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World Champion team-mates

By winning the World Championship road race in Denmark, Mark Cavendish became only the second British rider to wear the rainbow jersey after Tom Simpson in 1965. But this coming weekend the world’s best sprinter has a chance to achieve what no rider, Brit or otherwise, has ever achieved – win Paris-Tours as World Champion.

Unlike most other one-day races, the World Championships road race takes place on a different route every year. Often it is won by riders who could be classed as ‘sprinters’. To illustrate, recent winners of the rainbow jersey include Mario Cipollini, Oscar Freire, Tom Boonen, Thor Hushovd and now Mark Cavendish.

So it seems surprising then that no rider has ever won the Worlds and gone on to win the sprinters’ classic directly afterward. Conversely, on a number of occasions, a rider has won the Worlds and gone on to win the other Autumn classic directly afterward, the Tour of Lombardy.

There are seven riders who have won the Tour of Lombardy in the rainbow jersey. These seven riders are Alfredo Binda (1927), Tom Simpson (1965), Eddy Merckx (1971), Felice Gimondi (1973), Giuseppe Saronni (1982), Oscar Camenzind (1998) and Paolo Bettini (2006).

The Tour of Lombardy is a far hillier race than Paris-Tours and this may be the reason for the lack of Worlds/Paris-Tours doubles. When a classics rider capable of winning hilly races has form, he has plenty of opportunity to use it. If he’s feeling good at a tough part in the race, he can attack. There is no one point in the race where he must make his form count. There will always be a number of opportunities to create the race-winning move.

However, a sprinter has only one place to show his form, the final 300 metres. This part of the race can be chaotic, unorganised and perilous. If a sprinter and his team don’t get it right here, he has no chance of winning. It doesn’t matter if he’s the strongest in the race.

Whereas if a punchy classics rider misses a move, of course he may lose the race, but there’s always a chance it comes back together and he can have another chance to go for glory.

Thus, if the Worlds road race is on a hilly course and is won by a hilly classics rider, there’s more chance of that rider using his form to win the Tour of Lombardy than if the Worlds was won by a sprinter on a flat course and he goes on to try and win Paris-Tours.

Comprenez? Just a theory.

Although it still seems likely that Cavendish will end up riding for Team Sky next year, rumours abound that he may end up at OmegaPharma-QuickStep instead. If this is the case, then this Belgian team would have Cavendish, Tony Martin and Zdenek Stybar in their ranks; the current road, time trial and cyclo-cross World champions. Stybar is already part of the team and Martin has signed for next year.

This would be the first time ever that the World Champions of these three disciplines were all team-mates. Of course, Cavendish and Martin are already team-mates at HTC-High Road for what’s left of the season. So it begs the question, have the World champions of the road and of the time trial ever been team-mates before this?

The answer is yes!

In 2005, Quick Step-Innergetic team-mates Tom Boonen and Michael Rogers won both world titles between them in Madrid before Rogers moved to T-Mobile in the off-season. It sort of happened in 2004, when both World champions from the previous Autumn, Igor Astarloa and David Millar rode for Cofidis. However, both riders were subsequently banned for doping and Millar was stripped of his World title.

So officially Millar wasn’t World time trial champion when he rode with Astarloa at Cofidis. And funnily enough, Boonen and Rogers never road a race together as team-mates in the autumn of 2005. Therefore, the world champions of road and time trial have, as yet, never ridden a race together.

It also looks likely given their respective race programs for the remainder of the year, that Martin and Cavendish won’t ride together again as team-mates at HTC-High Road either. Perhaps they will next year…

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