Cycle Sport March is now available in shops, featuring our annual season preview, along with exclusive interviews with Fabian Cancellara and Chris Horner. At 196 pages, it’s a bumper edition of the magazine, packed with the best writing and photography of professional cycling available. With the season now underway, let Cycle Sport be your guide to the upcoming season.

Words by Cycle Sport Staff

Wednesday January 18, 2011

A year ago, Fabian Cancellara bestrode the sport like a colossus. The reigning Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix champion looked set for an era of dominance – he looked unbeatable in the cobbled classics, and he talked up his ambitions of winning a full set of Monuments. But how quickly cycling can tear down the castles it builds. In 2011, Cancellara was outsprinted in Milan-San Remo, outmanoeuvred in Flanders and outnumbered in Paris-Roubaix, his fire quenched by Garmin’s ice-cold tactics. Even more strikingly, his time trial invincibility became fallibility when Tony Martin beat him, both at the Tour de France and then the world championships.

Andy McGrath interviewed Cancellara and found that the Swiss rider was not accepting his defeats lying down. “No way that I’m finished,” he insisted.

But is he? At the worlds, he was beaten man-to-man. As McGrath writes, “It was as if the 30-year-old Swiss was pursuing a faster ghost of himself. Suddenly it wasn’t easier any more. Time ebbed away and he became more desperate, misjudging a late corner and coming to a brief standstill, against a barrier, to eventually take third rather than second, 1-20 in arrears. It was ragged and engrossing. The same win-at-all-costs panache remained, but this was a Cancellara we’d not seen before, comfortably beaten in his most reliable domain, a Swiss watch suddenly ticking out of sync.”

While plenty of people have written Cancellara off, he still got three podiums in the first three Classics of the year. But the Swiss has high standards – in 2012 he hopes to return to winning ways in his favourite races.

Also in the magazine…

Chris Horner turned 40 towards the end of last year, but he remains as enthusiastic about racing as he ever was, and has proved that he’s still capable of winning big races. The RadioShack-Nissan rider is also renowned as being one of the cleverest tacticians in the bunch, as well as one of the chattiest. Matt Walsh went to Horner’s California home, to hear Horner’s opinions on everything, from Contador to his own long career.

Horner explained to Walsh what has kept him going into his fifth decade. “I love that moment right before the explosion. After the attacks get away, the race slows down. But then there’s a part right as the race picks up, speeds are higher, the bike starts to feel good. It’s still not chaotic, but you know the explosion is coming. You know all your training, all the months leading up to this race and now you’re in the last 10 to 20 minutes. The calm before the storm.”

SPECIAL FEATURE: 2012 SEASON PREVIEW

Our 2012 season preview is our best ever, beating the 2011 season preview, which at the time, was the best ever. We’ve constructed a multiple-level club sandwich of stats and facts, opinion, analysis, forensic research and mostly harmless snark, which will be your essential companion over the coming year.

In our introductory feature, the rebirth of the superteam, Lionel Birnie looks at the increasing dominance of a few major teams, and how the gulf is widening between the haves and the have-nots. Financial behemoths like BMC and Sky are increasingly able to dominate the transfer market, while even major teams like Rabobank and Liquigas are struggling to keep pace. With rumours of breakaway cycling leagues refusing to go away, the battle for dominance is taking on even more importance. But will the superteams lead to better racing and more money coming into the sport, or just to an elite group pulling up the ladder after themselves?

The teams guide covers every WorldTour outfit, as well as the major Continental squads. There’s a full team listing, with rider nationality, age, and a graphical representation of how many years they have been with the team. We’ve profiled the star riders, looked at the best results from 2011, discussed the relevant talking points, and still found space to mock Katusha’s rider biographies (they’re not exactly Tolstoy), conduct a socio-cultural criticism of Luis Angel Mate’s extraordinary hairstyle and orchestrated a fun spot-the-difference game between BMC and Phonak.

For the major teams, we’ve included extra features. In BMC: Big Money Cycling, Lionel Birnie looks at how the richest team in the sport has fundamentally changed the transfer market, and investigates how the three big stars of the team – Tour champion Cadel Evans, Classics king Philippe Gilbert and former world champion Thor Hushovd – can coexist.

