The 2015 UCI World Tour starts at the Tour Down Under in Adelaide, Australia on Tuesday.
What used to be a gentle ride into the start of the 'real season' in mainland Europe around March, is now a full-on competitive race in its own right. Team Sky's Richie Porte will be trying to ruin fellow Australian Cadel Evans farewell tour on home soil, which means the season opener will be anything but a gentle warm-up for those at the top of the field.
After the Tour Down Under the season continues full throttle towards the Spring Classics and ultimately the Grand Tours, here are a few predictions for the 2015 season.
1. Nairo Quintana wins the Tour de France
In what looks to be the strongest Tour de France field to be assembled in years, the Movistar rider should thrive on a pure climbers course. With Alberto Contador already having the Giro in his legs the Colombian rider can take advantage on a parcours that might as well have been built specifically for him.
2. Alberto Contador wins the Giro d'Italia
Arguably the greatest rider of a generation plans to attack the Giro-Tour double in 2015, with the first leg seemingly well within his reach. It would be a big surprise if he wasn't wearing pink when the peloton arrive in Milan at the end of May. The second part of his Giro-Tour double seems just one challenge to far though against a fresh and competitive field.
3. Chris Froome wins the Vuelta a Espana
Having suggested he may not ride the Tour de France due to its lack of time trialling kilometres, the Vuelta is a course that suits the Kenyan born Brit down to a tee. Froome can take advantage of the increased time trial kilometres available, as well as ride well in the mountains to go one better than his two second place Vuelta finishes in 2011 and 2014.
4. Bradley Wiggins sets the hour record
This may be the safest prediction for 2015, as Wiggins has outlined the hour record as a major goal and when Wiggins sets himself a target he usually achieves it. There's no reason why he won't achieve this target to break the hour record with his track and time trial background, even with the increase in competition that the hour record is bringing in 2015.
5. But Wiggins won't win Paris-Roubaix
Despite the man from Kilburn assigning the hour record and Paris-Roubaix as his main goals for 2015. Paris-Roubaix is so unpredictable, there is more than just skill needed to win 'the hell of the north'. Combine that with the unpredictable weather and luck needed to be in the right break at the right time, the odds do not seem to be in his favour despite the potential for him to ride well.
6. Team Sky will finally win a classic
Despite huge success in Grand Tours ever since their birth five years ago, the British outfit have always struggled to use their calculated riding style to produce victories in the hectic unpredictable one day classics. Whereas there's no guarantee that Wiggins may produce over the cobbles, Sky do have other options in the shape of British duo Geraint Thomas and Ian Stannard who showed promise they may end Team Sky's drought.
7. Peter Sagan will win the green jersey.... again
The Slovakian has dominated this competition so much in recent times, Tour de France organisers have had to change the rules to make sure Sagan doesn't run away with a win again in 2015. However don't be surprised if the Tinkoff-Saxo man is able to make up for zero stage wins last year with a few victories this year as well as a number of consistent finishes, which would help his points classification campaign.
8. One of the Yates brothers will win a Grand Tour stage
Both Yates' brothers had fantastic breakthrough years at Orica-Green Edge, the British brothers will be hoping for more of the same in 2015. With their mountain climbing pedigree on show for see for everyone, a big race or stage win may well come in 2015.
9. Mark Cavendish will be back to his best with multiple Tour de France stage wins
After the disappointment of crashing on the opening stage of the Tour last year as well as heading towards the end of his current contract, Cav will be desperate to show he can still win stages when it matters. Despite the competition from Marcel Kittel and his formidable Giant-Alpecin lead out train, the Manx Missile will find a way to secure stage victories on the biggest stage of them all.
10. Fabian Cancellera won't win a monument
Despite the difficulty found by most teams in the peloton to win a monument, 'Spartacus' has made a living out of winning the spring monuments for fun. However I sense that this year could be a quiet one and he may get swamped by teams such as Etixx-Quick Step, Tinkoff Saxo and Team Sky who have more resources and fire power when it comes to the crunch monuments in Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders.
11. Etixx-Quick Step will be the best all round team
Uran, Kwiatowski, Martin, Cavendish, Boonen, Terpstra... I could go on naming some of the biggest names in cycling who cover all aspects of the sport, that can win any number of races and stages over a variety of disciplines. Even with the World Road Champion in their ranks don't expect 'the rainbow jersey curse' to occur in 2015.
and lastly 12. Another rider will be caught doping
Despite the sport being the cleanest its been in a long time, riders will continue to push the boundaries to reach the highest level in the sport. Doping cases don't seem to be at the top level at the sport, but at the level where riders are trying to secure places on team rosters, such as the problems Astana's failed tests towards the end of 2014.
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