Lizzie Armitstead always seems to come second in the big events, Geraint Thomas while a winner on the track spends his road days slogging his guts out for others.
The pair finally got their moment of glory on the top step on the last day of the Commonwealth Games after two cracking races round the streets of Glasgow.
While watching the inaugural edition of La Course, where women cyclists raced round 13 laps on the traditional course on the Champs-Élysées in Paris, where the men would finish the Tour de France a few hours later as Lizzie Armitstead was taken out inside the last kilometre, it made me think of a Gary Lineker quote about football.
Football is a simple game. Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win. Except in women’s cycling, it’s simple game where a bunch off women cycle around for a couple of hours and then Marianne Vos wins. Which she duly did a few moments later.
As Armitstead sat on the Parisian street you wondered if not only her chance there had gone but that in Glasgow was heading out the window. But she was fine to start and with a strong English team behind her and no chance of a Dutch woman being in front of her over a course she’d already won the British title over last year things looked good, especially when the rain came.
It was an especially strong ride by the English team, as they stopped every Antipodean attack in it’s track, until a small group was left in which Armitstead was joined by the silver medallist in the time trial, Emma Pooley.
Pooley has slightly bristled when it was said that the time trial was really her last race as here she would be working for the perceived team leader in Armitstead. Whatever she thought at the time when it came down to it she powered the eventual winner round the Glasgow streets putting a power of work in, before going off on her own. Perfect team work.
Then with a little over half the last lap to go Armitstead attacked the remaining bunch, left them for dead before flying past Pooley. Attacking your team mate who is in a winning position is a bold thing to do but Lizzie was sick fed up being the bridesmaid – Delhi and London – this time she wanted to stand on that top step and receive gold.
Pooley crossed the line in tears and with another silver medal from these games. She’d worked for it.
Geraint Thomas had spent the three out of the last four weeks dragging one Sky team mate after another around France with, in the end, no success as plan A crashed out on stage 5, where Thomas grabbed plan B and dragged him over the cobbles. Over the next few days Plan B, Richie Porte, got up to second but then Sky were left looking for plan C as Porte imploded in the heat on the high mountains. Plan C didn’t work either but Thomas flogged himself in the process.
All this followed last year when with a broken pelvis he did his work powering Chris Froome to yellow and Britain’s second consecutive success in the race.
Earlier in the week he’d picked up a bronze in the time trial but still hadn’t been feeling that good at the start of the road race.
It was such a grim day. To be honest, I felt terrible at the start. I was thinking of just stopping I was that bad. Luckily I got into it and everyone seemed to come down to my level. – Geraint Thomas
It didn’t get much better when the cameras switched from the race leader, Pete Kennaugh, to the back of the race and there was Thomas in the cars standing at the side of the road as a mechanic changed his bike. With no team mates coming back to help him the peloton seemed long gone but Thomas got back amongst it. There he hung about in the leading bunch of about twenty as it was quickly whittled down in atrocious weather as Kennaugh carried on in his own solo suicide mission off the front.
The Manx rider was out on his own for over 120km but eventually was reeled in with just under 50km to go by the eventual medal trio of Thomas, Scott Thwaites and Jack Bauer. It was just a matter of who got what.
Then on the final lap Thomas set off and left the other two trailing. All of a sudden he had a commanding lead as the pair seemed settled to their fate of fighting for silver. Then the camera switched this time to the front and there was Thomas stood at the side of the road. A front puncture and no team car for a spare. Don’t know where they were should have been a big enough gap between him and the chase pair for it to be allowed through. So it was the neutral service bike to the rescue.
But with the wheel not being set up for Thomas’ machine the change took an age and when the camera went back to the chase pair as they turned each corner you expected to see Thomas still stood there as they flew past. It was a good job he got that initial lead as he eventually got going with a gap that he extended rather than the chasers closing, coming in a minute and twenty seconds ahead of Bauer who pipped Thwaites for silver.
A great race and a great and deserving victory for Thomas, a rider who does so much for other riders.