Telegraph subs!

In the end, despite staying with the lead group up the nasty little climb 2km from the finish line in Bern,

To, not from.

the leaders’ and points’ jerseys at all three grands tours,

Grands tours? Some cycling specialty or another mistake?

Cavendish knows he has his rivals beaten year and the temptation to carry on while his form is good is strong

Here or year?

34 thoughts on “Telegraph subs!”

  1. grands tours is probably from the same mould as Grands Prix. But otherwise, the Torygraph continues its inexorable slide into the morass formerly inhabited by the Grauniad…

  2. Grand Tours is the collective name for the three big Tours of France, Italy, and Spain, as an ex bike rider I know about these things for what it’s worth.
    And ‘this’ is missing ?

  3. Could someone with some genuine knowledge of cycling tell me what makes a ‘sprint specialist’ such as Cavendish and what makes a ‘classics specialist’ such as Sagan? And how do the cyclists know the difference between races at the start of a stage?

  4. Loving seeing Cav do what he does best, but the relentless black-clad machine is making the GC dull.

  5. I do get the impression, some of the people writing for the Telegraph are writing about subjects they know absolutely nothing about. In fact, even when the subjects are something I know absolutely nothing about, I still get the feeling I know more than the writer. I suppose that’s the difference between mere, everyday, ignorance & utter & constructive ignorance.

  6. If a stage is say 200km long, and at kilometre 198, there is a “nasty little climb”, then surely that climb is “2km from the finish line in Bern”. Not sure what the problem is there.

    “Grands tours” is simply French for “grand tours”, i.e. the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a Espana. Not incorrect, but certainly pretentious. Perhaps the phrase should be in italics to indicate that it is in a foreign language?

    To reply to ironman, sprint specialists are those riders capable of going very, very fast right at the end of a stage. They often struggle going uphill (relative to other riders) because that’s not what their bodies are made or trained for. Hence riders like Mark Cavendish tend to win races and stages without many hills in them.

    Classics specialists are those riders capable of winning the important single day “classics” such as Paris-Roubaix, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the Tour of Flanders and the Tour of Lombardy. That actually includes quite a variety of different races, so you tend to get “northern classics” specialists for Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders – races with significant cobbled sections – and “Ardennes classics” or “hilly classics” specialists for races without cobbles but with hills, such as Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

    There can be an overlap between classics specialists and sprinters – riders who can do both. Peter Sagan is one example, as was Ireland’s Sean Kelly back in the 1980s.

    You also find that some grand tour specialists (who tend to be good mountain climbers) are good at the hilly classics too. Not so much as in Merckx’s time though.

  7. The Telegraph subs may be useless, but when compared to the Guardian Mods, well, words fail me. I posted a comment on an article there which was removed as contrary to comments policy:

    “We keep being told in the comments here that the Nice attack was nothing to do with Islam.

    Call me thick, but the perp was heard to be shouting Allahu Akhbar, which as most will know is Arabic for God is great, a phrase uttered by members of the Islamic faith.”

    Can anyone explain how it is justifiable for this to be removed under any decent comments policy in what imagines itself to be a reputable newspaper?

  8. Ironman, a flat stage could potentially be either. A classics specialist or a breakaway specialist like Jens Voigt will make a break and try and hold out until the end. The sprinters’ teams will try and keep the pace high enough that the can’t succeed, in the final 5km they can be pushing 40mph. Trying to breakaway at that speed is almost impossible although that didn’t stop Jens Voigt trying on the final day in Paris a few years ago when the 40 something year old brought the pain to the entire peloton. As for what makes them, they are just born that way. Cavendish doesn’t look like how you would expect a sprinter to look, but it works for him.

  9. Can anyone explain how it is justifiable for this to be removed under any decent comments policy in what imagines itself to be a reputable newspaper?

    Sure. Pointing out that something is the fault of Islam is blatant Islamophobia. I’m surprised they haven’t reported your hate crimes to the police.

  10. To add a bit more to Mark Poles cycling description…
    Cycling is a team sport – not always obvious at first. This comes from it being considerably easier to ride behind someone else than to sit in the wind at the front – something like 20%+ less effort required.
    Since it is a team sport, there are different positions – such as sprinters / domestiques / team leaders etc. I don’t think it is too different to positions played in any other sport. A combination of physical attributes & skill set lead to someone being in the front row of a rugby team, striker in a football team etc.
    The race route (parcours) and aims of the team will lead to a different team selection for different races. For example, the Team Sky team currently at the Tour de France is built entirely to support the team leader (Chris Froome) in winning the overall General Classification. Other teams, such as Dimension Data, have a number of riders specifically to support Mark Cavendish (their sprinter) in getting to the right place at the right time to sprint for the win (i.e. near the front of the race in the final km)

  11. @BF

    ‘Can anyone explain how it is justifiable for this to be removed under any decent comments policy in what imagines itself to be a reputable newspaper?’

    I wonder if the moderator had a personal axe to grind – which may be an unfortunate phrase, given the exotic events in Germany overnight.

