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Welcome back to Spin Cycle, Escape Collective’s news digest.
Happy new year! Once again we’re coming to you from the past – it’s still 2023 here. How is everything in 2024? Actually, maybe it’s better not to ask …
From Friday we’ll be back at it with our regular Spin Cycle programming for another trip around the big shiny thing in the sky that hurts your eyes when you look at it.
But until then we have 10 … quite unhinged predictions … for the 2024 season. The sands shift slowly and then all at once in bike racing. Yesterday’s hero is tomorrow’s also-ran has-been. Time (and the peloton) waits for no one. Apart from a certain Spanish man, that is …
Be sure to leave your own predictions on the official record in the comments section so we can all look back in 2025 and see how right or wrong we were.
Alejandro Valverde returns to the peloton
Come on, we can’t expect Alejandro to stay retired for more than a year, can we?
Not only is he almost exclusively still dressed in full Movistar regalia, but he was already thinking about a comeback in early 2023, mere months into retirement.
“At the beginning of 2023 I was having a very difficult time,” Valverde told El Pais recently about his struggle to adapt to no longer being a professional cyclist. “Day by day, the competition virus started to get weaker, but when the season started and I was still feeling good, I started to wonder if I had stopped too early.”
He managed to hold off, somehow. But this year Nairo Quintana returns to the team, and is a big enough star that there is no way Valverde is going to be able to sit back and allow someone else to be the main man at his team. Enric Mas he could handle, just one look at him and his younger compatriot would avert his gaze and mumble an apology. Nairo, though? He’s back for revenge after being punished for riding across the Roubaix cobbles at the Tour de France and not feeling a damn thing. Valverde won’t be able to cope with that.
Wout van Aert wins Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix
This is it, the year where Mr Number Two (and rival Mathieu van der Poel has even taken that name from him after his display at the side of the road at the Glasgow Worlds last year) becomes Mr Number One and plants his name even more firmly in the history books with a Holy Week double.
A lacklustre 2023 results sheet saw Van Aert riding in anger at the Tour of Britain, desperate for any result. Maybe he was paying the price for the selfless domestique duties that brought Jumbo-Visma their two Tour de France titles. Well, in 2024, Van Aert’s calendar is all about him, as befits a rider of his calibre.
Seven top-10s at the two cobbled Monuments yet no victory. Richard Plugge has promised (somehow) no more punctures in 2024. With those two career-defining wins under his belt, Van Aert’ll have a lovely time riding around the Giro d’Italia, pulling Cian Uijtdebroeks along, sprinting to three stage wins for himself, and then he’ll get to watch the Tour from the sofa. What a year.
Patrick Lefevere and Richard Plugge start a podcast
“Merijn Zeeman has one,” Richard Plugge says, “so how hard could it be?! And he nearly managed to make a dog’s dinner out of winning the Vuelta with three riders closing out the podium”.
Plugge will say this to Patrick Lefevere at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, jackets drawn up to their chins as they try to hide from the February cold.
“You know,” Lefevere replies, “I’m getting really sick of the ghostwriter for my Het Nieuwsblad column not writing exactly what I recite to him down the phone. He says he’s doing it for my own good, but I really need to twist the knife and get Julian Alaphilippe off my books.”
And this is how the Plugfeverecast will come into existence.
Utilising the media for their own end, like Geraint Thomas’ Watts Occurring but with 100% fewer people saying “oh mate” every couple of minutes and a billion more axes to grind and underperforming riders chewed out.
Tadej Pogačar wins both the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France
Tadej Pogačar wins his debut Giro d’Italia because … well, obviously … and going into the Tour de France he is the underdog of all underdogs against Jonas Vingegaard and no one gives him a chance.
Jumbo-Visma rock up to the race and this year their bus isn’t just a little bit gold, but entirely made of gold, and instead of having #ToTheStars branding or whatever that AI abomination was, there’s just an army of Roombas circling the parked bus at all times, snaffling up journalists, Netflix camera operators, and fans alike.
The hubris finally gets to be too much and without Wout van Aert’s comforting presence Vingegaard makes a costly mistake and Pogačar wins the Tour on vibes alone, giving hope to every single non-detail-orientated person out there that the machines will not gobble them up and they will be able to lead happy and fulfilled lives and the future maybe won’t be so terrible after all.
Mark Cavendish doesn’t win a Tour stage
With a competent lead-out and Mark Renshaw still knocking around any time Mark Cavendish fancies shouting at someone, the pressure on the Manx sprinter will be tremendous. Gone will be the ‘smiley Cav’ of the 2023 Tour, that rarest of creatures.
Every flat stage the Tour announcer will ask Cavendish whether today is the day for him to break the record and each day Cavendish will get more and more cross. Alexandre Vinokourov will try to fist-bump him any chance he gets. Cavendish won’t like that either.
The flat stages pass by, Arnaud De Lie emerges as the peloton’s pre-eminent sprinter, mopping up stage victories alongside Jasper Philipsen, while Sam Bennett comes agonisingly close.
