There’s a very obvious game that followers of cycling play in the eras of the most prolific Tour de France champions: trying to identify potential challengers for the unbeatable Tour specialist of the day, be it Bernard Hinault, Miguel Indurain or Chris Froome. It’s a game we have tended to play with only faint hope in our hearts because deep down most of us know that the greatest Tour riders with the strongest teams can only be beaten if something goes wrong for them. Such are the cold, hard mathematics of the three-week stage race.

I set off for Monaco on a spring morning in 1994 looking for the next cyclist who many reckoned might be the man to trouble Big Mig. Tony Rominger was a mild-mannered Swiss chap who had won the Vuelta a España two years running without a great deal of trouble. He had taken on Indurain and Banesto in 1993 at the Tour and had come second overall in spite of a disastrous team time trial. He had even achieved the previously unthinkable - beaten Big Mig, he of the insanely fast Luxembourg contre-la-montre in an actual time trial in the actual Tour. Indurain had been hampered by a dodgy wisdom tooth, but for fans desperate to see a close race one day, that proved even the great man was human.

Tony the Tiger, we facetiously nicknamed him, after the big cat who back then prowled the roads of Britain every August promoting Kellogg’s on their Tour of

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