Words: Ian Cleverly Photos: Geoff Waugh
You know how it is. Feet up on the sofa watching the Tour highlights all alone, glass of wine in hand, I’m wondering what it must feel like to know – as early as the ninth stage, to Besançon – that your nearest and dearest, barring accidents or complete meltdown, is going to win the race; to know that those months, years, of effort and sacrifice were worth it – if indeed they are worth it.
It needs that person to be sitting here on the sofa with me, watching the race, a bundle of nerves as the camera homes in on the latest crash until the fallers are identified; relief as the yellow jersey is spotted safely ensconced at the head of the peloton. It requires this rubbernecking journo to lean across and see firsthand the stream of consciousness Tweeting taking place, the rule of thumbs relaying thoughts within seconds. There is a need to glean the un-Tweeted, extract the unsaid, to gauge whether the enormity of what her husband was about to achieve had struck home; how it would change their lives irreparably.
A couple more glasses of red later and it seems a fine idea to send a speculative e-mail to Cath Wiggins suggesting we meet up and watch the race together; explaining how we had met on two previous occasions and how, to my eternal shame, I had practically trampled over her to reach Brad; saying how I couldn’t even recall what she looked like.
In the cold – and sober – light of the morning, the wording of that e-mail looked quite preposterous. The wait for a suitably strong riposte began but it did not last long.
“Oh, don’t worry,” she wrote. “Everybody does that,” referring to my lack of courtesy and common decency. A magnanimous response to say the least. Yet she agreed to the idea, so we planned a day of TV watching in France following the rest day in Pau. It didn’t work out, for one reason or another, so we rescheduled for the Tour of Britain, arranging a rendezvous on top of Quernmore, the day’s final climb on the stage into Blackpool.
As luck would have it, the worst weather the north west of England could muster slammed down on the hilltop that morning; gusting winds bringing torrential downpours that tumbled down the fields and onto the road, huge pools of standing water forming at the foot of the climb.
I sent a text questioning whether Cath was really riding the 50 miles from home to Quernmore or doing the sensible thing and driving. The reply was fast and emphatic: “I am on my way. I am northern!”
We found a cold, shivering Cath beneath a tree with dad Dave Cochram in tow, chaperone for the day. Having watched Brad and his boys shoot past, successfully lining up that day’s sprint for Mark Cavendish, we head to the nearest pub for tea and coffee.
Pulling out one of our Wiggo mugs from my bag, I’m already making apologies, thinking it may be a bit odd drinking tea from a vessel with a cartoon version of your husband adorning the outside. But she loves it, with one reservation: “His hair’s the wrong colour. It’s not ginger…”
Extract from issue 35, out now