On stage 16 into Nimes, the final chance for the sprinters, Bennett finally comes good, pipping Cavendish at the last, payback for the circumstances by which the Irishman missed out on Tour selection in 2021.
The record will evade Cavendish, but a sense of calm will finally come over him. It’s done now. He replaces Christian Vandevelde on the back of the motorbike for NBC’s coverage in 2025 and does too much of his swaying thing when he’s public speaking that four motorbike drivers quit throughout the race due to impossible working conditions. Cavendish switches to being the motorbike driver and gets his pal Bradley Wiggins to reprise his role of motorbike commentator, single-handedly making NBC the only Tour broadcast worth watching and re-igniting the fortunes of cable television for a generation.
After the successful prising of Cian Uijtdebroeks from his legitimate Bora-Hansgrohe contract, Richard Plugge believes he can do anything.
He pitches a Lease-a-Rider iniative to Pon, as part of a brand activation and a second bite at his attempts to change the landscape of cycling AKA re-invent it in such a way so he can make buckets of money.
Lease-a-Rider involves teams being able to sign riders from other teams for single races. You want Olav Kooij for the Tour of Turkey to pick up some valuable UCI points? Sure, that’ll cost you one Victor Lafay on stage three of the Tour de France. Cash and point-strapped teams feel they have no choice and do what Plugge wants them to. Remi Cavagna can barely contain his excitement when he’s hired for the second week of the Tour to pull across the flat sections. He’s had it up to here with those Movistar boys, and Alejandro Valverde keeps on trying to sign-on at the start of stages instead of him.
Marc Madiot finally has enough
However, on Bastille Day, when Plugge instructs his team to chase down every breakaway in order to set Christophe Laporte up for a mountain-top finish victory, Marc Madiot finally snaps.
He finds Plugge at the finish as the closing kilometres tick by, grabs him by the scruff of the neck and douses him with a can of Kronenbourg 1664 5.0%.
Everyone in the vicinity stands in shock. Yes, Plugge has become unbearable, but that’s way too much. Madiot is forced to create an Instagram account for the sole purpose of posting an apology video. David Gaudu does a bumper eight-hour Twitch stream breaking down the incident. Kronenbourg 1664 answers the call and steps in as a new mega co-title sponsor and David Gaudu wins the Tour de France in 2026 before immediately retiring and heading to the Carolinas to go and hang out with Mr Beast.
Life at Bora-Hansgrohe begins promisingly for Primož Roglič, as he wins both Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Tour de Suisse, closing out his set of one-week stage race victories.
But he runs into trouble once again at the Tour, not quite finding his legs and finishing sixth overall.
He returns at the Vuelta, however, and he rides away from Jonas Vingegaard with Sepp Kuss to claim the red jersey by mere seconds. Vingegaard sits out the 2025 season, scampering back to the wilderness of Denmark as he’s used up all of his international minutes and his phone company won’t give him anymore, regardless of how many Tours he’s won.
No one circles the wagons like the Ineos Gren-oh-dears
After posing for their customary photograph sprawled all over the 4×4, the Ineos Grenadiers embark on yet another lacklustre season of near-misses, as Geraint Thomas finally relents to middle age and Tom Pidcock and Filippo Ganna can’t carry the entire fortunes of the team on their weary shoulders.
Having already been chased out of Manchester United by Bruno Fernandes and the boys, who took one look at the marginal gains philosophy and said ‘that’s too much maths, scram’, Brailsford is back at the Tour. Instead of clandestine phone calls, he’s now publicly begging Remco Evenepoel to come to the team, and telling him to name his price.
Carlos Rodriguez wins a stage of the Tour and finishes fourth. Ben Turner wins a stage too, in some real breakaway heroics, robbing Fred Wright of a debut Tour stage win. At the end of the season, having won the Worlds time trial title, Josh Tarling transfers to Visma Lease-a-Bike.
Make mine an Ag3r
Freed from the brown shorts, Decathlon Ag2r La Mondiale level up and remember how to win bike races again. Sales of Decathlon canoes go through the roof as they become the de facto uniform of roadside fans at the Tour de France who are looking to fill the spiritual hole vacated by Thibaut Pinot.
Sam Bennett wins a stage of the Tour de France, he’s held aloft in a canoe. Greg Van Avermaet watches on from a distance, having won 14 triathlons in a row. The glint of his golden swim cap catches the eye of Dries De Bondt, who pretends not to know who Greg is.
🧺 Send us yer laundry pics
“This has to be the dopest laundromat i’ve ever seen,” writes in Olivier Roux, attaching today’s featured laundromat from a galaxy far, far away. “It’s in Cadiz, Spain.”
As always, we are accepting your laundry photos (especially ones with the doors open so we can Photoshop riders inside the drum) to star in Spin Cycle. Either send them via the Discord or shoot me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Until next time …
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