10 things to be excited about in cycling in 2014

There’s plenty to look forward to in 2014, including the possibility of this podcast happening more than last year. So here’s a run down of ten things, in no particular order, that you should be looking forward to in cycling this year.

Nicole Cooke’s autobiography

Outspoken, direct, determined. And usually bang on the money. Interviewing her was always a challenge – she could be curt, didn’t suffer obvious questions and would correct every error or misapprehension – but she was never boring.

Nicole was one of the most intelligent bike racers of any generation or gender. Just watch how she waits, doesn’t panic, then fries Arndt and Vos in the sprint to do something no other rider – male or female – has ever done: Win Olympic and World road race titles in the same year. Bradley Wiggins got a knighthood in 2012 for a Tour de France and Olympic gold double. Nicole still only has an MBE. If her autobiography is half as intelligent and strong as her riding, it will be one of the best cycling books ever.

The Women’s Tour

Britain finally gets a top flight Women’s race, long overdue. Top tier field, equal prize money, terrestrial television coverage on ITV4. So why haven’t sponsors stepped up to a great opportunity to get in for relatively low cost into the burgeoning movement to grow women’s sport? Because they are too obsessed with poor value from safe products like football.

Softening of UCI stance on in-race footage

On the Humans Invent podcast David Millar talks about the documentary on his final season and suggest RCS might give leeway in their races for the makers to use bike-mounted cameras during the race. (It’s a good interview with Millar, well worth a listen)

Start of a cycle of innovation from manufacturers

The UCI’s appointment of GB tech wizard Dimitri Katsanis as a consultant signals a more progressive attitude. It coincides with innovation from different sectors spreading to become universal to cycling – carbon fibre and hydraulic disc braking to name two.

We’ve been stuck at 6.8kg, cable-operated rim braked, double diamond frames for far too long. In terms of what is available and possible compared to when it was introduced in 2000, it looks incredibly outdated. Actually it looked outdated then.

Tour of Dubai

Yes, you could lump this together with Oman and Qatar as Gulf state cultural willy-waving – and you wouldn’t be wrong – and then dismiss it as a new race at the expense of other more “historic” events.

A shame then that most squads look likely  to split the strength of their squads, otherwise the 3 races – Dubai, Qatar, Oman – would make a very coherent Gulf States series across February.

The longer you cling to the fantasy of keeping uneconomic early season races in non-snowy bits of Europe, the less likely the sport will grow. Dubai matters because this isn’t old money shuffled, it’s new money unfolded.

Baku Cycling Project

Let’s be clear, Azerbaijan is an oil-rich, post-Soviet state that barely qualifies as democratic. But this is a sport where Katusha and Astana are established names.

Photographer Camille McMillan is documenting the team on Instagram and they’ve got a well-developed presence online that’s as good as some top tier teams.

Tarmac not being the only way

The growth of gravel racing and cyclocross suggests a return of the unpaved road, opening up a whole new set of opportunities for events. Mountain-biking continues to grow in the UK as an economic force, in particular in Wales and Scotland where facilities are as good as anywhere in the world.

Boonen vs Cancellara fortnight

Flanders, Roubaix. Can Tom make it a record-breaking double? Or will Fabian crush everyone again. Maybe Sagan will ruin the party; maybe Geraint Thomas realise that there’s a good reason people keep on mentioning these races to him and remember not to crash into everyone.

Quintana v the Aussies v the Italians at the Giro

The pocket-sized Colombian could pick up his first Grand Tour in Italy this year, but to do so he’ll have to beat Cadel Evans – perhaps one last throwing of his kitchen sink  at winning a Grand Tour – and Richie Porte – in his first effort at leading a squad over three weeks. Add in every imaginable Italian weather combination and the endearing insolicity with which the race usually develops, it could be quite something.

All Vos, all the time

If you’re not getting the joy from watching Marianne storm every sporting barricade, you’re not really getting what unmatched brilliance is. Few riders are as peerless as Vos in her dominance against genuinely classy opposition.

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