By Grant Taylor
Pro’s Corner – February 2017
Welcome back bike lovers, it’s your second instalment of Pro’s Corner. As we struggle through a cold, windy January, our friends in the Pro Peloton have been out in Australia sunning themselves, and getting a few training miles in ready for the Belgian Spring.
Now readers of my previous pieces will know that I remain steadfast in my refusal to acknowledge the Tour Down Under as a real race. So we therefore have no real racing to report in this bulletin. I will therefore take a punt in the dark, and predict the outcome of the season month by month. Most of it will be tongue in cheek, but there will also be a review of the routes for the 3 Grand Tours.
Deep joy will be felt by all fans of the Pro Peloton, as Het Nieuwsblad signals the start of proper bike racing. Belgians will go absolutely mad for it, lining the roads, and we can expect a top man to win the race, given the quality of the previous winners. Peter Sagan and Greg Van Avermaet will no doubt be at the cutting edge, starting up their season long duel, in which of course Sagan will come out on top.
March will be generally fantastic, with more racing than most people have the time to watch. I will of course drive my wife and kids mad by monopolising the TV and watching every pedal stroke as always.
Predictions for March are that Strade Bianche will be even better than last year, and quite possibly one of the races of the season.
Paris Nice, and Tirreno Adriatico will be ruined by the UCI, who will stop racing as soon as the temperature drops below 10 degrees. That means that Queen stages will be ruined, and Richie Porte will probably win both races, despite them taking place at the same time.
Milan San Remo will once again be a 296km lead out, with 1km of actual racing. I will watch every second of it in the vain hope that we get an attack on the Poggio, a daredevil descent to victory, just anything to get excited about. Once again, I will lose 6 hours of my life to listen to Carlton Kirby and his frankly bizarre commentary.
Late March sees the Grand Tour riders go to Catalunya. Richie Porte will probably win.
The big lads will head to Flanders, where things start to get a little cobbled. Peter Sagan will Fart in the general direction of “The Curse of the Rainbow Jersey” and hoover up practically all of the World Tour points on offer. Tom Boonen, who will turn 63 sometime in Spring, will also win a classic, promising to retire, again.
Monument month begins with Flanders, moves on to Roubaix, then Liege. In between all of this fun, we also have Fleche Wallone, Amstel Gold, and a host of other Semi Classics. I need a little lie down just thinking about it.
By the law of averages, Greg Van Averemaet should win. In reality, he won’t, Peter Sagan will, parading his cursed stripes in front of the cursing Belgian.
Tom Boonen will narrowly miss out on a record breaking 5th Paris Roubaix win, retire, then end up racing on into his 64th year in a vain attempt to secure the record.
Fleche Wallone will again be like Milan San Remo, with 199km of lead out, followed by the slowest uphill sprint in sport. Our poodle haired Spanish friend Mr Valverde will win the race for the 17th time in a row.
May is dominated by the 100th Giro D’Italia, which in tribute to itself, is tougher than any Grand Tour in all of history. It visits just about every major mountain the race has ever been up.
The brutality starts early this year, Stage 4 up to the Volcano at Etna. The riders face a huge 30km climb in the middle, then the final steep ascent to 1892m at the summit. Rumour has it that Nairo Quintana will ride. Expect to see him near the front here if that’s true.
Stage 9 gets serious again, with the ascent of the rugged giant of the Abruzzo, Blockhaus. The winner will no doubt scoop his own body weight in their fantastic local Red Wine. It’s shame that the winner will only weigh about 7 stone wet through.
TT day follows the rest day. Or Tom Dumoulin day, as the Individual Time Trial is now known. GC contenders will aim to finish at some point on the same day as the big Dutchman.
More hilly stages follow before rest day 3, then we embark on what can only be described as a vomit inducing, back loaded week, in which RCS have hatched a cunning plan to murder all of the riders.
Stage 16 spends most of the day over 2000m, and features the Mortirolo, and Stelvio. Stage 18 spends most of the day over 2000m in the Dolomites. Stage 19 has less climbing, then finishes on the brutaly steep Piancavalo. Stage 20 features Monte Grappa, and an uphill finish.
The organisers have also seen fit to punish the riders further, and have decided that Stage 21 will be an Individual Time Trial of 28km from the F1 Circuit at Monza into Milan. The fantasy version of the ending features a Lemond v Fignon style duel for the Maglia Rosa. The real version sees the winner cruising in, defending his 5 minute lead, while Tom Dumoulin takes the Stage by 25 minutes.
Sprinters need not apply.
It does promise to be a spectacular race, and the Route has been designed to test, and thrill, while paying homage to the great stages of the Giro’s rich history.
Vicenzo Nibali will defend his title, while fellow Grand Tour Winners Fabio Aru and Nairo Quintana will also take the start. Chris Froome has decided that he wants no part of all this madness.
Sky will bring Landa & Henao with Geraint Thomas supporting. Tejay Van Garderen will lead BMC, while Bauke Mollema and Thibaut Pinot trying to transfer Tour de France near misses into Giro glory.
Well that’s it for this time, assuming none of you have dropped off yet. Next month will see the rest of the season preview finished, along with a quick update on Het Nieuwsblad.
Keep it real people, the Winter is almost over.