Why is he winning?
“So why does Mark Cavendish (we are projecting some good luck to our Dimension Data boys here) win all these stages, but he doesn’t win the Tour de France?” It’s that time of year, right… and while the answer is simple, how we get there is wonderfully intricate.
The General Classification, or GC, is the representation of the daily standings in the Tour, with the rider showing the shortest accumulated time being the leader, and wearing the Yellow Jersey. Four riders have won the Tour five times; Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain. Chris Froome has four, so far, and should his legal battles be settled by the time you read this, is odds-on favourite to add a fifth, as the best Grand Tour rider of this generation. That is down to the nature of the stages: sprint stages are flat and fast, with average speeds in the high 40s, and closer to 60km/h in the last two hours.
Thanks to the 30-odd-percent saving a cyclist gets sitting in the peloton, they generally finish with all 198 riders together, all in the same time. On mountain stages, where the speeds are lower (averages of 32/33km/h are not uncommon, and the steeper climbs are tapped out at only 15km/h) the slip-streaming effect is negated, and a second factor relegates the 70-80kg sprinters to the autobus: gravity. They simply can’t maintain the same power-to-weight numbers as the 50-60kg mountain goats. And, because of the lack of slip-stream aid in the mountains, the time gaps are much bigger – on the flats, the favourites sit tight, and enjoy the tow, while the sprinters eke out an extra watt or three.