Five key talking points ahead of the 2024 cycling season

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Five key talking points ahead of the 2024 cycling season
Soudal Quick-Step's Remco Evenepoel (C) and teammates take part in a training ride in Spain
Soudal Quick-Step's Remco Evenepoel (C) and teammates take part in a training ride in Spain
AFP
The 2024 men's cycling season gets underway at the Tour Down Under this week at the start of a year which will see a potentially spectacular Tour de France and the Paris Olympics.

Here, AFP Sport takes a look at what to expect in 2024:

Golden dreams

Remco Evenepoel and Mathieu van der Poel are the two favourites to succeed Ecuador's Richard Carapaz as Olympic champion. This summer's 273km road race will take in all the major sights of Paris and could be won or lost on the climb to Montmartre.

Van der Poel also looks favourite for the classics and monuments after a stunning 2023 that delivered the world title as well as victory in the Paris-Roubaix.

The 28-year-old Dutchman will be expected to keep his temper in check after spitting at fans in a cyclo-cross event in December.

Advantage Vingegaard?

Team Visma Lease a Bike's Jonas Vingegaard
Profimedia

The Tour de France duel between two-time defending champion Jonas Vingegaard and former two-time winner Tadej Pogacar will feature again. Pogacar remains a fan favourite and the Slovenian all-rounder can never be counted out.

But the Tour route suits Vingegaard, with plenty of climbing and the key action packed into the final week requiring the patience that comes naturally to him. "The whole route looks tailor-made for me," the champion said of the mountainous route.

The Tour will start in Florence and end in Nice rather than Paris on July 21st with a perilous run over the Riviera's Corniche cliffs before concluding along the iconic Promenade des Anglais.

Busy Pogacar eyes Tour-Giro double

UAE Team Emirates' Tadej Pogacar
Profimedia

Before the Tour de France gets underway, Pogacar will also race the Giro d'Italia which gets underway on May 4th in Turin.

The Tour de France starts in Florence just over a month later - the first of four stages in Italy - before the Olympic Games commence in Paris on July 26th.

No one has won the Tour and Giro in the same season since Marco Pantani in 1998.

Dangermen

Evenepoel and Giro champion Primoz Roglic are expected to ensure Vingegaard and Pogacar do not dominate the Tour de France headlines.

Evenepoel will be unleashed on his first Tour de France where he is targeting a modest top-five finish. However, if he can get to stage 21 within two minutes of the lead the time-trial world champion could clinch victory.

Roglic famously suffered a meltdown on the 2020 Tour when he let slip a huge 57-second lead on the final time trial with Pogacar claiming a 59-second advantage going into the final day.

"We will need to have a plan to deal with Primoz," warned Vingegaard.

Cavendish in fast lane

Astana Qazaqstan Team's Mark Cavendish
Profimedia

Veteran sprinter Mark Cavendish will take another tilt at the Tour de France record for stage wins despite a route that he describes as "so, so hard".

The Astana team has rebuilt itself around the fast-finisher who will be 39 when he lines up for the start in Florence.

Cavendish failed to break the record in 2023 but still recorded a top speed of 73km/h.

He needs one more stage win on the Tour to claim sole ownership of the record of 35 he currently shares with Eddy Merckx.

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