When we look back at the 2014 Tour de France and debate the outcome a couple of things should be kept well to the front of the mind: Astana’s Vincenzo Nibali extended his lead over his rivals on every single significant stage. On the cobbles, in the Vosges on Bastille Day, in the Alps & Pyrenees and in the time trial. That fact alone should mark him out as a champion of some distinction. His win also completes his set of all three Grand Tours and allows him to join a select group of some of the greatest names in cycling. He won more road stages than any champion since Eddy Merckx, elevating the achievement further. The side-note that he did it in his national champions jersey will have pleased his home fans and cycling history aficionados in equal measure. He focused his season entirely on these two weeks and utterly dominated the race – appearing serene even when coolly dispatching the podium pretenders with stage winning attacks. The words ‘worthy champion’ should not even be being debated.
Cyclists are often a bit funny about their tan-lines. Cultivating a set of razor-sharp transitions, which switch instantly from the deepest mahogany to a blinding alabaster white, half way along a thigh or bicep is seen as one of the heights of being ‘pro’. Tan-lines like these tell of days in the saddle, not days on the beach. They are worn with more than just pride; for many they are a badge of honour.
Last week however, we saw a couple of cases of cases of pro team ‘tanning’ getting out of hand and raising questions about protection and performance.