The week in numbers: w/e 15/4/12

Rosberg dominated in Shanghai to win his first GP (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

111Nico Rosberg won the Chinese GP in Shanghai, his first Formula 1 win in his 111th race. His father Keke won five Grands Prix from 1982 to 1985, including the drivers’ title in 1982.

3 – The first three Formula 1 races of this season have been won by three different drivers: Jenson Button (Australia), Fernando Alonso (Malaysia) and Rosberg (China). But the championship is led by Lewis Hamilton, who has finished third in each of the three races.

51Neptune Collonges became the first grey to win the Grand National since Nicolaus Silver in 1961, 51 years ago.

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My sporting month: April 2012

There’s plenty of sporting action to look forward to in April, with the race for league titles and both domestic and European cup competitions in football, the first of golf’s majors, the conclusion to what has been a pretty dismal pair of winter tours for England’s cricket team, and action of both the four and two-wheeled variety, including cycling’s Track World Championships from Melbourne.

It promises to be a busy, varied and exciting month. Here are five of the best which will be occupying my attention this month.

1. AFL – West Coast Eagles vs Western Bulldogs (1st)

The protracted opening round of the Aussie Rules season concludes with its final two games today, including a 2012 bow for my team, the West Coast Eagles, who travel to the Western Bulldogs hoping to consolidate their remarkable turnaround of last year. Having missed the playoff finals series for the third straight season in 2010, winning just four of 22 games to finish 16th and bottom of the ladder, they improved to 17-5 last year to finish fourth overall. Sadly, they fell to eventual champions Geelong in a one-sided preliminary final (effectively the semi-final round), but still had a lot to be proud of.

It’s easy to mock Aussie Rules as a poor man’s cross between rugby and Friday night pub-brawling, but followers of the sport will appreciate the skill, strength and stamina of its participants (who can regularly land 50-metre kicks on a sixpence) and its no-nonsense approach. You won’t see any of the histrionics or cheating which have become part and parcel of football in recent years, that’s for sure.

2. The Masters (5th-8th)

The Augusta National course, golf’s equivalent of a gladiatorial arena, rarely disappoints – and it surpassed itself last year. South African Charl Schwartzel claimed his maiden PGA Tour victory and his first major with a stunning final round 66. But he would never have had a sniff at the title had Rory McIlroy not self-destructed in spectacular fashion at the same time. Having led after each of the first three rounds and started the final 18 holes with a four-shot lead, the young Northern Irishman unravelled on the back nine, taking a triple-bogey on the 10th hole and then four-putting his way to a double-bogey on the 12th as he finished ten shots behind the winner.

The collapse would have destroyed a lesser man than McIlroy. Instead he went on to capture the US Open two months later and briefly claim the world number one ranking earlier this year. Schwartzel also proved he was no flash in the pan, with top-12 finishes at both the US Open and US PGA. If we have a finish half as dramatic this year, we will be in for a treat.

3. Paris-Roubaix (8th)

April is Spring Classics month in the cycling world, taking in several of the biggest one-day races on the cycling calendar. It is a month of cobbles and hills and sometimes cobbled hills, which is tailor-made for the all-round hard men of the sport – pure sprinters and climbers need not apply – riders such as Fabian Cancellara, Philippe Gilbert and Tom Boonen. From the Tour of Flanders (1st) to Liege-Bastogne-Liege (22nd), this three-week period invariably throws up some of the best racing of the year, cementing reputations and creating new legends.

Paris-Roubaix is many fans’ favourite – it is not affectionately called the ‘Hell of the North’ without good reason. A 258km route through northern France contains 27 sections of bone-jarring cobbled roads which provide the perfect platform for bold attacks, race-killing punctures and high drama. It is a gruelling, punishing race – others are longer, but none is tougher. Boonen is a three-time winner here, while Cancellara has won twice. Last year Cancellara was marked out of contention by his main rivals – he still finished second – as Garmin-Cervelo’s Johan Vansummeren escaped alone up the road to score a breakthrough win. Expect similar drama this year.

