Marginal gains

The English bicycle manufacturers were highly conscious of the publicity value of a victory in the longest road race ever held. For that reason they left no stone unturned to give riders who were using their bicycles every advantage.

Sound familiar? Is this a quote about Team Sky’s “marginal gains” methods, searching for every advantage to win track medals and now road race glory? No, it’s from Benjo Maso’s “The Sweat of Gods” and describes bike racing in… 1889. In the same year Coca-Cola incorporated, Italy annexed Ethiopia, the Eiffel tower was opened and the first edition of the Bordeaux – Paris bike race took place.

Plus ça change…
At the time bike racing was gaining in popularity across Europe and race organisers sought ever bigger challenges and the 575km Bordeaux – Paris was created by the Véloce-Sport newspaper. There had been a growing scene of 24 hour races in Britain and the organisers were keen to import some British riders to give the race an international flavour. It seems the concept of marginal gains has applied since the sport was in its infancy, Dave Brailsford is following an honorable tradition. The British won the race, thanks to George Pilkington Mills.