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What's in store for cycling in 2011?

Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong at the Tour Down Under
Armstrong is set to say goodbye to road racing

As the new road racing season gets under way this week, with the Tour Down Under in Australia, BBC Sport's Alex Murray answers some of the big questions for 2011.

Who are the big new teams for 2011?

The biggest new team, or at least the most hyped, is Leopard Trek, the new home of Andy and Frank Schleck as well as world time trial champion Fabian Cancellara.

Essentially last year's Saxo Bank team - minus sporting director Bjarne Riis - there are few races in the calendar where they wouldn't expect to put at least one rider on the podium, from spring's cobbled classics to the Tour de France in July.

The merger of Garmin-Transitions and Cervelo Test Team has resulted in Garmin Cervelo, with world champion Thor Hushovd to the fore.

Have we heard the last of Lance Armstrong?

The Tour Down Under will be the Texan's last international race on the road, but the world's most famous cyclist-turned-cancer-campaigner is likely to continue to hit the headlines.


American federal investigators are currently examining testimony and allegations of drug use made against Armstrong by a wide variety of sources, including former team-mates.

These include Floyd Landis, who was stripped of the 2006 Tour de France title for a failed drugs test, as well as those who were inside the Armstrong camp during the Tour-winning years.

Armstrong could find himself the subject of legal proceedings if prosecutor Jeff Novitsky decides there is sufficient evidence. Novtisky is best known for his work investigating the Balco drugs ring, which led to the downfall of sprinter Marion Jones.

Many of the allegations have had currency with his critics, such as newspaper journalists David Walsh and Paul Kimmage, for some time. But recent articles in mainstream publications such as US magazine Sports Illustrated, suggest that he no longer holds sway over the wider media in the way he once did.

The next 12 months could prove his most challenging since he recovered from testicular cancer to win his first Tour de France in 1999.

What will happen to Alberto Contador?

The three-time Tour de France winner's positive test for clenbuterol at last year's Tour has still not been resolved. He is listed as riding for Saxo Bank this season, but whether he will ever pin a number on and race is uncertain.

The Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) is still chewing over the bones of Contador's defence that he ate tainted beef and could choose leniency.

If that happened, though, the World Anti-Doping Agency and world cycling's governing body the UCI would want to take the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, looking for a two-year ban.

Like his compatriot Alejandro Valverde - who rode on for nearly three years before having his ban ratified in May 2010 - Contador could continue to ride on as the wheels of justice slowly turn.

Who will win the Tour de France?

Assuming Contador does not take part, there are few who wouldn't bet on Andy Schleck (who could do the curious double of being awarded the 2010 title after a Contador disqualification and then riding away from the field in July to take the 2011 edition).

None of the other likely contenders looked like coming close to Schleck and Contador last year and this could be Andy's best shot at yellow, given a route than seems to have been conceived with him in mind.

Can Mark Cavendish finally win the Tour green jersey?

Changes to the points system mean that the Manx Missile cannot rely on simply winning stages to put him in with a shot at the jersey in July, after missing out over the last two years.

Instead it will require clever team tactics, not just at the finish line but at every intermediate sprint and even in the mountains.

But having to battle it out over three weeks of intrigue may be the making of Cavendish as cycling's most bankable name.

With the World Championship road race in Copenhagen also a target in 2011, Cavendish has his sights set on a double that would be historic for British cycling.

Are Team Sky going to do better this year?

With three one-day race wins, and 15 victories in stage races in 2010, Team Sky did pretty well in their inaugural season but failed to live up to ambitiously high expectations in the Tour de France.

The biggest change this year seems to be in attitude. After going to lengths that included using screens during warm-up, shielding them from the fans, the team appear to have lightened up a bit.

The focus will be on winning races, not just the Tour. With a roster rich in young talent and a less-pressurised atmosphere, year two could be a good one for Dave Brailsford's talented boys.

Key among that talent is the Norwegian Edvard Boasson Hagen, who Bradley Wiggins reckons can win almost any race he enters. But there is also reason to believe that British riders Ben Swift and Geraint Thomas could make a mark in the big races.

Rotherham 23-year-old Swift delivered Sky's first win of the season in Wednesday's second stage of the Tour Down Under.

Who will the stars of the women's circuit be this season?

Registered in the UK, the Garmin Cervelo women's squad has four Brits, including world time trial champion Emma Pooley and Lizzie Armitstead. As one of the top women's teams, they'll almost certainly give British fans something to cheer about.

Not many teams can boast three former world champions on their roster, as MCippolini-Giordana can in Nicole Cooke, Tatiana Guderzo and Marta Bastianelli. If the new squad gels then they will be a very tough proposition.

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see also
Cavendish unhappy at road traffic
20 Jan 11 |  Cycling
Swift lands Sky's maiden 2011 win
19 Jan 11 |  Cycling
Armstrong set for overseas finale
15 Jan 11 |  Cycling
Wiggins set for return to track
16 Jan 11 |  Cycling
Contador blames food contamination
30 Sep 10 |  Cycling
Schlecks to quit Saxo Bank team
30 Jul 10 |  Cycling
Pooley shocked to dethrone Cooke
28 Jun 10 |  Cycling

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