2015 is going to be a big year. Every year is big, right? This year however is set to be exceptional. Here we’ve compiled our World Tour predictions for the next twelve months of racing. Some are crazy, some seem like foregone conclusions. Will we be right? Only time will tell. Let’s get this rolling. Australia wins a stage race (outside of Australia): We admit, this is vague. Stage races range from three stages to three weeks. We cannot necessarily pinpoint the race that we will win, simply that we will get one. Our prime contender is Richie Porte. He has had grand tour leadership before and…well, it did not really work out so well. That was all in the past though. Look at his form from Nationals. The guy is flying and it?s early too. Paris-Nice would be an ideal venue for Porte to succeed. The return of Simon Gerrans, after injury, will also boost our opportunities for victory. The savvy veteran finished second at Worlds last year and is always a threat for one day races, but he also possess the skill set to take out a week long race. BMC’s Rohan Dennis earned an impressive second to a defiant Bradley Wiggins in California’s Amgen Tour last year. The retirement of Cadel Evans will only increase Dennis’ leadership role. He isn’t an Australian but Esteban Chaves who rides for Orica-Green Edge, should have a breakout season. Last year, his results in California (first on stage 6), his stage 8 victory at the Tour de Suisse, and a third overall and first in the young rider classification at the Tour of Bejing indicate a bright future. At just 24 years of age, he is the same age as Dennis and is currently Orica’s best hope for long term grand tour success. Peter Sagan does NOT win a Monument The young Slovakian has been the next big thing for the last three years. He can out climb the sprinters and out sprint the climbers. In short, he is a horse for every course. How is it then that he is yet to win that big one day race? He has come close on several occasions. Goodness, in 2013 he finished second in Strade Bianche, Milan – San Remo, E3 Harelbeke, and the Tour of Flanders. This past year he continued his consistency, but he still could not nail down the elusive Monument. He was second again at Strade Bianche, out classed by Michel Kwiatkowski. Third at Gent-Wevelgem, defeated by two out and out sprinters in John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) and Arnaud D?mare (FDJ.fr). He was then 6th in Paris-Roubaix, out gunned by veterans of the cobbles. Lastly, a distant 10th at Milan San Remo, unable to make an impact in the final sprint. The gifts Sagan wields are so great, that when he wins, it is expected and only when his chances are foiled do we sit up and take notice. This year sees Sagan move to Tinkoff Saxo and the leadership of Bjarne Riis. While at Cannondale, press and pundits always slighted his teammates for being unable to support him. The naysayers should have no room to speak this year. Tinkoff’s team is full of workhorses. The best known of that bunch is Matti Breschel. A quick look in the rear-view mirror and you will see Breschel helping Fabian Cancellara establish his classic dominance. How can Sagan possibly be kept off the scoreboard then? Cancellara is still at the height of his power; Boonen is due to bounce back from two lackluster years; Belgian Sep Vanmarcke is currently knocking on the door with a battering ram; Greg Van Avermaet just will not die; and Etixx-Quickstep has a roster of could-be champions ten deep. Throw these factors into the equation with Sagan’s transfer, and you get a big zero in the Monument’s column. Next year though, next year he will win something. Write that down. Cadel Evans goes out in style: Cadel Evans is lanching his own race this year. The inaugural Great Ocean Road Race to be run on January 31st for the elite women and February 1st for the elite men. The route features three tough finishing circuits, with a climb up?Challambra. Yet, it likely will not be a selective enough course for Evans to take the victory overall. Instead, look to the upcoming Tour Down Under for Evans to shine. Unlike the other World Tour professionals, Evans does not have a long season ahead of him. He is all in for one block of racing. Sum it up like so, if Evans dose not win the Santos Tour Down Under, he will die trying. The Hour Rises (and Falls): Jack Bobridge, Alex Dowsett, Rohan Dennis, Taylor Phinney,Thomas Dekker,and Brad Wiggins, These are some of the names that have thrown their cap into the velodrome this winter. Between them there are multiple World Champions on the road, track, and time trial disciplines. Stay posted for full write up on The Hour Record in 2015. For now, know that before the calendar hits 2016, the Hour Record will be at least 56 kilometers. Wiggins Podiums Roubaix: Sir Bradley Wiggins, former Tour de France winner, will undoubtedly podium The Hell of the North. Why? Just like his Tour title, he has set his mind singularly on this goal. When a rider like Bradley Wiggins makes one race the goal of his whole season, it?s fair to say he will be prepared. Last year, Sir Wiggo rode to a strong top ten finish despite some favorites scoffing at his participation at the race. This year, riders like Tom Boonen and company have taken notice. He will not be underestimated again. However, Paris-Roubaix is the hardest one day race of the year. It takes more than guts to win the race, and that’s where Wiggins may fall short. It takes years of experimenting, experience, and brilliant luck to win the race outright. This is no time trial, Wiggins will have quite the fight on his hands come April. This will be Wiggins’ last race in a Team Sky uniform. At the conclusion of the race, he will retire from the British juggernaut and begin his preparations for the 2016 Olympics in