4. F1 Chinese GP (15th)

The third race of the 2012 Formula 1 season takes the grid to Shanghai for the ninth running of the Chinese Grand Prix. After Jenson Button’s season-opening win in Australia, Fernando Alonso took his Ferrari – which this year is more of a dog than a prancing horse – to victory in a rain-affected Malaysian GP. The Spaniard leads the standings with 35 points, five ahead of Lewis Hamilton and ten ahaed of Button, with reigning double world champion Sebastian Vettel languishing in sixth as he struggles to get the maximum out of his new Red Bull.

Hamilton won last year’s race to become the first two-time winner in China, but previous race winners include Button, Vettel, Alonso, Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen, all of whom will line up on the grid again this year.

5. Champions League semi-finals (17th-25th)

Chelsea are the Premier League’s sole representative in the quarter-finals, whose second legs take place on the 3rd and 4th, and look well placed to progress after their 1-0 away win at Benfica last week. However, most people ‘s attention will be on Barcelona ahead of the semi-finals, which will be played on consecutive mid-weeks later in the month.

With Real Madrid already 3-0 up from the away leg of their tie with Apoel Nicosia and Bayern Munich taking a 2-0 away victory into their second leg against Marseille, it is the defending champions whose status remains in the most doubt. A 0-0 draw away at AC Milan was not a bad result, but nonetheless they have minimal margin for error if they want to keep hopes of an all-La Liga final alive. As an aside, all four seeded teams kept clean sheets in the away legs of their quarter-finals, a remarkable achievement.

The week in numbers: w/e 16/10/11

Wheldon was tragically killed after being caught up in a 15-car accident (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

33 – Age of Dan Wheldon, who was killed in a 15-car accident at the Las Vegas IndyCar race last night. The British driver had won his second Indianapolis 500 in May. In total, he had 16 wins in IndyCar and was the overall series champion in 2005.

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The week in numbers: w/e 24/7/11

Pietersen's 202no put England in a strong position against India

6 – In scoring 202 not out in England’s first innings in the first Test against India, Kevin Pietersen became the sixth batsman to pass 1,000 Test runs at Lord’s, joining Geoffrey Boycott, David Gower, Graham Gooch, Alec Stewart and Andrew Strauss.

1 – Swimmer Keri-Anne Payne became the first British athlete to qualify for next summer’s Olympic Games in London by defending her world 10km title in Shanghai, winning by nearly two seconds.

0 – Number of matches won by Paraguay in reaching the Copa America final. They drew all three group games, and then won both their quarter and semi-final matches on penalties. However, Uruguay beat them 3-0 in the final.

5 – WBA light-welterweight champion Amir Khan outclassed IBF champion Zab Judah, knocking him out in the fifth round of their unification fight in Las Vegas on Saturday night.

Gervinho was quick to open his Arsenal account (image courtesy of

2 – In his first start for the club, Gervinho scored twice in the first 16 minutes as Arsenal won 2-1 in a friendly match at Cologne.

196Chris Taylor equalled his best ever score of 196 as Gloucestershire beat Kent by an innings and 142 runs in their County Championship match at Cheltenham.

11 – Nottinghamshire’s Samit Patel took 4/43 and 7/68 in their draw against Hampshire at the Rose Bowl, giving him a match return of 11/111.

1 – Derbyshire’s Mark Turner 5/32 in the first innings of their drawn match with Northamptonshire. It was his first five-for since he made his first-class debut in 2005.

2Lewis Hamilton won the German Grand Prix ahead of Fernando Alonso, his second victory of the season, to become only the second multiple race winner this year. (Defending world champion Sebastian Vettel has six wins.)

1Vettel finished fourth, the first time in ten races this season he has not finished in the top two.

The Tour de France in numbers

1:34Cadel Evans‘ winning margin over Andy Schleck – only the second time in the last six years the Tour has been decided by one minute or more.

