Rise of the Idiots

Words: Ian Cleverly Photos: ASO

The former Cervélo man Tweeted these statements minutes after Chris Froome had crossed the line arms aloft at La Planche des Belles Filles and as Bradley Wiggins was about to don his first ever maillot jaune at the Tour.

Seeing as I had only just finished hollering at the telly – not a common practice, I assure you – and resumed a seated position on the sofa, Vroomen got me thinking. Brits were unbearable already. Would the country be gripped by rampant jingoism in the following weeks due to the heroics of Team Sky’s men? As the mainstream media latches onto a sniff of home success and cycling briefly commands the front page, perhaps there is danger of this nation not realising what this sport is all about.

Consider the highlights of what has been a tremendous Tour (ignore the naysayers who plead boredom), for which huge credit is due to Christian Prudhomme for some dramatic parcours and exhilarating stage finishes, blowing away the notion that only the combination of high mountains and time trials can settle the GC.

Peter Sagan’s brilliant three stage wins, each one different from the next, each with its own accompanying victory celebration. Thibaut Pinot, this year’s youngest rider, soloing across the line, his apoplectic directeur spoftif Marc Madiot behind, hammering the car door in frustration, encouragement, sheer nervous tension. (The left arm of my sofa also took a serious battering, a cloud of dust emerging as my every smack echoed the manager’s.)

The Tour’s oldest rider, the fabulous fruitcake Jens Voigt, hauling his creaking bones up the final kilometre into Bellegarde-sur-Valserine in the most painfully drawn-out slow motion sprint you will ever see. And that day’s winner, Thomas Voeckler, outwitting his breakaway companions with typical panache, his Europcar teammate Pierre Rolland pulling off a superb solo win 24 hours later. And Voeckler again, at Bagnères-de-Luchon.

Not forgetting David Millar’s wily fox routine at the end of a dull day on stage 12, the anniversary of Tom Simpson’s death and a fitting tribute to a great rider.

Cycling fans appreciate great performances, first and foremost. Nationality is secondary. We stand by the side of the road for hours on end to cheer guys who have been riding their bikes for hours on end, and – though we may reserve that extra shout for our favourites – we applaud each and every one (apart from Ivan Basso, obviously…)

There are, of course, exceptions to the rule: certain stretches of Alpe d’Huez; some of the Pyrenean climbs frequented by disturbingly inebriated orange-clad fans; the pissed-up hordes of the Carrefour de l’Arbre at Paris-Roubaix. Sky’s Michael Rogers took abuse from fellow Australians at the roadside as he paced Wiggins up the Glandon on stage 11. The morons thought supporting Cadel Evans would be better served by mouthing off at their countryman. Wiggins would probably have a word for them. It begins with C.

As for the bizarre incident with the tacks, there appeared to be no dubious nationalistic intent behind it. Just wanton malicious damage. Very effective it was, too. A moron working alone it seems.

So as a combination of Austrian, Australian, German, Norwegian and (let’s face it) Kenyan riders coax and tow a Brit along at the head of affairs towards Paris, put it in perspective. If Wiggins does become the first winner from these shores of the Tour de France in Paris on Sunday, it will be a great moment for the country. Just remember who helped put him there. It is our duty as long-time supporters of the sport to educate those – and there are many – not so au fait with road racing’s many peculiarities, alliances and tactical nuances. Teams are not built around national lines, and neither should they be supported as such.

By all means be patriotic, but not to the detriment of other nations. Share the love.


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7 Responses to “Rise of the Idiots”

  1. Michael Says:

    Interesting blog Ian; enjoyed it. After listening to the latest Rouleur podcast, and now reading this, I’m finding it interesting seeing how the British are viewing this years’ race. Sure, the TdF has had it moments – it always does. But personally, I feel this years’ race has been the most underwhelming since 2004. Prudhomme nearly got the parcours right: but just wonder if one of the two ITT should have been a mountain climb? At the end of it all, Team Sky have prepared meticulously and deserve the spoils of their success. But with the potential of a Froome / Contador / Andy Vuelta shoot out; the TdF could rank 3rd of the Grand Tours for 2012.

