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Those Damned Fans

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The one thing that separates cycling from all other sports is the fact that it is free to watch at the highest level.  Imagine turning up at the World Cup Final and watching the match with your camper van and BBQ at the side of the pitch.  Or standing on a hill overlooking the Superbowl with a few beers and your mates watching the game unfold.  Or walking into the Augusta National with a pair of shorts and a vest on the final round of the Masters.

You can’t.

But that’s exactly what you can do at every single cycling World Tour event.  And that is why cycling is by far and above, the most inclusive and remarkable global sport. More

TdF + Bastille Day = Mont Ventoux

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Today is stage 12 of the Tour de France and it marks a special day for the French – Bastille Day, a national holiday and the hopes of a French winner on the famous mountain in a week where their footballers failed to deliver.

But it’s a special day for me too – it’s the first time the Tour has visited the Giant of Provence since my efforts in September 2013.  Whilst it’s not a national holiday where I live, I can assure you that I’ll be watching the stage somehow. More

I’ll Make You Rich Part IV – LBL

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Thanks to Mark at www.zeitgeistimages.co.uk for allowing me to use the above image.  His cycling/art-deco inspired work is tremendous – click here to buy his Liege-Bastogne-Liege piece.  Follow Mark on Twitter @MrMarkFairhurst

When my 2 picks for Paris-Roubaix arrived in the velodrome in the leading group of 5, you could have forgiven me for whooping and a hollering.  I was imagining spending my winnings on not one but three new Castelli Gabba jackets.

So imagine the deafening silence in my head when they finished 3rd and 5th (Stannard and Bousson Hagen respectively).  I still made a profit but it’ll probably only cover a couple of brake blocks and it takes a lot to stop a big unit like me, so they won’t last long.

Onwards. More

I’ll Make You Rich Part III – Roubaix Roubaix Roubaix

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So having struck gold in last week’s Ronde Van Vlaanderen / Tour of Flanders with a win from Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) placing 4th, I thought I would give you another opportunity to share the spoils this weekend.

Paris-Roubaix is possibly the most iconic Monument Classic, it’s certainly the most ridiculous.  Starting in Compiegne north-east of Paris, the route covers a flat 257km route, across the open countryside of northern France, finishing in the Roubaix velodrome.  But what makes this race ridiculous and yet so intriguing is the fact that the route also covers 27 individual cobbled (pave) sections totalling 53km.  These aren’t you’re modern day bumps on the road, these cobbles are verging on medieval, the only traffic these roads see is farm machinery.  A society exists (Les Amis de Paris–Roubaix or the friends of the race) to maintain some of the sections and by maintenance I mean, they manually scrape the compacted dirt OUT of the gaps in the cobbles to make sure that they are in the worst possible condition for road bikes.  Throw in some rain and you have a lottery of biblical proportions so picking a winner could be challenging. More

I’ll Make You Rich Part II – RVV

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Well after the Milan Sanremo  debacle I would not be surprised if this post receives no views.  My MSR pre-race tips were actually looking very good at 300 metres to go and then it all fell apart with Fernando Gaviria (Etixx Quickstep) taking out Cancellara, Sagan and Boasson Hagen then Bouhanni slipped his chain (although I’m sure he still thinks it was someone else’s fault) when he looked odds on to take the sprint.  But chapeau to Arnaud Demare (FDJ) for his first Monument win and to Britain’s Ben Swift (Sky)  for a tremendous second place.

So onwards to the second Monument of 2016, the 100th edition of the Ronde Van Vlaanderen (RVV) or the Tour of Flanders if you prefer.  Each Monument has its individual nuances, Milan-Sanremo has the epic distance, Paris-Roubaix has its cobbles, Liege-Bastogne-Liege has its many steep climbs and Il Lomardia sitting at the end of a gruelling season has the longer climbs.

But the Ronde Van Vlaanderen has no fewer than 18 climbs, some cobbled, some asphalt and a further 7 cobbled flat sections.  The climbs in the RVV aren’t your classic alpine slogs.  No, these are short sharp strength sappers.  They range from 400 metres to 2.5km in length and average between 4% and 12.5% average gradients but some sections are as steep as 22%.  Now throw in a distance of over 250km and you get a guaranteed afternoon of sporting excellence and endeavour and no matter who wins, it’ll be safe to say that they deserve it.

So taking this and the current performances, who is most likely going to be on the podium? More

I’ll Make You Rich Part I – MSR

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This weekend sees the first cycling Monument of 2016, the Milan-San Remo (MSR).  It’s the longest professional one-day race and consequently, the winner can be harder to predict.  So many variables enter the equation, inclement weather conditions, how the legs respond in a sprint after 7 hours of racing and being able to get over the final climb of the Cipressa without cracking, to name but a few.

What is more certain, is the likelihood that the race will finish with a sprint as the last time the winning margin was more than 10 seconds was in 1994 and more than a minute was 1974.

I’m no betting man but there are certain events where a flutter is justified and the first Monument of the season is one such occasion.  I’ve selected my favourites, a few outside chances for those who want more bang for their buck and reasoned arguments for some notable exclusions. More