Q & A: Finding relief on the open road

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The Independent Online
Q. What arrangements, if any, do they have in the Tour de France for riders to use the toilet during a race? Are there any circumstances in which they are allowed to stop and then restart again?

A. There are several ways of urinating during a bike race. You can get a team- mate to push you along; you can wait for a not-too-steep or dangerous descent; you can stop; or you can wait for a natural break. Any rider in any cycle race may stop, but he will not be allowed any time for it. Nor do races tow portaloos with them. The trick is to choose a moment when no attacks are on, and for several riders to stop at once. Half a dozen professional cyclists riding at 30-plus mph can easily catch a bunch doing only 26mph in three miles or less.

Natural breaks: I remember that in the Tour of Holland in the 1960s the race was stopped at least once each day by level crossings. When the gates went up the bunch of 140 would roll away, leaving behind a score of steaming pools. There are unwritten rules about attacking prominent riders who have to stop. A controversial episode occurred in the 1957 Giro d'Italia, when the race leader Charly Gaul stopped on the 18th stage. His apparently deliberate time-wasting was seen by the French national team as arrogant. They attacked, Gaul was unable to rejoin and lost the race. Sweat eliminates most fluid, and in southern Europe you can ride a five or six-hour race without needing to urinate, but the mountains are colder. In his book A Rough Ride, based on his professional career in the 1980s, Paul Kimmage writes of the 1986 Tour: 'I had a fierce urge to piss on the descent of the Croix de Fer, but I knew that every second counted if I was to beat the time limit, so I pissed off the bike at 60kmh.' Urinating while riding is easy. Defecating is more difficult. Kimmage again: 'Lemond was in trouble today (1986 Tour). He had a bout of diarrhoea . . . God, the smell was terrible. It was rolling down his legs. I know if it was me, I would stop. I mean, it is only a bike race.' Lemond went on to win the Tour. - Ramin Minovi, Moseley

Q. After entering the Scottish League in 1947-48 Stirling Albion in the next 17 seasons to 1964-65 experienced either promotion or relegation 11 times. In another two seasons the club finished bottom of their Division but were not relegated. Has any other football club experienced such a period of ups and downs?

A. VVV Venlo in the Dutch League have been promoted and relegated a number of times since the mid-

Seventies.

I can vaguely remember promotion to the Premier Division in 1975 or 1976, they may have been relegated at the end of the 1977-78 season, and gone back up in 1978-79 through the play-offs, but they were back in the doldrums of the First Division when I got interested in football. In 1984-85 the side were promoted on an 89th- minute penalty in the last game of the season (setting an unofficial 18,800 attendance record for the First Division), to go on and finish fifth two seasons running, beating Ajax and Feyenoord along the way and narrowly missing out on European competition. They went down in 1988-89, only managing two wins during the season. In 1990-91 up again, through the play-offs and away goals. Down in 1991-92, and up in 1992-93 as First Division Champions. Finally down again through the play-offs in 1993-94.

It's not as impressive as Stirling Albion's early history, but I believe it to be unequalled in recent Dutch footballing history. No doubt somebody will put me right. - Borghert Jan Borghmans, Belfast

Q. Apart from the first Test against South Africa, what was the last home Test match in which no England batsmen managed an aggregate of 50 over both innings?

A. It seems that the last such occasion was at Old Trafford in 1988 when the West Indies beat England by an innings and 156 runs. England scored 135 and 93. The highest indivdual aggregate was David Gower's 43 (9 and 34). Extras had the fifth highest aggregate, totalling 21. The first time this ignominious feat was recorded was in August 1882 at The Oval when England's highest aggregate against the Australians was Ulyett's 37. This game brought three further notable 'firsts'. It claimed the first victim of over excitement when a gentleman died of a heart attack during the closing stages. During the same period another spectator bit through his umbrella handle. And it led to the now famous mock obituary which led to Australia and England challenging for 'The Ashes'. - David Balcombe, Northwood

ANSWERS PLEASE

Q. Can a racehorse be given any name or is therea limit to the number of letters that may be used in its name? - J Clarke, Stevenage

Q. In the light of England's first-

innings score of 477 for nine dec at Headingley, I am prompted to ask what is the highest score made in a Test match in an innings in which no centuries were made. - Nic Fallowfield, Stourbridge

Q. With the advances made in the timing mechanisms used in athletics, are there still any track world records that weretimed by hand? If so, what are the distances and the names of the people responsible? If not, what was the last hand-timed world record to be broken using the latest technology? - Brian Hobbs, West Croydon

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