You have questions about the 2020 Tour de France, and we have answers and educated opinions. Our veteran reporters, Andrew Hood and James Startt, are fielding your biggest inquiries each day in this Active Pass roundtable column. Today, we have inquiries about the generational shift going on in the WorldTour sprint ranks, and whether or not old guard riders like Mark Cavendish will ever win again at the Tour de France.
OK, let’s get to your questions!
The older sprinters just aren’t fast enough to keep up with the likes of Caleb Ewan. Are we seeing a changing of the guard in the sprint ranks?
Andrew Hood @eurohoody: Good observation. That’s already been happening the past few years. There’s another reason, too. With sprint stages getting harder and with more climbing, the old-guard is having a harder time adapting. Tyler Farrar is a fireman and Marcel Kittel retired in large part because a “flat” sprint stage doesn’t exist anymore. Alexander Kristoff (UAE-Team Emirates) made it to the line Saturday in part because the descents were neutralized in the rain, allowing him to get back on. On the other side, riders who can endure the climbs before the finish have a better chance of victory, with Greg Van Avermaet and Peter Sagan excelling in those conditions.
James Startt: Well, I definitely don’t think that you can say that at this point. Who won the first stage after all? Alexander Kristoff, and he’s no spring chicken! On paper, Caleb Ewan is the fastest, but he already was last year. Of the old guard, who is there really besides Kristoff? Peter Sagan will win a couple of stages, but in recent years he is better when there are a couple of hills to drop or at least take the edge off the pure sprinters. And there is no reason why Elia Viviani can’t get his stage too. That said, this is an interesting year as there are some new faces. It’s great to see Sam Bennett back. The last time he came to the Tour back in 2016 he was the Lanterne Rouge and struggling to survive. He is a very different rider today, as is Giacomo Nizzolo.
Will we ever see Cavendish mixing it up again at the Tour? Or perhaps one of the other two Grand Tours?
Andy: Never say never, but Cavenidsh might never be back at his best. At his age, things slow down, which requires even more work and sacrifice. It’s hard to say for sure, but it seems like Cavendish’s fastest days are behind him.
James: Unfortunately, I think that is going to be hard. Cavendish is the greatest sprinter of all time period! But I think he has missed too many crucial years at the end of his career, a bit like Chris Froome. It gets harder and harder to come back with age and the level is so high in cycling today — and hence the margin of error so low — that it will be hard for either to get back to their Tour dominating selves. Perhaps in the other grand tours, but the Tour de France is going to be hard.
Who do you see as the next generation of sprint kings?
Andy: They’re already here — Ewan, Jakobsen, Groenewegen. There are some younger ones coming up as well. I love the sprints, and I hope races give them more opportunities in the future to show off their stuff.
James: Well Wout Van Aert if he would contest the sprints and Groenewegen of course, but he is not here. Fabio Jakobsen is only 24 and still has a great career in front of him. And then of course there is Fernando Gaviria, who believe it or not, is only 26. He has had a couple of complicated seasons, but he is due for another great year sooner than later.
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