They say that “Good things come to those who wait.”
And we have waited. Oh yes, we’ve waited. We’ve waited through the Olympics, through the Vuelta, through the off season and then we’ve waited some more through the Tours of Down Under, Qatar and Oman. We’ve waited through the Classics and the Giro – though they were much more diverting than the previous waiting – and through the build-up skirmishes of Trentino, Romandie and the Dauphine.. And now it’s here. The Tour de France starts this weekend.
If you are going to have to ‘wait’ for a major sporting event, then the Tour is actually pretty accommodating. Unlike the aforementioned Olympics or most of the sporting World Cups it’s annual instead of being as regular as a Leap Year or a Presidential Election. Add to this the fact that, with its three week duration, it’s really only 49 weeks since we last stood shouting ourselves hoarse on the Champs Élysées, and that from now we will be fully occupied with it for the better part of a month, and suddenly it becomes a very generous sport for its followers. It’s free to watch from the roadside if you are in the vicinity of the parcours, or there is extensive live and recorded coverage for those who are not. The individual daily dramas for sprint and stage played out in balance against the long term struggles for overall victory. The never-ending sideshow politics of ethical, technical and moral debate raging in the vast press rooms set up just yards from the finish line. To call it a sport worthy of Shakespeare would not be too far out of line.
Our scene opens in a Corsican port. The young prince Froome watches as the fleet of the old King, Sir Lord Wiggins of Kilburn, Lancashire & Tenerife, is lost in a series of Italian storms, and he laments to his trusted lieutenants the burden which now falls to him.
“By all that we hold good and true, – yes, Lord Porte, by my very power-meter – I shall don the yellow cloth come three weeks hence. Come now though, let us adjourn and keep our purpose hid until the road doth ascend to the very Gods.” He and his lieutenants form a long single-file line and they exit stage right (at race tempo).
The Counts of Sagan and CVNDSH enter. Sagan is flanked by the Merry Podium Girls and wheelie’ing. CVNDSH is alone, though he carries engravings of Lord Eisel and Lord Renshaw. They spend the next 5 scenes squabbling over who should be wearing yellow and green. Sagan flees to France winning both but lets CVNDSH wear green so that he looks even more jealous. They fight until they reach the mountains at which point Sagan exits, stage left, wheelie’ing, pursued by a bear. And the Podium girls. CVNDSH remains, wearing his reading glasses, giving gravely serious interviews to the Gentlemen of the Press, who risk his ire by only asking him questions about what has he done with his vowels.
Act II & Act III to follow as the Tour progresses.—–
Yes, we have waited. And yes, it will be good. It’s a shame that Wiggins won’t be there. I think the Century edition of the Tour will be poorer for not having the defending champion on the start line, and that Sky and Froome will be worse off for not having his engine in the team. I’m not surprised though – the tension between the pair looked to have become unmanageable and was clearly in danger of splitting the team cohesion that Sky are so reliant on. It will be very interesting to read David Walsh’s take on all this in due course. He has been embedded with the team for a couple of months and must be best placed to tell the real story.
I’m really looking forward to the Ventoux stage on Bastille Day and also the double ascent of Alpe d’Huez four days later. I think we will see a lot more chaotic race for GC this year than the semi-processional run of last year and I don’t quite see Froome as the clear favourite that the bookies make him. It’s not that I doubt his ability to win it, I just think that there will be more twists and turns this year and that it will be a titanic to and fro struggle between him and whoever emerges as his his closest rival. Which, in spite of Wiggins’ absence, could conceivably still be his own teammate. I definitely think we are in for a classic… Something much more than worthy of the wait.