Thursday, July 19, 2012
Thoughts on Le Tour, 2012
As I type this there are only three stages left of the world's greatest annual sporting event.
It's been a strange one, this year for a number of reasons.
Wiggo Wiggo Wiggo Wiggo Wiggo - yeah! Firstly who would have thought that in our lifetime a British rider would spend a great big chunk of the race in the yellow jersey and more or less have the race won with several days to go? A fantastic achievement indeed for Wiggo. Not only that, but who would have thought that there would not just be one but two British riders in the top three? Chris Froome has been a revelation on this Tour and no-one could blame him if he chooses to walk from Team Sky at the end of the season and take his chances with a team who would prioritise his race-winning opportunities more seriously. But that's the world of team cycling for you: rule number one, know your place.
The Sagan saga: Peter Sagan, a young rider from Slovakia, came to his very first tour and meant business almost from the beginning. His stage-winning celebrations turned him into one of the race's most talked-about new stars. But what about our favourite Manx missile? Mark Cavendish was conspicuous by his absence for most of the race and seemed to be ruled out of defending this year's green jersey. There is still that iconic Paris finish to come, which has been Cav's domain in recent years, and Bradley has declared that he and the team will pay Cav back for the selfless work he's done in Le Tour this year, by working towards that big finish on Sunday. And then there's the small matter of some Olympic games coming up...
Changing tack: One of the darkest moments of this year's race came on stage 14 when tacks were thrown on the road, causing extensive damage and punctures. One of the riders damaged most by this was the defending champion Cadel Evans. Now regular readers will know that I'm no Cadel fan by any means but this was a pretty sad and sick stunt. Le Tour is an event which is free for everyone in the vicinity to attend and enjoy. We can only hope that this was a one-off.
Schleck? Heck! Feck!: That was basically my reaction when I found out that Frank Schleck had tested positive for a diuretic. With all the bans and negative publicity of recent years, the last thing this year's tour needed was a positive test. I'm sure we haven't heard the last of this story. Whilst we're on the Schleck family, we have really missed Andy in the race this year and can only wonder how different the dynamic of the race would have looked if an on-form Andy was there, challenging Bradley all the way to the finish.
The achievement of British riders has been fantastic and if it encourages even one person to take up cycling and change the anti-cycling culture in this car-obsessed country, then job done. However, it hasn't been a classic by any means: it's been a Tour in transition, with the stars of the past either banned, injured or retired and few serious challengers for the title. Nevertheless the Tour de France is and will always remain a spectacle, and France itself will always be the star.