Earlier this month cycling pro-team Tinkoff-Saxo owner Oleg Tinkov opened the Tinkoff Bank vault to put up €1 million if Alberto Contador, Nairo Quintana, Chris Froome and Vincenzo Nibali compete in all three of next year’s Grand Tours.
All they have to do is turn up and ride each tour to bag €250,000 each.
Sounds like money for jam, but is it really? And is Oleg boldly attempting to add another dimension of intrigue in 2015, or is he just a having a lend?
We’d all love to see Contador, Quintana, Froome and Nibali go head-to-head, duking it out in every Grand Tour.
But three Grand Tours is a very big ask considering it’s many thousands of kilometres and nine weeks in the saddle. That’s a lot of punishment for a body to take. Few riders complete the three tours in a season (unless they’re Adam Hansen, of course).
Realistically, the chances of the four being there for the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana is about as likely as getting all the members of the Wu-Tang Clan together in the one place, or herding cats into a wheelbarrow. Each rider has team, and personal goals and obligations to fulfil, not to mention the rest of the UCI schedule outside of the Grand Tours.
Then there’s the ever-present threat of injury which could derail an attempt at the triple in an instant.
The idea of a dazzling reward for achieving the impossible is as old as the hills. Quests for El Dorado and the Holy Grail are the stuff of legend.
Who can forget the Greek tale of Jason and the Argonauts and their quest for the Golden Fleece? Today pro-teams continue the quest for the Golden Fleece in the form of le Tour’s famed maillot jaune.
Oleg’s promise of a substantial cash prize belongs in a long line of rewards for the seemingly impossible. Here’s a sample of just a few;
The perpetual motion engine
For many years the goal of achieving perpetual motion, or motion that continues indefinitely without an external energy source, has defeated every boffin who’s attempted to build a working machine on that principle.
Reaching into the dark recesses of my memory of tech school mechanics, the main obstacles are the problem of friction and figuring out a way to defy the laws of thermodynamics.
I won’t bore you with the details but physicists are very confident on every practical and theoretical level that perpetual motion is unachievable.
The James Randi Educational Foundation promises to pay out on its ‘Million Dollar Challenge’ for proof of the paranormal, which includes perpetual motion.
The prize remains unclaimed.
However, in the unlikely event a true perpetual motion engine is ever invented, someone will walk away a million bucks richer and you can count on cycling authorities being on the lookout for the things hidden in the bottom bracket of bike frames.
Still, all this remains as farfetched as the accusation levelled at Fabian Cancellara that he used a motor for his Paris-Roubaix and Tour of Flanders wins in 2010.
Now if the problem of friction could be overcome it’ll be good news for cyclists, not so good for makers of chamois cream.
The Tasmanian Tiger
Richie Porte is a famous Tasmanian but not nearly as famous as Errol Flynn or the Tasmanian Tiger.
The last known Tasmanian Tiger or Thylacine died in captivity at Hobart Zoo in 1936 and the species is officially extinct. But there’s an enduring belief that somewhere deep in the Tasmanian wilderness the carnivorous marsupial lives on. There have been many reported sightings of the animal over the decades but no conclusive proof.
Such is the fascination scientists have seriously toyed with the idea of cloning a Tassie Tiger from preserved tissue.
Various rewards have been offered for conclusive proof of the existence of the Thylacine. American media mogul Ted Turner offered $100,000 in 1983. In 2005 $1.25 million was put up by the now-extinct Australian news magazine The Bulletin.
Again, no one has stepped up to claim a prize.
Okay, okay, I’m being facetious here, but for what it’s worth anyone can put up a reward of any amount for evidence of the existence of mythical creatures and while we’re at it why not a reward for hens’ teeth, or Sky Team’s 2014 Tour de France plan book?
So there you have it, Oleg Tinkov can sleep comfortably at night in the knowledge he won’t be calling the printers to run off four oversized novelty cheques any time soon.