England football team at the World Cup, the cricket team against Sri Lanka and now India, the rugby teams against the southern hemisphere – some say that Murray berk at Wimbledon. Now the cycling is imploding.
The Tour de France started as both triumph and disappointment for British cycling. It has headed further and further towards disappointment as the stages have gone by.
The triumph was the opening two stages through God’s own county, Yorkshire, glorious scenery to go with glorious weather in front of huge crowds in the grandest of departs. The disappointment was the few numbers of Brits in the race. Just as the country is producing grand tour winners only four racers were picked by their team.
Five stages in and that number has halved.
The disappointment advanced as Mark Cavendish crashed out on the first stage, shortly into the fifth it got worse as Chris Froome, the defending champion, had the see out the rest of the stage in the back of his team car after a number of falls led to his abandonment.
Innocuous falls as well. On stage four out of nowhere he went down in the middle of the pack and injured his left hand side, his left wrist needing an x-ray after. A knackered wrist just what you need when the following day involved the nine cobbled sections of the Hell Of The North, maybe that worry of facing the pave with that injury led to the two falls Froome had before the first section of cobbles was even reached.
The rain didn’t help.
Yup spend two glorious days in Yorkshire without a drop falling then head south and it starts, head into France and it doesn’t stop.
The disappointment of Froome becoming the first reigning champion to abandon in over 30 years – the last few yellow jersey winners haven’t had the best of it in the following year, Wiggins didn’t make the team after his victory, Cadel Evans finished in the top 10 but was never really in it the year after his success, Contador was banned after his second win – was dampened somewhat by what was an actual great stage across the fields of the Great War.
As for the hindsight – and maybe some pre-sight – about the mistake of Sky not taking Bradley Wiggins as a back up in case something happened to Froome. Well Sir Brad has had a few good results lately but hasn’t exactly been on the training routine that brought Britain their first Tour victory just two years ago. Going round a track isn’t quite what is required for going up La Planche des Belles Filles and the likes.
The race organisers were criticised for including this stage but it helped create what could be a great race with this one stage shaking things up – pun intended. Even with Vincenzo Nibali not only keeping the yellow jersey but extending his lead of those seen as the main contenders it still created a situation where things will have to happen, say when the mountains come, that’ll liven up what could have been a procession to Paris.
Nibali’s ride over the cobbles was both unexpected and brilliant, expertly helped by a couple of his team mates. Geraint Thomas’ dragging Richie Porte back into things was also top class by the Welshman.