I read with interest this week that Geraint Thomas has won Welsh Cyclist of the Year for 2015.
When I say interest, what I mean is there’s a new cycling story in the press and in the absence of any actual racing during the winter I find myself reading it. That’s no slight on Geraint Thomas, or Welsh Cycling, or award ceremonies in general, it’s just an observation.
Let’s be honest though, who else was seriously going to win Welsh Cyclist of the Year?
Early in 2015 Thomas won the Volta a Algarve, and followed that up by winning a prestigious Belgian race on the cobblestones at E3 Harelbeke, in the wind and rain of a Belgian spring. Admittedly E3 Harelbeke sounds a bit weird to us English speakers, and is essentially the name of a large main road and a town in Belgium, but it’s a seriously prestigious bike race on the European scene.
He then spent much of the summer in and around the top five of the Tour de France, despite his job as Chris Froome’s wing-man, until one bad day in the Alps sent him tumbling down the time-sheets. The sight of Thomas gamely taking on the cream of world cycling in the high mountains of the Alps and the Pyrenees was enough to put fire in the belly of any (even semi-) proud Brit.
In amongst all this he found time to provide us with a bit of extra entertainment in the form of a head first crash into a road sign after a little coming together with reckless Frenchman Waren Barguil. He brushed himself off, had a little chuckle, and got back on the bike to finish the day strongly.
This is exactly the kind of thing we Brits really admire.
Yes, winning races and producing dominant performances a la Chris Froome is impressive in it’s own way, but as British cycling fans we don’t really know how to treat our Tour de France winners. We prefer a guy like Thomas who can rattle head-first over a grass verge and into a road sign, and then appear from the undergrowth and carry on with a shrug and a what’s-the-fuss-all-about?
Of course, ideally he would have emerged from behind that drop with comedy muddy face, twigs and leaves tangled all over his bike, and half a bedraggled birds nest stuck in his hair, but you can’t have it all I suppose.
But cracking jokes afterwards with reporters – “I’m fine, I can still remember my name. Erm…I’m Chris Froome” – is the kind of stuff that sorts the wheat from the chaff in the eyes of the British sporting public.
This is what wins awards.
On top of all that he went on a stag-do, got married, wrote a book…Not only is he clearly Welsh Cyclist of the Year but he is a strong contender for Busiest Welshman of the Year alongside old hands like Rob Brydon and Sir Tom Jones.
So let’s be honest, giving Geraint Thomas an award for Welsh Cyclist of the Year is a bit like giving Alejandro Valverde ‘sun-tan of the year’, or Gary Lineker ‘crisp selling sports presenter of the year’, or Donald Trump ‘most inappropriate politician of the year’ (although, to be fair, there are one or two strong contenders in that particular category).
One step at a time though I suppose.
First Wales, then the world.