Tour de France: Once is Not Enough

Winning the Tour de France just once might be considered something of an achievement – but what of those who have managed the seemingly impossible twice? Or three times? Or five? (Oddly no one has won the TdF four times without going on to make it five for good measure…) Thanks to those good people at RoadCycling UK we’re delighted to bring you their latest info-graphic on the Tour de France, this one celebrating those incredible riders with multiple TdF wins. Enjoy…


Tour de France Multiple winners

To see the Tour de France in Numbers click here, take a look at RoadCycling UK’s Anatomy of Chris Froome info-graphic here or take a look at our guide to the six British riders in this year’s Tour de France here.


Want more? The Origins of the Tour de France here and our review of the Tour de France 100th Race Anniversary Edition book here. And, of course, for more great content from RoadCycling UK visit their website.



Is Mark Cavendish Unbeatable?

Is Mark Cavendish UnbeatableWhen Britain’s Mark Cavendish took victory on Stage 21 of the 2013 Giro d’Italia (May 26) he became the first sprinter in five years to win the race’s coveted red points leader’s jersey. But, perhaps more significantly, having been awarded the equivalent at both the Vuelta a Espana (in 2010) and Tour de France (2011), he became only the fifth rider ever to win it across all three Grand Tours – joining Eddy Merckx, Alessandro Petacchi, Djamolidine Abdoujaparov, Laurent Jalabert.


Speaking to BBC Radio 5 live Brian Cookson, President of British Cycling, has described the 28-year-old Isle of Man sprint star – who joined Omega Pharma-Quick Step this season from Team Sky – as ‘almost unbeatable’. With Cav currently having an impressive 23 stage wins of the Tour de France under his wheels, Cookson commented ‘He has certainly got a good chance of overtaking the great Eddy Merckx during his career.’


Merckx, widely regarded as the greatest every cyclist, currently holds the TdF stage win record (34), holds three world titles, won the TdF five times between 1969 and ’74, claimed victory the same number of times at the Giro and also claimed a win of the Vuelta a Espana in 1973. Cavendish undeniably has potential to continue his climb (sprint?) to great heights, but just look at some of Merckx claims to fame:


In 1972 he enjoyed a 39% ‘win rate’ (in 1970 and ’73 it was 37%).

He enjoyed a record 525 career victories.

He jointly shares – with Charles Pélissier (1930) and Freddy Maertens (1976) – the record of eight stage wins in a single TdF.

He is the only cyclist to have won the GC, Points and Mountains Classification in the same TdF (1969).


Can Cav beat that?


Books Reviews

Merckx: Half Man, Half Bike

Published in hardback in March this year, and due in paperback soon, Merckx: Half Man, Half Bike by William Fotheringham looks deep into the psyche of the cyclist who, for many, is the best there has ever been.


One of the key factors that support the publisher’s guff about Merckx being ‘to cycling what Ali is to boxing’…is the numbers. Quoted as a total of 445 victories in the publicity material but as ‘over 500’ and 525 by sources as diverse as the Guardian and Wikipedia. We’d suggest that if you are pinning your story on statistics at least get them right…


What isn’t in dispute is that Merckx won more races than any cyclist in history; five Tour de France, five Giros d’Italia, one Vualta a Espana and three world championships. Possibly the greatest achievement was to win, uniquely, the yellow (Overall Winner), green (Best Sprinter) and polka-dot (King of the Mountains] jerseys in a single Tour (1969).


Fotheringham, one of the most entertaining of cycling writers, provides interesting historical and political background to the two sides of Belgium and the rich traditions of Flanders cycling. His biographies of Tom Simpson (Put me back on my Bike) and Fausto Coppi (Fallen Angel) may be much more thrilling but, in part, that’s because both characters were flawed and met with personal tragedy. Because Merckx was relentlessly successful and focused the catalogue of rides and wins impresses rather than fascinates.


However, what Fotheringham does provide, as always, is a compelling opening chapter that takes you to the heart of the book – Merckx, near the end of his career, fighting for a futile third place finish on a brutal Alpine pass, with a jaw that was broken in two places just that morning. He also presents a rider who always attacked, the first rider to dominate the classics and the tour, day after day. Interviewed by Fotheringham in 1997 Merckx answered the key questions posed in the book: ‘Why the years of focus? Why the need to win so often and so much?’ Merckx replied with a simple soundbite: ‘Passion, only passion.’


Fotheringham suggests it all starts with a sensitive Flemish youngster, an outsider who spoke French, and one who was, in a community where cycle racing was key to the culture, ‘too small to win’. It was this fear of failure that led him at times to pursue the needless annihilation of his rivals.


If the background and the cycling action are well researched and detailed one aspect has been widely critised: to some, Fotheringham ‘takes a bucket of whitewash to Merckx’s use of performance enhancing drugs’. Merckx was said to be distraught early in his career when he realised that professional cycling was ‘rotten to the core’ yet still went on to be caught doping three times. Whatever your views on that issue this book is yet another quality title from Fotheringham; a fascinating story of, by any measure, the greatest competitive cyclist of them all.


Merckx: Half Man, Half Bike by William Fotheringham is published by Yellow Jersey – ISBN-10: 0224074482 – available from, amongst others,



Cavendish Wins the Day

20120702-195323.jpgMark Cavendish took his first (of many?) wins as a Team Sky rider at the Tour de France today (Monday, July 2), delivering a quite brilliant display to win Stage Two in a time of 4h56’59”. In the first sprint finish of the Tour, Cav had positioned himself superbly in order to go head to head in the final 200 yards and force Lotto-Belisol’s Andre Greipel into second and Orica-GreenEDGE’s Matthew Goss into third. The victory marked his 21st stage victory at the TdF, putting him sixth on the all-time list behind the legendary Eddy Merckx and just a single stage behind Lance Armstrong.


Speaking after the stage, Cavendish commented, ‘I’ve been on the back foot but I’ve been more relaxed than ever coming into this Tour de France as the pressure hasn’t been there for me to do anything. (A win) doesn’t give me any more confidence as it’s never easy to win a Tour de France stage, with a team or on your own… It wasn’t as windy as I thought it was going to be and that didn’t play as much of a factor. It’s been a good start to the race for the team. Brad stayed out of trouble and hopefully he can continue on towards yellow. We’re here to win the yellow jersey. I’m here to do what I did today.’