Closest Grand Tour Ever

Dumoulin Cartoon

Two stages to go of the 2017 Giro d’Italia and Nairo Quintana, Tom Dumoulin and Vincenzo Nibali are separated by just 43 seconds. But not only that, look down the general classification a bit further and there is also a mere 90 seconds separating Quintana and Domenico Pozzovivo back in sixth place, with Thibault Pinot and Ilnur Zakarin in between in fourth and fifth. This is remarkably close after over 85 hours of racing.

Is this the closest Grand Tour of all time?

Well, of the last 30 years, it certainly is. Any further back than that and data is hard to come by. You’re in the realm of trawling through newspaper archives for each edition of each race. And given the short window that this stat is in anyway relevant – if anyone else feels like doing that to themselves, go for it. You’ve got a few hours left before the G.C. in this Giro looks completely different.

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Cobbled Classics – Doubles, Trebles and one Quadruple

BoonenMuur

For the purposes of this exercise the ‘cobbled classics’ are one of the following races: Het Volk (yes it’s still ‘Volk’, always will be), Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, Dwars Door Vlaanderen, E3 Prijs, Ghent-Wevelgem, Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. We can argue about what constitutes a classic until the cows come home. Call Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne or Dwars Door Vlaanderen a semi-classic if you like, but this is the seven I’ve chosen to go with.

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Blood is thicker than Coffee

coffee-cartoon

There is a drug that pervades the peloton like no other. Almost every single rider administers it to themselves, usually several times a day. Cyclists are totally addicted to the extent that they can’t even fathom going for a training ride without taking it – sometimes a double dose, maybe even a triple.

But this drug has no need for omertà. This drug is legal. This drug is caffeine.

Caffeine can reduce fatigue, improve muscle contractibility and increase the time it takes to reach an exhausted state. It provides enough performance enhancement that it is currently being monitored by WADA as a substance which might be subject to abuse. We once saw a rider revolt during the 1998 Tour de France because of the indignities suffered by dopers being investigated. That protest largely consisted of the peloton sitting in the middle of a road. If WADA decided to ban caffeine, then we’d really see what a rider revolt looks like.

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2017 Milan San Remo Preparation

Demare

Mark Cavendish beat Heinrich Haussler to win Milan San Remo in 2009. He beat him by about an inch on the line. Winning that race was the result of thousands of little decisions made by Cavendish and Haussler themselves but also by their team-mates, rivals, directeur sportifs and loved ones. All of those decisions put together added up to what transpired between the two men in the approach to the finish line.

What became clear in the instant that Cavendish thrust his wheel one inch in front of Haussler’s was that Cavendish’s decision to ride Tirreno-Adriatico was right and Haussler’s decision to ride Paris-Nice was wrong.

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Froome backs Brailsford? No Sir!

froomdavehandshake-cartoon

Journalists don’t write the headlines. The articles are written, submitted and left in the hands of a sub-editor. Sometimes, a sub-editor can simply be clumsy and end up making the journalist seem a bit foolish. I recall an article I once wrote for the42.ie previewing an early-season race with a subheading of ‘Cillian Kelly pulls on the latex togs and freewheels through the week’s cycling action’. A slightly shinier look than I would have been hoping for but no reason to get my latex knickers in a twist.

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Froome’s Emergence from the Shadows

FroomeCartoon

Chris Froome used to be bad at cycling. He joined the Barloworld team in 2008 and from then until the 2011 Vuelta he managed only one victory, in the Giro del Capo in South Africa.

‘Bad’ is all relative of course. He was good enough to be a professional cyclist and he was also good enough to be signed by Team Sky. But the story goes that before that 2011 Vuelta the team were done with him. They wouldn’t be renewing his contract because he wasn’t worth paying anymore.

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