Machine-like consistency, in a sportsperson, is boring. Dips in form are needed to punctuate the purple patches.
In pro cycling, serial winners are usually given short shrift. Think Eddy Merckx being booed and manhandled as he devoured his way to another win. Miguel Indurain, the big Spaniard, who decimated the Tour de France in the 1980’s to the strains of “booorrrrring!” And more recently Armstrong, and Froome.
Each with their own back story, some more murky than others, but relentless winners of bike races, asterisks ‘n’ all.
You can delete the records all you want, but people sat through the Armstrong years. They happened. Trust me.
Peter Sagan, of course, is the exception. He wins a lot and is universally loved. With his freaky high-pitched interviews, creative grooming techniques, and seeming ambivalence to the actual result in the actual bike race, he gets nothing but good press.
Caleb Ewan, the tiny Aussie sprinter, is all peaks and troughs. Some years back he threatened to be the next big thing, but remains just a sprinter in a world of sprinters. Not a big beast, or an Alpha male, but a standard sprinter.
Right in the sweet spot.
He makes hay in Australia at the start of the year, and then bags a good smattering of wins here and there for the rest of the season. All of which, for me, made his recent win at the UAE Tour all the more entertaining.
Stage four, a steep-ish uphill sprint to a sun-baked sand-swept finish line at Hatta Dam, had Alejandro Valverde written all over it. Personally, I’ve had my fill of Valverde winning. I’ve seen every variation of Valverde winning and I’m ready to see someone else.
Perhaps a different fast-finishing climber – Dan Martin, or Kwiatkowski, for example? Or some big powerhouse like Alexander Kristoff; laying down the watts and all but ripping his own bike to pieces.
And yet there was Ewan. Down low, side-to-side, and holding off the favourites to win. Impressive in its execution, exciting in its unlikeliness, and off-the-seat-and-shouting-at-the-telly for sheer novelty value.
Personally, I hope he fails to win again all year. A standalone triumph unsullied by a backdrop of serial winning is perfect. Just the way I like it. Ewan’s masterpiece for 2019.
And while I’m on the subject, let’s also hope Geraint Thomas doesn’t go and spoil his Tour de France record by winning it again this year. Come July he’d do well to keep his head down, his nose clean, and his Grand Tour palmarès at one.
Better a one-hit wonder than a serial winner.