Vuelta Espana 2018 Stage 21: anyone for shin-kicking?

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I must admit, I was hoping for tears on the podium. Not “full Winslet” perhaps, but a quiver in the voice and a moistness in the eyes.

This sort of behaviour is the fast track for any sportsperson into the hearts of the British public.

But no.

Post-race, as mid-race, Simon Yates was as clinical as a Michelin starred Tapas chef and as calculating as Dave Brailsford in a maths exam.

That’s not to say clinical and calculating can’t be exciting. Each time the moment was right in this race he accelerated up the road like a rat up a drainpipe. Gone, without so much as a hasta la vista.

It was spine-tingling in its execution.

He backed this up with all manner of patron-esque behaviour. The “patron” being the boss of the race – the one who calls the shots and ensures that etiquette is observed and standards of behaviour are maintained.

Think Bernard Hinault punching a protester, or Mario Cipollini castigating riders for daring to race, at pace, while he was busy resting up during one of his many Giro d’Italia.

It’s a title not so much bestowed upon a rider as assumed, with a swagger, and a what-you-gonna-do-‘bout-it?

We saw Yates waving arms at rivals who he felt weren’t sharing the load, yelling angrily at camera motorbikes who were getting a little too close to the action, and perfecting a general body language which said:

“I am not tired. You imagined it. Now behave yourself.”

From the moment on stage nine when he accidentally took the race lead he’s been almost apologetic in his dominance. Sorry-not-sorry.

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And now, here we are, ending 2018 with three different British riders in possession of the three Grand Tours: Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas, and now Simon Yates.

It’s bonkers. Twenty years ago if I spotted a British rider just pedalling along in the peloton at Tour de France I would literally wet myself with excitement.

And now this.

It’s almost too much.

We’ve almost reached the point where I’m going to have to find myself another niche sport with which to confuse my work colleagues; anyone for a game of shin-kicking?

The final stage of this year’s Vuelta was the usual sleepy spin into Madrid followed by an eyeballs-out-five-abreast lunge for the line. King of the lungers was Elia Viviani who took his third stage win. Proof that he is definitively the greatest sprinter in the world (not including the Tour de France).

As for Simon Yates, he doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy to rest on his laurels. He will surely now attempt to win a ridiculous number of Grand Tours.

After all, with that tiny climbers frame, he’d make a terrible shin-kicker.

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