I want to ride my bicycle…..

I want to ride my bicycle….

It’s taken me a few days to recover from the brilliant finale to the Tour de France, but as excitement starts up again for the Men’s road race at the Olympics this Saturday (the 28th) I couldn’t not write a piece on the incredible effort from the British riders in this years’ tour.

Hats off to David Millar, Chris Froome, Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins; all achieved stage wins, some more than once. It really was a shout out to the cycling world that Britain on the roads means business now to add to their track success.

Added to that Mark Cavendish is now 4th in the all-time list of stage victories, winning three more this year to take his total up to 23. What’s even more incredible is that he’s managed that despite not having a team set up to help him, despite him often working as a domestique for Bradley Wiggins. He’s shown that he can be a complete team player and he was rewarded for his effort in his last two stage victories by having Bradley Wiggins lead him out for the stage end to set up a sprint finish that the Manx Missile, as ever excelled at.

I honestly cannot recall ever seeing the yellow jersey leading out a sprint rider before, and not just any sprint rider – the world champion! It was a glorious sight to behold, especially on the Champs Elysees and it is easily one of the stand-out moments of the tour. It is an iconic sporting image that is going to go down in history as one of the greatest moments in British sport.

And I’ve made only passing reference to Bradley Wiggins, but what he’s achieved is nothing short of phenomenal. The feat of even completing the Tour is one that is incredible. To cycle 2,172 miles over three weeks, at speeds averaging over 25mph, chuck in monstrous mountain stages that most people would struggle to walk up then the mind literally boggles. How anyone, let alone over 150 men, can manage to finish it, is difficult to comprehend.

The sheer effort and will to win exerted by Wiggins and his team to achieve this victory is something to be applauded and celebrated. The course was ideal for Wiggins as it included three stages that were his speciality – the time trial. That said, the time he took out of his opponents was simply incredible.  Considering the previous 98 attempts at this race, the best a British athlete had achieved was 4th, this victory for British cycling is going to live long in the memory.

And people should not forget the exceptional performance from Chris Froome. His 2nd place, which is a superb feet in itself, has been overshadowed by Wiggins’ victory, but it deserves celebrating in its own right. This man has shown exceptional talent and team ethics and he is without a doubt going to be a yellow jersey contender at some point in the future. It will be interesting to see whether the stays with Team Sky or seeks out another team that will have him as its leader, he definitely has the talent deserving of this.

This year’s tour had so many standout moments but for me to go alongside Wiggins leading Cavendish out, my best moment was when Thomas Voeckler won stage 16. This capped off two days’ effort in the Pyrenees where he ultimately topped 7 massive summits first and held out on a breakaway by himself to clinch one of the toughest stage victories I have seen. In doing so he secured himself the King of the Mountains jersey. This man is such a tenacious and likable character, it was a delight to see him rewarded for his hard work, even more so after he came so agonizingly close to getting a podium place in last year’s tour.

So, another Tour de France is over, and again history has been made. If you’re British, this really is one to savour, and here’s hoping it cements the cycling revolution of this nation. The Men’s road race on Saturday is going to be a very good place for our British athletes to continue building on our cycling success, and I for one can’t wait for it. 

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9 thoughts on “I want to ride my bicycle…..

  1. Eoin says:

    Indeed, congrats to them all, an incredible achievement – and special plaudits to Dave Brailsford imo for having the foresight to put it all together.

    I wonder if Team SKY will be able to keep hold of Froome and Cavendish – let’s be honest, there’s no way that Wiggins won’t want to defend his yellow jersey next year whether the course suits him or not, and I can’t see Froome keeping his ambitions in check for another year, particularly if it’s course that favours mountain riders rather than time-triallers. Have to say I did enjoy the spat between MrsW and Cound!

    And will Cav be around at SKY next year? Brailsford has hinted that he would let him go even with two year still to run on his contract – if he want green jersey glory, he’ll need to go to a team without anyone in serious contention in the GC,

    Lastly, delighted to see Wiggins lead of Cav on the Champs Elysee – after his grand disappearing act and failure to do the same in 2009 when with Garmin, it showed he’d learned a big lesson.

    • Hmm the Cav thing is interesting. I actually think he’ll stick around for another yaer at least with Sky, or well I hope he does anyway.

      When you think about it, he got 3 stage victories in a team not dedicated to sprints, and he was involved in 3 others up until some nasty crashes. Now you could say that he needed a team to protect him from the crashes but sometimes it’s just bad luck taht you get caught up in them.

      I think he’s happy at Sky at the minute and I’m not sure if he’s really after the green jersey again so much as he’s after stage victories. He’ll already go down in history as being the first British rider to win the green jersey, but…stage wins or green jersey, or will he want to go for both? if the latter or both then I think he’ll have to move from Sky to achieve that. Be interesting to see how it unfolda anyways!

      And I really want Froome to get the yellow one year, he was superb this year, and you are just left wondering what he could have taken out of Wiggins in the mountains if he’d been allowed….

