No one I know likes to be asked to make predictions. You can either say the thing that will happen but does not sound exciting or interesting, nor reveal hidden depths of expertise and hipster knowledge. Or you can say something profoundly unusual and unexpected, which hints at vast reserves of understanding, inaccessible to the masses. The problem with this option is they won’t happen. The obvious, boring ones will happen. Everyone knows that.
Making predictions is the journalistic equivalent of incessant flatulence; unwanted, unwarranted, unnecessary and tawdry.
With that in mind, here are my three predictions for 2020.
Peter Sagan will not win a single race
It’s amazing how quickly greatness passes. Suddenly, and without anyone realising it’s happened, a prolific winner stops winning. It could be that this has already happened to Chris Froome, Greg van Avermaet, Vincenzo Nibali and to Geraint Thomas. It’s certainly come to pass for Mark Cavendish. I suggest that it’s also happened to Peter Sagan, and that 2020 will prove my patently ridiculous point. His USP was both his great strength and his great weakness. He was always one of the best puncheurs, though perhaps not absolutely THE best, and one of the best sprinters, though perhaps not absolutely THE best, and one of the best baroudeurs, though perhaps not absolutely THE best. But that combination allowed him to scoop up the green jersey seven times, the rainbow bands three time in a row and a whole bunch of victories. The problem is that there are suddenly a bunch of riders who have similar attributes, albeit differently slanted, who can match him in most disciplines and beat him in others. The era of specialization is being thrown into question by riders like Evenepoel, Alaphilippe, van Aert, Pedersen, Hirschi and van der Poel. Sagan’s finished. He’s done.
Adam Yates will win the Tour de France
It’s bizarre to say the least that the only GC victories to his name are the Tour of Turkey (6 years ago, now!) and the highly prestigious CRO Tour last year. Don’t let that fool you though – A. Yates had a quietly very impressive 2019, coming within a second of victory in Tirreno Adriatico, a race equal in stature to Paris Nice, which his brother almost won in 2018 before taking his first Grand Tour. The fact that it was Primoz Roglič to whom Adam Yates lost out in Italy last year suggest that he is very close now to making the final step and emulating his brother. My understanding is that Adam will target the Tour de France. These next few years are crucial to his belonging in the top tier of GC riders, and I think he’s ready. In Damien Howson, Mikel Nieve, Esteban Chaves, Jack Haig and brother Simon he’s got very credible support. And with Ineos and Jumbo Visma eyeing each other, he could capitalise and take it all the way, provided the flamme rouge doesn’t collapse on him this time.
American men and women are going to surprise everyone
Despite the fact that they’ve elected a blancmange in a suit for their President, the USA appears to be getting things rather right, in terms of cycling. They bossed a bunch of the junior and U23 races in both sexes at the Worlds, having been the least talked about cycling nation for a while now. Gone is the rather anodyne image associated with the likes of Tejay Van Garderen and Andrew Talansky. Now there are riders like Brandon McNulty, Quinn Simmons, Megan Jastrab and Chloe Dygert-Owen to reckon with. McNulty, in particular, has been a race winner of the highest order waiting to happen, and took his first GC of his career at the Giro di Sicilia last year. He’s got that perfect Thomas/Dumoulin mixture of TT strength and climbing talent. He’s moved to UAE Team Emirates, who are quietly building a very interesting team around the huge talent of Tadej Pogačar. And Chloe Dygert-Owen is the one rider who isn’t Dutch, who genuinely spooks Annemiek van Vleuten. The 23 year old smashed the World TT course to pieces and finished 4th in the road race. She’s definitely one to watch. In fact, sod it: She’ll be the Olympic champion this time next year.
So there you go, three things that won’t happen. You read them here first.