A Waste of a Rainbow Jersey

Bradley Wiggins’s achievements have been immense. He has the most diverse palmar├ęs of any active cyclist and he appears to be able to accomplish any goal he puts his mind to. But strictly speaking, the rainbow jersey he won in Ponferrada last year by finishing fastest in the elite time trial championships, was the most wasted rainbow jersey in road cycling history.

By that I mean the number of days that Wiggins spent racing in it. The former Tour de France winner certainly did not get his money’s worth. He called a halt to his season directly after he won it and only remained on Team Sky’s books until Paris-Roubaix earlier this year. Thereafter he only rode on home soil – two stage races, the Tours of Yorkshire and Britain along with the one-day RideLondon Classic, none of which involved a time trial. The only time he spent in the jersey was in the preparation races in the build up to the Spring classics.

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The great British enigma

“Frankly, there is no story to tell other than that Robert failed to engage, communicate or evidence any activity of any significance that led me to think he was suited to a formal professional coaching position. Competing and coaching in sport are two very different things, even though they clearly have many things in common. Professional coaching in a highly accountable publicly funded role is a task that requires very specific skill sets, attitudes and insights, that in my judgement Robert did not possess. There have been many things I did in my tenure at British Cycling that, on reflection, I regret or would have done differently. Letting Robert go was not one of them.”

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The Truth and Complication Commission

The new UCI President Brian Cookson made a number of campaign promises as part of his election manifesto. One of these was the establishment of some sort of process to determine the truth about the doping problem within the sport, primarily so that a figurative line could be drawn demarcating the ushering in of a new era.

Presumably this would result in a deluge of doping related scandal with no repercussions for those participating. After this process, punishments for doping offenders would be more severe and the drip feeding of doping stories which has been occurring since the Festina affair rocked cycling in 1998 would be at an end.

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UCI – Get the point, not the points

The lack of racing in the winter months inevitably means that the news and discussion emerging from the cycling world comes from other corners of the sport that don’t involve turning pedals. Doping is the usual off-season topic to revert to, but as we are currently in a lull between the USADA report and the outcomes of the various other investigations that are taking place (UCI, Mantova, Padua), the current hot topic seems to be that of the UCI points system.

There are three stories which have emerged in recent weeks which highlight the various unwanted side affects caused by the current UCI points system which rewards riders rather than teams (a thorough breakdown of the system has been provided by The Inner Ring who highlights the fact that it may in fact be misunderstood by many riders). There are a number of facets to the application process in getting a team into the World Tour, of which the points scored via racing is just one, but it is the one which receives the most focus.

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2012 Tour de France Trivia

General Classification

  • This is the first Tour de France victory for Bradley Wiggins and for Great Britain. The previous best for both was fourth place in 2009 (Robert Millar also finished in fourth place in 1984).
  • Along with Roger Walkowiak, Wiggins is now one of only two Tour winners who have never won a road stage in any Tour de France (although of course, Wiggins still has a few years to rectify this).
It is also the first time since 1968 that the Tour winner has finished outside the top 10 in the mountains classification. Jan Janssen did so in the Tour directly after Tom Simpson died which was raced over a more cautious route with less demanding mountain stages.

  • Wiggins is the first Olympic track gold medalist to win the Tour de France. The closest any rider had come to achieving this previously was Guy Lapebie who won the 4km team pursuit in Berlin in 1936 and finished third in the Tour in 1948 behind Gino Bartali and Briek Schotte.
  • Having taken the yellow jersey on Stage Seven, Wiggins and Team Sky defended the race lead all the way to Paris for 13 stages. This is the most stages a Tour winner has held the yellow jersey directly before Paris since Bernard Hinault defended successfully for 15 stages in 1985.
  • Since trade teams were re-introduced to the Tour de France in 1969, the one-two finish by Wiggins and Chris Froome is the first time that two riders from the same team and same country have finished first and second in the Tour de France. It is the first time since Bjarne Riis and Jan Ullrich in 1996 for two riders from the same team and it is the first time since Laurent Fignon and Bernard Hinault in 1984 for two riders from the same country to finish first and second.

  • The last two times where two riders from the same team have finished first and second at the Tour (Riis-Ullrich 1996 and Hinualt-LeMond1985), the younger rider who finished in second place behind his team leader went on to win the Tour the following year. (This ‘two times’ ignores the team one-two by LeMond-Hinault in 86, where the following year Hinault retired and LeMond had been shot).
  • By finishing on the third step of the podium in Paris, Vincenzo Nibali has now finished on the podium of all three Grand Tours (2nd – Giro 2010, 1st – Vuelta 2010). He is the first Italian to achieve this feat since Felice Gimondi.
  • Starting with Andy Schleck’s inherited Tour de France in 2010, Wiggins’s victory makes it seven Grand Tours in a row where the winner has never before won a Grand Tour (Schleck, Nibali, Scarponi, Evans, Cobo, Hesjedal, Wiggins). This has only ever happened once before between the Vueltas of 1965 and 1967 (Wolfshohl, Adorni, Gimondi, Gabica, Aimar, Motta, Janssen).
  • Nicolas Roche’s 12th place finish overall goes one better than his father achieved in his final Tour de France in 1993 where he ended the race in 13th place. Roche junior also bettered his own personal best at the Tour which was 14th in 2010. His performance this year is now the highest G.C. place for an Irishman since Stephen Roche’s ninth place in 1992.

Stage Wins

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Britishness, Irishness, Patriotism and Cycling

With Team Sky set to deliver a one-two at the top of the general classification via Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome as well as nabbing four stages so far with four different riders, this is undoubtedly the best year ever for Great Britain at the Tour de France.

After today’s stage in the Pyrene├ęs, it seems clear that all of Wiggins’s potential rivals are either unwilling or unable to attack him. The only threat that could conceivably see Wiggins not reaching Paris with the yellow jersey seems to be from within his own team.

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