Unless you’ve been offworld for the last three weeks, you must have been aware that the Tour de France has been going on. This is without doubt the world’s greatest spectator sporting event. A large proportion of France turns out to take in the race as it goes by. We’ve been amongst that number the last two years, but sadly the lads weren’t coming anywhere near us this time round. So we’ve been watching it unfold on the TV. We’ve had the live reportage on in the afternoons in the background while we’ve been up to our usual activities, but occasionally we’ve dropped everything to rush to the screen and watch an unfortunate crash or a nail-biting sprint finish. And then every evening we’ve watched the highlights programme. Yep, we’re cycling obsessed in this household.
It’s been as incredible as ever, but this year there’s been the extra excitement of having such a strong set of British riders involved. Most of them were in the Sky team which produced the overall winner and runner up in the shape of Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome respectively, but don’t forget Mark Cavendish, the current World Champion and probably the best sprinter there’s ever been. He won three stages, including the most prestigious final one. That’s four times in a row that Cav has won this stage on the Champs Élysées, which is a record for consecutive wins. Bradley Wiggins has set a record too in becoming the first Briton to win this famous French race in the whole of its 99 year history. It was a thoroughly deserved victory. He was the best all-rounder, and a gentleman to boot. Defending champion Cadel Evans was hit by three punctures during Stage 14 when some braindead moron threw carpet tacks onto the road in front of the riders, causing more than 30 riders to puncture and one of these, Robert Kiserlovski to sustain a broken collar one as a direct result. Evans lost a lot of time but Wiggins organised the rest of the peloton, with the exception of one French rider whose ear-microphone apparently suddenly stopped working so he didn’t get to hear about the general decision, to slow down and give Evans the chance to catch up. They did this, but also made sure they caught the rebel breakaway rider too!
There were a lot of crashes this year unfortunately, especially in the first week. It’s always a horrendous sight to see riders sprawled across the tarmac, clutching collar bones and wrists, or worse, occasionally not moving at all.
So scenes at Paris were jubilant for the Sky team. Bradley Wiggins was visibly very moved by the occasion, but the nicest moment for me was the interview with Cav after the ceremony. He gives the impression of being an ultra-aggressive rider, the “Alpha Male’s Alpha Male” as commentator Gary Imlach calls him. But there he was with his very new baby daughter Delilah in his arms, in her pretty pale pink dress, proudly kissing her head and hugging her close as he talked happily about his stage win. He’s got a soft side too!
The British cyclists seem to a nice bunch. Wiggins is unassuming with a wry touch of homour. Cav is upfront with his emotions, ecstatic after a win, less communcative, shall we say, after a disappointing result, but, like Wiggins, always generous in praise of those who helped him get his wins. The other Brits in the Tour this year were Stephen Cummings (95th) and David Millar (106th). Irish riders Nicolas Roche and Daniel Martin came 12th and 35th respectively.
So British cycling has had a real boost. All being well, the UK’s cyclists will do equally well at the Olympics so maybe there’ll be more people being inspired to get on their bikes and discover this wonderful activity.
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