Champions who may never become world champions
The UCI is awarding rainbow jerseys at the Road World Championships this week, but there are some riders who deserve one regardless.
This week the 2013 UCI Road World Championships are dominating the cycling news. To be crowned the world champion, in anything, is a huge accomplishment. The one exception to that rule is American football – it drives me mental that announcers proclaim that team XYZ of city ABC are the world champions because they won the Super Bowl. Only American teams play in the Super Bowl! Call it the American football championships! Anyway, that's a rant for another day. Let's return to road cycling.
Road cycling world championships have a rich history dating back to 1921 for amateurs and the first professional road race championships were held in 1927 in Germany and Italian Alfredo Binda became World Champion. If you're over 40 and raced as a junior that name is probably familiar as he's the guy who set the gold standard with his brand of toe straps. Show of hands - how many among us used his leather straps during our junior racing days? Oh, and he won the Giro d'Italia five times, Milan - San Remo twice, the Giro di Lombardia four times, and the world championships three times.
Depending on your knowledge of cycling history the winners of the world championships are a who's who of cycling's greats: Rik Van Steenbergen (Belgium), Ferdi Kübler (Switzerland), Fausto Coppi (Italy), and Louison Bobet (France). Getting into the modern era you have, of course Eddy Merckx (Belgium), Felice Gimondi (Italy), Hennie Kuiper (The Netherlands), Freddy Maertens (Belgium), and basically anyone who won World Championships in the 1970s. All of those guys are legends.
Moving into the 1980s and beyond there's Stephen Roche (Ireland), Greg LeMond (USA), Bernard Hinault (France), Gianni Bugno (Italy), Óscar Freire (Spain), and Mario Cipollini (Italy) to name a few. Each of them is a giant within the cycling world.
The Worlds victories by sprinters Cipolloni and Mark Cavendish (England) were expected and produced the gold medal for their respective home countries. But we've had a few surprise winners too.
Lance Armstrong's victory in 1993 was a huge surprise and he became one of the youngest to win a road world championship. I know there's the whole doping thing in his history, but regardless I'm confident the rest of the field was just as juiced, and it was still a surprise win. Tainted - yes, but still a shocker.
There are other examples of surprise winners: Claude Criquielion (Belgium), Oscar Camenzind (Switerland), Romans Vainsteins (Latvia), and Norway’s Thor Hushovd.
There are plenty of riders who are great champions that never had the honor of wearing the rainbow jersey. Miguel Induráin, a five time in a row winner of the Tour de France, never won the World Championships road race. The closest he came was a second place finish behind Armstrong in 1993 and a 2nd place finish 35 seconds behind his compatriot Abraham Olano in the 1995 world championships road race.
However, Indurain did make up for that loss by winning the 1995 time trial worlds – a discipline he dominated. Like fans have expected Cav and Cipo to win