The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) World Tour returns in February 2021 after the Tour Down Under and the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road race were cancelled due to on-going Covid Restrictions. With the season now resuming in February, subject to further restrictions, I wanted to predict all the calendar and who will place on the podium.
For the bigger stage races, accompanying articles will be coming so watch out for those, however this piece will be regularly edited and will be your one stop shop for all your prediction needs. With that being said, it is impossible to predict any races before the start lists are drafted and currently as the season is yet to begin, no one has declared for any races.
In order to whet the appetite and get your cycling fix, lets dive into some predictions for the season, when the races and their start lists are announced then we can get our prediction on. These will be live and updated after each race, therefore I will also discuss how right or wrong my predictions have been, without further ado, let us get into some predictions, and see how wrong I can be about cycling.
Chris Froome will not podium at a Grand Tour in 2021
The first one and it is a big one! Chris Froome moved to a new team, Israel Start Up Nation, in 2021 and is for all intents and purposes is the undisputed leader of that team. This is a huge statement of intent from the team; however, it is a statement made 2 years too late. Froome is without a doubt one of cycling’s greatest ever, winning all three Grand Tours, and winning 7 in total, his one of the modern kings of the stage races. Between 2011 and 2018 he finished outside the top three in these races only once in 2012 and then he still finished 4th. In that time, he failed to finish only 2 of the 14 Grand Tours he entered both exits due to injury meaning he could not continue.
Why then if he is such an incredible cyclist, am I predicting him to miss out on all three Grand Tour Podiums? The last of his successes came in 2018 at the Giro D’Italia. He entered 5 major stages races since the 2019 season began, this is partly due to Covid restrictions, however of these 5, he failed to finish the Criterium du Dauphine in 2019. The other four do not make for good reading for the Froomey fans in the room. Volta a Catalunya 94th, Vuelta a Espana 98th, Tirreno-Adriatico 91st and his best result in those 2 years, the 2020 Criterium du Dauphine in which he finished 71st.
This could be down to bad luck, injury or the state of the world currently and the challenges that Covid has brought us. In normal circumstances, I might agree, however for a rider such as Chris Froome who has set himself impossibly high standards, this just cannot be the case. I understand Froome has had some major injuries in this time and they are likely to factor in here, however this reset and transfer to Israel Start Up does not shout of a man ready to get back to winning ways.
Chris Froome will have been offered a considerable amount to end his 10 year tenure with Team Sky/Ineos Grenadiers and if his career is winding down, I do not blame him for taking this. For Israel Start Up, they have a huge name player who will get fans interested. For Froome he can continue leading a team and being the biggest fish in the pond.
The moves benefits them both financially, but I predict that it will not bring success and as such Froome misses all three of the Grand Tour podiums in 2021.
Peter Sagan is no longer the king of the points classification
We found out in the 2020 Tour de France that Peter Sagan is in fact human. Entering the Tour de France and the Giro D’Italia Sagan had his eyes on the points classification. He has been a force of nature since 2012 consistently dominating the points race and looking almost other worldly. Excluding the blip of 2017 with his rightful disqualification for endangering another rider, no one has ever been within 60 points of him in the final standings. This is significant because the most a person can get for a stage win is 45 points, meaning he was over a stage ahead of his nearest rivals.
Enter 2020 he was the favourite to retain this, and with rumours swirling of a shot at the Giro too, could Peter Sagan grab two points jersey’s in one season? Short answer, no. If we delve into this a little deeper however we start to have some serious questions about his future domination.
The 2020 points race in the Tour de France was dominated by three names, Sam Bennett, Peter Sagan and Matteo Trentin. Every day the commentators discussed who would have the upper hand, however if you actually watched the race, it was not even close. Sam Bennett had Sagan’s number from the start, consistently finishing slightly ahead of him. He had completely flipped the script on Sagan and was doing to Sagan what he done to his rivals for years, he was beating Sagan at his own game.
Next up was the 2020 Giro D’Italia and while the points classification looks different in this race, the outcome was arguably starker. Sagan arrived at this race hoping to take on the points classification, and knowing he could climb as well as sprint, he was immediately a favourite, enter Arnaud Demare. The French sprinter was having the best season of his career and this showed with him taking all four of the major sprint stages. These were bunch sprints in name only, as once Demare opened up, it was game over.
Peter Sagan is still an excellent rider, dynamic and will always compete in any event he enters, however as he arrives at his 31st year, his time as points champion is over. I predict that 2021 will be another blank year for him and he will not win a points classification title at the Grand Tours.
Richie Porte wins a Grand Tour
These predictions have quickly fallen into the trap of being all about the Grand Tours, however these are the biggest events and therefore have the most riding on them. This next prediction is the most divisive that will be found on the list, and while it may seem like the longest shot, I ask that you bear with me on it. My reasoning is sound, and it makes total sense when you weigh it up.
