60 football matches in three weeks…

…not 9 months.

Been reading a few people disagreeing that Bradley Wiggins victory in the Tour de France is the top sporting achievement by a Brit. Think I’ve laid out enough evidence over the last few posts about how unique this is for a Brit – only three previous top 10 finishes in 98 races before Sunday.

They say the names weren’t there this year. Well no Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain weren’t riding, so does that devalue it? No. Ah but the new ones, well Wiggins finished fourth in ’09 behind Contador, Andy Schleck and Armstrong, just 6 minutes behind. No two of them are under a cloud and back then things were completely different for Wiggins.

It was still only a year after the Olympics and though he had dropped some weight he was still built more for the track than climbing mountains. By 2012 he’d dropped a stone in weight and put in hour after hour, mile after mile of training in Tenerife, to make sure he was as prepared as he could be. And back in ’09 he didn’t have the team set up he did this year round. Against a clean field with him in the physical and mental shape he is now and with the team support he could have clawed back that 6 minutes back in ’09.

That’s why he added the Tour de France to the Paris-Nice, the Tour de Romandie and the Critérium du Dauphiné he’d already won this year. Something no rider, not just British rider, no rider, none of the greats of the sport, not even Eddy Merckx has ever done before.

So back to 60 football matches in three weeks. How many times did you hear about poor old footballers being tired near the end of the season, or even half way through it. Poor dears need a break midseason, or how else are they mean to perform come some tournament in the summer. Two games a week over three quarters of a year it’s an awful lot, especially with all those cup games.

Well with a finishing time of 87 hours 34 minutes and 47 seconds that’s nearly 60, ninety minute games – OK it’s just over 58 – Wiggins did in just three weeks, less than one ninth of the time a footballer would have to play a pretty full season, with a lot of cup games. Yet on the very last 1 kilometre of 3,496.9 kilometre course Wiggins was going all out. Powering his team mate to stage glory. Doing so much that other teams were struggling to stay in any sort of contention.

Tired physically and mentally because unlike footballers he had to be on his game for all of those 60 games. No standing around, no hiding going up the Alps or Pyrenees. Only one of the stages could be classed as bit of a day off, though Wiggins still had to make sure he didn’t crash and no one attacked his position.

Really does bang it home how pampered and precious footballers are when you watch something like the Tour. Every few days there’s another rider finishing the stage with an injury that has you disbelieving. In earlier posts I mentioned Andre Greipel fixing his dislocated shoulder to finish and come second in a stage. Oscar Freire finishing stage 6, after being in that big crash 15 miles out, with three broken ribs which punctured his lung. Number of riders with broken wrists or swathed in bandages and plasters that carry on.

And then there’s Chris Anker Sørensen, on stage 17, between Bagnères-de-Luchon and Peyragudes, at the top of one of the climbs he took one of the papers offered to stuff up his jumper for protection on the descent when it got caught in his wheel. Descending is dangerous enough without that kind of thing so he obviously tried to remove it and in the process got two of his fingers stuck in there, slicing them to the bone.

So pretty damn close to slicing them off. Did it stop him? No. As the picture above shows he got them taped up and finished not only that stage but the rest of the stages to finish 14th in general classification and be awarded the prize for the most combative rider. After the Tour he’ll get them properly medically seen to, skin grafts I believe. Top picture is of his bloody handlebar.

So next time you see a big hard man footballer go down screaming their head off at the slighter of touches (© and ™ Patrick Vieira) join me in saying, with a Mick McCarthy accent, get up you big tart.

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