by Cillian Kelly
Milan San Remo: 2nd
Tour of Flanders: 7th
Tour of Lombardy: 2nd
These are the best results in all five monument classics in the career of a particular cyclist. It’s an impressive collection of placings for any rider in any era. This rider, despite never making the podium there during his career, always wanted to win Paris-Roubaix.
He said: “I would have given anything to win Paris-Roubaix. I felt like I was good technically on the cobblestones, but I don’t think I ever had a peak day. I’ve always felt I’m a summer rider. I’ve always been a warm weather rider. The guys who excel in the early season either train all winter and are in their very best shape, or they’re Belgian or they’re Irish. Cold weather, rain, I’ve never felt good in it. I always wished there were more classics in August”.
But before we reveal the identity of our mystery classics rider, let’s consider another rider who has struggled of late in the cold and rain, Bradley Wiggins.
Now that Chris Froome and Richie Porte have taken over the primary and ancillary stage racing duties at Team Sky, Wiggins, aged 33, is in the market for one more specialist niche to occupy before he calls time on his career.
In recent weeks and months, Wiggins and his team manager Dave Brailsford have, apparently, been making noises about targeting Paris-Roubaix next year. The Belgian-born Brit has a habit of reinventing himself. He’s already shifted from track virtuoso, to time trial king, to Tour de France winner. Could he carve out one more niche as a classics contender?
The following are Wiggins’ best results in all five monument classics:
Milan San Remo: 44th
Tour of Flanders: 50th
Tour of Lombardy: DNF
Not great, but not terrible. Unlike every other Tour de France winner in the last quarter of a century, he has actually ridden all of them.
It is the 25th place in Paris-Roubaix coupled with his time trialling ability being roughly on a par with Fabian Cancellara’s that seems to be the foundation for next year’s plan to tackle the Queen of the Classics.
This subject is broached in the February 2014 edition of Cycle Sport magazine. It is confirmed that Paris-Roubaix is ‘on the radar’ for Wiggins and Team Sky. There are also the thoughts of directeurs sportif from all of Wiggins’ previous teams on whether he stands a chance against the seasoned cobbled competitors like Cancellara and Tom Boonen.
The responses vary from FDJ’s Marc Madiot, who says ‘yes… he can be a contender’, to Eric Boyer of Cofidis, who says ‘no, he can’t', to more pragmatic answers from Jonathan Vaughters, Brian Holm and Roger Legeay who all think he could be good, but a win would be unlikely.
Wiggins won’t be the last rider to try to combine the Tour de France and Paris-Roubaix on to a single palmarés, but he most certainly isn’t the first either.
Fourteen riders can claim to have won both races during their career – Bernard Hinault, Eddy Merckx, Jan Janssen, Felice Gimondi, Louison Bobet, Fausto Coppi, Sylvére Maes, André Leducq, Henri Pélissier, Francois Faber, Octave Lapize, Henri Cornet, Louis Trousellier and Maurice Garin.
But it is becoming a rarer feat with the passing of time, as eight of those fourteen completed their double before World War II. The most recent rider to complete this unlikely career double was Hinault, having won the Tour in 1978 and 1979, he added Paris-Roubaix in 1981.
Although Hinault hated Paris-Roubaix, it is a common misconception that he only rode this race once. He actually rode the Queen of the classics on five occassions, never finishing lower than 13th. When he finally won it in 1981, he owed much of his success to a 19 year-old Greg LeMond – well, that’s according to LeMond himself.
The American was just beginning his first season as a professional cyclist. In an interview with Bill McGann, he said:
“In April I felt actually quite good in Paris-Roubaix. I was really helping Hinault. He won his first and only Paris-Roubaix that year. I loved it. I did a big final attack that split the race up for Hinault and then I just bagged it after 230 kilometers.”
Let’s now revisit the list of monument classics results that we started with – these are of course belonging to Greg LeMond.
The American gets labelled these days as a rider who focused only on the Tour de France and world championships. This label is somewhat applicable to the latter stages of LeMond’s career, after he was accidentally shot in 1987. But throughout LeMond’s early years, he was as good a classics rider as any on his day.
If you take the best result in each of the five monument classics, as we have done here with LeMond, for every rider in the current peloton (who have ridden all five races), the rider with the lowest score of any active rider is Greg van Avermaet. The BMC rider ends up with a score of 36.
Perennial monument winners like Cancellara and Boonen don’t even make the list because neither have ridden either Liege-Bastogne-Liege or the Tour of Lombardy. The only monument winners to make the top 10 of the list are Alessandro Ballan (with a score of 41), and Phillipe Gilbert (with a score of 60).
