Twelve months have passed since we last peered in to the future aided by our picture of a crystal ball. Time to draw back the veil and do it all again to bring you our cycling trends & predictions for 2012. Twelve in number are my predictions for the cycling year ahead.
The year in sport
As is traditional (well, we did it last year) let's start with sport. My ball is going swirly… gah! What's this? I'm channelling that Simon MacMichael looking in his crystal ball, which obviously from here looks bloody small. Hold on he's coming through and he's talking Olympic road race at London 2012…
1. After nine times up Box Hill, the race will be shot to bits, and Mark Cavendish only has 3.5 team mates, given that Bradley Wiggins has said he’s focusing on the time trial. But there's still 30km back into London, so chances are a small group will form. And who is the best sprinter in the world when a selection has been made? Thor Hushovd. Peter Sagan could also figure, and could emerge as Cav’s biggest rival for the green jersey at the Tour de France – the Slovak should do really well on the tougher finishes. A final post-Olympic prediction is that Cav and Wiggo will have another couple of months where they don't speak.
2. Looking at the grand tours I'm backing Basso to win the Giro, he's targeting that one this year. Liquigas looked strong on home turf last time out and most of the other big guns will be concentrating on the Tour – Contador won’t be there to defend his title, and Basso was the 2010 winner. The Vuelta is further away and it’s harder to call the line-ups, which so often depend on what happened at the Tour. But I could see Chris Froome going one better than he did last year, that's providing Team Sky don't give him his head at the Tour.
3. And the big one? Alberto Contador to win the Tour de France if, and it's a big if, that piece of steak doesn't finally stick in his throat. The Tour is his big aim this year, last year he obviously hedged his bets and went for the earlier Giro in case there was a Tour ban in the offing, we'll know this month whether he's in or out. If he's in, he's still got the beating of the Schlecks even with a weaker team - having the wily old fox Johan Bruyneel in their camp will make things closer though. If Contador isn't there then Andy Schleck will win on the road to add to what we'd have to presume will amount to his win in court - the 2009 Tour title going to him too. Bruyneel will nail the tactics and that should include ensuring that Frank rides for Andy rather than both of them riding for each other.
Bonus prediction: Finally, while you can’t ignore Philippe Gilbert, he’s said his big goal is the Olympics, and my crystal ball says the Road Worlds in Limburg should be a fight between Sagan and the back in the fold Alejandro Valverde with an outside chance that Cadel Evans could nick it from both of them…
He's gone… leaving us plenty to ponder as I cut myself a slice of mystic power-enhancing panetone and channel a jar of Nutella.
Hold on, I'm not done yet! London 2012 and on the track I think we should heed the words of Dave Brailsford… it really isn't going to be as good as Beijing, although it will still be pretty good. Okay, now I'm done.
This little lot is getting hidden away in 2012
4. Next up a technical prediction. Almost feel bad about calling this one a prediction, but I'm sticking it in to keep the average up… all that talk about disc brakes on road bikes? It ain't talk.
The UCI technical bods may not have had any enquiries on the matter but they'd better start sharpening their pencils and designing the relevant sticker cos they are definitely coming. After all, they opened the door for all of this when they approved disc brakes for cross something everybody else and especially the bike industry spotted from the get-go.
Our industry spies tell us new road disc set ups have already been tested by some bike manufacturers, oh and get this while we've all been banging on about low weight and 140 or even 120 rotors… they're actually going to be more like 180, with maybe 160 on the back. On a road bike it isn't just about outright stopping power: it's modulation, reliability and dependability in all weathers that counts. As the man we spoke to told us, the heat from an alpine descent just won't dissipate through a small rotor. Of course you can make big discs light and there's no reason disc brakes on a road bike should be at the cost of any real weight penalty at all particularly when most top end bikes are already easily lighter than the UCI's 6.8Kg limit.
