Twisted Spoke is back with part II. The gifts we have requested from the Cycling Gods for 2011.
13 Alejandro Valverde fails miserably in his first season back. He’s a huge talent and Chris Horner thinks he’s one of the best race tacticians in cycling but we’re not thrilled to see him back after his two years off as “last man caught in Puerto.” The Cycling Gods aren’t through with the Green Bullet. We wish for an unfulfilling return a la Danilo Di Luca.
14 Matt White is back in the game with GreenEdge. He always struck us as a good guy and we hated to see him become the victim when Vaughters cut him loose based on a bad decision about Trent Lowe. We lauded Vaughters for his insistence on running a clean program at all costs but felt bad for White. We hope to see Matt White back in the limelight with a few GreenEdge wins.
15 Cobo the Hobo. Who doesn’t feel sorry for a man who after years of depression and poor results, wins the Vuelta only to go begging for a team four months later. Here’s to the Hobo scoring a ride with Movistar and supplanting Valverde (see #13) as their grand tour leader.
16 Big fat Tour stage win for Tyler Farrar. Perhaps the nicest guy in pro cycling, our fear has always been that the battling Buddhist is a little too nice. That doesn’t mean he has to start trashing the team bus after a loss, just finding that extra edge or motivation. A year after the death of best friend Wouter Weylandt, we’re looking for Farrar to score a big one.
17 The return of Sylvain Chavanel. Chava and fellow Frenchie Thomas Voeckler seem to take turns at the Tour de France. Two years ago it was Chavenel riding into yellow and producing a magical ride. Then Voeckler topped that in 2011 with ten days in yellow and an astonishing defense of his jersey in the Pyrenees and Alps. Now it’s up to Sylvain to deliver the goods in 2012.
18 A double shot for Chris Horner. The man just turned 40 and time is running out — even with his insistence that he hasn’t lost any watts on his SRM. He plans to make the Tour team and be the last RadioShack-Nissan rider on the final climb, destroying the last remains for Andy Schleck. But he also wants a second win in California. He may have an even stronger squad than last year if the Schlecks and Cancellara don’t bother with the Giro. Hard to say what Quick Steppers Levi Leipheimer will bring to Cali but he probably won’t have the same firepower. In our three hour interview with Horner, he didn’t have too much to say about Levi and we’re guessing there’s no big friendship there. That leaves Garmin as the real trouble but Horner is smart enough to deal with all comers.
19 Go underdogs, go. Last season was full of thrills and unexpected winners from the Northern classics to the Vuelta. Twisted Spoke roots for all super-domestiques for whom all planets align on that one perfect day. We can’t wait to see who it is this season.
20 Can’t wait to see who wins the “whine-fest” at BMC between Gilbert and Hushovd. You would think Thor might have the lead but after Gilbert took his shot at Van Avermaet, we believe he’s the guy most likely to bitch about lack of support.
21 Vinzeno Nibali looked poised to make the final step up to “Contador-worthy challenger” but just didn’t have it in the Giro. We’re going to discover his end potential this year. We’re guessing that the Shark is coming back with a sharper bite.
22 An upright Bradley Wiggins. Love the brit-mod funny man from Sky. However, we’re getting a tad weary about the answer to the Big Question: can he ride onto the podium in Le Tour? Underwhelming in Sky year one, crashed out in Sky year two, he now gets his dream Tour. With juicy 100 kilometers of time trialing, this is his dream tour. We pray he makes it through week one so we can finally know the truth one way or another.