The thankless job of the domestique

The fact that cycling is a team sport isn’t all that obvious to the casual observer. Of course, only one person can cross the finish line first at the end of a race, but the work that his team mates have carried out throughout the race is crucial in affording their team leader the opportunity of victory. A domestique is expected to drop back to the team car and fetch water bottles, to keep tempo at the front of a group, to chase down breakaways and perhaps most importantly of all, to shelter the team leader from the wind.

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Time to shine for Kim Kirchen

Next year Kim Kirchen will ride for the Russian Katusha squad having made the move from the Columbia-HTC team of Mark Cavendish. Kirchen’s best year in terms of results was undoubtedly 2008. He finally won the Fléche Wallonne classic having previously come 2nd in 2005, he also took stage wins at the Vuelta al País Vasco and the Tour de Suisse as well as wearing both the green and yellow jerseys at the Tour de France where he also finished in 7th place in the G.C. In an interview with Daily Peloton at the beginning of this year he outlined his goals for the season.

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Tom Boonen: Time Trial Specialist?

Tom Boonen is a cross between a sprinter and a strong cobbled classics rider. He’s a multiple winner of both major cobbled classics, Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders. He’s also won six stages of the Tour de France along with the green points jersey in the Tour and the rainbow jersey of World Champion. Add to that most of the other cobbled races, Gent-Wevelgem, Grote Scheldeprijs, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, E3 Prijs Vlaanderen and Dwars door Vlaanderen and he’s won most of the races that a rider with his abilities would be capable of winning.

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Roche: The shape of things to come

Next season is a very important one in the career of Nicolas Roche. He will probably always have the label of being a Tour de France winner’s son put on him. However, while Stephen was undoubtedly a G.C. rider for the big tours, Nicolas it seems  still hasn’t really settled on what sort of rider he will focus on becoming.

Still only 25 years old, he has already completed all three of the  Grand Tours of cycling. In 2008, what could be considered his breakthrough season, he finished a highly creditable 13th in the Vuelta a Espana. He also finished 2nd on Stage 18 to Las Rozas, only barely missing out on the win in a four man sprint. Last season he rode his first Tour de France finishing 23rd overall, the highest finish for an Irish rider in the Tour since his father finished 13th in 1993. Over the past year he’s also produced top 20 performances in the prestigious Critérium International, the Tour Méditerranéen and the mountainous Pro Tour race, the Volta a Catalunya. He also finished 35th in Milan San Remo.

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The cycling season: A musical journey

The stage is set, the musicians are ready, this is what they’ve been practicing for all winter. All that hard work, monotonously reeling through chord progressions, day after day of repeating the same sequences of notes over and over again. Finally the day of the performance is here, the musicians’ fingers are twitching, eager to put an a show as some harbour hopes and dreams of greater success, while others fear for their future as a musician if this performance isn’t a triumph…

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A Tour/Monument double

Rik van Looy, Roger de Vlaeminck and Eddy Merckx. The only three riders to have won all five monument classics.

In a previous post I discussed the difficulties of winning all five of cycling’s monument classics, a feat only achieved by three men, Rik van Looy, Roger de Vlaeminck and as usual with these kind of stats, Eddy Merckx. Seemingly, the last cyclist capable of such a feat was Seán Kelly in the 1980s. While winning one day classics is immensely challenging, targeting the General Classement in a Grand Tour poses a whole other set of challenges. While Kelly did win a Grand Tour in 1988 and Eddy Merckx is an exception to most of the rules of winning bike races, van Looy and de Vlaeminck never came close to winning a Grand Tour. This pair of classics specialists were hard men, masters on a bike, but men not equipped with the necessary attributes to challenge effectively over a three week stage race.

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