In a couple of days and barring a lightning bolt of misfortune from out of the great rain-filled yonder hanging over the motherland like a funeral pall, Britons en masse will celebrate something that has never been previously achieved by anyone from the Sceptered Isle.
A British rider will stand head and shoulders above the rest on the top step of the podium on the Champs Elysees; a British rider will win the 99th edition of the Tour de France.
A pinnacle of extra-ordinary achievement; one of the final sporting bastions breached.
For decades, the top-step-podium-position was the (assumed) right of the French, before opening up to include other European nations until English-speakers became a dominant force as the sport globalised.
This achievement will overshadow that of the Scot, Robert Millar who took to the podium as the polka-dot jersey-wearer signifying his King of the Mountains title in 1984; it will eclipse the brace of 4th places (Wiggins and Millar in ’09 and ’84 respectively), the late Tom Simpson (6th in 1960), and dwarf Millar’s other top twenty finishes with Graham Jones the only other British finisher in the top 20 (1981) in the race’s entire history.
Because on Sunday 22nd July, at about five in the afternoon CET, history will be made by Bradley Wiggins.
Just cause for celebration. Roule Britannia.
And yet, curiously, Wiggins himself is quoted in Richard Williams’ column in today’s Guardian saying, “And even now, no one's actually said, 'Bloody good on you, mate, well done.'"
I wonder why?
Is it because Wiggo knows, in the subterranean depths of his heart, in the deepest part of his soul that only renders purity of thought in the bible-black of the night, that he’s not won as he could or… should: as a great champion… with panache and aplomb.
Because, unquestionably he has not. This has been like watching a machine win.
For sure, it’s a machine that’s been fine-tuned to the absolute n’th degree; the months of selfless training have been well-documented in any publication you care to read; the quantum level of sacrifice that his team-mates have exhibited has been expected. This, after all, was all-for-one from the get-go.
So… what’s not to like?
Well… I find it incredibly hard to get excited about a winner whose lengthy proboscis has not once deviated from his team-mates collective arse throughout the entire race.
A voice crying in the wilderness to be rounded on for not towing the Team Murdoch corporate line? I think not – because, why for example, did L’Equipe publish a front page cartoon this week that showed a dog towing a bike uphill (an unmistakable reference to Wiggins’ uber-domestique Chris Froome who they clearly saw as the strongest man in this year’s Tour).
As another commentator, Lionel Birnie stated this week, writing in CycleSport on-line – In the old days, watching the Tour was like standing back and enjoying the sight of a beautiful painting. Now it is more like looking at a set of architect’s plans. While you can admire the skill and calculation that has gone into producing the drawing, there is something cold and clinical about it. Rather than inspirational or emotive, it is functional and rational.
Very true: yet, there is panache and aplomb a-plenty to be celebrated on Sunday… the exploits of the likes of the Czech Peter Sagan and France’s own Tommy Voeckler (as the rightful victor of this year’s King of the Mountains spoils) as well as Cav's two utterly remarkable sprint wins (anyone betting against him on Sunday?) have animated an otherwise tedious trip around France that, more often than not, resembled a high-speed training ride led by Murdoch’s black-clad storm troopers.