My coming prediction will have to wait to be falsified but I sure do think so and I do hope it will be true because people, we may have witnessed a change in cycling sneaking up on us.
|Contador attacked and won on Mount Etna|
photo downloaded here.
Leadership, orchestrating and sheer will
I wrote a post in 2011 about strategy and tactics just before the tour, you'll find it here. This post proved to be one the most popular ones, and I believe I'm not the only one finding this subject interesting.
My prediction for 2012 is that we will see more aggressive riding, more surprises, more spectacular attacks and more battling mano-o-mano in the GTs. Is this new, is it even worth mentioning, I hear you say. I think so. Even if the emperor hasn't got new clothes on, this is something I think we will see more to in the year to come. Why?
Of many reasons. Firstly I will like to point you to the excellent post by @Irishpeloton earlier this week, about Froome losing the Vuelta with 13 seconds. That is amazing, or devastating, depending on your state of mind, but 13 seconds! That bring back memories of the battle between Le Professeur and Lemond. Now, the post by Irish peloton brings another factor to the table, time bonuses, but I will focus on the little things for a second. Just think about it. Three weeks of racing and 13 seconds in total between losing second place and winning first. When people, and probably Froome himself too, finally understood that he was a genuine contender for the victory, every second counted. People on twitter kept blaming Froome for not climbing 2 seconds faster than Cobo the last four stages, something that would put him in first place. Others blamed team management for not putting all forces behind Froome when he was clearly in better shape than Wiggo those weeks.
The same mistake we make in football, or soccer to you Americans out there. Every time a team is about to drop a league, people remember the poor wing missing the penalty shot in the last game, not the ten opportunities the attacker had to score during the first ten games of the season, which also resulted in losses. You might call this example borderline nonsensical but I think we will see an increased focus on the seconds from day one.
|Fireworks in the making...|
Photo by Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images, downloaded here.
Secondly, the parcourse invites to daring, spectacular attacks. Both Acquarone and Prudhomme have promised easier race this year than the last, something that could bring fireworks to the Alps and the Dolomites. Easier, shorter stages combined short transfers and a cleaner peloton will really make a change in team strategy and tactics. Remember Andy Schleck's and Contador's attack during the tour? One could argue that that was their only chance to gain time on the opponents, but I think this was only the beginning. The GTs of 2012 are set up so that one cannot sit and wait for the last TT (unless your name is Cadel or Wiggo) to determine the winner, every GT contender has to take advantage of his/her strength as well as surprise the opponents.
I truly believe riders, team managers and DSs have learned that every second counts, bonus seconds or not. Some may say that this is nothing new, that is a "normal" change in tactics. I do not think so, I see this as a summary of several factors; parcourse, "wake-up calls" throughout the season, less doping in the peloton, the utilisation of ones speciality/strength on another level and the element of surprise. Leadership will be key this year, both on and off the bike, from the team car and at HQ. To orchestrate the team to perform at its best, to actually dominate the attacks the opponents miss or didn't foresee. I believe we're in for a treat this year, just wait.