Greg LeMond can boast an impressively low total of 18.
LeMond merely dabbled in the classics as he got older. He still had enough class left to finish ninth in Paris-Roubaix in 1992. But his last great classics result came in 1986, before his body had been blasted with lead. He had come close to a win on many occasions and by the time he had ceased focusing on the Spring classics he had most certainly learned what it was like to lose one.
Wiggins on the other hand, has none of this experience. He has ridden Paris-Roubaix and the other monument classics, but he has never been in the shake up at the end of one. All of the greats have had to learn and win, armed with the experience of losing – Eddy Merckx, Sean Kelly, Francesco Moser, Roger De Vlaeminck, Boonen and Cancellara all came close to victory in Paris-Roubaix before eventually winning it.
Wiggins’s Team Sky are meticulous. But there’s no amount of meticulousness will prevent a loose elbow from a rival nudging you slightly off the line you were taking over the cobbles and instead steering your front wheel into one of the places where a cobblestone used to be. Can motor pacing over the Hell of the North replace the experience and anguish embedded in the head of Zdenek Stybar having clipped a spectator last year, momentarily losing Cancellara’s wheel and forever losing that race?
It is no wonder that Team Sky remain coy about Wiggins’ chances over the cobbles. They have trumpeted classics ambitions loudly in the past and have fallen hugely short. However, if the 2012 Tour de France winner does decide to aim for Paris-Roubaix it is a hugely exciting endeavour and one we have not seen attempted for a generation.
One can’t help but think that Wiggins will need a few years to woo the Queen of Classics, as everyone else has done – to build up a classics palmarés similar to LeMond’s before eventually tasting success. LeMond voluntarily ran out of time because he shifted focus away from the classics and on to the Tour.
Wiggins is doing the opposite and at 33 years of age, taking the age demographic of Paris-Roubaix winners into account, he still has a fair amount of time left. But with talk also of an attempt at the hour record and impending retirement shortly thereafter, you’d have to wonder how much time he’d be willing to give it.
crankpunk & the Giro, analysed on Pez, read it here, or here… below.
“That’s the difference for me. I can do miraculous things when I have a team that believes I can do it as well. I’m on form in the head and my heart.”
I try not to write about the obvious. That, after all, was my brief for this series from the editors at Pez. Yet when one guy is smashing the living daylights out of the peloton and generally proving that he is without doubt the greatest in the world at what he does, and doing it with an ease that borders on the violent, but another guy has slipped so far from the heady Graceland he inhabited for just about the whole of 2012, well, there’s really not much choice but to get on with it.
Yesterday the rampaging Cavendish won a sprint for which he really had no business even being around to contest. The parcours was not overly challenging, has to be said, but the speed at which the peloton covered the last kilometers, up hills, was.
There was one image of the Red Jersey wearer riding just off the front of the peloton on the way up the day’s toughest climb with about 30km to go, already eager, sniffing the line like a shark sniffing out a shipwreck. The best though was on the last rise, when the entire Omega Pharma-Quick Step train went missing for five minutes as a result of the pace Astana was setting up at the front.
Only one rider from the Belgian team was able to keep his place, and that rider was Cavendish. And that makes absolutely no sense.
Cav’s 2012 season with Sky was, on his terms, little short of a disaster. He claimed 13 stage wins over the season, claiming ‘only’ three at the Tour and missing Green. The win on the Champs on the last day of the Tour was somewhat of a salve to his wounds and would have made just about any other rider’s year, but this is a man, lest we forget, that had won the previous three Champs Elysees romps.
Just another day at the office, really.
Also, lest we forget, 2012 was his Rainbow year, something of which he was immeasurably proud and yet an honour that became, albeit not perhaps by intention, something of a side show at Sky.
2012 was the Year of Wiggo and it was not only Chris Froome that felt somewhat of a casualty. We needn’t reel off all the victories that Cavendish has racked up over his career, we’re all aware of those. That we take them for granted says something about the dominance of the man. If he were as majestic as Mario Cipollini or as charismatic as Tom Boonen I feel we would be singing his praises even more highly.
That he is ‘prickly’ at times certainly does him no favors, but then he is, after all, a sprinter. He’s easy to dislike, with his quick temper and expletives to camera. But make no bones about it, the lad is a stone cold genius on two wheels, the greatest sprinter of all time already, and he still has years to go.
