Place 1 - Nikita Novikov
Rider type: Stage races
Biggest Success: 1st Tour des Pays de Savoie
Team 2011: Itera - Katusha
Team 2012: Vacansoleil
Best Mock List-placing: new
Some things in life cannot be predicted. The most important things to mention are the exact place lightning will strike, the exact day the Netherlands will be flooded and Nikita Novikov.
Before this season Novikov was a nobody and there probably was no one who thought the Russian would be able to do what he did this year. Well, he was no pancake regarding his 20th place at the Worlds time trial, his second place including the leader's jersey for one day at a stage of the Giro della Valle Aosta (2.2) and the third place at the Duo Normand (1.2) together with Dimitriy Ignatenkiev, but he never stood out of the crowd.
To find results, that really indicate his talent, you have to go way back into long forgotten times; the year 2007. Back then he became junior World Champion on the track in the Mexican city Aguascalientes. In the same year he came in third at the junior time trial World Championship behind Taylor Phinney and John Degenkolb. By doing that, he snapped the bronzemedal from under Jack Bobridge's nose. But while these three athletes took a swift development in the U23; becoming real stars of their category, signing a pro contract and already gathering successes among the pros; Novikovs development went slow. Or not at all to be exact.
In his first U23 year he was only able to draw some attention at a local 2.2 stage race, in his second year he above all rode in France, where successes were few. Novikov seemed to become one of the many Russians who excelled in the junior category and disappeared in the U23. Russian are just like Danes, concerning this.
But as implied above the unpredictable happened this year. The Russian tributed to his teams co-sponsor and Stalin's-organ-piped bombshell after bombshell on his enemies. Just as his possibly only stage race rival among the U23 riders, Wilco Kelderman, Novikov set the standards in June, he did it in completely different races than the Durchman though.
That the Point Race World Champion is relatively quick, he did not only prove as seventh at the Ronde van Overijssel (1.2) in May, but also at the first stage of the Tour de Slovaquie (2.2), where he finished second behind Maximiliano Richeze. On the hard second stage, the Itera rider approached the finish together with the Lokorika Croats Tomislav Danculovic and Kristijan Durasek. They appearantly underestimated Novikov and accompanied him to the very end. Or their very end, as the Russian probably gave them a steady cold by winning with a margin of two respectively three seconds. The overall lead was a fact after this first win as a pro. Only the closing time trial could have brought this lead in danger, but Novikov took no prisoners and won that stage as well, marking pro wins number two and three.
Five days after the the Tour de Slovaquie (2.2), the Itera team travelled to France to the murderous Tour des Pays de Savoie (2.2). The prologue became Novikovs first victim, there he celebrated his fourth victory of the season. In the following mountain stage, Novikov headed towards the finish line together with his teammate Pavel Kochetkov and Warren Barguil. The Frenchman became a victim of mathematics and due to team tactics Pavel Kochetkov won three seconds ahead of his teammate, who maintained the overall lead.
In the next mountain stage the day after, the Russian climber took a rise out of his rivals. A quite dangerous group, including Romain Bardet; who was - at that point - widely considered the best climber among the U23 riders, but who had however lost some time during the first mountain stage; emerged. They had several minuted advantage - until Novikov attacked his group with 20k to go. Nobody was able to follow him and on his own he closed in minutes on the breakaway. Only Bardet survived and rescued 33 seconds on the Russian, who maintained easily his lead. On the last stage that lead was in no danger and Novikov in the end won the race with an advantage of 3:07 on Romain Bardet.
Six weeks rest the pest granted his opponents. At the Tour Alsace (2.2) he returned on the racing scene. On the queen stage only FDJ pro Thibaut Pinot climbed faster than him. In the general classification Novikov became third,
It is rare, that the Russian farmteam Itera is invited to the bigger Italian one-day-races. Not being invited more often is a mistake, as Nikita Novikov proved at the GP Citta di Camaiore (1.1). Behind the trio Taborre, Stortoni und Rebellin he sprinted to fourth place out of a six man group. That is one of the best results a U23 rider was able to score among the pros this year.
The Giro della Valle Aosta (2.2) is abominably hard and that is why it is taylor-made for Novikov. On the second stage he put down the Stalin's organ on his opponents again. Sitting in the peloton on the last mountain of the day, the Col du Petit Saint Bernard , the Itera rider attacked, being down three minutes on Zardini and 1:30 on Fabio Aru and two well-climbing Frenchmen at that time. Only Mattia Cattaneo was able to follow him; shortly. Novikov absorbed all groups in front of him and began the final 30km descent with an advantage of about a one minute. In this descent he fell. At the finish he had nevertheless 2:32 (!) advantage on Donato de Jesu and Fabio Aru. He predictibly owned the race. But we remember the iontroduction of this article; nothing is predictible with Nikita Novikov!
At the third stage the Number One of the Mock List, lost more than a minute to all important rivals. The next day he lost some time again. Both times, the undisputed dominator, the man who showcased his opponents with one leg tied on his back on all terrains, even failed to reach the top ten. The fifth stage again led through mountainous country. Again Novikov was not able to follow. He lost 2:12 to the victor Joe Dombrowski. He still had a small lead though. That lead he tried to defend at the closing mountain time trial. And he died trying. With Aru winning the stage and the overall the Russian again failed to enter the top ten and finished the race on the third spot.The why of this crack is a riddle though. Some suppose a disease, other claim Novikov can't climb steep mountains. The answer probably only he knows. The superman-image he had built up however suffered a little bump.
That Nikita Novikov hasn't signed a pro contract yet can only be considered an accident. Katusha will never let him slip through their fingers. What he will be able to show at the Worlds is questionable. he is a good time triallist but was not yet able to compare himself to the best riders of his age. The road race is surely to easy for him.
In the meanwhile Novikov has signed a pro contract - with Vacansoleil(!)!
Nominated by ogkempf, written by ogkempf, translated by ogkempf