Dividend

So long we’ve been the oddballs, loners, geeks,
Derided MAMILs, big kids with our toys.
Now suddenly, in three transcendent weeks
We’ve given Team GB its poster-boys.
Three heroes have arisen from our ranks –
Froome, Cavendish and Wiggins – and it seems
Our wilderness years may be ending, thanks
To rides that changed the world, fulfilled our dreams.
So can we lesser mortals now expect
All those who’ve shouted Wiggo to the sky
To treat us with a measure of respect
Or must we still accept abuse. Still die.
What chance the bounty Bradley has bestowed
On Britain wins us honour on the road?

 

Words are insufficient to describe Sunday’s Tour de France finale in Paris. I’ve been watching the race since 1996 and never thought I’d see a British winner – far less a British one-two, seven British stage wins, a British rider (and World Champion) winning on the Champs-Elysees for the fourth successive year…simply astonishing.

Perhaps inevitably, THEY have seized on it and wrapped it up in the Union flag ahead of the Olympics. A presenter on the BBC’s Today programme summed up the media reaction perfectly when he said: “I never knew [cycling] was so interesting until we started winning.” It’s worth noting that Wiggins had already won three of Europe’s most prestigious stage-races this season before the Tour even started: not one of these victories was reported by the mainstream press.

The hope is now that Bradley Wiggins’ remarkable achievement will mark the start of a new era, not just for British cycling, but for cycling, and cyclists, in Britain. We’ve waited 99 years for our first Tour winner: let’s hope it doesn’t take that long for attitudes to change, and we stop killing 1,000 cyclists a year on our roads.

(In case you’re wondering: MAMIL is short for Middle-Aged Man In Lycra. Originally a derogatory term, we’ve sort-of embraced it now and see it more as a badge of honour than an insult!) N.

Tour 2010: Stage 20

The final kilometres of this year’s Tour were played out in traditional fashion in Paris. Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) won his fifth stage, and also became the first rider ever to win on the Champs-Elysées two years running. Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Farnese Vini) was second, which gave him overall victory in the green jersey competition.
Alberto Contador (Astana) won the Tour without winning a stage and having been pushed every inch of the way by Andy Schleck. Could we see a change at the top of the sport next season? One man who’s definitely heading for the exit, this time for good, is Lance Armstrong, who finished an anonymous 23rd – not the glorious last hurrah we’d have liked to have seen from the seven-time winner.
It’s been a great Tour, and for the first time in years, I’ve enjoyed it from start to finish. So, inspired by my blog-pal Chloe, my closing entry in this three-week poetry marathon is a retrospective of the entire event in haiku; one for each of the 20 stages.
Thanks for joining me on the road to Paris.

PROLOGUE

Twenty-two times nine
Slaves to the clock. One stands; cries
‘I am Spartacus!”

STAGE 1.

Stage, one; countries, two.
On the run into Brussels
Petacchi sprouts wings.

STAGE 2

Spa cure for the blues:
Chavanel is in yellow;
France is feeling good.

STAGE 3

On a day in Hell,
Cobbles claim men’s bones and souls.
But Thor’s in heaven.

STAGE 4

As the Champagne flows
For Petacchi once again,
Has Cav’s bubble burst?

STAGE 5

So the lead-out train
Gets it right. And suddenly
Cav is back on track.

STAGE 6

First Cav couldn’t win
Now it seems he cannot stop.
Two down, three to go.

STAGE 7

Second time around
Taking yellow the hard way.
Chapeau, Chavanel.

STAGE 8

As the road heads up
Schleck breaks free of gravity.
Shades of Charly Gaul.

STAGE 9

On the Madeleine
Sandy’s out there on his own.
Still is at the line.

STAGE 10

Where Beloki fell
Paulinho makes no mistake
Keeps his winning Gap.

STAGE 11

Cav makes it thirteen
Beats Robbie, Cipo, Zabel
Along with the rest.

STAGE 12

Alberto goes clear;
Andy loses by a hair.
Shape of things to come?

STAGE 13

Vino’s comeback win,
But his past means this is not
One to Revel in.

STAGE 14

Riblon wins alone:
After three lean, unseen years
The Ax man cometh.

STAGE 15

Centenary day
In the Pyrenees. Vockler
Leaves them on a high.

STAGE 16

Peyresourde, Aspin,
Tourmalet, Aubisque. Such names
Don’t scare Fédrigo.

STAGE 17

And then there were two.
On the highest, hardest road
They are on their own.

STAGE 18

Sprinters call it home.
Cav blazes into Bordeaux,
Claims a vintage win.

STAGE 19

Schleck is cast to fail.
Doesn’t read the script. Almost
Forces a rewrite.

STAGE 20

Number five for Cav,
Three for Contador. For Lance
It’s seven and out.

Longjumeau-Paris Champs-Elysées, 102.5km
Won by Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia)

Maillot jaune: Alberto Contador (Astana)
Maillot vert: Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Farnese Vini)
Maillot au pois: Anthony Charteau (Bbox Bouygues Telecom)
Maillot blanc: Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank)
Team classification: Radio Shack
Lanterne rouge: Adriano Malori (Lampre-Farnese Vini) @ 4h 27m 03s

Tour 2010: Stage 11

From the summit of the third-category climb of the Col de Cabre, 56km from the start in Sisteron, it was downhill or flat pretty much all the way to the finish in Bourg lès Valence, another 128km away. It was a profile that made a bunch sprint all but inevitable, and HTC-Columbia duly buried themselves again to reel in the equally predictable breakaway, and set up a third victory for their man, Mark Cavendish.
Cavendish has now won 13 Tour stages, putting him ahead of true greats Mario Cipollini, Erik Zabel and Robbie McEwen (riding the Tour again this year at age 38 with Katusha) in the list of the Tour’s most prolific sprinters. That got me thinking…

GREAT STUFF?

Back in ’99
Mario arrived to sign
The start sheet
Dressed
As Caesar:
Laughed at the fine.
A real crowd-pleaser.

Six years in a row
Erik took the green maillot;
Every day
Chased
The small scores:
Hard way to go
And win the sprint wars.

Fastest of his day
Robbie rides the Tour his way.
Three times he’s
Taken
Green, and won
The Champs-Elysées
(And that’s the big one)

So, what does it mean
Now Cavendish has got 13?
He’s truly
Greater
Than these past
Heroes of the scene;
Or just he rides fast?

Sisteron-Bourg lès Valence, 184.5km
Won by Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia)
Maillot jaune: Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank)