Sunday, July 22, 2012

All eyes on Paris for the Tour de France final

I've been watching this year's Tour de France almost in disbelief. Could it really be that we have British riders in first and second place in the yellow jersey race with another, the cycling world champion no less, winning two stages and going for a third of this race on the Champs Elysees later today? His audacious attack on Friday from quite a long way out provided a thrilling end to the stage.

I don't need to pinch myself, because it is in fact all true. Let's just hope that the procession to Paris is traditionally uneventful. I don't want to say that Bradley Wiggins is the victor until he's actually over the line. 

Brad and the Team Sky he leads have dominated the race. Italian Vincenzo Nabali has made a couple of spirited efforts to take the shine off them, to no avail. I've felt sorry for defending champion Cadel Evans who's had few really bad days. I'd have liked to see him really give Bradley something to think about. 

I have to be honest and say that I'm not over keen on Chris Froome, Wiggins' second placed team mate, who's been telling everyone who'd listen that he'd have been able to win on his own. I was quite satisfied to see Wiggins give him quite a spanking in the time trial yesterday, beating him by a minute and a quarter.

I'd been all about the likes of Mark Cavendish, Andy Schleck and Cadel Evans up until now, with a special soft spot for Thomas Voeckler who should win the King of Mountains title today. The latter is a plucky Frenchman who's never won the yellow jersey competition despite having two long spells in it in 2005 and 2011. I like his humour, humility and general attitude. 

The sayings of Bradley Wiggins

Being a bit of a newbie to cycling, I'd never really paid that much attention to Wiggins. 2009 was really the first year I watched the Tour. It was the year I was ill and Stephen Glenn got me into it. Brad finished 4th that year, but he didn't do so well the year after and then broke his collar bone in 2011 that I haven't had the chance to get to know him really. However, his extended run in the yellow jersey this year has given him loads of media exposure and he's made me laugh and cry so much with his sayings. Who could fail to be moved yesterday when he was talking about his family and his grandad? Earlier in the week, he'd had a press conference on the rest day and very bluntly said, as Mark Pack pointed out:
It's so nice to be recognised for achieving something as so much of British culture is built up on people being famous for not achieving anything.
Then there was the comment about mountain climbs going up and being on tarmac. My personal favourite, though, was when he was talking, in French, to the French media who were asking him what it was like to meet President Hollande after Friday's stage. He made out that he'd no idea who he was and that he thought he was someone off the French version of Big Brother. The ensuing laughter shows that the French media get him.

I just wonder if massive sideburns will make a comeback now. I'm sure they can't be necessary for aerodynamic purposes, but Brad's are pretty impressive.

So, mid afternoon, I'll be cheering on Cav to win the final stage and Wiggins to make history as the first British winner of this iconic race.There won't be much rest for them because next week, they will hopefully be repeating their success in the Olympics road race and time trial.

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