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Cobblestone surprises, the USA rises, and more: Three forecasts for 2023

Off-grid predictions for the men's road calendar, including unlikely Paris-Roubaix heroes, Giro d'Italia subplots, an American uprising at the Tour de France.

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What better way to welcome the new year and look forward to the 2023 men’s road season than with a hat trick of hot takes?

Spanning monuments and grand tours, world champions and domestiques: Here are three things that will (or maybe won’t) shape the narrative of the coming WorldTour calendar:

Jumbo-Visma will win Paris-Roubaix, but not with Wout van Aert

Sorry Wout, 2023 won’t be your Roubaix year. (Photo: Getty)

Sorry Wout, but 2023 won’t be the year you finally clutch yout coveted cobblestone trophy.

Wout van Aert longs for victory at Paris-Roubaix so hard it hurts. And the harder he lusts after it, the harder it seems to become for him to grasp. Confounded by crashes in 2021, outmuscled in 2022, the 2023 “Hell of the North” will see Van Aert undone by his own favorites’ status and his team’s superstrength.

Also read: Van Aert and Van Baarle bring Jumbo Visma super strength and tactical tangle

Jumbo-Visma will likely pile into Campiègne with Van Aert, Christophe Laporte, Nathan Van Hooydonck, and defending champion Dylan van Baarle in their ranks. They’ll be the team to beat, and judging by his winter cyclocross form, Van Aert will be the man to mark.

And just like Niki Terpstra confounded the bookies by blasting to victory in the 2014 Roubaix while everyone watched his teammate Tom Boonen, one of Laporte or Van Hooydonck will steal away for an under-the-radar raid on the 2023 Paris-Roubaix.

And Van Aert won’t win the Tour of Flanders either. Why? Keep reading …

US riders will see multiple Tour de France stage wins

Jorgenson hit the top-5 three times at last year’s Tour de France. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Set your alarms early cycling fans of the USA, the 2023 Tour de France will be worth tuning in for.

Why? Because you’re going to have more than one stage victory to celebrate.

A U.S. rider/ U.S. riders will hit the top step of the biggest race in the world more than once this July to follow in the wheel tracks of Sepp Kuss (the last American to win a stage, in 2021) and Tyler Farrar (who won in 2011).

Refuse to believe it? Just look what happened last summer.

Also read: Powless talks consistency, confidence, cheeseburgers

Neilson Powless, Matteo Jorgenson, and Quinn Simmons were so active in the decisive attacks of the 2022 Tour de France that it seemed a sick joke none of them ended winning a stage. Heck, the dice rolled so unfavorably that none of the three even landed on the podium.

Elsewhere, Kuss and Brandon McNulty delivered two of the biggest mountain domestique rides of the race as they buried their own ambition for Jonas Vingegaard and Tadej Pogačar. The two superdomestiques showed they’ve got enormous engines that could easily enable their own victories.

And with Joe Dombrowski as exuberant as ever, 2022 was the Tour de France that got away for riders from the USA.

It seems almost inevitable the majority of “The Class of 2022” will return to the Tour in 2023. Winning results won’t be getting away this time.

Giro d’Italia will deliver the most intriguing GC battle of the year

Evenepoel and Roglič will face off again after their curtailed clash at last summer’s Vuelta.

The Tour de France will have the U.S. winners, but Tadej Pogačar and Jonas Vingegaard won’t deliver the winning GC battle of the grand tour season.

Step forward Remco Evenepoel, Primož Roglič, and Geraint Thomas. The three favorites for the maglia rosa of the Giro d’Italia promise one of the most deliciously intriguing match-ups grand tour racing could deliver, and the big-engine trio will deliver a race for the ages.

Sure, Vingegaard has a yellow jersey to defend and Pogačar has revenge to wreak in the summer’s Tour de France.

Also read: Evenepoel and the Giro: Right call or a missed opportunity?

But Evenepoel, Roglič, and Thomas serve a fascinating collision of personality, experience, and pressure in their chase for the pink jersey this May.

Evenepoel is the new superstar of cycling with the weight of the Belgian nation on his very young back. Roglič needs to rebound from a disaster 2022 to reassert his slot in the grand tour hierarchy. And Thomas rides into what may be his final season off the back of a far-from-the-radar trip to the podium at the 2022 Tour de France.

With Roglič’s form not guaranteed after an off-season shoulder surgery, Evenepoel likely takes favorites status into the 2023 Giro d’Italia. But does Soudal Quick-Step have the savvy and strength to match the know-how and nous of Ineos Grenadiers and Jumbo-Visma?

And while Thomas doesn’t pack the explosive punch of his two younger rivals, the Welshman owns decades more experience that can make the difference on the notoriously attritional Italian tour.

The Giro GC battle promises so many pre-race subplots and talking points that one pithy blurb doesn’t do it justice.

Also … three lukewarm takes for 2023:

  • Tadej Pogačar will win the Tour of Flanders: After seeing the Slovenian swashbuckling his way through his Flanders debut last spring, it seems almost inevitable he’ll demolish De Ronde this April.
  • Mark Cavendish won’t win a record-topping Tour de France stage in his likely move to Astana: The “Missile” will keep hitting the target in almost any team’s jersey, but at the Tour de France in Vino’s sky blue? No chance.
  • A Spaniard will win the Vuelta a España. Enric Mas, Juan Ayuso, and possibly even Carlos Rodríguez have the potential and the ambition. It will be just what Spanish cycling needs to kick-start its post-Valverde future.