Mention the name Nacer Bouhanni, and what springs to mind? Perhaps one of his penalties for dangerous sprinting or violent behaviour, or possibly the time he missed the Tour de France after getting into a fight the week before and injuring his hand.
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Despite being a very talented sprinter, who won stages of the Giro and Vuelta before turning 25, Bouhanni has become more famous for getting into trouble than for his results on the road, which has intensified recently as controversial incidents keep on coming while the wins have dried up.
Heading into the 2018 season, it’s high time the Frenchman got his career back into focus, so people start talking about what he does with his legs rather than what he does with his fists.
In 2016, Lizzie Deignan was the all-conquering force in women’s cycling, winning the Women’s Tour, multiple classics, and, most importantly of all, the World Championships.
Since then, however, others have caught up to her, and prevented her from winning some of 2017’s biggest races. For instance, Deignan failed to overhaul Annemiek van Vleuten at La Course, and was runner-up to Anna van der Breggen in all three of the Ardennes Classics.
The peloton is not like it was at the start of the decade, when no rider could even come close to Marianne Vos’ dominance – now there are several riders capable of vying for the status as the world’s best. Deignan will surely be hoping to restate her case in 2018.
A few years ago it seemed inevitable that Nairo Quintana would dominate Grand Tours for years to come. Now we’re not so sure.
Set to turn 28 in February, the Colombian ought to be enjoying the peak years of his career right now, yet he endured a difficult 2017, aiming high by targeting both the Giro and the Tour, but being left disappointed as he failed to win either.
Now Mikel Landa has joined the Movistar roster, Quintana’s even under pressure to prove himself the most capable Grand Tour candidate in his own team.
To quash doubts that he may not reach the levels of greatness initially expected, 2018 needs to be the year that Quintana asserts himself as undisputed team leader, and at last wins a first Tour de France.
There was a time when Pauline Ferrand-Prevot could boast about being the world champion in three different cycling disciplines, but in subsequent years a mixture of injuries, loss of form and disillusionment has seen her slip into becoming a more anonymous figure in the peloton.
That could be about to change. A return to cyclocross this winter following a two-year absence may be a springboard to renewed success on the road, where she is without a win since the summer of 2015, but has shown glimpses of her previous self.
Being a youthful prodigy is no guarantee of sustained success, as Ferrand-Prevot has found out the hard way, but she’ll be motivated to prove that a mid-career turnaround is possible.
In the 20 months that have passed since his breakthrough ride at the 2016 Giro d’Italia, Steven Kruijswijk has gone from looking like one of the peloton’s biggest talents to a rider unlikely to feature in any Grand Tour preview’s list of contenders.
He failed to capitalise on his career-best form in that race, crashing after five days in the pink jersey to ultimately finish fourth overall, and has since only reached a similar level sporadically.
Was that Giro ride a mere flash in the pan? Kruijswijk is going to need to produce a Grand Tour performance of similar quality if his career is not destined to be defined his failure to win that race.
For years now Richie Porte has carried with him an air of unfulfilled potential, with the start of each new year feeling as though it must finally be the one in which he at last comes of age. He might be about to turn 33, but 2018 is no exception.
His unfinished business is primarily with the Tour de France, a race he has long appeared capable of winning, but has only once (in 2016) threatened to do so. Last year he looked in great shape, and had the luxury of leading a team united behind his GC bid, but unfortunately crashed out on the last day of the first week.
His has been a career full of victories, both as an individual and as part of a team, but won’t quite feel complete until he can make the podium at the world’s biggest race.
Seasons like Megan Guarnier’s 2016 – in which she won, among other races, the Giro Rosa, the Tour of California and the inaugural Women’s WorldTour – have a once in a lifetime feel about them, the product of the kind of purple patch that can only last a limited amount of time.
That won’t have prevented the American from being disappointment by her decreased returns in 2017, however, which was also marred by a number of crashes and personal tragedy.
If her run-in to 2018 can go more smoothly, she’ll be eager to demonstrate that her annus mirabilis two years ago was no fluke.