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Mark Cavendish enjoys the ride as Chris Froome rides the rickshaw relay
Mark Cavendish, Chris Froome and Peter Sagan defeated in rickshaw relay
Jovial challenge welcomes in the Tour de France Prudential Singapore Criterium weekend, as Tadej Pogačar, Jasper Philipsen and Giulio Ciccone emerge on top
Standing somewhat perplexed at the side of the road, Peter Sagan has his eyes set on a bike and sidecar but appears none the wiser as to what is about to unfold. He shares the same inquisitive look as many of his fellow riders, but there is one man amongst the pack who has seen it all before. Without any hesitancy, Chris Froome of Israel-Premier Tech steps in to instruct the riders, harkening back to his days as the de facto patron of the peloton in the mid 2010s.
The setting is Temasek Boulevard in Singapore and the task, as Froome dutifully instructs Sagan and co, is for the riders to split into two teams of three and face each other in a three-up team time trial. Only, this is no ordinary team time trial, not in the slightest. For the riders must each take a turn riding a black town bike that is affixed to a green, brown and red sidecar, with the team that sets the quickest time to ride three laps of the course declared the winner.
As for the rules, they are simple enough. Each rider must ride one lap with one of his teammates along for the ride in the sidecar. At the end of each lap, the riders jump off and rotates until each of their laps are done. It sounds simple, right?
Their course is actually just a roundabout that sits outside the Suntec City shopping mall, which must stretch for no more than 200m in total. However, when riding this course in jeans and on such an alien set-up, it is no easy feat.
“That was longer than it looks,” laughs Mark Cavendish after his stint of riding the bike is complete. He has been selected to be part of ‘Team Froome', alongside Sagan. All aged 33 and above, this is the team with experience on its side, finding themselves coming up against the younger trio of Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Giulio Ciccone (Lidl-Trek) and Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates).
Nothing more than a fun activity to please the local dignitaries, it is not long until the ‘rickshaw relay’ becomes a competitive affair, with each rider soon sporting a mischievous grin - the race is on.
Cavendish, Sagan and Froome are first up, and it is Cavendish who rallies his troops whilst Froome is busy GoProing the experience - presumably for his YouTube channel. At the end of Sagan’s lap, there is the humorous sight of Cavendish grabbing a hold of the machine and pulling it to a stop, such are the lack of brakes applied by the Slovakian.
Within a second, Sagan has jumped off the bike and begins pushing the rickshaw from behind, whilst Cavendish hops into the passenger seat and watches Froome take up his position in the saddle. For three riders who have a cumulative 53 Tour de France stage victories between them, it is suffice to say that the spectacle is enough to draw huge laughter and enjoyment from the onlookers.
Sadly for the experienced trio, their efforts would not be enough. Having posted a time of 2:39 to complete their three laps, the door was open for Philipsen, Pogačar and Ciccone to take advantage - and so they did.
© Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images
Tadej Pogačar and his team emerged victorious
Ever the rider to take up an opportunity to attack, Pogačar’s pacing efforts are admirable as his face of glee juxtaposes comedically with poor Ciccone’s look of fright. Perhaps the Tour’s polka-dot jersey winner would feel more comfortable halfway up the Col du Tourmalet than aboard a rickshaw commandeered by the ever-enthusiastic Pogačar.
Nevertheless, all three mount a spirited assault on the time set by 'Team Froome' and are rewarded for their endeavours, coming across the line in 2:27 - thus winning the race by a whopping 12 seconds.
In any other place at any other time, the sight of such shenanigans amongst the world’s best bike riders would boggle the mind, but out here in Singapore, it is just part and parcel of the happy-go-lucky weekend enjoyed by riders, dignitaries and fans alike.
Shortly back at the hotel, the six are greeted by supporters seeking autographs and signatures. As they parade their collection of replica yellow jerseys, something tells us these supporters are long-term admirers rather than team time trial enthusiasts. But still… anyone for a signed rickshaw?
Keep up to date with the latest racing news and features over on the racing section of the GCN website, linked here.
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