Some people aren't going to like all this but basically disc brakes are simply another braking system and one that works better than the ones we've currently got. At the end of the day good brakes help you go faster, and while they might look odd at first, like other stuff that really works they won't look odd for long.
Bonus prediction: Looking slightly further ahead, we wouldn't be surprised to see some sort of integrated set up of a Di2/hydraulic brake kind at Eurobike this year, technically it surely isn't a biggie. Indeed sticking the master cylinder in to the hoods and then hooking the brakes up to the 'brain' opens up the possibility of ABS braking for bikes… which would be nice.
The only thing we don't know is which of the big three component manufacturers is going to be first to market. We can probably discount Campagnolo because they don't really have the background in this technology for bikes. That leaves SRAM and Shimano both of whom definitely do – SRAM own Avid. SRAM definitely have the incentive to pull something out of the bag because they have been totally left behind on electronic shifting, and word is that they have a big surprise in store when new Red launches in February, maybe this is it. Problem is if they are launching an integrated hydraulic road set up where will they put the master cylinder cos the lever hoods are full of mechanical bits - something that isn't a problem for Shimano – unless SRAM shock us all by going electric too.
As we reported last month there are persistent rumours that the new Dura Ace Di2 will go 11 speed this year and disc brake compatible. Knowing Shimano if it's them we'll all be sworn to silence. So look out for a lot of nodding and winking come their 2012 press briefing in a few weeks time.
Hard graft this divination lark but pausing only for a revivifying slurp of flat prosecco I'll press on. Next it's events.
Adventures in Cyclocross
5. You've probably noticed that cyclocross is very much on the up in Blighty of late. The British Cycling calendar is packed with events during the winter, in fact far more grassroots events than you might find in many of the sport's European heartlands. However, for some a cross bike is for more than simply riding around school playing fields of a Sunday morning, or to work during the week which is why we're predicting a big rise in the number of cyclo cross sportives or CSX events as some like to call them. We've seen the number of these events growing over the past couple of years while the long established the Hell of the North Cotswolds been reclaimed by cross bikes as it was when it started. We're going to see more of that in 2012.
This isn't a UK-specific phenomenon, in Germany 'Adventure Cross' is all the rage, and off course in Holland they've had cyclo cross sportives for years organised by local cycling clubs and usually costing around €3 a pop to enter and you get soup and a roll afterwards. This is the UK so you can expect to pay a darn sight more than that, but just as we predicted last year that more people would discover Audax and other grassroots UK events… and lo! It came to pass. This year we're wondering if we'll also see the return of what were called Trail-Rides back in the late 80s/early 90s. Basically everyone got a map with some control points marked on, and you had say three hours to find them all, earning high or low scores depending on their distance/difficulty. None of this new-fangled downloading GPX files. You really HAD to know how to navigate… mebbe the cyclocross equivalent of Audax. Whatever, we will see a general upsurge in taking your crosser out to play on your local trails. We'd also not be surprised to see an Adventure Cross trail at a mountain bike trail centre at some point either – all you've got to do is re-name the white run.
Cycling is going to be BIG in 2012
6. Riding a bike in London has long since become a mainstream activity that all sorts of people take part in and which is more likely to provoke interest rather than scorn from non-cyclists. This year cycling, which has been growing across the UK, is going to break cover. The profile raising coverage it is going to get in the run-up to the Olympics will act as the carrot while for many, cold, hard economics will be the stick. This is going to be a hard year for many people in Britain and with the cost of motoring and public transport rising faster than inflation ever more people are going to be forced to re-evaluate how they get from A to B – in the first 9 months of last year petrol sales fell by 2.4 billion litres. Luckily for those in work the Government's cycle to work scheme is still in place and remains an attractive way to buy a bike. We're predicting a lot more people on two wheels by the year's end.
