Meanwhile some people are racing bikes. And in a deliberate effort to look for encouraging stories that aren’t related to doping and scandal, here’s a quick observation from today’s bunch sprint in in the Tour of Oman. The sprint was won by Rabobank’s new recruit Theo Bos, the photofinish putting him ahead of Mark Cavendish.
Only take a look at this photo of the sprint*. What you need to look at is the rider on the right of the image, FDJ’s Nacer Bouhanni. The French neo-pro finished in sixth place today and has already won in the Tropical Amissa Bongo race in Gabon. Now that’s remarkable itself but look again at his position on the bike. His shoulders are lower than Danilo Hondo’s hips.
The Low Down
Cavendish is a talented sprinter with one of the best trains in the business but the Manx rider can also win unaided thanks to fearless riding, a skill recently acknowledged by rival Andre Greipel who admitted to holding back at times when Cavendish might stay confident.
But there’s another factor behind Cav’s success and that’s his position on bike. He’s not one of the most powerful sprinters by a long way, indeed there are tales of Cavendish being told he’d amount to nothing after finishing an effort test in the lab. And apparently the SRM readings from his wins are surprisingly low. But static bikes don’t measure aerodynamics and this is one of the reasons why he wins. But Bouhanni is even more compact and aerodynamic.
The sprint revelation of the season is Andrea Guardini, the winner of the final stage of the Tour of Qatar and another compact rider. Indeed the Italian rider says he’s like Cavendish, “yes, I’ve got the build of Cavendish. We’ve got some roughly similar characteristics. But I’d be happier with a quarter of his wins“.
But Bouhanni could be one to watch. FDJ don’t have a sprint train but with ex-pursuiter Matthieu Ladagnous, fast-finisher Yoann Offredo and the windbreak that is Yauheni Hutarovich the team could turn surprise from time to time. I’m not suggesting they’d rival HTC-Highroad or Team Sky but done right, Bouhanni might be capable of overtaking the likes of Romain Feillu and Jimmy Casper in a few French races and with some progress, maybe finally becoming the sprinter that France has lacked since the days of Frédéric Moncassin.
Finally, note that a low position isn’t unique to sprinters. Last year I covered the way Bradley Wiggins has also got much lower on his bike.
* I’m sorry to use a hyperlink instead of featuring the image on here but I don’t want to get steephill.tv’s licence with Reuters in trouble.