Like ying and yang, for every list of bad news, there is good. So here’s my predictions for good things that might happen this year. (I’ve updated this to correct a couple of errors and add a couple of links 04/10/2010)
- The arrival of significant new teams will increase interest in cycling outside of the specialist press
Like it or not, Team Radioshack and Team Sky will be the two teams that people will be interested in beyond cycling’s core audience.
On the one hand you have the Armstrong factor: a sporting star who has transcended the boundaries of their sport and spilled into the wider public consciousness.
On the other a global corporation trying to push forward on the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) platform as well as looking to acquire a brand association with Britain’s most successful Olympic sport.
Then there’s BMC, who’ve signed a host of talent, including World Champion Cadel Evans and will be looking to be this season’s Cervelo Test Team by making a big impact in the major races and raising the profile of a bike manufacturer.
The gulf between BMC and Team Sky, both cultural and budget, is striking. BMC are the modern evolution of the “trade team” model whereas Team Sky is the arrival of modern professional sport in cycling’s parochial world.
Witness the way they used contract law to ensure that Bradley Wiggins was able to make his much-cherished move and their attitude to rider selection and media management. It has more in common with the management style of Manchester United than Astana.
- Sponsors and broadcasters will wake up to the growth potential of women’s cycling
Someone will spot the low investment cost and figure out that Cervelo Test Team and Columbia-HTC have got a pretty good model to build on. I can’t be the only person who thinks Team Sky have missed a trick by not having ambitions to put together a women’s team around any one of Nicole Cooke, Lizzie Armitstead or Emma Pooley. Same goes for Radioshack with the pool of talent in North America.
- The professional peloton will start to get a little bit less white
Let’s face it, for all the increasing internationalism of the top flight calendar, there is an alarming absence of non-white riders in the big teams. Fumy Beppu is one of the few and a favourite in our household.
Daniel Teklehaimanot from Eritrea could be in the vanguard of African riders to break through. He’s got a great story – life and career threatened by heart condition – and sixth at this year’s Tour de l’Avenir ahead of some highly-rated riders like Stetina and Gallopin say he’s got the ability to step up.
It was the Rwandan Adrien Niyonshuti, riding for MTN who garnered particular press interest when he raced alongside Lance Armstrong at the Tour of Ireland and the story of Team Rwanda writes itself.
Eritrea is cycling mad, a legacy of Italian colonialism, and there could be no more fitting country to produce the breakthrough rider. Combined with projects like Kenyan Cyclist and Jock Boyer’s marshalling of the Rwandan national team it represents the beginning of something important.
I’ve got other predictions but I’m always keen to get other people’s in the hope that it will provoke debate and bring knowledge to the table.