Make way for the youth of today!

The average age of the Tour de France podium finishers for the last 30 years

Last year at the age of 37 Lance Armstrong finished 3rd in the Tour de France. In doing so he became the oldest rider to finish in the top three of the Tour since, well, since Lance Armstrong in 2005. To find an older man than the ’05 Armstrong to have finished on the podium of the Tour you need to go way back to 1982 when Joop Zoetemelk finished 2nd at the age of 35. So will Armstrong’s exploits at such a ripe age encourage other G.C. hopefuls to extend their careers further than they had originally foreseen to continue their quest for Tour success?

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Cavendish finally underway

It has a been a full month now since the cycling season officially began in Australia at the Tour Down Under. The rider who won the most professional races in 2009 was sprinter Mark Cavendish. This time last year he had already won two stages of the Tour of Qatar and two stages of the Tour of California. These races along with Tirreno-Adriatico were used in preparation for his first attempt at winning Milan San Remo. After 298 kilometres of racing he succeeded in spectacular fashion, beating Heinrich Haussler by a few millimetres.

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Bring back the King of the Mountains

France Pellizotti on the podium of the 2009 Tour de France as the King of the Mountains alongside Tour winner Alberto Contador, Green Jersey winner Thor Hushovd and the best young rider Andy Schleck.

The King of the Mountains jersey is reserved for the rider who accumulates the most points by consistently finishing well over mountainous ascents along stage routes. Unusually however, the King of the Mountains title is often won by riders who aren’t considered among the best climbers in the race. Take last year’s Tour de France for example, I think everyone would agree that there were better climbers in the race than Franco Pellizotti. Much like the Green Jersey at the Tour last year which was won by Thor Hushovd, Mark Cavendish was the best sprinter in the race, Hushovd simply accumulated the most points toward the Green jersey and was crowned the winner.

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Tour preparation isn’t so simple

The races in which the top five riders of the last two Tours de France raced in preparation for the Grand Boucle. Races listed in bold are one day races.

Some riders have already gotten their season under way at the Tour Down Under in the middle of January, other riders will have waited until February to begin at races like the Tour Méditerranéen or the Tour of Qatar, while others still will wait until March before contemplating racing. The racing schedules of the top riders are scrutinised by fans so we can determine what their season goals are and what sort of shape they’ll be in at various points of the season. The racing schedules of the Tour de France contenders are usually examined more than most. Will they ride the Giro as preparation? Will they ride the Dauphiné or the Tour de Suisse? Will any of them be riding the cobbled classics? So which races do the Tour contenders frequent more than others? Each rider maps out a path hoping that theirs in particular will be the magical combination of races that will result in them being in better shape come July than all of their rivals. So is there an ideal combination of races?

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Martin chases victories in 2010

Daniel Martin climbing his way to 2nd place at the 2009 Volta a Catalunya

Daniel Martin started life as a British junior cyclist. He even won the British junior road title in 2004 at the age of 17. He is what is called a pure climber, a mountain goat. When the road starts going up and the percentages become leg numbing, Martin excels. Previous exponents of a pure climber were the likes of  Marco Pantani, Lucho Herrera and Iban Mayo. What all these riders have in common is, as a result of being so light and small, is that none of them can time trial well. As such, Dan Martin didn’t fit in with British Cycling’s framework for success. They were very much focused on achievements on the track and this did not fit well with Martin’s style of riding. So he left the British cycling setup and their loss was Ireland’s gain as Martin changed his racing license to become Irish and has been racing as an Irishman ever since. Had David Brailsford gotten the British road team off the ground a few years earlier, I have no doubt that Martin would be entering the Tour de France this year with Team Sky on his jersey.

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