At the beginning of each year, L’Equipe journalists pose ten key questions about the forthcoming cycling season and ask their readership to vote “Yes” or “No” to each question. Here’s the questions and the all-important results:-
1. Are the Olympic Games going to be good for the French? 67% said YES
Leaving aside the road races, the French have always done well on the track and in MTB. Last time out they also shone in BMX. There’s no reason to suppose they won’t do similarly well in London 2012. They’ve been less convincing on the road and could only offer up the diminutive Samuel Dumoulin who finished 3rd in the pre-Olympic dry run. While it’s not entirely impossible that someone of the stature of Dumoulin – and when I say stature, I’m thinking palmares not size – or Feillu could nick a place on the podium. Just don’t bet your shirt on it.
2. Will Arnaud Demare be the seasons’ revelation? 56% said NO
This is the lad who won the U23 Road Race in Copenhagen and who’s now a neo-pro at FDJ where he’ll have an opportunity to grow without too much pressure being placed on his young shoulders too early. He’s only 2o (21 in August) and one shouldn’t expect that, like Marcel Kittel before him, he’ll rack up 18 sprint victories in his first season. But he will win races, just not yet. Remember, he was 4th in U23’s in last year’s Paris-Roubaix and will no doubt benefit from Frederic Guesdon’s guidance.
3. Are we going to see a duel again between Cancellara and Boonen in the Cobbles Classics? 56% said NO
The sentiment was that these two will play a role but there are others who will enter the fray. They’ll probably never repeat their respective golden years of 2010 and 2005 respectively. However, I sensed, that nonetheless, this was exactly what everyone was hoping for. Kitty Fondue and I are going to be hotly debating this very topic over on www.velovoices.com.
4. Will TAS exonerate Condator? 67% said YES
Now I’m not sure whether readers felt this was the most likley and most expedient outcome for cycling or whether, as time has gone on, Contador has impressed everyone more and more with his demeanor thus they’re more inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. The French are not overly fond of what we might call “the authorities” and this may have just tipped the balance in Bertie’s favour.
5. Will Evans succeed in retaining his Tour title? 56% said NO
Despite his excellent team, experience and the favourable parcours, readers felt his age would count against him and, in particular, his declining powers of recuperation. If he takes part, most expect Contador to win.
6. Will Thomas Voeckler get onto the Tour podium? 89% said NO
The French know their cycling. Voeckler ended up in the leader’s jersey when he profited from the misfortune visited on Messrs Hoogerland and Flecha. His defence of the jersey was heroic, but he was in it by chance. The verdict: top 10 placing is the best he can expect.
7. Will Bruyneel get Andy to win the Tour in 2012? 89% said NO
Most recognise that Bruyneel does have what it takes to make Andy win the Tour, but not this year. He needs a more favourable parcours, the absence of one Bertie Contador and to be uncoupled from his elder brother. Like I said, the French know their cycling. They’re not wrong about this.
8. Will Cavendish become Olympic Champion? 56% said YES
While most agreed it would be more difficult than winning the World Championship’s Copenhagen – fewer team mates, hillier parcours – they felt his experience in winning Grand Tour stages, his mental strength and home advantage might just see him grab gold.
9. Will Team BMC crush everything it its path this season? 100% said NO
Can’t get more emphatic than that! History has shown – Teams Sky and Leopard-Trek – that it takes a while for a team to bed down. In addition, when there are changes to a number of key personnel, it takes time for them to become cohesive. A case of too many chiefs and not enough (red) Indians perhaps?
10. Will Valverde give Gilbert a run for his money? 67% said YES
Readers think that this could well be the duel of the season particularly in the Ardennes Classics. PhilGil may be numero uno at the moment but let’s not forget Valverde occupied that slot in 2006 and 2008 plus he’s got a point to prove – always dangerous.
Be careful what you wish for
In addition, L’Equipe asked each of the 10 journalists who had posed the questions what they would like to see happen this season. Their replies, in no particular order were:-