“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.
There has been a lot of talk, and great deal more speculation, recently about The Hour; cycling’s supposed Blue Riband event, which has lain dormant for a few years, bogged down by anachronistic rules and the weight of history. The record has been bettered once since Chris Boardman’s definitive ride of 2000, but by such a large margin (and by a rider with more doping positives than wins on his palmares) that there is a tangible level of discomfort to be felt when it is discussed. Cycling is well versed in the arts of cynicism these days and the general feeling is that The Hour is in need of new life and a new, credible record holder.
Fabian Cancellara’s claim last month that he will make an attempt on The Hour in 2014 potentially supplies both those needs. His talent and credibility are enough to appease even the most strident of cynics that his is a name worthy of the event and it’s undoubtedly glittering history. More intriguingly perhaps, his confirmation of an attempt at this stage in the season is creating ripples of interest across the sport, with other big names quickly being linked to making a challenge next year. The record has traditionally seen flurries of attempts followed by years of inactivity so the hope (and, in some quarters, the expectation) is that Cancellara will kickstart a new cycle of competition. Bradley Wiggins and World Time Trial champion Tony Martin are the two names at the head of everyone’s fantasy Battle for the Hour. Each has the capability and the stature required but do either have Cancellara’s cojones to publicly commit to an attempt at this early stage?
Photo by Luis Barbosa
Now that the Tour of Britain has concluded, all eyes are fully focussed on Tuscany for the UCI World Road Race Championships this week. Racing started today with the Team Time Trial before moving onto the individual time trials in the middle of the week and then culminating with the Blue Riband road race events next weekend. Junior (Men and Women) and U23 (Men only) versions of all the events are either side of the midweek races, filling out a packed schedule of competition. We are guaranteed some gorgeous scenery as the routes traverse the beautiful Tuscan landscape around Lucca, Pistoia and Florence and there are going to be plenty of fireworks throughout the event.
The Team Time Trials – uniquely contested by trade teams rather than nations – kicked off the annual event and both the Mens and Women’s events were won by the defending champions, though in starkly contrasting fashions. Whilst Specialized-Lulu Lemon romped home in the Women’s race, besting second place Rabo Womens Cycling by over 70 seconds across the 42.7km course, the Men’s Omega Pharma QuickStep squad had a somewhat narrower margin of victory over the Orica Greenedge team. Racing an extended course of 56.8km, the Belgian outfit – who were the last team out on the road – took the title from the understandably gutted Australians by less than a single second. Their time of 1:04:16.81 was just enough to deny Orica Greenedge, who had maintained a strong run in the final kilometres to set up the nail-biting finish. Sky Procycling rounded out the podium some 22 seconds further back.
Home interest in the Team Time Trials has been impacted by the fact that cross-scheduling of this event with the last stage of the Tour of Britain meant that two of GB’s best male testers were unavailable. Whilst Chris Froome (SKY), and Steve Cummings (BMC) both took part, it was the absence of the talents of Alex Dowsett and Bradley Wiggins – both of whom illuminated the final ToB stage in some way of recompense – that was most obvious.