Come the start of this year’s Tour de France in Utrecht, Holland, excitement levels for another three weeks of drama will be high. However, amongst the British TV broadcasters there will be a predictable and pre-prepared sense of mild disappointment slotted in amongst the hysteria.
Whatever happens in the first three days of this year’s race, it is guaranteed to be compared unfavourably with “The Grandest of Grand Departs” in Yorkshire, 2014…no matter how good it is!
(Cue wistful music and sepia toned images of sheep, wild Yorkshire moorland, and the entire population of the UK lining the streets in support of this great French export).
This year Eddy Merckx himself could take the start line as a late entry, hop on board one of his old steel framed bikes, and romp to victory ahead of Froome, Contador et al, and still we Brits would be thinking, “well, that was quite good, but do you remember Jens Voigt attacking solo over the Buttertubs pass last year…”
Ahhh, happy days.
As a result of the cobbles, or the wind and rain of northern Europe, or just the general stress levels of the peloton, there will be at least half a dozen spectacular crashes in the first week of the race. We will all furrow our brows and talk gravely about what a dangerous sport this is, and how brave these warriors of the road are, and how ‘really…no-one wants to see this’.
Simultaneously, we will be Google-ing and YouTube-ing said crashes to find the most gruesome angle, before sharing on social media.
Johnny Hoogerland anyone?
After the ups and (mainly) downs of last year’s race when, after crashing approximately 57 times in the first 5 days, Chris Froome was forced to abandon, he will be hoping to capitalise on his recent good form and justify his status as one of three or four men in contention for the overall win.
If he wins, the British press will undoubtedly sing the praises of ‘True Brit’ Chris Froome, double Tour de France champion.
If he doesn’t, he’ll be plain old ‘Kenyan born cyclist’ Chris Froome.
Following the non-selection of his great sprint rival Marcel Kittel (the man who I am contractually obliged to refer to as ‘the big German’), Mark Cavendish’s eyes will have lit up more than normal prior to this year’s race as he senses a victory or two.
Whilst the smart money is certainly on a couple of Cavendish wins, I’d put a healthy wager on one or two other Cavendish related predictions coming true.
For example, he will swear at a TV cameraman. It’s just as likely to happen after a glorious win, as after picking himself up from a bruising crash, but happy or angry, justified or not, it’ll happen.
It’s also safe to predict that after a particularly dramatic stage win he will make a tearful declaration of love to his team-mates – brothers-in-arms – without whom none of this would be possible. Extra love will be reserved for Mark Renshaw, and an entire population of male cycling fans will have to nip to the bathroom, claiming, “I’ve got something in my eye…sob!”
Meanwhile, over on Eurosport, Sean Kelly will be busy (gloriously) mangling European cycling pronunciation. So the Col du Tourmalet will rhyme with ‘let’, rather than ‘lay’; the Tour de France becomes the Tour of France; and his poetic descriptions of the complexities of the feed zone become the stuff of legend.