Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Champions in a Brawl

As the off-season of road cycling is suddenly upon us, our Classiciens ponder: How would cycling champions fare in a no-holds-barred brawl in a bar in Belgium? We celebrate the heroics of our hardmen on the bike, but who would they do in real-life situations that we Classiciens may have found ourselves in, once or twice?

Since much of this philosophical discourse is, well, philosophical and full of conjecture, we mix heroes of the old times, the not-so-old times, and of recent times. We start with a hypothetical bar, let's say at the foot of the Kappelmuur in Geraardsbergen, in the dead middle of February when snow and frost are still on the ground, and add a hypothetical cast of Henri Pelissier, Briek Schotte, Bartali and Coppi, Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Freddy Maertens, Bernard Hinault, and of course Greg LeMond.

Bernard Hinault - aka The Badger - demonstrating the usefulness of street fighting skills in Paris-Nice.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

What The Rainbow Misses in Paris-Tours

With a high-speed crash putting an end to Philippe Gilbert's chase of an exclusive Worlds-Lombardia double, Gilbert won't be showing up at the start line of Paris-Tours. It is too bad, because if he wins it he might be the first to ever accomplish the double of Worlds and Paris-Tours.

For a race that is officially considered a “classic”, Paris-Tours is perhaps the least prestigious among them—but that doesn’t mean it’s not important. Indeed, that it is absent from his list of 19 monuments and classics wins, Eddy Merckx cannot say that he’s won every classic.

Paris-Tours' first edition in 1896 was central France’s answer to Paris-Roubaix. The first edition followed a fairly flat course to Tours. Quickly it became known as the “Sprinters Classic”. In an effort to make it more interesting, derailleurs were banned for two years (1965 and 1966) and riders were only allowed two gears. Still, not content with what was thought to be a predictable finish, the organizers reversed the route in 1974, starting from the Tours area to somewhere in the vicinity of Paris. In 1988 the organizers decided to again reverse the route to start in Paris and end in Tours.