Voeckler had an outstanding Tour, spending ten days in the yellow jersey

12Evans‘ win made Australia the 12th country to produce a Tour winner – but the first from the southern hemisphere.

10 – Number of days in the yellow jersey for Thomas Voeckler. In 2004, he also held the maillot jaune for ten days.

1 – Number of days in the yellow jersey for Evans.

6Alberto Contador‘s fifth-place finish ended his run of winning the last six Grand Tours he has entered, including his last three Tours de France.

6 – Stage wins for HTC-Highroad, more than any other team (five by Mark Cavendish, one by Tony Martin).

3Cavendish‘s victory in Paris marked the third consecutive time he has won the final stage on the Champs-Élysées. He was already the only man in Tour history to achieve this feat two years in a row.

20 – Cavendish’s win was the 20th stage of his Tour career (in only his fifth participation), moving him up to joint-sixth on the all-time winners’ list. Eddy Merckx leads with 34.

11 – Only 11 out of the 22 teams won a stage.

1Pierre Rolland was the only French stage winner (at Alpe d’Huez on stage 19), versus six last year.

167 – Number of finishers, out of 198 starters.

3:57:43 – Time gap between winner Cadel Evans and last-placed finisher Fabio Sabatini, the lanterne rouge.

(Some statistics courtesy of Opta Sports, The Times and Infostrada.)

The week in numbers: w/e 10/7/11

Silverstone has not been a happy hunting ground for Button (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

12 Jenson Button‘s retirement on lap 39 of yesterday’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone meant he has now competed in the event 12 times without a single podium finish.

9 – In finishing in second place behind Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel has now been first or second in all nine races this season (six wins, three seconds).

0.024 – In seconds, the gap by which Lewis Hamilton edged out Felipe Massa for fourth place.

10England beat Sri Lanka by ten wickets in the fourth one-day international at Trent Bridge, after bowling the visitors out for 174. Captain Alastair Cook scored an unbeaten 95 of 75 balls. England went on to clinch the five-match series 3-2.

Jeter celebrated his 3,000th career hit in emphatic style (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

3,000Derek Jeter struck a home run with his 3,000th career hit and finished five-for-five batting, helping the New York Yankees to beat the Tampa Bay Rays 5-4 in a Major League Baseball match-up on Saturday.

2 – Two spectators suffered broken legs at the Scottish Open after landslides and flooding made conditions treacherous. World number one Luke Donald won the tournament after it was shortened to three rounds.

179 – Surrey’s Zander de Bruyn scored 179 from 200 deliveries on the first day of their County Championship match against Kent.

0 – Games lost by Andy Murray against Laurent Bram in Britain’s Davis Cup victory over Luxembourg. He lost just 15 points as he wrapped up a 6-0 6-0 6-0 win in 52 minutes.

The Tour de France in numbers

Voeckler leads the Tour de France by nearly two minutes

3Thomas Voeckler became the third wearer of the yellow jersey in the 2011 edition, after finishing second in yesterday’s stage to Saint-Flour.

1:49 – Voeckler’s lead over second-placed Luis León Sánchez, who won yesterday’s stage.

7 – Days in the yellow jersey for Thor Hushovd, who failed to win an individual stage but was the only rider to finish in the top ten on each of the first seven stages.

2 – Stage wins for Mark Cavendish, making him the only multiple individual stage winner so far. His second victory in Châteauroux was his 17th at the Tour, and also a repeat of his first in 2008.

Farrar claimed his first individual Tour stage win

1Tyler Farrar won stage three, becoming the first American rider to win a Tour stage on the 4th of July.

4 – Number of first-time Tour winners in the eight individual stages so far: Philippe Gilbert (stage one), Tyler Farrar (stage three), Edvald Boasson Hagen (stage six) and Rui Costa (stage eight).

18 – Retirements so far, out of 198 starters.

1:28:50 – Voeckler’s Europcar teammate Vincent Jérôme is currently 180th and last, nearly an hour and a half behind the overall leader.

(Some statistics courtesy of Opta Sports, The Times and Infostrada.)

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