2018 brings a number of changes to the World Tour peloton… Life is already feeling different, before the season has even kicked off…
A Smaller Peloton
For starters, the Peloton will literally be smaller… the UCI rule changes mean that in the World Tour stage races & the Classics there will now be eight riders per team (instead of nine) and in the smaller races teams will have seven riders (instead of eight). In other smaller races you will now see six riders in a team.
The result to the pro riders is significant. The vast majority of the world tour teams have reduced their roster size from between 2-4 riders. The UCI thinking is a combination of rider safety & increased competitiveness… In 2018, you should see a difference in the Classics and longer stage races, with the super teams possibly losing their control on the races.
You cannot underestimate how the big teams try and control the races – team selection, planning and execution are as vital as the plans Eddie Jones has for the England Rugby team and Marco Silva for the mighty Hornets. Most teams have a long term strategy. The recruitment starts in earnest the year before, when people’s contracts are approaching renewal and they are piecing together the jigsaw pieces for the following year’s team roster. For example, Geraint Thomas is someone that other World Tour teams will be closely monitoring this season. The Welshman has been with Team Sky since the squad’s inception in 2010 and enjoyed several successful seasons at the team. Other squads have tried to lure him away on several occasions but he has remained loyal. He will be 32 years old when his 2018 deal expires and has admitted that he will take a serious look at other options at that point. As he approaches the prime of his career, he would want to be a leader of a team and for that team to be built with him in mind…
Back to 2018…. The larger teams are still likely to hold the higher card in the 3 Grand Tours. Team Sky are still likely to dominate the Tour de France. With Froome targeting the Giro as well as the Tour, Sky will be looking to be at their best in the Dolomites! That said, the landscapes changes dramatically with the odd mishap in the early stages of a World Tour race…. For example, in the 2017 Tour, Movistar’s Tour was thrown into complete chaos, when Alejandro Valverde’s crashed and abandoned. The impact of such a thing in 2018 would render most teams with GC ambitions almost helpless. So whatever happens, the hand of the bigger teams have most definitely been weakened! If Froome manages to win the Giro, he would become one of only three, along with Eddy Merckx & Bernard Hinault, to have won three consecutive Grand Tours (he currently holds the 2017 Tour & Vuelta crowns).
The Giro d’Italia is already hotting up – The 2018 Giro will contain eight summit finishes and kicks off with a 10km time trial on 5th May around the holy city of Jerusalem. Aru will lead the UAE Team Emirates, trying to finally win his home Grand Tour. The UAE Team Emirates are likely to a more significant force in the peloton. They have dropped from 26 to 25 riders for 2018, but have considerably beefed things up. The Arabian team will take fire at the Classics and Grand Tours with Alexander Kristoff (from Team Katusha-Alpecin), Fabio Aru (Astana) and Daniel Martin (Quick-Step Floors) coming on board.
The other interesting peloton development is Mikel Landa joining Movistar. Whilst the Spanish press are talking about their successor to Alberto Contador, Landa and Quintana, both 27yrs old, are talking about who is the team leader. Cycling teams are theoretically teams. Riders are employed by the team. There are managers, coaches, doctors, physios, doctors and team tactics deployed to achieve an end goal. That is where the similarities end when you compare to most other professional team sports. In cycling there is not a team training facility where they train together between each competition. The riders do not necessarily live close to each other. The interaction as a group is minimal. For the larger World Tour teams, many of the riders will not race together. If you look at the relationship of Landa & Quintana – they will meet on a pre-season training camp and then conceivably might not meet more than once or twice before the Tour de France. Unlike rugby, football and other team sports the opportunity for a training ground bust up to clear the air or regular contact to develop to a trustful working relationship is just not there. Mirroring the current antics of the UK government, it is more than likely that the leadership contest between Landa and Quintana will play out right infant of our eyes…. enjoy!
The Hour Record
Things have been quiet on the Hour Record front. At the Manchester Velodrome, on May 2015, British cyclist Alex Dowsett became the holder of the longest distance cycled in one hour from a stationary start. In June 2015, Sir Bradley Wiggins broke Dowsett’s record, by completing a distance of 54.526 km (33.881 mi) at the Lee Valley Velopark in London. Since then all has gone quiet… But, with a new contract at Katusha-Alpecin starting in January, Dowsett, the British time trial specialist, is once again considering his options. Having ridden conservatively during his first Hour Record ride in 2015, Dowsett believes there is more in the tank and that a distance over 55 kilometres is within his reach.
The women’s hour record is 47,980km and was set in February 2016 by Evelyn Stevens from the United States.
Diary dates for January
16-21st Tour down Under
25-28th Challenge Mallorca
25th Trofeo Campos, Porreres, Felanitx, Ses Salines
26th Trofeo Campos, Porreres, Felanitx, Ses Salines
27th Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana
28th Trofeo Palma
Dan Marsh – Founder