Dr Hutch: will the Tour be boring?

There are two sorts of Grand Tour. There are those that get more and more exciting as the three weeks unfold. And there are those that progressively become more and more a therapy for insomnia.

While it never seems quite right to speak ill of a recent Grand Tour, you’d have to admit that what with one thing and another, by week three, the general classification of the 2013 Giro was not provoking a whole lot of fingernail damage to the arms of your favourite chair.

I have a suspicion that the Tour might be even worse. If Sky is planning to squash this year’s Tour the way they squashed last year’s, the only real suspense surrounds who gets to be in charge of the steamroller. Consequently I think there’s a good chance that the most exciting moment of the 100th Tour came last month with the Wiggins-Froome spat.

There is one thing though. Before illness forced Sir Bradley Wiggins’s retirement from the Giro, he looked well placed to join the very, very exclusive group of riders whose chances in a stage race were scuppered by their inability to descend.

Many decades ago, Federico Bahamontes made comedy gold out of his downhilling nerves by waiting for the group at the top of the Romeyere climb and eating an ice cream while he did so. Wiggins looked like a man who’d have fallen at the mere sight of something with a coefficient of friction that low. Watching him was agonising. He was going downhill almost as badly as me, and no true champion deserves to be reduced to that.

Sky’s rivals will be contemplating this along with the descending of Chris Froome. It’s not as flakey as Wiggins’s in the Giro, but it’s still not quite out of the top drawer. Whoever leads Sky is likely to be more vulnerable going 
down than going up. The 
climbs will be ridden tempo, and the descents will look like BASE jumping.

The entertainment could be considerable. We all remember the descent of the Pinerolo in 2011, when Thomas Voeckler ended up in someone’s back yard and Andy Schleck crashed into the toilet of a Dutch campervan and had to be cajoled out with a Wall’s Viennetta.

Alas, Sky are almost certainly addressing the issue. Even as we speak, at the top of the 
volcano in Tenerife:
“Are the lead-filled Pinarellos prepared?”
“Yes, Mr Brailsford.”
“Brake blocks removed?”
“Yes, Mr Brailsford.”
“All the trees bubble-wrapped?”
“All except the cactuses, Mr Brailsford. We had some trouble with those.”

A ludicrous idea, clearly. It would be dangerous, difficult and probably ineffective. The ideal solution will have more control. I understand that the peace of the Alps this spring has been interrupted by teams of workers in Sky vans digging trenches in the roads (“pour les cables en fibres-optiques, monsieur”) that will contain the giant electromagnet-on-rails that did such outstanding service below the track at the Olympic Velodrome last summer.

This is why Sky can have only one leader – there is only one magnet. It will attract quite enough attention when Chris goes thundering down a mountain with his hands over his eyes, screaming in terror and leaning out on the bends rather than in, without two of them doing it as if they’re glued together. Incidentally, if you’re planning to take a campervan to the Alps for the Tour this year, for God’s sake hang on to your spoons. And keep the toilet door locked.

Dear Doc,
I’ve been cycling for several years. I don’t enjoy it. I feel a little ashamed to admit it, but I only took up cycling at all because I liked bikes, and wanted a reason for owning them that would satisfy my other half. The problem is that I want to own more and more of them, but in order to justify this I need to ride them more and more. In order to buy a time trial bike, I even had to take up time trialling. The more time I have to spend riding, the less time I have available for gazing admiringly. It’s driving me mad.

Anon – I wouldn’t worry about it. Bradley Wiggins took up cycling so he’d have a justification for throwing expensive but defective bikes at the nearest rock face. Allegedly.

How to.. Lube a chain
There are an almost infinite number of ways to look after a bike chain. It doesn’t matter which one you use, because the next person you discuss it with will tell you that it’s the worst possible way to do it, and the only true way is the one they use.

Nothing short of killing them on the spot will stop them from telling you their technique. So it’s as well to kill them on the spot.

Chains are supplied with a slippery gunk already applied. Depending whom you ask, this may be a) packing grease, to be removed before use, or b) the world’s finest chain lube, not to be removed under any circumstances. You may as well flip a coin.

The one thing that everyone is unanimous about is the need to clean a chain before lubrication. At one end of the continuum, a certain variety of old-school cyclist takes his chain off the bike and soaks it in a vigorous solvent.

Some even suggest petrol – you’ll be able to identify them by the absence of eyebrows and the third-degree burns. At another extreme, some insist that a gentle caress with a baby-wipe is the only way to avoid damaging the chain.

In between is the chain-cleaning machine, which makes life very simple and reasonably quick, and which is therefore regarded with scorn by everyone in the handing-out-free-advice business.

After you’ve cleaned it, you’ll need to select a lubricant, and devise a technique for applying it. Even if you’ve done everything perfectly up till now, you haven’t a prayer of getting this right. It’s not worth even trying.

This article was first published in the June 06 issue of Cycling Weekly. Read Cycling Weekly magazine on the day of release where ever you are in the world International digital edition, UK digital edition. And if you like us, rate us!

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