can ride 3 weeks. Chris Froome is a better option. Hesjedal + Garmin can let all the focus remain on Sky. Why not,
    They’ve been there done that, swiped the trophy (Giro) and likely preprinted the TDF t shirts.
    Evans for me, is the real deal. After his worlds win, his attitude adjusted, and it reflected in his results.
    He races uphill, downhill, he reads the race well, even when isolated.
    I do not see that ability in the twiglet. He sits on the endless chugging skyline as they set tempo, cannot recall any big race instance where he just went and attacked.
    Unlikely to do a Schleck, impossible to imagine wiggins riding in a same manner as cadel found himself in last tdf when he was in the break, isolated, damaged his bike, changed, lost position, and still recovered when schleck wass on the mission to win the race, while still isolated.
    Evans for the win, but dont disregard Hesjedal or Froome…..

  10. Stanley Says:

    Gerard the last para made my day :) hahahahahahha

    I hope we have 3 completely unique guys on the podium this year

    • That would be cool. Dutch TV commentator Maarten Ducrot (@maduc) has a “list of the hope”, with unexpected riders who could do well. Would be nice to see them make it on to the podium

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