So far, sprint wise, the Giro d’Italia of 2016 has been all about the Germans.
There’s Marcel Kittel, of course, the Dolph Lundgren lookalike. On flat and hill free roads he is the biggest nailed on certainty to win since Lance was introduced to an Italian doctor and pointed in the general direction of France. Not only is Marcel head and shoulders above his rivals in a straight up sprint, he manages to get even the most overtly masculine of cycling fans talking about hair styling and contemplating powerful thighs a little more than they are comfortable with.
His fellow German is Andre Greipel; known as ‘the Gorilla’ for reasons that are fairly obvious when you see him bent over the bike in effort. Although he’s not particularly hairy, and I’m led to believe he sticks rigidly to UCI rules forbidding the use of chest beating to ward of rival sprinters, he is definitely a big, hulking, beast of a man with the proportions of a Silverback.
Who knows, maybe there’s also a harem of willing females waiting for him out in the forests of central Africa?
With such size it’s easy to assume that his frame would cause him to suffer aerodynamically when launching his sprint, but Greipel has a trick up his sleeve in the shape of that big mush of his. In full effort, his mouth stretches wide like the sucking end of a hand-held hoover. Rather than convince the rushing air to shoot past him in conventional aerodynamic fashion, Greipel just opens that great gorilla gob and sucks it up and swallows it.
Air resistance becomes less of an issue if you just remove the air from the equation.
I’m almost certain that ‘science’ would back me up when I say that any competitors within a couple of bike lengths of the big German will suffer an additional consequence; because Greipel has eaten all the air there’s none left for them. This leaves them breathless with oxygen depletion at the moment of effort and trailing in his wake.
In the same way that Kittel’s astonishing hair is widely assumed to be the source of all his power, could it be that Greipel’s alarmingly wide mouth is his competitive advantage?