  12. OK. Classics specialists versus sprint specialists.

    Mark Cavendish, in the mould of Usain Bolt, is probably the greatest sprinter in cycling history. For a sprinter, he’s an odd shape – too small, for a start. His skill is to rely on relatively fresh and incredibly powerful legs and a huge burst of aerobic respiration during the final 400m or so of a long (circa 200km), flat race to propel him from following someone along at 30mph to cross the line at around 45mph just before he tips into anaerobic respiration, combined with the tactical nous to stay in the slipstream of someone else just long enough that there’s still time to get past them. Normally a sprinter will have a couple of team members capable of pushing a high speed for an extended period, both to keep their man near the front and on the correct side of the road, and to provide a good slipstream. As a result, there’s much jockeying for position and relatively frequent crashing as riders slice across each other just on the borderline of what’s allowed in the rules. Traditionally, sprinters in cycling have been huge, hulking men with long legs on oversized bikes, until Cavendish tore up the rulebook. Much like Usain Bolt did.

    A classics specialist is particularly good at single-day races. They test a variety of skills, including the ability to keep the pace up on wet cobblestones, the ability to stay with the main bunch going both uphill and downhill, the ability to escape from the main bunch towards the end of the race when the time is right and stay away, and the ability to stay fresh enough to sprint a bit (40mph, perhaps, but not 45mph) when things get difficult towards the end of the race and nobody can break away from the main bunch. Yesterday’s stage in the Tour de France was one that suited the classics specialists over the sprinters because towards the end of the stage there was a long drag uphill not long before the end, which put too much lactic acid into the purist sprinters’ leg muscles for them to be able to hit top speed at the finish. Peter Sagan, despite winning the points competition every year he’s ridden the Tour de France, and despite that competition normally being one for sprinters, isn’t a pure sprinter – he’s a classics specialist and a “puncheur” (good at rolling terrain with short but steep climbs).

  13. @Interested

    “I wonder if the moderator had a personal axe to grind – which may be an unfortunate phrase, given the exotic events in Germany overnight.”

    That is of course possible, in which case any reputable and credible newspaper would fire the cunt.

  14. Further to the above, despite Cav not being a particularly stereotypical sprinter, if you see a couple of good pictures of him and one of the climbers, the physical differences are obvious even to the uninitiated. The climbers are the spindliest, pipe-cleaner-armed blokes you ever saw, without an ounce of spare muscle let alone fat. The sprinters are still pretty lightweight compared to rugby forwards or something, but are very obviously carrying at least an extra 20-30kg of muscle over the climbers, maybe more – Cav’s thighs are huge by cycling standards, and a good size even for a rower or something.

    Rob Moss>

    “a huge burst of aerobic respiration during the final 400m or so of a long (circa 200km), flat race to propel him from following someone along at 30mph to cross the line at around 45mph just before he tips into anaerobic respiration”

    Are you sure about that? I’m not sure at all, but I was under the impression that the idea is to use aerobic respiration up until just before the line, and deliberately use anaerobic respiration for extra power in the last 10 seconds or so of the sprint.

  15. Great explanations of the cycling. Before I got into following it, I didn’t realise how much the slipstream effect influences the way the sport works.

    I think most people, even when cycling casually, don’t really get up to the speeds where the feeling becomes intuitive to understand. But stick your hand out of the window of a car at 40-45mph and you’ll get an idea of what they are pushing against.

    Sprinting really is all about the last 400m or so, often a burst at just 200m even. It’s a totally different type of fitness to that required to get you the preceding 200km. You just have to stay with the peloton, preferably with your lead-out team working for you at the end, to be in position to try for the sprint.

    Classics riders tend to be able to compete in sprints to a varying degree, but they are really good at things like a series of short climbs on the way, or keeping up with a sustained high-speed break away 10-40km from the finish. These things often drop specialist sprinters.

    They tend not to win Grand Tours because they don’t have the right bodies to do all that, then get up the next three days to pedal relentlessly up mountains. You need a climber’s stick-like body to do that, but if you have it you will never win a classic or a sprint stage as you can’t deliver that ‘red zone’ speed boost, you can only trudge up hills.

    It’s all about the trade-off between optimal power-weight ratios and optimal power ratios. You can’t peak for both

    Great riders are often able to do one thing excellently and other things surprisingly well; Sagan is a classics style rider who is rather good at sprinting too. Froome is a climber who is a rather good time triallist. Etc.

  16. Thank you all. One last question: are there a set of differing characteristics that distinguish classic racers from a time trialist? Tony Martin for example is always described as the latter.

  17. I don’t think time-trialling is so much a set of physical characteristics as a bunch of techniques and so-on, at least in comparison to the other things we’ve been talking about. It’s about how good you are at metering out your effort, mainly, with a dose of how good your riding position is and suchlike. Depending on the kind of course chosen for a time trial, different riders will come out ahead – the Tour this year has very much uphill TTs which favour the climbers.

    As for Tony Martin, he’s a multiple world TT champion. The commentators are maybe indulging in a touch of mental laziness in calling him a time trialist all the time, but you can see why.