  2. Mark Ashby Says:

    Hi Ian,

    To be a cycling fan is different to that of any other sport I think and your words paint the picture perfectly. To be honest this tour is one of the best I’ve seen, I’m not involved in the sport but since my dad and uncles rode Peugeots with Mavic MA2’s and I was weaned on C4’s iconic theme tuned coverage, bikes have been a an addiction, and the riders at one with them just as much, in my head as I ride to work on the Brompton or on the Hertfordshire lanes near my weekend limit with fellow riders I have the words of Voigt, Voeckler, Chavanel in my head as much as Wiggins, Cav and Thomas. Why , because they all represent the same thing to a 35 yr old kid obsessed with cycling. They’re who I wanted to be. To the cobbles on Sunday….

    Mark Ashby

  3. Howard Wheatcroft Says:

    As an oldie, Tom Simpson was my teenage hero, but after 50 years I can now add Wiggo to my list, he is a great role model to all aspiring riders (along with Cav). I hope he has many more years of inspiration.

  4. Boz Says:

    Hmm. I’ve been watching the Tour for two decades. There have been some exciting bits: Voeckler, Pinot, Sagan (wow) but on the whole it’s been rather boring (and my local bunch all agree). Le Tour 2012 may well indeed be the least interesting Grand Tour this year. Bring on the Vuelta.

  5. El Duderino Says:

    Nationality is secondary. That sums it up for me. I was having just this argument with a friend the other day. The delight in the success of British riders is tempered for me by the jingoistic attitude of, not just non-cyclists but even amongst some long-standing fans of cycling. The internationalism of cycling was amongst the things that drew me to the sport. The fact that the British media and general public were not able to use cycling as a measure of nationalistic sumpremacy over others was a bonus. So the recent success comes as somewhat of a double-edged sword. I’ve wanted to see home grown talent do well for such a long time and to reap the benefits of that as a cyclist. Already though, in the eyes of the British media and public consciousness, this is becoming the first clean tour ever and Wiggins the only true clean rider to win the tour (although the fat lady has not quite started her aria). Whether he is or isn’t is neither here nor there. It’s the attitude that it has taken a Brit to show the world how it’s done properly, not like these swarthy johnny-foreigner types who can’t be trusted you know. When Wiggins crosses the finish line in yellow it’ll not only be thanks to an international team but to the taxpayers of Belgium, Italy, France and Spain, etc who have supported and pay for the infrastructure that allows proper cycle racing to take place as a regular occurence and provide good roads and facilities for training. The injection of Lottery money started the British cycling invasion but when Britain gets to the point where it actively supports road-racing to take place then it will have earnt the right to bask in the reflected glory of it’s riders.

  6. rouleurmagazine Says:

    I’m still not buying this ‘it’s a boring Tour’ line. Of course it would be more exciting if Evans was on form or Nibali had a strong team, but there has been so much more to enjoy than Tours of old. Remember when there would be day after day of boring flat stages leading to inevitable bunch sprints, when the only GC action would take place in the mountains? That has not happened this year. Breaks have stayed away, helped by the fact that Sky are so in control. Voeckler’s masterful display taking the polka dot jersey was a joy to watch compared with Virenque’s well-worn tactic of spending one day off the front hoovering up the points then sitting back having done enough to win the classification.
    Look beyond the GC battle (which, as a Brit, is obviously exciting stuff, despite my reservations on the more jingoistic bandwagon-jumping elements) and enjoy what lies beneath.
    If you haven’t read it, Robert Millar’s piece nails it far better than I ever could –



  7. Twenty Three C Says:

    Cycling is not about Nations but about the endurance, skill, ability and heart of the individual rider and the undying support of their team, but there is nothing wrong for a Nation to be proud of their achievements but will be judged by how they display it.
    I dont know how anybody can call this tour boring with fantastic stage wins by Sagan, Sanchez, Vockler, Millar, Cavendish and a superb ride by Wiggins, Froome and the Sky team dominating the tour with calm and coolness what more could you want! we have waited 99 years for a win like this so lets enjoy it and look forward to the Olympics!
    if this brings Cycling to the masses fantastic the more people that get into it the better it dosnt matter what you ride as long as you are riding a bike!

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