  2. Olive Barnes says:

    I have waited a few days to consider my response to this and to last Saturday’s Olympic Road Race. You may disagree that they are linked but …

    Early in the TdF you posted on FB a Well Done to Team Sky. I agreed with you as it was a very fine piece of team riding (I can’t remember exactly which stage it was, but it doesn’t really matter). As the race went on, I quite frankly got bored with how Sky were controlling the race. The TdF this year NEEDED Tommy Voeckler to liven it up because the team with the yellow jersey had no intention of actually racing. They were doing the equivalent of “up the jumper” rugby – and we know what neutrals think of that style of play. An alternative analogy would be to accuse them of doing for stage cycling what Pete Sampras did for tennis.

    Then there was last Saturday’s race in which Mark Cavendish was a supposed shoe-in for the gold medal. Instead we saw Vinokourov powering to the gold.

    There has been a lot of analysis, complaints about other teams not taking their turn at the front of the peloton, other teams having sussed out Team GB etc etc. But there was a fundamental difference between the TdF and The Olympic race. The competitors do not have radio commmunication with the team car. They have to ride their own race.

    And what happened? There was a significant break, with a number of serious contenders in it and some very strong riders (Vino, Boonen, LL Sanchez, Cancellara, Van Garderen and a few others). How did Team GB respond? At first they let them go and then they started chasing. It was a lost cause. The front group had 32 riders in it and as long as they worked together they had plenty of strength to keep Team GB at bay.

    To link this back to the TdF. Team Sky have spent a lot of money, not on salaries for the riders, but on support services – technology, sports science analysis etc. This they used to perfection around the roads and mountains of France. They knew exactly how much power their riders had to expend to catch any breakaway. On reflection it seems to me that David Brailsford et al played a very clever video game albeit with real people riding the bikes. But it removed from their riders the necessity to do any thinking for themselves.

    In rugby and in many other sports commentators and fans talk about the “top 2 inches” of the players. Their brains. What do they do when Plan A isn’t working? How do they respond when the opponents play Plan Q instead of the expected Plan H? Can they use their own intelligence to change their gameplan to neutralise the opposition?

    It would appear that Wiggins, Froome, Cavendish and the rest have been overcoached (again sticking with the rugby analogy). They went into Saturday’s race with a plan – one which had been successful last year in Denmark when Cav won the rainbow jersey. Everyone else in the race knew what GB’s plan A was and, when it was frustrated by a large breakaway, were not prepared to help them bring the break back.

    Should Team GB have gone with the break? It seems obvious to say now that yes they should have. Did they know who was in it? Maybe not, but they must have been aware of the size of it and that in itself posed a danger. So maybe a TdF without radios would see the cyclists actually racing rather than relying on technology and grinding out a yellow jersey victory which was, in the end, so stultifyingly boring that I think they may well have cost cycling at least one fan!!

  3. Eoin says:

    Not sure that I agree with Olive’s take on the Olympic road race – i think the loss can be put squarely at the door of poor tactics, a failure to have a Plan B in the event that everything didn’t quite go Team GB&NI’s way – an unusual error on the part of Brailsford and the riders.

    As for Team SKY simply being a “video game” in the TdF played out by team management with the riders as mere pawns, a read of either Millar (auto)biography will correct the fallacy that this is something new. The variables may have changed, but the TdF has been run as a team event for the last 30-40 years – witness the successes of Badger Hinault and Armstrong.

    • I think I might be inclined to agree with you more than Olive on this Eoin, although I think it would be pretty interesting to see if they could limit what radio control they had at the TdF, or if they only had limited chances of being able to use it or something….I dunno. I do think perhaps they are starting to get slightly over reliant on it anyway 🙂

    • Olive Barnes says:

      Eoin,
      OK, I didn’t actually use the word “tactics” in my criticism of the GB team at the Olympics – but surely you can see that that was implied!!

      Nor did I say that Sky were the first to race in this fashion. Armstrong did it when he first came over with his American Post team (can’t remember the official team name). But I don’t think you can accuse Hinault of not racing – he did. he lit up mountain stages by attacking in them, unlike Team Sky who just ground it out. Hinault in his career won all three jerseys – an unusual feat including both the green and yellow in the same year. Did they have team radios then?

      Anyway, it will be interesting to see how the Vuelta goes with Froome as team leader and Wiggins having a rest.

  4. Gibson says:

    Errm, I could go on about the days of Roche and Kelly. Real riders… 😉

    But, tbh, I can’t handle the luminous green backdrop on your site Siobhan. It takes away from the quality of your writing.

    Don’t shoot me, but its really hard to concentrate. Darker green or blue?

    I’m such an aul woman. But I mean well. :OK:

    • I tend to agree with you about the background! But I didn’t like many of the other choices wpress gave me and I am not yet clued up enough yet to design my own. I am thinking of changing it though, so hopefully I find something more suitable for you 😉

  5. Gibson says:

    By the way, I agree with Olive. I know its the modern way, but its getting more like F1. Less rider orientated, more technology dominated. From the bikes to the XBOX remote-control. Its a live video game.

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