Garmin have provided the surprise package in the last four Tours. In 2008, Christian Vande Velde finished fourth. In 2009, Bradley Wiggins repeated the feat. In 2010, Ryder Hesjedal was seventh and last year, Tom Danielson was ninth. The American team don’t have the biggest budget, but they have been innovative and creative in their approach to the sport, even if the signing of Thomas Dekker remains controversial. In Still crazy after all these years Edward Pickering interviews team boss Jonathan Vaughters about his ambitions for 2012, who the surprise packages may be this year, and the controversial Dekker signing.

Belgian cycling underwent a reshuffle in the off season, with Lotto-Belisol shrinking somewhat, but with Quick Step-Omega suddenly emerging as a potential superteam. The Quick Step organisation took on former Lotto backer Omega Pharma as co-sponsor, and got their hands on a job lot of extremely promising HTC riders, time triallists and Grand Tour hopes. In Back to the future Andy McGrath looks at their chances of success, after a few quiet seasons. In Tom Boonen, Tony Martin, Sylvain Chavanel, Levi Leipheimer and Peter Velits, they have riders with impressive careers and/or potential. But will they cohere, or is this a chaotic mishmash of riders?

But the Quick Step merger was nothing compared to that of RadioShack and Leopard-Trek during the off-season. The new team, RadioShack-Nissan, looks formidable, with the Schleck brothers, Andreas Klöden and Chris Horner offering serious firepower in stage races, and Fabian Cancellara in the Classics. In A marriage of inconvenience, Andy McGrath questions whether the elements of the team will combine effectively. Johan Bruyneel’s cultivated a reputation of being the best Grand Tour manager in cycling history, but then, most of his wins have come through Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador. Working with perennial Tour runner-up Andy Schleck, on a Tour course which favours time triallists, might be a different experience.

Team Sky have never been shy about setting huge goals for themselves, but their aims for 2012 are ambitious by any standards. Can they do what most people think is impossible these days, and mount a successful assault on both green and yellow jerseys at the Tour? In Mark Cavendish they have the reigning world champion and green jersey at the Tour, and in Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, they have burgeoning yellow jersey contenders who are suited to the Tour route. Lionel Birnie, in the Sky’s the limit points out that Wiggins and Cavendish may work fine together at the Tour, it’s the selection of the other seven riders which will dictate the balance of the team and its chances of success.

There are also interviews with GreenEdge’s manager Shayne Bannan, and Rabobank’s Erik Breukink, and a profile of Saxo Bank boss Bjarne Riis.

Our race calendar looks at each WorldTour race, along with the major races on the Continental calendar. Our unique guide explains the culture and tactics of each race, along with great photography from previous editions.

We’ve also previewed the 2012 women’s calendar along with profiles of the big stars. The women’s side of the sport is growing fast, and in Marianne Vos, boasts one of the truly great and dominant athletes in any sport.

Iconic Places visits the St Bernard Passes, an Alpine double act which the Tour de France has often used to traverse from Switzerland, through Italy, to France, and last appeared as recently as 2009. The Grand St Bernard and Petit St Bernard are two of the most scenic and challenging climbs of the Alps. Chris Sidwells looks at the history and culture of the two climbs, and finds that they have been the scene of some of the Tour’s classic battles.

Finally, Pro Performance looks at the current trend in cycling teams doing outward bound-style training camps, and takes a look back at the origin of training camps, from team leaders and their entourages going on ski-ing trips through the 1950s and 1960s, to full team-get-togethers in the mountains, culminating in today’s assault courses and route marches.

Plus…All our regular features – Graham Watson showcases his best pictures of his favourite sprinters; Shop Window showcases a sparkling smorgasbord of bling kit; Broomwagon welcomes Alejandro Valverde back into the peloton; Any Questions with Johnny Hoogerland “I live in the south-west of Holland, not in Hoogerland.” ; Contador: the saga continues; Wild Giro wildcards; Top 10 Tour riders in 2012; Geraint shares his aches and pains, and much much more.

56,000 words, 405 pictures, 274 cups of coffee, 196 pages, 43 pints of beer, six pie charts, two nervous breakdowns, 1.5 litres of sweat and one Johnny Hoogerland went into this edition of the magazine.

Cycle Sport March, featuring the very best writing and photography of professional cycling, is available from Wednesday January 18 in the UK, priced £4.95, and later in the USA. It is also available electronically through Zinio.