Blazin' Saddles

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Blazin' Saddles

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There's more to Cav than a Page 3 bird

He's full of surprises is that Mark Cavendish. Who would have thought someone so tough and macho would not only be into ballroom dancing but also have a penchant for opera?

A video interview with Cavendish and his Sky team-mate-slash-human-zimmer-frame Bernard Eisel on the popular sharing website YouTube sees the world champion compare this weekend's Milan-San Remo race to an opera.

"Milan-San Remo is the perfect example of an Italian-style race," he started ominously, prompting Saddles to think of examples of non-Italian-style races held in Italy.

In a fabulous piece of erudite analogy, Cav continued: "It kind of runs like an opera." A brief pause surely heralding a shrewd perception is followed by: "There is a beginning, a middle and an end."

By this same token, Cavendish could have compared the Italian-style race to, say, a book, a song or a film (with the exception of The Neverending Story or any movie directed by David Lynch).

Heck, Cavendish could well have compared Milan-San Remo to other notorious phenomena that fall into the "start-middle-end" category: one's lunch, for instance; a bike race, even; or perhaps a steamy session with the missus (although when Saddles is tending to The Bike it's usually more a case of start/stop without any interim pleasantries).

But Saddles digresses. And in Cav's favour, he was getting to the main thrust of his argument.

"The beginning part [of the Italian-style race from the north Italian city of Milan to the Italian coastal town of San Remo] gets you into it and gets you into a rhythm. Obviously it goes gently and then builds up towards a crescendo at the end."

And that was about as far as Cav went into explaining just why Milan-San Remo is like an opera. (Saddles would say it was more like a concerto — especially seeing that the race's nickname, La Primavera, was the first concerto in Vivaldi's The Four Seasons...)

But, dear readers, Saddles is sure that you agree Cavendish has a point. (Indeed, only a cynic would believe Cav made the analogy simply to construct a semblance of sophistication while flaunting a flash vocabulary that accommodates the word 'crescendo'.)

Thankfully for Cav, the British sprinter could rely on right-hand man Eisel to lead out his wavering analogy into calmer waters.

Quite unwittingly, Eisel (sounding uncannily like a South African back from holidaying in Australia; that's to say, Robbie Hunter post-Tour Down Under) then went on to explain perhaps why Cav thought Milan-San Remo was so similar to an opera.

Speaking from his own comfy armchair in what seemed a well-stocked library, Eisel (who like Cav looked as though he should have been wearing a smoking jacket) opined: "The corners all look the same and sometimes you know where you are and what's coming up next, sometimes you don't."

Which, given past experiences, is pretty much exactly what Saddles feels like when he watches opera: you half know what could be coming up, but you're not quite sure because not only is everyone singing their thoughts, they're also doing so invariably in German or Italian (while so often confusing you with their gender).

So, presuming the Italian-style race was a perfect example of an opera, what would Milan-San Remo be?

Well, with the Bull from Grimstad Thor Hushovd out with a fever it would not be Bizet's Carmen, whose cast includes an animated bunch of bullfighters.

Were it Mozart's Don Giovanni, Cav had better watch out for Movistar's Giovanni Visconti, or perhaps old team-mate John Degenkolb (Project r2d2). Other linguistic equivalents would cover Johan van Summeren (Garmin) and Juan Oroz (Euskaltel).

With Oscar Sevilla now retired, Milan-San Remo would certainly not be the Marriage of Figaro (Ha! Most of you philistines won't even get near that obscure reference...).

Given Cav's girlfriend is a former Page 3 girl, you could make a case for Verdi's La Traviata, which tells the tale of a fallen woman...

Supposing it were Mozart's The Magic Flute, with its strong Masonic undertones and enlightened absolutist stance, you'd have to fancy Jonathan Vaughters's Garmin brotherhood.

Besides, doesn't Die Zauberflöte sound just like the kind of nickname Heinrich Haussler would have?

If there were an opera version of Les Miserables, then Victor Hugo Pena of the Colombia Coldeportes team would be an outside bet, for obvious reasons.

Hmm... let's just hope it's not L'Elisir D'Amore, Donizetti's operatic gem which has as its major plot device a bottle of magic potion.

Whatever the case, with Cavendish — or should we say Cavarotti — in the kind of form that he's in, it could well be a case of Nessum Dorma (none shall sleep) for his rivals on the eve of the Italian-style race.

In fact, Saddles is off to the bookies right now to wage a tenor — sorry, tenner — on Cavendish winning as La Favorita before inviting a cosy fan to tea.

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