Yesterday’s ride was for me a revelation. It was as though I suddenly realized just how good he really is. With a body full of slow-twitch muscles, a cardio system designed for track sprinting and a smallness that means he has less horsepower to play with than his big-boned rivals, he defied all the odds and rode with a heart over those last 30km that spoke volumes for the determination of the man.
In a modern world full of power meters and cycling coaches, where everything is defined and refined, contained and controlled, Cavendish turns up with buckets of stuff you cannot even begin to measure: willpower.
Revenge? I don’t know how he sees it – though the opening quote gives us a glimpse – but he already has 11 stage wins this year and a GC victory under his belt (Qatar), and all that with a team that, many said at the tail end of last year, wouldn’t suit him. Points Classification at both the Giro and the Tour? 5 stage wins in each?
If you’re a betting man, those odds probably aren’t good enough for you.
On the flip side of things, we have Mr. 2012, Sir Bradley Wiggins. I wrote about him in my last article here also, about what I perceived as a lack of respect for his teammate, Rigoberto Uran, and of the sense that, in many fans’ eyes, his stock has definitely fallen somewhat as a result of the toing and froing over the Froome/Tour question.
But let’s look at his form. Two wins this year, though both came in team time trials. Two 5th places in smaller races on the GC, Trentino and Catalunya. A teammate riding better than him here at the Giro, which he eventually abandoned, citing illness. Certainly no need to take him out behind the barn just yet, but he hasn’t looked very good all year.
And ok, he may well be sick right now, having something similar to the condition that befell Ryder Hesjedal, but illness didn’t make him crash and lose time in the rain, nor dent his descending skills on every downhill after that. A sudden case of the Andy Schlecks?
Possibly. Either way, 2013 has been altogether a bit shoddy for El Wiggo, whereas his former teammate is sat in a very purple patch, smiling from ear to ear. One of them has demonstrated not only incredible power and a will to keep winning, but also a longevity that has to underlie any label that includesthe word ‘legend’.
The other, despite a Tour de France win and Olympic gold, realizes now perhaps that you are only ever as good as your last race. Now he and Sky find themselves in a tricky position. Wasn’t the Giro for Wiggo and the Tour for Froome?
If Wiggo does now turn full attention to the Tour and try to pull rank, it won’t only be his form we are decrying, but also his reputation.
whatever your take on Rapha & Sky, they do make some cracking films, like this short on Wiggins and the Giro…
yes, he really did look like that… read all about it on PEZ
or read the whole thing here…
The big news from Stage 4 of the Giro weren’t the boos that arose in the coffee shop where I watch the race when Danilo DiLuca took off up the road, but the look on Wiggo’s face as he crossed the line in Serra San Bruno, where he did a very good impression of a constipated turtle.
(Also love the image of the Lampre rider behind, he’s probably gasping for air in reality, but it looks for all the world that he’s having a good old laugh at the 2012 Tour de France winner – and while I’m on the subject, I will again nominate that Lampre kit for inclusion in the top ten ‘Worst Kits of All Time’ list…).
Well, the big news wasn’t so much the bunged-up reptile look, remarkable though it was, but the reason for that look: yes, Wiggo is misfiring.
Surely he and his DeathStar team have him honed to perfection, as tight as you like and ready to go off on another British Blitzkrieg once again, no?
Well maybe not, but why not? Isn’t it obvious? He really does have a dark and sinister master plan: namely – Le Tour!
Look out gloomy Froomey, your tilt at the stars is about to be given a very definitive jolt. It’ll be Hinault vs. Lemond all over again, but in that peculiarly English way, all handbags at dawn, grand gestures reduced to the rolling of eyes and heavy tut-tuts, breaks for tea and all the painful stoicism.
But yes, no doubt about it: whereas Nibali, that Ryder fella and even – gasp – the aging, Cadel I-thought-he-was-dead? Evans are all chalking their cues and casting Paul Newman-style glances through the fug of the pool hall, Wiggo’s powder looks to be decidedly damp.
And I do think, seriously, that it’s because he is waiting for July. Maybe even he didn’t know it til yesterday. I think that his body may have become a little ‘locked in’, due to the fact that he’s been preparing for the Tour so hard for the past few years.
Whatever it is, he didn’t lose time just because of the crash, but because he got gapped on a pretty tiny hill.
Of course, he’ll probably smash the TT and get Pink and leave me all red-faced.
Now, is it just me or is anyone else tired of seeing this Old Guard still popping up? Yes, Di Luca served out his ban and yes by the laws in place he is allowed back, but I don’t know, seeing him and, if I’m honest, some of the Garmin-Sharp team rolling back in like nothing ever happened, it all leaves me a little nonplussed.
