Once the race reaches the mountains, as we watch the riders battling for the stage win we will find ourselves repeatedly wondering, “who’s that…it’s not is it?.. it’s Alejandro Valverde, how did he get there?”
In his traditional role as swarthy pantomime villain he will be visible most of the time only as a sun-tanned face peeping out from behind another rider, taking advantage of the slipstream effect, sucking the wheels of others, and chipping away tactically at the business end of the race.
He won’t win a stage of the race, he’ll look nothing like a potential Tour de France winner, but lets face it…
…he’ll probably end up on the podium.
On the ITV coverage here in the UK, presenter Gary Imlach’s sense of humour will reach a point of such dryness, that it will no longer be humanly possible to differentiate between a throwaway joke and serious piece of investigative journalism.
If he starts the highlights show by telling us that Peter Sagan has abandoned the race due to a bizarre beard dyeing incident, or Mark Cavendish has been handed a 12 month ban because his legs are too short, we will have no option but to take him at face value until Ned Boulting can confirm otherwise.
On one flat, featureless stage of the race, it will transpire that the race route is heading through the home town of a non-descript journeyman French rider.
The peloton will slow slightly, and in a gesture of comradeship and good grace will allow the rider to attack off the front of the race, and have his moment of glory; leading the Tour de France in front of his friends and family.
We will all knowingly applaud the nobility and good old fashioned spirit of the sport of cycling, and its commitment to a code of what is right and proper, before team Astana reel the Frenchman in and crush the competition like a herd of hormonal bulls.
Could this be the year that it finally happens?
That during an interview with Sir Dave Brailsford – head honcho of Team Sky – a cycling journalist inexplicably fails to use the phrase ‘marginal gains’ in the presence of the great man.
Brailsford himself would surely brush the incident off, saying “these things happen, we’ve got to move forward and take the positives from this”, but after such a faux pas this would be unlikely to save the unnamed journalist’s job; he would surely be fired on the spot.
“I don’t know what I was thinking”, the unfortunate hack will say, berating himself, “you learn that on day one at sports journalism school. I’ve let myself down…”
At the crucial moment in a potentially decisive battle on a huge Alpine pass, a moustachioed man wearing a mankini will appear in the camera shot, and attempt to run alongside Alberto Contador, before careering gloriously into a fir tree and tumbling into a grass verge.
The commentary team will gloss over this, maintain straight faces, and carry on as if nothing happened.
The rest of the watching world will make the clip viral, and the man famous.