That mountain is coming…
7. Here's a long range one. Remember that plan to build a mountain in the Netherlands for the topographically deprived Dutch? They're gonna build it. Okay, not in 2012 but a feasability study is due to be delivered by the end of the year, and that picture on the architects' website has evolved into a video… I particularly like the underwater bobsleigh bit. My mystical ball says they'll be pushing it to finish by 2018 though.
8. Simon MacMichael is coming through again… Women's cycling on the sporting side is really raising its profile, and I reckon social media has a huge influence in that, because it makes it much more difficult for media etc to ignore, or teams that will continue to build in 2011. BUT and it's a big but, it's clear that at the top level money is a huge issue in the women's sport, Garmin and HTC women's teams have both gone, then you have the Chloe Hoskins story today… Green Edge have launched a women's team, but where's the Sky equivalent? You have to say that with Nicole Cooke and Emma Pooley both getting rainbow jerseys in recent years and other great talent coming through, plus it's support of men's and women's track cycling, Sky missed an open goal there…
The other big vibe I'm picking up on this one comes from other members of the road.cc team who reckon that interest in cycling will rise amongst women this year something which purely anecdotally those that get out and about had noticed starting to happen in 2011.
Cycling will be an important issue in the London mayoral election
9. Er, that's it
10. Last year my ball went a bit wonky and said it would take a "miracle" for Alberto Contador to beat the rap. Balls eh? It also said that Andy Schleck would become a two-time Tour winner in one year. As we found out the wheels of justice grind exceedingly slow and indeed exceedingly fine (well, you can never be too careful chewing steak). Guess what? I'm sticking to my predo - my ball isn't budging on this one. Not because of any anti-Contador agenda, apart from those gunslinger celebrations we rather like him - he's certainly awesome to watch when he lets rip, but if he's done wrong he needs to be punished. Our prediction is based on nothing more scientific than the cost of lawyers' fees. While it is entirely feasible that those in charge at the UCI are bone-headed enough to pursue a weak case to the highest court in sport the same doesn't apply top bods at WADA. They've seen all the recent evidence regarding clenbuterol tainted food and the Mexican football team plus what happened at the FIFA Youth World Cup and still they've chosen to proceed. WADA obviously thinks that in a non-Spanish court its case is strong enough to win. The ball says WADA are right and we'll find out before the month is out.
Home stretch now, and fortified by a nibble on the last of the chocolate santas we're nearly there…
11. Green has been the big colour in the bike world for the last couple of years with neon blue right up there too. Last year at Eurobike we detected hints that orange was on its way back to the top and we reckon we'll see a few more purple bikes too. When we say "on its way back" it's only about 5 years since the bike industry tried to foist orange - well to be more accurate a sort of tangerine colour - on an unsuspecting world… it was big in Germany at the time. So 2012 will effectively see the bike world starting the first Noughties fashion revival. Don't believe us? Well, this just in from the Pantone Institute, the bible of all things colour-related, which announced Tangerine Tango as its top colour for 2012. "There's the element of encouragement with orange, it's building on the ideas of courage and action, that we want to move on to better things." said the person from Pantone explaining their decision. Apparently Pantone bases its predictions on a combination of what it thinks consumers want and need… a bit like the bike industry then. Well, all that and needing to do something with the rest of that over-optimistic paint order from 2006. Anyway no need for you or I to fret about all of this: the bike industry knows what we like as the man on the stand of one very large bike company told us at Eurobike "don't worry we've got lots of black bikes on order for you Brits". Phew!
12. And finally, there's been a lot of chitter chat and nonsense about the world ending just before Christmas, so let me gaze at my picture of a crystal ball and set your minds at rest. Well I'm getting colour trends coming through for next year… black is going to be big as the rest of the world finally sees sense and falls in to line with us sober brits. And it's not going to be a fad either with black big for the foreseeable no wonder the bike companys are soo keen to get ride of all that orange. In fact looking a bit closer most things are gonna be black… hold on I'll give it a tap. Nope, black it is. Still, it's only a picture. Maybe it's time for a new one.
Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.