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ON YER BIKE: Bradley Wiggins has thrust cycling into the spotlight
WOW – a Tour de force and no mistake. Like most of you, I had never heard of Bradley Wiggins until a few weeks ago. I am not one for watching sports, not a much of a player either, but I’d certainly prefer to ride or, say, play tennis than to watch someone else do it.
I have, over the years, been dragged into watching the Tour de France.
At first, I kind of felt it was my duty. All my mates know I love cycling and I was asked “What do you think of the Tour so far?” so often that it ended up being easier to watch the ITV4 daily Tour updates than to miss them.
I am much more of an off-road biker than a road cyclist. For me, the thrill of bumping down rough tracks has always trumped slogging along increasingly congested country lanes.
And I have to hand it to them, the Tour riders look very “special” in their skinny-look bodysuits, alien helmets and that awkward pose when they lean on their forearms in time trails sections.
Gradually I have got over these aesthetic quibbles and come to enjoy the thrills of the different stages of the Tour.
And to admire the sheer physical strength and mental determination to keep rolling for a whole day at 40mph on the flat – and 20mph up mountain passes.
Then, when Mark Cavendish sprang onto the scene a few years ago, the Tour wasn’t just something that Johnny Foreigner did, it seemed all of a sudden relevant to us Brits as well. Names like Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton have over the years pricked a certain amount of pride as Brit after Brit came to dominate different areas of the sport.
Now, with even Cavendish’s fourth magnificent final-stage win in the Champs Elysees on Sunday being eclipsed by Wiggins’ and Chris Froome’s overall triumph in the Tour de France, cycling has been thrust firmly into the limelight of the British sporting calendar. It was the 99th Tour de France and the first one ever to be won by a Brit.
While obscenely overpaid louts kick around a leather bladder when they aren’t enjoying dodgy extra-marital liaisons with other players’ wives, they can’t win a championship to save their lives. Wiggins went down a storm with French fans of the Tour thanks to his laid-back and laconic approach to interviews, and for his championing of British culture. Photos of Wiggins everywhere show him sporting his Mod sideburns and Paul Weller hairstyle, and wearing Fred Perry shirts.
He charmed the world when his seven year old son appeared next to him on the podium with his mini-me Sky-branded racing bike. I am super-excited about taking my nine-year-old nephew to watch the Olympic mountain biking, and I cannot wait to see the track and road races on the telly. Sayonara football, here comes British cycling!