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Is the golden hangover coming?

Felix Lowe
16 Sep 2016

As the season winds down after a vintage summer for Great Britain, Felix Lowe wonders whether anyone could care less what happens now.

Team GB’s velodrome stars, it’s fair to say, positively wiped the floor with their rivals at the Rio Olympics and Paralympics. Their voracious haul of 11 medals at the Olympics was a massive nine more than the Netherlands, who were next best with just two. In fact, with five gold medals between them, the nation of ‘Kennytrott’, (which conjures to mind some kind of Gaelic dance involving an oval stage) would have finished 19th in the medal table just on their own, higher than Canada. Not bad for a nation with a population of two.

Highlights elsewhere included a silver lining for revitalised record-breaking Tour stage winner Mark Cavendish, who finally bagged an Olympic medal having missed out in his previous two Games, while Chris Froome’s bronze in the road time-trial made it an even dozen overall for Britain’s cyclists. Of course, Bradley Wiggins got in on the act too, becoming the most decorated British Olympian of all time before revealing he would retire at the end of the season after the Tour of Britain, the Six Days of London track meeting and, finally, the Ghent Six.

‘I wanted it to end like this, not at some crappy little race in the north of France – Paris-Tours in the rain – probably climbing off in the feed zone. It’ll be a nice place to end my career, back where I was born, back where it started.’

While his words would have hardly ingratiated himself to the locals of the Chevreuse and Loire valleys for whom Paris-Tours – the so-called Sprinters’ Classic – forms the pinnacle of each cycling season, you can certainly appreciate Sir Brad’s sentiment.

Yet Paris-Tours should be right up Wiggins’ street. So fast were early editions that organisers twice banned derailleurs in the 1960s in a bid to slow things down. It may be no blue riband race but Paris-Tours has produced the most winners of the niche ‘yellow ribbon’ – or ruban jaune – prize for the highest average speed for a classic over 200km. (Last year, Italy’s Matteo Trentin set a new record of 49.641km/h in the 231km race – proving that powerhouses can prevail over the out-and-out sprinters.)

Not to worry. I guess when you’re the Hour record holder for cycling around in circles there’s little interest in eking that out over four-and-a-half hours in a straight line over the flat, agricultural plains of northern France. And, to be fair, since winning the Tour in 2012 Wiggins has mustered as much enthusiasm for road cycling as Cavendish has for, say, riding up Mont Ventoux.

So what of the rest of the year, then? Will the other remaining races simply peter out in the wake of the Rio storm? There is of course still the small matter of the road World Championships in Doha, though what will inevitably be a pan-flat desert bonanza could end up being pretty crap for anyone watching. Still, Cavendish will be there all the same – attempting to take the rainbow stripes for a second time to add to his Tour yellow and Olympic silver. 

For British fans that leaves only the prospect of one of the Yateses perhaps winning the final major classic of the season, Il Lombardia, ahead of a Wiggo-less Paris-Tours.

As for Kenny and Trott, cheeky tweet about the ridiculous gene pool available for their future children forced an embarrassed Trott to scratch the suggestion that they’d call any potential son Kieran. The smart money is now on a daughter called Madison.

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