Welcome to the VeloNews 2017 WorldTour fan guide. It’s tough to be a cycling fan. Riders jump around more than a loose cassette. Teams change kits like Sven Nys swaps bikes in a muddy ’cross race. So, here’s a guide to your new favorite team. Don’t like these guys? Stay tuned for more previews.
Your team: Dimension Data
Your team’s fans: All of Africa, even Scar from The Lion King; Cavendish fanatics (Cavnatics! I just made that one up); boy racers; number crunchers who religiously watch Dimension Data’s real-time data from the races; that dude in the Outback bar who got really friendly with Lachlan Morton.
Your team’s star: Mark Cavendish. All. Damn. Day. Cav raised some eyebrows when he joined Dimension Data for 2016, its first year as a WorldTour squad. After four Tour de France stage wins in 2016, he proved that the upstart South African squad is far from at a disadvantage. In a peloton where cyclists usually endeavor to avoid controversy, you have to appreciate Cav for his mercurial personality and often-uncensored post-race quotes. Plus, the man is a wizard with the Rubik’s Cube.
Best-case scenario: Even though he’ll be 32 once next year’s Tour begins, the good times keep rolling for Cavendish, as he wins stages 4, 6, 10, and 21, tying Eddie Merckx for the most Tour stage wins. Lachlan Morton delivers on his potential as one of the world’s best climbers (he gave us a taste at Tour of the Gila and the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah in 2016). The 25-year-old wins stages in notable weeklong races, such as Tirreno-Adriatico, or perhaps Tour de Suisse. We’ll have to wait another year before he wins a grand tour stage, however.
Cycling’s best breakaway magician Stephen Cummings scoops up a few more nice wins, perhaps a grand tour stage. Somehow the peloton still hasn’t realized how to chase him down when he escapes in the final five-ish kilometers of a race.
After his fifth-place finish at Paris-Roubaix 2016, Edvald Boasson Hagen finally wins big at a spring classic — maybe Milano-Sanremo? Maybe Gent-Wevelgem, where he won in 2009?
Worst-case scenario: Because he’ll be 32 once the Tour begins, Cavendish finally loses his sprint mojo for good. Those four wins in 2016? Flukes. His most notable Tour performance: He accosts a spectator on the Izoard, like he did at the 2016 Tour of Britain. Don’t ever change, Cav.
Boasson Hagen is out of his league at the classics, up against an unstoppable Peter Sagan, a retiring Tom Boonen desperate for a final win, and a resurgent John Degenkolb, who finally has recovered from his 2016 crash.
This is a solid team of stage hunters and opportunists, so a worst-case scenario still sees a few of them collect wins, like Cummings or perhaps Bernie Eisel, who won Gent-Wevelgem 2010.
Likability rating: 5/10. Sorry Daniel Teklehaimanot, but this really is the Cavendish team. Based on a (not) scientific poll of our Facebook followers, about half of the cycling universe hates Cav. True, the team does have some likable guys like American Ben King, Cummings, and Eisel. And of course, Morton will appeal to the normcore bike touring audience. But those fans probably don’t own TVs. OK, let’s be fair, the rating should be a 5.5 out of 10.