Posts Tagged ‘Eddy Merckx’

Why Chris Froome might not win the Tour de France

June 14, 2013

Chris Froome is likely to win the Tour de France because he has won this year’s edition of the Dauphiné. If you crunched the numbers and analyzed the manner of his victory, that might turn out to be an accurate prediction. Purely from a historical perspective, though, the opposite is true: Froome is unlikely to win in July, chiefly because he won in June and has never won the Tour before.

Only Luis Ocaña (1973), Bernard Thévenet (1975) and Bradley Wiggins (2012) have won the Dauphiné and claimed their first or solitary TdF victory in the same year. That’s three riders in the 66-year history of the Dauphiné, with a 37-year gap between the second and third. And the notion of the Dauphiné as a harbinger of a debut Tour win becomes even flimsier when you consider that Ocaña, a winner of the Dauphiné on two previous occasions, had the advantage of Eddy Merckx’s absence from the ’73 Tour.

I want Froome to win this year. I would also like him to take at least two more Tour wins. Because if he does, he will have bested Thevénet’s achievement of being the only member of this select Dauphiné-Tour club to take a second Tour de France victory.

Let’s meat the Liquigas team

December 20, 2011

We’ve reached the point on the calendar where it’s traditional to make some sort of lofty judgment about the past 11-and-a-bit months – and so, in keeping with the annual mood of inexpert opinion stridently expressed, I am declaring 2011 to be The Year We Learned Too Much.

The basis of my flimsy theory is as follows: the fug of mystery and inscrutability which surrounded the noble profession of bicycle racing for generations has now been dispersed by the mighty wind of tweeting, which has enabled a once-enigmatic breed of sportsmen to communicate many mundane details of their lives. Perhaps the high point of this phenomenon took place in June when Mark Cavendish momentarily forgot he had problems with his water supply and thoughtlessly left a deposit in his lavatory. I chortled, and so, I imagine, did many of his 196,000 followers. But could you imagine, say, Eddy Merckx explaining why he had trouble flushing, or an embarrassed Fausto Coppi telling the White Lady to “leave it for 10 minutes, love”? Like the now-departed Kim Jong-il, these legendary men were probably above that sort of thing.

The cycling heritage industry would have us believe that the black-and-white era was the golden age of mystery. In those monochrome photographs, dapper men pedal remorselessly through their pain, their visages giving barely any clue to the mental processes and diabolical thoughts that forced them to reach the finish line. But for me, the archetype of enigmatic cyclists reached its apotheosis much more recently. It occurred in 2009, and its sole manifestation was the uniquely enlightening website of the Liquigas team.

By some miracle of history, the website still exists, and under the heading “Curiosities” you will find details about each team member which are truly curious. Take, for example this revelation concerning Murilo Fischer:

Favorite dish: Meat

That’s right: meat. Just meat. Meat. And, from that one fascinating detail, we are able to conjure up carnivorous Fischer’s wretched existence. Caged and naked at the team’s hotel, the ravenous, snarling Brazilian growls the only word of English he knows. “Meat.” He lies in wait every night for the moment when the rusty door of his cage creaks open and his handler throws a slab of raw steak, or a bucket of pork chops, or whatever else the Liquigas chef can find to appease his insatiable appetite. For he is Murilo Fischer, and he must have meat.

Yes, you may consider that scenario to be somewhat far-fetched. Maybe you would argue that the vague term “meat” is actually code for “mystery meat”, a tacit admission that he enjoys dubious foodstuffs frowned upon by his fellow pros, such as late-night kebabs and Asda own-brand sausages. And that may well be the case. But the truth is lost in the mists of time. We, and future historians, can only speculate.

Elsewhere in the Great Liquigas List Of Curiosities, Roman Kreuziger is giving very little away about where he chooses to spend his vacation:

Favorite holiday resort: The sea

One can picture the Czech transfixed by a blanket of shimmering blue as he sits on an otherwise unremarkable beach. That image remains with him always; it is a reminder of a pleasure denied to him in his landlocked home country. Then, many years later, he is asked by a Liquigas employee charged with creating the team’s website where he likes to go on holiday. Roman smiles at the seemingly humdrum question. His gaze is distant. Finally, he breaks the silence: “The sea,” he whispers. “The sea…

Kreuziger’s teammates Kjell Carlström and Maciej Bodnar list their hobbies as “computer” and “internet” respectively, although we can probably guess why two chaps spending many nights away from home would want to be vague about what they get up to on their laptops. But perhaps Ivan Basso had a more urgent need to be circumspect in 2009: this, you may remember, was his first full year of competition following his two-year doping ban – an event precipitated by the revelation that bags of stored blood were code-marked with the word “Birillo”. If someone hadn’t alleged that this was the name of the Italian’s dog, who knows how the case would’ve panned out? So this time, Basso gives nothing away: his list of curiosities is entirely blank:

We all think we know Ivan Basso. But no one knows the real Ivan Basso. His only curiosity is this: he has no known curiosities.


Totally Ri.Pel-ant

November 17, 2011

Today, readers, for a short ride to Portobello Road to get a much-needed haircut, I have been “rocking” a pair of three-quarter-length trousers, legwarmers and a wooly jersey in a bucolic shade of green. I call this “look” The Urban Fop. Other “looks” I occasionally like to “rock” (i.e. particular sets of clothes I wear with an unwarranted degree of overconfidence) include The Rococo Punk (Rock Racing kit in dry-weather-only white), The Not Eddy Merckx (black and orange Molteni homage with “Kannibaal” across the chest) and One Of Those Bloody London Dynamo Persons You See Absolutely Everywhere (Dynamo gilet, Dynamo jersey, Dynamo socks and optional Dynamo girdle – an option I choose not to exercise).

Given, therefore, that I am prone to making wardrobe decisions even more varied than fashion pioneers David Zabriskie and the great Cipollini, I am not in principle against dressing up as The Homoerotic Mandroid, which appears to be the default mode that attracts purchasers of Assos garments.

Nor am I repulsed by Zegho, the Swiss manufacturer’s new foray into eyewear. How could I? It completes the “gay porn version of Terminator” style that the clothing range appears to have been striving towards. But yes, I am irked. And it is the lexicon of Assos that irks me.

Take “Ri.Pel”. Apparently this is supposed to denote a special type of lens that prevents water resting on its surface, but it looks like what a robot might plop out of its mouth instead of the human word “repel”. Similarly, an ordinary person might conceivably say “zero optical distortion”, but in the lexicon of Lugano’s boffins “zOd.Tec” somehow sounds more to the point. As for the technology that prevents the specs from slipping… well, I’m not a man of violence, but I confess my initial reaction to “clickFace” was: PunchFace.

The innovations themselves, if they work, are actually quite handy; it’s just a shame they’re obscured by such arse-clenchingly earnest pseudo-labspeak. For those aesthetes who reckon the shades look a little “90s clubber”, or a bit “sports-car-with-the-sunroof-down”, you’ve always got the option to not look at them; also, at about £400 a pop, you’re unlikely to see too many pairs on your club ride. But I like words, and once I see one, it tends to find its way into my head and stay there. I am stuck with zOd.Tec. How Ri.Pel-ant.