  18. I don’t want to get involved in pedantics, but….

    Mark Cavendish, in the mould of Usain Bolt, is probably the greatest sprinter in cycling history.

    Nothing like Usain Bolt, Cavendish is a road sprinter, a fair comparison with Usain Bolt would be Chris Hoy, the greatest road sprinter ever ? not really as the vast majority of his wins have been in tours the TdF especially where he is indeed the greatest sprinter, but his record outside the tours is not very impressive only one major single day win the Milan – San Remo.
    Cycling like many sports has become more specialist and more sponsor minded hence the focusing on the TdF by so many teams and riders simply for the exposure it gets world wide, the only problem with that logic is nobody really remembers who came second and a whole season is wasted if you don’t win.
    Sean Kelly famously rode in 166 races in one season winning around 60, that sort of program is unlikely to be ever seen again.
    “A key technical skill for sprinters is keeping an aerodynamic position in the sprint.”
    that is basically cobblers as anyone watching a road sprint will see that unlike track sprinting the riders are out of the saddle and all over their bikes, nothing aerodynamic about any of that, Cavendish has a naturally small profile but I doubt that much is gained when he is sprinting.

    For the record I rode on the track not road, there is a distinct difference in many areas, I could go on but I imagine most are willing me to stop.

  19. the average speed yesterday was around 46kph, just bonkers. No idea how they do it on a route over 200km. The peleton helps of course but, when it breaks up on hills they are still doing crazy speeds.

  20. Wiggiatlarge – I disagree on aero effects of sprinters. They are doing over 70kmh in the sprints, air resistance is important at that speed. See Caleb Ewan’s super-low position, and Cav does say that his low position helped a lot (and has since been copied).
    Anyway, for an economics themed blog (well, vaguely), there is a lot of cycling chat!
    I recommend a trip over to for more focused cycling stuff.

  21. @portemat – thanks for publicly associating the rugby front row with an actual skill set. The members of the Front Row Union are indebted to you, sir.

  22. @BiS – I think you’ll find that most of the people writing for most of the papers are writing about subjects they know absolutely nothing about. I imagine their general ignorance must be why they jump on the bandwagon of every piece of marketing hype and propaganda disseminated by anyone that puts themselves forward as an expert.

    The reason for its pervasiveness, I think, is that they rather foolishly imagine that it’s easier to turn a hack into a scientist, for example, than a scientist into a hack. Much as it’s surely easier to turn a bus driver into a concert pianist than a concert pianist into a bus driver.

  23. Bloke in Costa Rica

    @bloke in spain: “I do get the impression, some of the people writing for the Telegraph are writing about subjects they know absolutely nothing about[…]”

    It’s not just the DT. This is a general description of almost all journalists. They are lazy, innumerate wretches. In fact the depth and breadth of their ignorance has been remarked upon quite brilliantly by Michael Crichton (quod vide The Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect).

    About competitive cycling I am utterly innocent of any knowledge whatsoever, which is why I refrain from writing about it. This is one of the criteria that distinguish me from a journalist.

  24. Portemat, in theory yes, in the real world very little, as with most things in cycling the difference in aerodynamics is only achieved in perfect conditions ie Bradley Wiggins in a TT or pursuit, in the rest of racing it is a mute point as the body is the biggest air dam and that position cannot be held if you are all over the bike as they are in road sprints.
    Cavendish has always had that position, he is relatively small compared with his opponents and it is not difficult for him to stay small, but the minute you get out of the saddle most of that advantage has gone.
    Even on the track where sprinters only are out of the saddle whilst accelerating the aerodynamic position and wind tunnel advantages are negated by the fact that everybody else has the same or as near dammit equipment and position so that fortunately it is still man against man and not like motor racing man against machine advantage.
    This is not an armchair opinion but from someone who competed at a fairly high level and has followed all the ups and downs of the sport for a long time, it doesn’t make me infallible but it does give me a grounding on which to base my opinion.
    You can go back to Roger Riviere when he broke the hour record in 1957, he had plastic covering his crash helmet and shoes with no laces al in an attempt to have a better profile, how much real difference it made as Riviere had a classic pursuiters position is arguable, but mentally it gave him an edge and that is what much of this is all about.

    No more before Tim bans me.

  25. People don’t get banned from the comments section because they’re instructing us upon the details of something we don’t know about.

    That’s what the comments section is *for*

  26. Watch Cavendish winning a sprint. Out of the saddle, he’s lower that the guys he’s beating. He says that’s important: seems reasonable to believe him.

    Sprinters need to maximise power/wind resistance for a few seconds. Time trialers need to maximise power/wind resistance for up to an hour. Mountain climbers need to maximise power/weight for as long as it takes to get up the mountain.

  27. Wiggiatlarge, SJW>

    I used to race BMX/BSX (briefly) and even there having the right position was important. Not vital, not a huge factor, but important.

    I’d be very surprised if it’s not also an important factor in road-race sprinting – I’d expect them to be trying to strike a fine balance between producing a few more watts or having a slightly more aerodynamic position so less power is needed. That said, if one guy has a few percent extra on the day, it’s going to outweigh the minor factors.

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