Six pro cycling predictions for 2016

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Six pro cycling predictions for 2016

We gaze into the crystal ball to reveal how the 2016 season will play out

The festivities are over, the new year is upon us and it’s time to get down to business – so we’ve given our crystal ball a good polish to cast our eye over how 2016 will unfold.

The 2016 WorldTour season will kick-off with the Tour Down Under on January 19-24 and a bumper year awaits, with plenty of transfer comings and goings during the winter and big-name riders off to pastures new for the upcoming campaign.

Chris Froome won the Tour de France for the second time in 2015 – but will he triumph for a third time in 2016? (Pic: Sirotti)

For some it will mark the end of an era, with high-profile retirements imminent after this season, while for others it is likely to be a key breakthrough year.

A well-balanced Tour de France route awaits in July, when Chris Froome will bid for a third title in four years, before the eyes of the world will turn to Rio and the 2016 Olympic Games.

Elsewhere, Lizzie Armitstead will ride in the rainbow bands of world champion on the new UCI Women’s WorldTour and ONE Pro Cycling’s promotion to UCI ProContinental level means we’re likely to see much more of them too.

But who will be the winners and losers of 2016? Time to gaze into that crystal ball – here’s how we expect the season to unfold (but don’t hold us to it…)

Spring Classics – Boonen v Cancellara: the final act

After the Tour Down Under, Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico, the season really starts to gather pace as the Spring Classics get into full swing, with Fabian Cancellara’s impeding retirement meaning a final chance to watch him lock horns with Tom Boonen.

Curse? What curse? Peter Sagan can spoil the farewell party to Fabian Cancellara at the Spring Classics (pic: Sirotti)

Boonen expels any doubts about his fitness by winning Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne early in the spring, while Cancellara also gets in on the act – making amends for crashing out of E3 Harelbeke in 2015 by winning the 2016 edition.

With Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas focusing on stage racing and building form for the summer, Luke Rowe and Ian Stannard lead the British charge.

Any hopes of a final hurrah for Cancellara are dashed when world champion Peter Sagan – buoyed by wearing the rainbow jersey – wins the Tour of Flanders to claim his first Monument victory.

After winning Gent-Wevelgem, defending Paris-Roubaix champion John Degenkolb is seen as favourite for Paris-Roubaix but it is Alexander Kristoff who pips Cancellara to the post.

Giro d’Italia – The Sky’s the limit

Team Sky’s winter of recruitment has already borne fruit by the time the first Grand Tour of the year comes around, thanks to Michal Kwiatkowski’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege win.

Mikel Landa finished on the Giro d’Italia podium for Astana in 2015. His switch to Team Sky gives him the chance to ride for himself in 2016 (Pic: Sirotti)

And it is another Team Sky new boy who delivers in May, with Mikel Landa riding to victory at the Giro d’Italia.

– Giro d’Italia 2016 route: five key stages –

Home favourite, Tirreno-Adriatico winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), appears set for victory after a strong start but Landa’s double success on the final weekend – winning in Risoul and Sant’Anna di Vinadio – hands Team Sky their first Giro victory.

Sir Dave Brailsford reiterates his vow to lead Team Sky to the top of world sport, with all eyes now on Chris Froome’s Tour de France bid.

Tour de France – El Pistolero signs off in style

Froome gears up for the Tour with a third career victory at the Criterium du Dauphine and Team Sky appear unstoppable as the cycling world heads to Mont-Saint-Michel for the start of the 2016 Tour de France.

Alberto Contador will ride his final Tour de France in 2016 (Pic: Sirotti)

Alberto Contador tears up the formbook in his final Tour de France, however, to remind everybody why he is viewed as this generation’s greatest Grand Tour rider.

Froome and Geraint Thomas look set for a one-two earlier in the race, but Contador’s masterful victory on Mont Ventoux turns the screw.

– Tour de France 2016 route: eight key stages –

Nairo Quintana, Fabio Aru and BMC Racing’s double act of Tejay van Garderen and Richie Porte also stay in contention late in the race, in one of the tightest Tours for some time.

But experience pays off when it matters most, with Contador sealing the yellow jersey on the penultimate day.

Olympic Games – G-Force

While Froome has to settle for a Tour de France podium spot, British fans don’t have to wait long for a reason to celebrate.

Geraint Thomas could be a contender for more Olympic gold – this time on the road in Rio (Pic: Sirotti)

All eyes turn to Rio di Jaineiro for the 2016 Olympic Games and, though Lizzie Armitstead is denied once again by the fit-again Marianne Vos in the women’s road race, the men’s road race ends in more gold medal success for Britain.

Thomas turns the disappointment of missing out in France into a positive, and escapes an elite front group on the final ascent of Vista Chinesa.

Spain’s Alejandro Valverde gives chase, but Thomas accelerates once more to add Olympic road race gold to his team pursuit medals.

Olympic Games – Rule Britannia (and Sir Brad)

With the gold rush well and truly underway, Britain’s track cyclists look to add to the tally in the Olympic velodrome with Sir Bradley Wiggins stealing the pre-Games headlines.

Sir Bradley Wiggins hopes to lead Great Britain to Olympic Team Pursuit success (Pic: Michael Poole)

Wiggins arrives in Rio bidding to become Britain’s most-decorated Olympian ever – and does so on the back of reuniting with Mark Cavendish to win the world Madison title in London in February.

Cavendish’s dreams of adding an Olympic medal to his impressive palmares are dashed when Ed Clancy beats him to the omnium spot, however Wiggins will not be denied.

Wiggins and Clancy power the British team pursuit quartet victory, with their female counterparts also winning gold after narrowly defeating Australia in the final.

Women’s WorldTour – Arise Queen Lizzie

After Laura Trott bags two golds at the Olympics, Lizzie Armitstead is not to be denied her own share of the limelight.

Lizzie Armitstead knows what it takes to win in Qatar (pictured), which just so happens to be hosting the 2016 UCI Road World Championships (Pic: Bruno Bade/ASO)

Vos’ victory at the Olympic Games denies Armitstead the success she craves in Rio but the Yorkshirewoman comes back strong.

Victory at the GP de Plouay-Bretagne for the second successive year ends the month on a high and ensures she finishes the maiden UCI Women’s WorldTour season top of the world rankings.

And even better is to come, as the defending champion heads to Doha for the World Championships and – having previously enjoyed success in Qatar at the Ladies Tour in 2015 – becomes the first Brit to win back-to-back world titles.

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