The host city of the Grand Depart of the Tour de France has a job to do.
Once announced it becomes the name on the lips of cycling fans: “…only a few weeks now until Dusseldorf.”
It has to live up to the hype. It has to look good from above via helicopter camera shots. It has to add the required glitz, glamour, and sheen to our first view of another Tour de France.
People are excited; they need to see that it was justified. First impressions count.
For UK cycling fans, it’s best not to dwell on the fact that Dussefdorf is twinned with Reading. Nothing against Reading – a place of history – but I don’t watch le Tour for it’s connections to English provincial towns.
Dusseldorf is the fashion capital of Germany. It’s known for it’s academy of fine arts, for electro-pioneers Kraftwerk, and for it’s famous “Altbier” – a lager-esque pale beer brewed and quaffed in pubs across the city.
Glitz…check. Glamour…check. Sheen…check.
And so, with everything in place, the small matter of a 14km Time Trial around the city; just enough to get the legs spinning, create a few small time gaps, and bestow the first Yellow Jersey of 2017 on the lucky winner.
Cut to the first crackles of TV coverage and we’re peering through a waterlogged camera lens at misty skyline and a stretch of suspiciously slippery looking Tarmac.
A misjudgement from Alejandro Valverde sees him slide knee first into a crash barrier, and whisked away with a broken kneecap. Others slip and slither and lose skin. Home favourite Tony Martin, the course designed to his very specifications (if you believe the rumours), falls just short.
Chris Froome is strong and quick. Richie Porte is cautious.
Four Sky riders in the top ten, with Welshman Geraint Thomas taking the win.
Dusseldorf will be hoping for sunshine on Stage 2 – whether Tony Martin has a say in that too is unclear – as the race loops around for one final flying visit before heading for Liege, in Belgium.
It’s not easy creating glitz, glamour, and sheen through a couple of inches of rain.
(Image: By Assumulator – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23884934)