Was I alone here in the UK to find that the TV highlights of the first week of the Giro d’Italia 2014 were something of a moving target, apparently in thrall to whatever tennis match was currently taking place on some clay court in southern Europe.
Because of this, I ended up watching a bit more of the Tour of California 2014 than I’d intended to. I don’t know about you, but when I watch cycling on TV, sometimes my thoughts begin to wander…
I developed a theory about how Bradley Wiggins was able to so comprehensively beat the field against the clock in the individual time trial on Stage 2, a theory which dawned on me as the cameraman focused on the famous Folsom Prison during a lull in proceedings.
The Team Sky boffins obviously spotted the extra performance gains to be had from using Johnny Cash as a pacemaker; simply stick it in a big gear, ensure that ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ is running on repeat through race radio earphones, and get Wiggins to rattle the pedals around at the same bpm as the ‘man in black’s’ intricate finger picking.
“…stuck in Folsom prison, and time keeps dragging on”.
As the race wound down Highway 1 on Stage 4, through Big Sur and taking in the rugged scenery of the iconic Pacific coast, I was quite pleased to hear that afterwards Mark Cavendish echoed my thoughts:
“Today I can say I’m extremely fortunate to be a pro cyclist. Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) closed to traffic for us to ride.”
If you’ve never seen Highway 1, imagine the Cornish coast here in the UK, on steroids, with a lovely wide, smooth highway clinging to the cliffs. It’s the kind of demonstration of man’s mastery over nature that the American’s go in for, and it looks a great spot to ride a bike.
When I think of the way Americans use language to name a lot of their towns and mountains, I always think of a kind of raw and rugged poetry. Some of the Californian mountains have great names; Red Slate Mountain, Mammoth Mountain or Eagle peak, for example, so I have to admit I was a little bit disappointed that Stage 6 of the race was a summit finish on top of Mountain High…
…Mountain High?! Is that the best they could do?
I presume the surrounding areas were known as ‘Valley Deep’, just to keep things simple.
So, all in all the Tour of California was a good watch; one of those races that from 5,000 miles away here in the north of England seems to be taking place on a different planet.
As the riders rattle by it’s impossible not to pick up on that good old American enthusiasm right through the TV screen; the whooping and hollering and ‘ALRIGHT!’ that you hear from the roadside.
Compare and contrast that with the Tour of Britain when it passed through my neck of the woods last year; under slate grey sky and accompanied by gruff shouts of ‘dig in lads, it’s only a spot of rain’, in the face of tempest–like conditions.
Of course the fact that our man Wiggins won this year’s Tour of California in imperious style helped (as a friend of mine noted, he’s got some serious ‘souplesse’), but with the scenery, the weather, the iconic places and the poetic (and not so poetic) place names, I found myself hardly missing the Giro d’Italia at all.
Much as I enjoy riding through the rain in northern England, I wouldn’t mind having a crack at Big Sur and Mountain High under deep blue Californian skies.