Gilbert is re-writing history

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Philippe Gilbert is on some roll. The stats from his classics results in the past few years come up in the posts here quite often, but they are certainly worth repeating. In the five monument classics (Milan-San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Tour of Lombardy), of the last nine editions that he has entered, he has finished in the top 10 every time. He is almost a certainty to make it ten in a row in Liege-Bastogne-Liege this weekend.

Amstel Gold, Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege are the three races which collectively make up Ardennes week. Recently it has come to be referred to by some as ‘drugs week’. If you look back over the list of recent winners in these races it’s easy to see why. Alexander Vinokourov, Davide Rebellin, Alejandro Valverde, Stefan Schumacher and Danilo Di Luca have all dominated the last decade in these races and have all been suspended for doping misdemeanors in the past few years.

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PR killed the radio star

Earlier today on twitter I mentioned the contrast between Dan Martin’s opinion of radios in last month’s Pro Cycling magazine compared to this month’s Pro Cycling magazine.

He may have genuinely changed his mind. Then again he may also have been influenced by the Garmin-Cervelo public relations machine, we’ll probably never know. But with the big bust up today between the professional teams and the UCI, it’s hard not to be sceptical.

Anyway, here’s a couple of excerpts from Dan Martin’s column over the last two months:

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A race named after a beer?

Of all the major races that make up the top tier of the professional cycling calendar there are relatively few which have not been won by either Stephen Roche or Sean Kelly back in the eighties. Roche was a thoroughbred stage racer while Kelly was an unstoppable all-rounder capable of victory on almost any terrain. Between them, they had all the bases covered.

Indeed, Roche had this to say in his book, The Agony and the Ecstacy:

When people compare what I have won to what Kelly has won my reaction is to ask them not to compare but to combine. Instead of asking what each has won, it is better to put our victories together and say, ‘Here are two Irishmen who between them have won almost every race in world cycling’.

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Oh, to be a cycling fan

Cycling is a peculiar sport. It’s difficult to explain to the non-enthusiast. Do you start with the difference between stage races and one-day races? Do you explain why, despite winning the most stages in each of the last three Tours de France, Mark Cavendish will never win the Tour? Or do you explain that even though one rider gets to celebrate winning at the finish line, cycling is in fact a team sport?

The team vs. individual element of cycling is perhaps the oddest, but it is the most important to explain to newcomers to the sport. The best avenue of enlightenment is to sit the person down and make them watch a race. Once the concept of drafting and energy conservation is explained, I find the rest falls into place rather easily. In fact, people get intrigued quite quickly and amazed at the fact that riders are literally sacrificing their bodies for a designated team leader.

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A world class stage racer should be winning stage races

He has finished on the podium of the Tour de France. He has finished on the podium of the Giro d’Italia. He has won the best young rider’s jersey in both the Tour and the Giro. He is one of the most prodigious stage racing talents to emerge in the last decade. His name is Andy Schleck and he has never won a professional stage race.

It’s almost hard to believe, but it’s true. As an amateur, Schleck won the five stage Fl├ęche du Sud in 2004 (a race once won by Neil Martin, Dan Martin’s Dad!), but since then he has never stood on the top step of the podium at the end of a stage race.

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World Champion Classic Winners

Having faded towards the end of the Tour of Flanders last weekend, Thor Hushovd will want to bounce back in the best way possible at Paris-Roubaix this Sunday. His team manager was at a loss to explain his lack of form at a stage of the season when he is usually at the peak of his powers.

Nevertheless, Hushovd will be aiming to become the first World Champion to win the Hell of the North since Bernard Hinault in 1981. Just for the record, contrary to common belief, this is not the only time that Hinault rode this race. Although it makes for a great story that he hated Paris-Roubaix, rode it once and won it once just to prove that he wasn’t soft, it simply isn’t true. He’s actually ridden it five times consecutively from 1978-1982 and he finished 13th, 11th, 4th, 1st and 9th in those years.

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