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Menchov’s the Man

How many professionals have been called Denis I wonder? Denis Robin, the third year professional with Agritubel springs to mind and of course Denis Roux who retired in 1991 after a 5 year career.

The Denis of the moment however is Russian Denis Menchov, whose splendid form has taken him into the leader’s jersey in the Vuelta and yesterday brought him victory in 214km stage to Andorra. As a rider, I like Menchov; he is a tough all-rounder of the ‘old school’ and significantly for me he has shown he is subject to bad days.

This year has been a rollercoaster of a ride for Menchov. Having arrived in London for the start of the Tour as team leader, he put his heart and soul into working for another. To have had it thrown back at him must have been heart breaking. A man not given to displays of emotion, his body language left nothing to the imagination when he stepped off his bike and out of the Tour the day after Rasmussen’s departure.

Not once, but twice Menchov’s ambitions to win a Grand Tour outright have been thwarted by other riders. In 2005 Spain’s Roberto Heras pulled a final time trial out of the bag that seemed incredible at the time and subsequently proved to be so. Denis was awarded the win but it must have stuck in his throat.

The Russian’s command of the Vuelta up until the first rest day has been absolute and I for one wish him well on the way to Madrid. It has once again proved to be a great race; such a shame then to see three men and a dog at the finish line yesterday to witness Menchov raise his arms in victory.

No lack of crowds however at the 3km team time trial that opened up the Tour of Poland this week. Did they come to witness the world’s greatest cyclists put on a display of fast and furious teamwork or did they know it was going to be a laugh a minute?

Holding a short course event in the centre of a city there is always a risk that rain is going to come along and spoil the party and sure enough it did.

Discovery Channel have sent Steve Cummings to Poland and maybe on a dry day his World Champion’s credentials over 4km could have helped power his team to victory but catching up with him afterwards I was quite glad I wasn’t standing next to him in Poland but safely isolated at the other end of a telephone line.

‘The course was tricky and tight in the dry,’ remonstrated Cummings, ‘but in the wet you just had to ask yourself, why bother.’

Why bother indeed when a rider runs the risk of crashing heavily on rain drenched, diesel soaked streets? No amount of praying in Poland could prevent what was essentially a crowd pleasing idea from falling, literally, flat on its face when the heavens opened.

Meanwhile the Vuelta enters its second phase basking in glorious sunshine, wheeling towards Madrid and the Day of the Denis.


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