Richie Porte has forever been an incredibly talented Super Domestique who does not seem to quite have what it takes to win the big title. A fan favourite for Team Sky during the years of domination, he was always working for someone else’s cause. He got his chances, and delivered wins in the smaller stage races, but never had the opportunity to break the barrier and lead the team at a Grand Tour.
Leaving Team Sky to pursue this dream of Grand Tour victories made sense, and in 2016 he moved to BMC Racing. In his first season he managed a respectable 5th place less than a minute off the podium. The cycling world waited for him to build on this, however in the following 4 years he managed two none finishes, he moved again to Trek-Segafredo and managed an 11th in 2019. If he is struggling to build on anything, why does he make this list? That is due to a two factor approach to how I believe he ends his career.
Firstly, he has just finished 3rd at the 2020 Tour de France, and entering the penultimate stage, was well over a minute behind third place. Not only did manage to pull himself onto the podium, he overturned this gap and distanced his rivals by over 2 minutes in the process. He showed his ability to compete with anyone on the stage prior to that too, after suffering a puncture at the most awful time as the race had begun to open up. Losing nearly a minute to his rivals, he time trialled his way back into the leaders pack and managed to avoid losing any time on the stage.
The second reason is his 2021 return to Ineos Grenadiers, formally his home with Team Sky. He is back into the fold and working as a Super Domestique and will arrive at the Grand Tours in the service of someone else. Surely then he has no chance, well actually no based on 2020 for Team Ineos. In both the Giro and the Tour last year, the leader went down injured and abandoned the race. In Le Tour it was too late to salvage an attempt at the general classification, however at the Giro Team Ineos managed to lose their leader and still win the overall race.
Back in to fold at Team Ineos, Richie Porte will understand what is required of him and his presence alone makes the team stronger. This year the stars align for him and I predict he finally wins a Grand Tour.
The French draw a blank at the Tour again
Tour de France, the biggest cycling event in the world, millions watch it every year and every year France goes into fever pitch at their home cycling event. Every year over a hundred hopefuls set out on 21 days of cycling and every year the race ends with French disappointment. While it hurts to say it, 2021 will be no different.
Not since the almighty Bernard Hinault has there been a French winner of the Tour de France and this happened 35 years ago in 1985. The 36th year will be no different and France will continue to wait. I am not saying the nation lacks the ability to win this, France has some of the best cyclists in the world right now, including current World Champion Julien Alaphilippe, Romain Bardet, Thibault Pinot and Guillerme Martin to name just a few. The problem is none of these riders can seem to deliver when the pressure is on.
For years now France has seen its biggest stars crumble when others have really put the pressure on, and that will not change anytime soon. They will always be a threat, they are too talented not to be, but when they ride into Paris at the end of the three hardest weeks in cycling, they will continue to settle for podium places. France will triumph at the Tour de France, but not this year and not with the current crop of professional cyclists representing the Tricolour.
France will continue to watch others win the prize they yearn for and for at least another year will watch on as they crown someone not from their pride nation. I predict that France will fail to win the Tour de France.
A season of predictions
The calendar is set in cycling, and due to on-going Covid restrictions could change at a moments notice, therefore this year I plan to edit and predict the season further as and when it happens. Please stay tuned for more predictions as the season progresses especially for the big races and join me in live discussions relating to the best sport in the world.
We find ourselves awaiting start lists and confirmation on who will race the big events and so our list of predictions will change and grow. Below you will find a list of the races, my predictions, and the actual outcome of the race, that way we can see what I get right and what I definitely get wrong.
|UAE Tour||21-27 February||Adam Yates||Jack Haig||Tadej Pogacar|
|Omloop Het Nieuwsblad||27 February||Tom Pidcock||Yves Lampaert||Jasper Suyvan|
|Strade Bianche||6 March|
|Milan-San Remo||20 March|
|Volta a Catalunya||22-28 March|
|Bruges-De Panne||24 March|
|E3 Saxo Bank Classic||26 March|
|Dwars door Vlaanderen||31 March|
|Tour of Flanders||4 April|
|Tour of the Basque Country||5-10 April|
|Amstel Gold Race||18 April|
|La Fleche Wallonne||21 April|
|Tour de Romandie||27 April – 2 May|
|Giro d’Italia||8-30 May|
|Criterium du Dauphine||30 May – 6 June|
|Tour de Suisse||6-13 June|
|Tour de France||26 June – 18 July|
|Clasica de San Sebastian||31 July|
|Tour de Pologne||9-15 August|
|Vuelta a Espana||14 August – 5 September|
|EuroEyes Cyclassics||15 August|
|Bretagne Classic Quest-France||22 August|
|BinckBank Tour||30 August – 5 September|
|Tour of Britain||5-12 September|
|GP de Quebec||10 September|
|GP de Montreal||12 September|
|Il Lombardia||9 October|
|Tour of Guangxi||14-19 October|