Sunday, 27 July 2008

Saddle Sore

Well I did it - I made it all the way through my first Tour de France, which is more than you can say for Mark Cavandish. While he shit out half way over the Alps, I carried on, beer in hand and sofa cushions puffed up ready for each new stage. Cavandish was great to watch actually, one hell of a sprinter. I also enjoyed Andy Schleck, the young gun from Luxembourg who rode out of his skin for his teammates. Sylvian Chavanel was a good attacking rider who seemed to adpot a "sod-it-why, not give it a go" mentality. I was less impressed by pre-race favourite Cadel Evans who came over as anything but Australian with his winny voice, temper-tantrums when things wren't going his way and this odd obsession with a cuddly toy. On top of that he was a boring rider as well, just lurking in the pack.

To me sport is about the spectacle as much as the participation and this is where the Tour comes into its own. Despite years of kicking the fans in the teeth with drug cheating, they still come tumbling out of their villages to see their heroes and give their support. It seems to be the purist of sports, with man and nature as one. The cows in the sun-drenched fields are almost as relevant as the sprint finishes. Whereas most sports have the empty feel of a money-circus, rolling in to town to rid the locals of their hard earned (well perhaps not with the French), the Tour has the charm of a carnival that fleets through little villages asking a sprinkle of occasion before moving serenely on to the next hamlet. Alasdair Fotheringham (not British by any chance?) described such a scene in the Independent, with a 90 strong fan-club for rider Cyril Dessel having a barbecue in the hills, joined by a passing couple from Belguim who happened to be from a Flanders village called Dessel and some guys from Normandy who fancied a social. It has the air of the American Football tailgate parties, much missed in the coldron of European football. So, twelve months to wait for my sophomore Tour de France. I'll be back next July ready to go head to head with Cav.

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