“Somewhere in the ancient mystic Trinity, you get Three as a magic number” – Bob Dorough, Schoolhouse Rock!
Trouble, they say, comes in threes. The way the back half of last year went personally I would have to add in a factor of at least 10 to that figure, but the notion of a Triad of Adversity seems to be a well held adage. Once a couple of things have gone awry, we almost expect a third calamity to happen and often actively seek it out in order to discount it as quickly as possible. It is an ingrained expectation of the way that things just are. When you think about it like that, it’s also a pretty depressing outlook to have.
So, in a wild stab at New Year’s, ‘on-the-other-hand’, optimism, perhaps we could ask what if the blighted triple was not only a truism but was governed by Newton’s Laws of Motion in the same way that rider’s movements are. In a world where all actions have an equal and opposite reaction, those same three troubles must be balanced by three happinesses. Each three clouds should have three silver linings. As with the third disaster that we yearn to seek out, surely it’s just a case of looking. I’m aware I’m clutching at some pretty thin straws here.
It could be true, though. Certainly it should be in Cycling – a sport as open to the vagaries of chaos theory and chance as it is to the application of marginally accrued, scientifically-proven gains. A butterfly flaps it’s wings, momentarily distracting a rider, producing a slight wobble in the peloton that ripples back to create a season-ending crash for the race favourite? We would all focus on that crash and lament the lost opportunity for the famous rider. But maybe that same crash opens the way for an unknown neo-pro in a previously doomed break to go on for his maiden win, kickstarting the rest of his career. Balanced is restored. The Cloud is silver-lined.
With that expectation of karmic balance placed full-square in our collective consciousness we would suddenly begin to welcome the Tri-als of life, safe in the knowledge that positive payback is just around the corner. Instead of endlessly looking for troublesome thirds, perhaps we would start counting the first and second pieces of good news and go looking for the last Tri-umph instead.
So what are the current Two’s that we can expect to convert into a magical Three in 2014? With a parcours very much to Chris Froome’s liking, a third consecutive British win at the Tour looks like a reasonably safe bet. Even without his super domestique Richie Porte – who will be leading Sky’s tilt at the Giro – Froome will remain the odds-on favourite for as long as he remains healthy. Three British winners in a row? What is that old saying about waiting ages for a bus…?
We have been told that the last two Grand Tours have been dope-free. Certainly no riders from either the 2013 Tour or Vuelta were ejected during the races, or sanctioned afterwards (despite some reservation about the both winners from some quarters) . A positive-free Giro in 2014 would be a very welcome way to complete that version of the Triple Crown.
Maybe we are destined for yet another year of one rider grabbing three of the Spring Classics? Boonen cleaned up in 2012 winning Ghent Wevelgem, Roubaix and Flanders; and then Cancellara found great form in 2013 to take E3, Roubaix and Flanders. Those runs of results suggest that it’s looking good for one rider to dominate again in 2014.. Who do you fancy? Sagan to finally achieve the great whitewash that he has been threatening for a couple of seasons, Gilbert to repeat his own 2011 triple, or a new Classics force to emerge?
And what about three attempts on The Athlete’s Hour? Cancellara is already committed to making an attempt this year and both Tony Martin & Bradley Wiggins are making some of the right noises about following up with challenges of their own. I personally think this is wishing for a triple too far as I can’t see all three fitting it in before the year is over, but if it came to pass it would be one of the most engaging narratives for the year ahead.
Three could indeed be a Magic Number. Just don’t ask us to put three wheels or three chainrings on our Bi-cycles please. Happiness has it’s limits, you know.