The hard men of the peloton

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With the World Cup over, all that’s left to be revealed is whether Holland’s Arjen Robben will be made an honorary Italian for his diving prowess or if Russia can blow more money in four years’ time than the $51 billion it spent on the Sochi Olympics.

As the Brazilians bid farewell to the remaining German fans and good riddance to the Argentineans, we moved on to the next fixture on the global sporting calendar, the Tour de France. Down Under, we didn’t even have to change channels.

It’s quite the contrast. About the only thing the World Cup and le Tour have in common is the duration of the contest.

Where the World Cup is all about trendy hombres with hipster hair, no one could accuse a cyclist, with their skintight lycra and lashings of groin padding, of straying anywhere near the fashion radar.

A soccer match finishes after a maximum two hours, just when a cyclist is warming up. Soccer players celebrate goals with everything from backflips and dancing and impromptu people towers to chest pumps and comedic turns from coaches. And a lot of noise. Cyclists get podium kisses and a polite clap. A few hours later they’re back in the saddle.

Cycling memeAnd while soccer players throw themselves on the deck feigning injury to con the ref into a penalty, cyclists are regularly leaving bits of themselves on the asphalt as part of their job description.

Right from day one, when Mark Cavendish dislocated his shoulder sprinting for the finish, there have been crashes aplenty in this year’s Tour.

Two days later, former winner Andy Schleck was taken down after a spectator decided to take a selfie in the middle of the peloton.

When Chris Froome withdrew having crashed three times in two days, there were more cutouts in his cycling clobber than a Beyonce stage outfit.

Alberto Contador cycled for 20 kilometres with a broken leg before deciding another 10 days in the saddle, with the mountain stages still to come, might be too big an assignment.

Which is nothing compared to Cadel Evans who rode more than half of his disastrous 2010 Tour de France with a broken arm and still managed to finish in 26th place.

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Concussion, broken collarbones, wrist fractures, achilles and knee tendonitis, fractured pelvises, back strain, saddle sores – all part and parcel of life as a professional cyclist.

With the cobbles and the rain, the seemingly vertical climbs and the pockmarked descents, this year’s course is particularly tough.

In the words of Aussie Richie Porte, who unexpectedly finds himself in the podium mix after the withdrawal of team leader Chris Froome: “The biggest key to this race is staying on your bike.”

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So if FIFA ever plans to crack down on diving in soccer, they could introduce this rule. Any player caught doing the stunt roll should be forced to cycle a stage of the Tour de France. Repeat offenders do the whole 3,000 kilometres.

On your bike, Arjen Robben.





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