Daniel Friebe is a cycling journalist and author of the books Mountain High, Eddy Merckx: The Cannibal and Mountain Higher and has collaborated with Mark Cavendish on his best-selling autobiographies, Boy Racer and At Speed. Daniel has covered every Tour de France since 2001 and as well as regularly contributing to The Cycling Podcast he is Procycling Magazine’s European Editor.

Ahead of the season proper we caught up with Daniel to ask him 20 questions about the upcoming year…

H: If you weren’t a cycling journalist what would you be doing?

In my dreams, I’d be a boyband member with a sideline in professional golf. In truth, I’d probably be a modern languages teacher.

H: What is your favourite race to cover?

Probably the Giro or the Vuelta. Most of the Tour’s drama, a fraction of the stress…and with better food.

H: What book(s) are you reading at the moment?

Lots about German sport and one illustrious retired German cyclist in particular, for my next book project.

H: Worst thing about being a cycling journalist?

Sometimes it doesn’t really feel like a real job, but every now and again you get a reminder that it really is.

H: Which journalist/sports writer/authors work do you admire?

A shamefully high proportion of my reading is sports-related. My favourite sports and fiction writers are American. The golf writer, Jamie Diaz, is one I aspire to be like in a journalistic sense. Richard Ford is probably my favourite English-language fiction writer.

H: How has working as a cycling journalist/author changed your relationship with the sport?

I’m now much more interested in the stories than the results: I never really care who wins, providing there’s a story to be had. Some of the emotional engagement that I used to have when I started following cycling has gone or at least changed. I can’t deny that. Doping, for instance, used to anger me intensely; I used to take it almost as a personal insult, as though the cheats were callously ruining my sport. Nowadays it depresses me but I’m more brutalised to it. I’m also more understanding and even forgiving of the difficult choices that riders sometimes have to make.

H: The most obvious change in cycling media during your career has been the number and type of outlets. Can you tell us a less obvious way that cycling media has changed during your career?

It’s a popular bugbear among journalists that access to riders is getting worse all the time. I personally don’t agree; I think we’re still very blessed in cycling, compared to journalists covering other sports. Yes, there are more press officers to deal with now, there’s more protocol to negotiate, but often that’s a help rather than a hindrance. One big change has been the linguistic shift from French, Italian and Spanish to English, which is now the lingua franca in the peloton and the press-room. Almost everything reported in the English-language press used to go through the filter of foreign outlets first. Now it tends to be the anglophile press that gets stories first, then the rest who pile in.

H: Who do you think is the best bike rider in the world right now?

Contador. For his (admittedly tarnished) palmarès, his versatility, his aggression as a racer.

H: What story/narrative are you most looking forward to playing out in 2015?

The battle of the sprinters is what excites me the most. Cavendish is at a crossroads in his career, Kittel and his train have the chance to become as dominant as Cav was between 2009 and 2011, and then you have hungry young guys like Nacer Bouhanni who could cause some major upsets in the grand tours.

H: What will be the biggest untold story of 2015?

Untold as in that no one writes about it? Riders not wanting to race in France because of the 75% tax rate.

H: Which neo-pro(s) should we look out for this year?

Not strictly a neo-pro since he’s already had two years in a second-tier team, but Yves Lampaert at Etixx-Quickstep could be Belgium’s next Classics star. Louis Vervaeke is another massive Belgian talent, but very much a stage-racer. He’s just turned pro with Lotto-Soudal.

H: Bradley Wiggins can either win Paris Roubaix or put the Hour Record out of reach- what does he choose?

Paris-Roubaix. Winning that would make him the greatest all-round cyclist since World War Two.

H: If you could make one rule change for 2015 what would it be?

I’d like to see smaller teams in some stage races. Nine riders per team in major tours is possibly too many. Seven or eight-man teams would make the racing a bit less controlled.

H: Who will be happiest with the effect of their new signings at the end of the season, Dave Brailsford or Oleg Tinkoff?

Oleg Tinkov has made bigger changes, bigger investments and therefore has more to lose. Sky should win more races than in 2014, with more riders, but everything still revolves around the Tour and whether Froome can beat Contador, Quintana and Nibali. At Tinkoff, anything other than a Classics win for Sagan plus the Giro or Tour overall for Contador will be a disappointment.

H: With the Mur de Huy included in this year’s TdF, do you think a GC rider will win Flèche Wallone?

Possibly. I’d actually like to see Flèche take a break from the Mur de Huy. The race has only finished there since the 1980’s, and every edition is now tactically very predictable: all bets are off until the foot of the Mur. Once you’ve seen one Flèche Wallonne you’ve pretty much seen ’em all.

H: Who will finish second in the Giro?

Fabio Aru. And if Contador doesn’t start or finish the race for any reason, Aru will win it.

H: Assuming the Big Four are all fit, who will win the 2015 Tour?

The first ten days will require a lot of good bike-handling and race-craft and therefore favour Contador and Nibali. I’ll say Contador….unless Froome or Quintana gets to the Pyrenees within a minute or two of the yellow jersey.

H: What was the most stylish era of cycling?

The mid-70’s, although, in my eyes, the 90’s have a certain so-bad-it’s-good je ne sais quoi.

H: If you could uphold one cycling tradition for eternity what would it be?

Anything and everything to do with Paris-Roubaix, the ultimate sporting anachronism.

H: And finally the dinner party question… Who would you like to share a tandem ride with?

Jan Ullrich. For research purposes.

Follow Daniel on twitter @friebos


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