I’ll probably cop it for saying that, but there it is. Perhaps if the UCI were addressing all that has happened in a responsible and thorough manner, one that let the fans feel ‘Heck, they’re really doing something about it this time,’ it would seem a little less like ‘business as usual.’
As it stands it kind of feels like yesterday’s fish still out on the market stalls.
Onto Cadel! Not literally of course, not sure the old man could take it. Now as a journalist it is my job, as we journos are all sworn to do, to react to everything with a massive knee-jerk and to cut people down just as quickly as we build them up.
So yes, I did write recently elsewhere in the Ethernet that I thought the grizzly wee Aussie was done in. Washed up. Ready for the glue factory.
And then faster than an Aussie can down 24 beers whilst sat astride an emu (the record stands at 3.8 seconds), back up he pops and takes second on stage 3 and takes 6th on stage 4.
Evans should have that great Mark Twain quote stitched into his jersey:
‘Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.’
Suits him perfectly. Never write off a good man. Still a long way to go in the Giro, thankfully, because it’s been very good so far, and the wheels may come off for the former World Champ in those high hills, but it is great to see him doing well.
He may not be the most liked character in the peloton but he is one of the most respected. Would be nice to see him in Pink for a bit.
A final note on Battaglin’s win. Great to see an Italian winning, that should keep the tifosi happy for, ooh, 4 minutes?
Could Nibali keep them quiet for a bit longer and grab the win? It would certainly be something to have another, serious rival to the Sky domination in the mix.
We shall see.
i’m moonlighting again.
served up with an only slightly mouldy breadroll here
well it certainly has been a while, apologies i think should be offered, but you know what? i’ve been riding, for hours and hours a day (well 4), and i’m loving it. after almost 3 months laid up with a severe case of lackofmotivation, followed by various injuries, i’m finally back on the bike and just can’t get enough. tiredness has been winning though, i’ll have to up the greens.
these periods of BikeLove are not to be pondered. just go ride the sh*t out of your steed, till your arse hangs in ribbons and your hands look like you actually do a Real Man’s job (miner, dock hand, florist). such times are to be cherished, not questioned, for sure enough it won’t be long before the pain wins out – if, that is, you’re riding you’re bike properly…
anyway, where was i? oh yes Paul Kimmage. this guy doesn’t just poop out the party at the party, he actually drops one in his pants in the car on the way over. that’s why his face looks like that.
when i read on CyclingSnooze the headline ‘Kimmage unconvinced by Sky & Wiggins‘ my immediate reaction was oh Paul, give it a rest. It was an instinctive reaction, from the gut, not the head.
here’s what he said:
“If you apply the same standards to Tour winner Bradley Wiggins as to Lance Armstrong, concerning inquiries and logic, then there are similarities which are alarming.”
“You look at how dominant their teams were: Postal for Armstrong, Sky for Wiggins. They had a core of four, five riders, who rode strongly for those three weeks without one single weak day. You think: is that logical?
“You look at what happened after the Tour. Sky threw out the team doctor and three others. Michael Rogers left, he was one of the strongest riders. I don’t know anyone who could say that this was a fully convincing Tour win.”
and then i thought, ok, let’s think about this. so i did. and here’s what i thunk. first off, thank **** that we are at a point in time where someone can actually say stuff like that, about something that troubles them and is concerning doping, without being burnt at the stake. in any case, if you keep up with the forums, you’ll know that many of the guys on there have have exactly the same misgivings.
also, what have Sky done to be above reproach, above questioning? have they made their internal testing available online? no. have they requested the UCI publish their riders biological passport info? no. have they had a dodgy doctor and one rider admit to doping? yes. ok, Wiggins has spoken out about doping and i want to believe him, but he has the misfortune of being a very very good rider in a historically dirty sport and at a time when the abuses of banned substances has been shown to be – or have been – institutionalized and systematic.
and then there’s the news of EPO Z and another new undetectable drug that actually changes muscles, and, uh, well read it and despair.
so don’t give it a rest Paul. keep it coming.
next: Curse of the Dopers.
ok, so Katusha are free and welcome to race at Pro Continental level. awesome. no dopers at WorldTour level, but come race and probably dominate at the second tier, that’s fine.
this whole way of thinking is affecting me personally, because at Continental level you have the situation where unscrupulous managers are hiring well-known dopers to race for them. in some cases they’re South Americans who have a shed load of UCI points but who more established Euro teams won’t touch with a barge pole – yes, they are THAT dirty.
