pro cycling

Impressive, inspiring…but where’s the punch-line?


I found myself clicking through the online cycling press this week.

Being November, I found the usual stuff about winter training, how to avoid getting a cold, and reviews of bike lights (yawn…).

Being 2017, and planet Earth, I also found a whole load of cyclists and motorists shouting at each other while Chris Boardman patiently refereed.

In amongst all this, I found a piece about Owain Doull – fresh-faced Welsh cyclist and ominously talented Team Sky henchman-of-the-future – in which he identified teammate Michal Kwiatkowski as: “the most impressive and inspiring person I’ve ridden with this year.”

To you, this is probably an inoffensive piece of journalistic fluff designed to help the cyclists of the UK pass another lunch hour.

To me, it is another example of the parallel universe in which pro sportspeople live.

In my workplace, or my family home, or mid bike-ride, no one has ever described me as impressive and inspiring. There are a number of reasons for this, chief among them being the fact that I am not.

I haven’t even podium-ed in a one-day classic, for goodness sake – how can I expect my wife and kids to find me impressive and/or inspiring with such gaping holes in my palmares?

But the fact is that even if I were to do something heroic and glorious (and televised), and some soft-headed fool told me I was impressive and inspiring, I would think they were taking the piss and tell them to f*** off!

Because we don’t offer that kind of validation in real life. At least not here in the north of England we don’t.

I would assume, despite the fact that I couldn’t quite figure out how and why, that they were winding me up in some way and setting me up as the punch-line to a joke.

I would shut that down immediately.

“The bloody cheek of it,” I would think, “praising me so openly and honestly like that…as if I’m some kind of idiot…they need to show a bit of respect!”

We can only hope that somewhere, in a hotel halfway up a volcano in Tenerife, the rest of Team Sky are in on Doull’s little joke: “Haha…impressive and inspiring? That muppet Kwiatkowski?

…nice one Owain!”

If not, then what’s next?

Geraint Thomas gushing enthusiastically over Chris Froome’s dress sense? Mikel Landa praising Nairo Quintana’s infectious smile? Mario Cipollini saying something nice…anything…about anyone, ever?

That way surely lies madness.

(Image: By japrea from Paris, France (Tour de France – Team Sky – Paris – Froome) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons)

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