The seminal victories of Michael Rogers, Michal Kwiatkowski and Daniel Martin this season have all revealed a common theme, writes Anthony Tan.
7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:38 PM

Among Michal Kwiatkowski and Daniel Martin's respective victories in the road world championships and the Giro di Lombardia, what is the common element?

The length of the races? Well, they were almost identical on paper - the elite men's road world championship in Ponferrada was 254.8 kilometres long, Lombardia was slated to be 254km - but due to road works in the first sector of the race route after the Madonna del Ghisallo (km 58), on the day of the race Tour of Lombardy organisers changed the total race distance to 260 km.

The riders' nationality? Hell, no! Kwiatkowski's from Poland, Martin is Irish.

Their team? No - Kwiatkowski rides for Omega Pharma-Quick Step, Martin for Garmin-Sharp.

Their age? No, again: Kwiatkowski's 24 years old, Martin is 28.

The way they won?

Getting warmer, and yes, both solo victories, and both orchestrated in the closing moments of the race...

Let's go back to what Michael Rogers told my Cycling Central colleague Al Hinds moments after crossing the line in Bagnères-de-Luchon, where, through equal parts brain and brawn, he rode his breakaway companions off his wheel to claim his third Grand Tour victory as many months; something that, in his previous 13 years as a professional cyclist, he hadn't managed to do once.

"On the descent (of the Port de Balès), I said (to myself), 'I've been in this position too many times not to win (today) - I'm going to crash, or I'm going to win'," Rogers articulated of his do-or-die mentality in the defining final kilometres of Stage 16 of this year's Tour de France.

"This year, I think I've changed mentally. I know I've changed upstairs... (I'm) more hungry. Opportunities seem clearer to me now, and I'm not scared of the outcome anymore. Previously, I was scared to try something because I was already scared of failure."

I'm not scared of the outcome anymore. Previously, I was scared to try something because I was already scared of failure.

That's the vital commonality between the victories of Rogers, Kwiatkowski and Martin - unlike those who finished behind them on July 22 in Bagnères-de-Luchon, September 28 in Ponferrada, or October 5 in Bergamo, they weren't afraid of losing.

By contrast, The Hesitator, a.k.a. Alejandro Valverde, has finished second or third fourteen - fourteen! - times this season (excluding overall results or minor classifications in stage races): Strade Bianche, three stages of the Tour of Basque Country, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the Spanish road championship, road worlds, and, just last Sunday, the Tour of Lombardy.

Yes, the Movistar leader has also racked up seven individual victories (excluding time trials): Roma Maxima, La Flèche Wallonne, San Sebastian and Stage 6 of La Vuelta, which, for most of his peers, would be an annus mirabilis.

But you - and Valverde, too, for that matter - can only wonder how many more it could have been if he didn't vacillate as much as he does.

Perhaps it's got something to do with having the ability to climb and sprint, being a puncheur-sprinteur in the same vein as Simon Gerrans, who has finished on the podium but not won five times this year (granted, he's also won five times, including victories at the national road championship, Liège, Québec and Montréal).

Conversely, neither Rogers, Kwiatkowski or Martin possess quick finishes, which, when up against riders like Valverde and Gerrans, forces their hand early.

Regardless, though, armed with a fast finish or not, for me one of the recurring themes this season is that he who hesitates is lost.

Chapeau, Daniel Martin, for your Lombardy master stroke!