The new pro cycling season has pumped its tyres, oiled its chain, and headed for the road. Here are four things we’ve all been asking this week. Or maybe just me.
Why is Richie Porte favourite for the Town Down Under?
The obvious answer is an equation which looks a little like: Willunga Hill + experience + motivation. But really? Is anybody interested in Richie as the 15/8 favourite? Assuming 32-year old Porte is at least as good as he was in 2019 – which is up for discussion anyway – he will struggle to contain the chasing pack and it’s affinity for time bonuses. Last year – despite a perfectly steady performance – Richie was 26 seconds off the GC lead with one bounce up Willunga to come. Despite delivering for the stage honours, fifteen riders finished within thirty seconds of the Tasmanian and his close rivals were just a few bike lengths behind.
The inclusion of the finishes to Stirling and Paracombe shifts the balance back towards the climbers, but there’s plenty with better sprints than Porte. Happy to be proved wrong – just as I would be happy for him to finally win a Grand Tour – but there’s a reason why he has just one ochre jersey despite seemingly perennial favouritism.
Why do people think Remco can win THIS year’s Giro?
Sticking with lazy bookmaking, a post on Twitter highlighted that Remco Evenepoel can be taken at 8/1 to win the Giro d’Italia (currently a special on BWIN). The Belgian has a strong case to be pro cycling’s most exciting talent but at just nineteen (soon to be 20) and without a Grand Tour participation under his jersey… why is this a thing? San Sebastian was wonderful and the surprise silver in Yorkshire was stunning, but can we not just enjoy “Remco-the-free-spirit” for, say, one more season?
Rohan Dennis is 16/1 to win the upcoming Tour Down Under whilst Bardet is 18/1; the same price as Tadej Pogacar to win the Tour de France. Do any of these things with your money, or literally anything else. Evenepoel won’t win the 2020 Giro.
Why is Lotta Lepisto now Lotta Henttala?
The Flying Finn (apologies for the laziest of nicknaming) married Novo Nordisk rider – and 2014 Finish nationals medallist – Joonas Henttala back in October, dur. Congratulations Lotta! When Henttala placed second on the opening stage of the Women’s Tour Down Under I found myself double-checking that it was, indeed, the former Gent-Wevelgem winner.
Why is NTT Pro Cycling so weird?
I originally had this one down in the notepad as “Why have NTT Pro Cycling made such weird signings?” but as a secret Bjarne Riis fan (as manager, not rider) I’m willing to give them all the benefit of the doubt. The current NTT squad has just nine riders under the age of 25 and I’ve got nothing particularly hopeful to say about any of them (except for U23 World Champion Samuele Battistella and, perhaps, Dylan Sutherland). Worse still – on the surface at least – they don’t appear to have the same young African talent as in previous years; a trait which made the team unique, progressive, and highly exciting.
However, behind the fog of controversy, Riis will revitalise a team that struggled enormously in 2019. The team may have quickly faded from the World Tour had they not tried something. Mark Cavendish has gone and his paycheck has been split between Domenico Pozzovivo (hmm), Carlos Barbero (hmm), Victor Campenaerts (elite TT talent), Max Walschied (quick and consistent) and a pair of young Danish talents.
As a statistician, I’m concerned over their apparent use of #BigData. They’ve wound up with a very odd mix of riders and no clear focus. They’ll need a few riders to step up as entertainers and fill the hole left by their departed breakaway specialists. Will that be Pozzovivo’s role?
Riis has a lot on his plate, as does his compatriot and star rider Michael Valgren. The pair need to prove they’re worth investing in.