They are called men of the sixth hour. Like the few marathon runners able to cross the famous thirty-kilometer wall before flying to the finish, there are ten or so cyclists in the world who are able to win the grand classics of spring or summer. autumn, which culminate around 250 km. That's six hours of effort in the saddle at more than 40 km / h average. Nearly seven for Milan San Remo, while the usual races, including the stages of the big tours, are around five hours.
Julian Alaphilippe retains his crown
Philippe Gilbert, the recent winner of Paris Roubaix and many other classics for a day, evokes this second state, which allows to push even harder on the pedals while the engine seems flat. "Question of will and lucidity in the last effort"said the Belgian champion in the latest issue of "Vélo magazine". In reality, battalions of physiologists have been studying the case of these strange runners, who are able to draw on reserves which are in principle empty. All of them have the same conclusion: these men have a metabolism that allows them to draw first in their lipid stock, which allows them to save up to the last moment the glucose reserves needed for the last stroke of the kidneys. .
In this respect, the performance of Julian Alaphilippe, winner of Flèche Wallonne on 24 April at the top of the formidable Huy Wall, is indicative of an incredible ability to surpass himself in the last hectometres after a day fighting against the wind. Any great champion he is, the world number 1 has yet remained a long time paralyzed by cramps after the finish line. Lactic acid, the substance that burns your legs (and causes muscle aches for novice athletes) has been slow to come back.
The trio Démare, Bardet, Pinot
They are rare in France to benefit from such a physique and one finds them for three years on the podiums of the classics, long forbidden to the French runners. Arnaud Démare was the first to open the ball in 2016 in the evening of the endless 291 km of Milan San Remo, almost seven hours in the saddle. It was imitated in 2018 by Thibaut Pinot, winner of the Tour of Lombardy (231 km) and Julian Alaphilippe, who won in San Remo in March.
Romain Bardet is also one of those, even if he struggles to confirm the good performances recorded in 2018 on the races of a day: 3e during the Liège-Bastogne -Liège 2018 and 2e at the world championship, whose course was very similar to a classic last year. The Auvergnat managed to slip into the Top 10 of the Amstel Gold on April 21 and was not so bad, three days later, at the Flèche Wallonne (13e 9 seconds behind the winner). Auspicious.
The wall between good runners and champions
But the peloton of the French of the sixth hour is limited to these four men, to which must be added Sylvain Chavanel, who retired at the end of the season 2018 after beautiful places obtained in the classics. For a long time, the French have neglected the exercise of the races of a day, to privilege the rankings in the big tours, with the hope of one or two victories of stages. But no other Frenchman whose name shone, Lilian Calmejane, Warren Barguil, Christophe Laporte or Nacer Bouhanni has been able to cross the wall of the sixth hour in recent years.
Number 1 worldwide, what does it mean?
Cycling is one of the last disciplines to have established an individual weekly ranking, in 2016. The hierarchy is established according to the performances of the previous 52 weeks with a number of points for each event (1000 points to the winner of the Tour de France, the classics like Paris-Roubaix yielding 600 points). His 9 victories since the beginning of the season give Julian Alaphilippe the 1re place, but the hierarchy could soon be upset, with the arrival of major stage races, which he is not specialist