Rio. It would seem only fitting Wiggins would go out with a streak of brilliance. Vincenzo Nibali Does NOT Win the Tour: Actually, we’ll take this declaration one step further. Vincenzo Nibali will not even be at the race this July. His Astana team is embroiled in trouble with WADA, the UCI, and everyone in between. If Astana were a student, they would have had their desk permanently moved into the principal’s office. The total of five riders, wait is it six now? Regardless, UCI President, Brian Cookson, has been quoted stating, “Astana is drinking at the Lance Chance Saloon.” With the anti-doping firestorm on the brink of catastrophe, one slip up and Astana will lose their World Tour license and any chance to start the season’s biggest races. It would be dreadful for Nibali to miss the opportunity to defend his hard earned Tour title. Let us go as far as calling it inconceivable. However, it is also inconceivable that five current athletes can fail drug tests in one season. Hopefully this prediction stays in the realm of nightmares, yet if it comes to fruition, you heard it here first. Alberto Contador Falls Short of the Double: Fans love a champion, and Alberto Contador is this generation’s champion. The younger, pre-doping ban Contador had a searing attack that anyone not named Andy Schleck simply wilted beneath. The post-ban Contador has perhaps become an even more celebrated champion. Instead of mercilessly crushing his mortal peers, Contador has had to work and work hard for his titles. 2013 saw him as the only rider challenging Froome. 2014 began with a full on blitz of the Kenyan born Englishmen. Audiences everywhere thought we were going to get our clash of the titans at the Tour, but crashes forestalled the duel until September. A one legged Contador fought a one armed Froome for Spanish supremacy (Valverde and Rodriguez were front row spectators). Back to 2015. Contador has decided to return to the Giro, perhaps following orders from Oleg Tinkoff to race multiple Grand Tours this year. Since most rivals are opting to skip the Giro to be at their top game for the Tour, Contador is the overwhelming favorite. In 2011, he came into the race an equally large favorite and won by more than 6 minutes. That title was revoked in his well document clenbuterol case though. If Contador stays on his bike and off the ground, there is little evidence to suggest he will land anywhere but first on the final podium. The Tour, on the other hand, is a different beast. All four of the world’s best stage racers will be present: Nario Quintana, Vincenzo Nibali, Chris Froome, and Contador himself. The amplification of stress, tactics, and random acts of God make France a more daunting challenge. If these races were based on pure condition and form, it would be more understandable to tap Contador capable of the double. However, these races are chaotic and dangerous. Therefore, we will back Contador for one, but two? That’s plain out. Cancellara Adds an Eighth Monument: Fabian Cancellara and Tom Boonen may be the last of their kind. Each man has 7 Monument victories (3 Flanders, 3 Roubaix, and one Milan San Remo for Cancellara versus 4 Roubaix and 3 Flanders victories for Boonen). True, their total pales in comparison to Merckx’s 19, but look down the list of their peers and you see….no one. Gilbert has three, Dan Martin has two, Rodriguez has two, Valverde has two, and all the other kids of the block pick up the scraps. Of these men, only Martin is under the age of 30. There is zero chance any of these riders will touch Boonen or Cancellara. Aye, yes. Cancellara. He will win another Monument this year. He has been forthright saying he was too focused on the World Championships last year. He was strong but lacked the absolute strength he exhibited in 2013. Cancellara only won two races last year, hardly the norm for a champion. This year, he has vowed to earn more success in the classics. Milan San Remo’s return to the old finish in Via Roma eliminates two full kilometers of pesky flat roads between the Poggio and the finish line. That means aggressive riders will have an easier time holding off the charging pack, whether it be Cancellara or someone else. Flanders and Roubaix remain virtually unchanged, which is good for Cancellara. Who knows? Maybe he will win all five Monuments this year, the hour record, and the World Championships. Micha? Kwiatkowski Repeats as World Champion: Worlds is an impossibly complex puzzle to solve for riders and journalists alike. It?s 260 kilometers at the end of a long season with unpredictable parcours. Last year’s World’s course was difficult to read. This year, it is shrouded in even more fog. Heck, Nostradamus would even struggle to see the future clearly. Here’s what we know: the course goes up and down all day on a circuit, cobblestones litter the course, and there’s a nasty little bump just before the end. That means the winner has to be able to climb short steep gradients, possess at least some sort of sprint, and reach the finish line with enough powder left to accelerate. That list is short and includes names like Peter Sagan, Fabian Cancellara, Tom Boonen, Philipe Gilbert, Alejandro Valverde, Joaqium Rodriguez, Simon Gerrans, Michael Matthews, and Michal Kwiatkowski. Gerrans botched his best opportunity last year and likewise the Cancellara generation similarly has missed the train. That leaves the youths Sagan, Matthews, and Kwiatkowski. Any one of these three can win; we’re picking Kwiatkowski because he is bold enough to attack while others sit and wait. Yup, there you have it. 2015 by our estimations will give us all we can take and more. The grand tours should have fireworks aplenty, the classics will be tighter than ever, and we still have no idea what will happen come September. Bring on the bikes.