Thursday, 5 February 2009

The Greatest?

Today on Eurosport I heard Lance Armstrong described (in all seriousness) as the greatest cyclist ever!!!! I don’t think I have ever heard such a stupid and obviously wrong statement. EVER.

Let’s be honest here, No one can come close to Eddy Merckx. OK he only won the tour 5 times but he did win the Giro 5 times, the Vuelta, the tour de Suisse, Paris Nice (3 times), every single classic at least once, including Milan – San Remo 7 times 1966,67,69, 71,72,75 and 1976, semi classics including Gent Wevelgem, Het Volk, etc. etc. 17 six day races, the World Championship road race three times and the Super Prestige Trophy, not to mention the hour record and God knows how many other tour jerseys.

Second on my list has to be Fausto Coppi. His palmares includes 5 tours, 5 Giros, Milan – San Remo 4 times, Paris Roubaix, 5 Tours of Lombardy together with the World Championship road race and the inevitable hour record among many others. We should also remember that he spent a significant part of the 2nd World War as a POW in the UK, so that knocks out a good 4 of his prime years.

Third: well I guess it has to be Maitre Jacques: 5 TDF (yawn) 2 Giros d’Italia, The GP de Nations 7 times – not bad for a tester! The Super Pretige Pernod (World Cup equivalent, more or less) 4 times, Paris – Nice 5 times, the World Championship road race and as is becoming usual, the hour record. Anquetil, though is best remembered for his incredible performance in riding and winning the Dauphine libere stage race and the now regrettably defunct Bordeaux Paris with less than 12 hours gap.

Fourth, Bernard Hinault? – The usual. 5 tours, 2 Vueltas, 3 Giros, Paris – Roubaix, Liege – Bastogne – Liege twice, not forgetting the 1980 issue, run of in an absolute blizzard. Hinault was apparently so cold at the finish he had to be taken of his bike and had to wait until his bath water was cool before warming up. Only weeks later could he feel his middle fingers again! Now that’s a hard man.

Fifth, Gino Bartali

Sixth, Felice Gimondi

Seventh, Big Mig? Van Steenbergen?

Eigth. Hmm… Louison Bobet or Henri Pellisier? Or how about Maurice Garin (winner of the first tour, Paris Roubaix etc.) or perhaps one of my favourites Octave “Curly” Lapize.

Now. If, like me you value the classics (monuments) over the Grand Tours, (and loads of big name riders including Maggie B and Pretty Boy George have said that one Roubaix takes as much out of a rider as a 3 week tour) we come to some of the REAL hard men of the sport... Enter my all time hero Sean Kelly (who I finally met last year – fantastic bloke, really down to earth) Rik Van Looy and Mr. Roubaix himself – Roger De Vlaemink, Francesco Moser, etc etc.

So where does that leave Armstrong? 7 tours,(a record for TDF wins, but not a record for overall grand tour wins – Merckx has 11, Coppi 10, Hinault's got 8 and Anquetil 7)…a single worlds, 1 tour of Luxembourg, 1 of Switzerland, 1 minor pro tour race (San Sebastian) and that’s about it. Certainly that’s the palmares of a champion, a top rider of his generation, but the “greatest ever”?

Please don’t insult my intelligence.

Enough said.

No comments: