A. Professional cycling offers both one-day races and stage races which run from three days up to three weeks. The best known of these are the national tours of France, Italy and Spain known respectively as Le Tour de France, Il Giro d'Italia and La Vuelta a Espana, each of which lasts three weeks. As well as the race for overall victory there are competitions for the best climber - the King of the Mountains - and the most consistent finisher - the points competition. The first is self-explanatory: points are awarded to leading riders as they go over various hills in mountains during the course of the race. The points competition favours the sprinters as points are awarded not only at predesignated points in the course of a stage, but also according to the finishing order at the end of each stage.
A rider who seeks to win the race overall by dominating each stage may well pick up the points jersey as well as overall victory, as was the case with Eddy Mercx in 1973, when he won both the Vuelta and the Giro overall and took the points competition in both races.
The King of the Mountains competition in the Vuelta was first run in 1935. Since then the greatest number of wins has been five by J-L Laguia of Spain in 1981, 1982, 1983, 1985 and 1986. The points competition, started in 1966, is shared by two riders with four wins each, Francesco Moser in 1976, 1977, 1978 and 1982 and Guiseppe Saronni in 1979, 1980, 1981 and 1983.
Nearer home, Scotland's Robert Millar won the mountains competition in the 1987 Giro and Yorkshire's Malcolm Elliott won the points competition in the 1989 Vuelta. - Rabi'a Ahmed Al-Rabi'a, Nottingham
Q. In the County Championship, which ground is the nearest to the sea? Does this benefit the batters or the bowlers?
A. Sussex must boast two of the grounds closest to the sea, in the County Ground at Hove and The Saffrons at Eastbourne. Each has its wickets end- on to the sea and the sea breeze often makes it in to follow the bowler's arm. This must have some influence upon the flight of the ball.
However, The Saffrons is more noted for its help to batsmen with its fiercely fast outfield. This is, no doubt, assisted by the hours of sunshine to be found in "The Suntrap of the South". I once heard Barry Richards (Hampshire and South Africa) say that he would like to pack the Saffrons pitch into his bag and carry it round the country with him.
Down the road from The Saffrons and closer to the sea is Devonshire Park, host to the annual Wimbledon "warm-up" tournament for women tennis players. Would the flight of a tennis ball be affected by such an atmosphere? - David Balcombe, Northwood
Q. Eric Cantona seems unusual among the sports fraternity in his artistic leanings. Has any professional sportman or woman enjoyed a career as a painter or sculptor during or after their sporting days?
A. In 1966 Jeremy Spencer played scrum-half for England against Wales. He was playing at the time for St Jean de Luz in France and was reported to be "a painter and a weaver of tweeds". He had held an exhibition of his work with the Spanish painter, Juan Benito.
He also played for Harlequins and in his early days with Bath - at a time when Bath United players were in the Dorset and Wiltshire team rather than the England and Scotland squads. - Tony Pembrooke, Wilmslow
Q. Duncan Ferguson,the Everton footballer,has just received a three- month jail sentence for assault. The offence took place on the field (when Ferguson played for Rangers) against an opposing player. Has any other Football League/Scottish League player ever been charged by the police for an offence on the field of play? If so, how many? - Don Matheson, Warrington
Q. In the recent Stella Artois tournament at Queen's Club, London, Goran Ivanisevic served six aces in succession. Is this a record, and if not, what is? - Tim Mickleburgh, Grimsby
Q. Has any sportsman or woman who has played on a grass surface ever been known to suffer from hayfever, and if so, has this prevented them from continuing to play their sport or hindered their performance in any way? - Paul Graham, Tiverton
Q. Which football team is supported by the highest percentage of its city's or town's population? - Jeff Bruff, Manchester
Q. At Kent's Canterbury ground a tree stands within the boundary. What is the history of this strange phenomenon, and does any other first class cricket ground have anything to match this? - Kevin Maguire, Batley
If you know the answers to any of these questions, or have a sporting question of your own you would like answered, write to:
Q & A
Independent on Sunday
1 Canada Square
London E14 5DL
Fax: 0171-293 2894Reuse content