but they get rides on UCI Conti teams in other countries, then that team gets invited to certain races cos of the points they have (as they look strong), which means that teams like mine, and others, lose out. one particular team i know just signed two uber dodgy dudes for this very purpose, but, fortunately, a highly-placed friend of mine who knows the UCI hierarchy, has lodged an official complaint. we’ll see what happens.
the whole system needs to be addressed – dopers should get 4 year bans that exclude them from riding for any team from Continental up. otherwise it’s nothing but a farce…
‘People say: ‘You have to go back and defend the Tour de France title — it’s tradition!’ who says it’s tradition?’
words from Brad Wiggins (who is soon the be knighted, it seems), from about a week or so ago when he said he would ride the Giro and most probably skip the Tour. my, how short 7 days can be. jump to yesterday, just a few vodka tonic sozzled hours after his win at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards:
‘I’ve always wanted to win a second Tour. I’m the defending champion. I want to try and win the Giro d’Italia and win the Tour de France behind it. People say it can’t be done, winning two Tours. So let’s have a go at it.’
‘The team are saying they are going to back me with the Tour this year. That’s directly from Dave [Brailsford]. He said: ‘You’re our man for the Tour. Focus on it.’’
Froome deserves his shot at the Tour next year in my opinion, and he is correct to expect at the very least silent support from the man he helped win the Tour this season, if not a ringing endorsement. yes Froome was wrong to put in those attacks in July in the mountains, and sure, his girlfriend might have done better had she kept her tweets to herself, but there’s no doubt that Froome dragged Wiggins up more than just one hill to help secure that victory. Wiggins wasn’t finished there, going on to say that:
“We’re very fortunate that we have two people that can win the Tour de France. Having two people equally as strong, trying to beat the likes of [Alberto] Contador and Andy Schleck, is going to work in our favour.
“It could be any one of us, it could be Chris Froome on the day, it could be me, but once we get on that line we all have a professional obligation. We saw this year what Chris did for me, it could be that I’ll be doing that for him next year for the team to win.
“You go out there with a plan. That plan may change during the race depending on crashes, illnesses or form, but you certainly start out with a game plan and follow that game plan as much as possible. If that’s Chris Froome then the whole eight riders will commit to Chris.
“But we saw a couple of years ago, once I crashed out the team was left without anything to do, really, because all our eggs were put into the basket of me. This year, had I crashed out in that first week, we always had a back-up plan with Chris Froome. It always helps to have strength in numbers, it’s a nice problem to have.
“So much is made of the negative aspects of having two leaders who could potentially win, but very little has been said about the positive side. We finished one and two this year, so it’s always a nice problem to have.”
that may all be well and true, but after seeing a very strong Froome lose out to Cobo in the 2011 Vuelta a Espana after the Sky management spent too long having the team support Wiggins, and then seeing him lose out again in Spain after his efforts in France in July this year, i do feel that Wiggins would do better to stay schtum and do what he can to steady the nerves of his teammate, who is obviously one heck of a rider but who seems prone to anxiety – as seen in the recent documentary i featured on Wiggo’s win. i don’t believe Wiggo can win next year, what with there being less TT kilometers and one added Spaniard, and i doubt Froome would beat Contador either, but i do think Froome has a better chance than Wiggins. ultimately however, for the sake of just being nice, i’d rather see the ModRacer smiling beatifically and breastfeeding his ulterior motives in the shadows than gabbing on in public.
it’s been so far, so good Wiggo, and if you truly do shun celebrity, better to offer support to Froome and take our chance if and when it comes.
Tommy Simpson was the first two-wheeled winner of the prestigious BBC Sports Personality of the Year award back in 1965, the same year he became the road World Champion, and it was a whopping 48 years later that another cyclist won, when Sir Chris Hoy was awarded for his dominance in the velodrome. just three years later Mark Cavendish repeated Simpson’s feat at the World’s and also won the SPOTY, and last night Bradley Wiggins made it a cycling double by also winning the award.
seems like El Wiggo is following in the footsteps of George Hincapie with his latest venture. nothing to do with high powered performance enhancing drugs, no, but rather taking a leaf out of FashionistaGeorge’s book and starting a clothing line, in conjunction with the Englishman’s beloved Fred Perry brand. we all know that Wiggins loves all things Mod, and i guess that to the marketing crew at Perry this must have been a dream come true: an Englishman at the top of his game who is almost constantly in their gear.
so if you know any Wiggo fans, here’s the ideal birthday pressie.
and here’s where and how it all started:
his response to Millar’s description of the Tour is just class…
and Shane Sutton: ‘he got to the  Tour and couldn’t pull the foreskin off a rice puddin…” – more class…