To the surprise of everyone, Danish all-rounder Jakob Fuglsang won this year’s Criterium du Dauphine; one of THE most prestigious stage races of the season.
As surprises go, this was surprising. It was unexpected. It wasn’t on my radar any more than anyone else’s. Except perhaps Jakob’s. And he even he look a bit surprised.
As I settled down to watch the final stage of the race only one of two outcomes was possible.
Chris Froome would go full ‘Chris Froome’, reel in the time deficit of a minute-and-something on Ritchie Porte, and snatch victory from the jaws of, by his standards, a mediocre all-round performance.
Or, more likely, Ritchie Porte would continue his dominance and do more than enough to win with time to spare. Whilst also displaying that weird and endearing grimace/grin he does when the going gets tough.
And also riding with the ever present risk that you get with Ritchie; that he’ll find some weird and wonderful way to lose a chunk of time, by colliding with some wildlife, for example, or sleeping through his alarm.
Any number of others might win the stage – Bardet, Aru, Valverde – but to feel the need to predict anyone but Porte for the overall win you’d need to be an inveterate gambler with an invite to a prestigious straw-clutching tournament.
And then prior to the final climb of the final stage, the race blew to pieces. As all the big contenders rounded on Porte and left him isolated and in trouble, all bets were off.
Froome burnt all his matches before fading; Valverde set off with Aru on a doomed attack; Dan Martin battled clear of the main bunch to make his own time gains; Porte fought back single-handedly to reel everyone back in; and all the while Jakob Fuglsang was a minute-and-something down the road and uncatchable.
And he won.
The stage, and the race overall. Which was remarkable.
And even more remarkable, perhaps, was the discovery via Carlton Kirby on the Eurosport commentary team that Fuglsang translates into English as ‘Birdsong’. And even more remarkable still was the fact that I, as the UK’s premier blogger of cycling nonsense, was not previously aware of that fact.
This is now, in its English translation, officially the greatest name for a pro-cyclist in the history of the sport. It has overtaken all the greats; Djamolidine Abdujaparov, Willy Planckaert…even Bryan Coquard.
It’s one thing to win the biggest bike race of your career at the age of 32, it’s quite another to do it with a name like Jakob Birdsong.
He’s certainly ruffled a few feathers.
…I’ll get my coat.