I know it to be true – I can see it with my own eyes – but committing to the fact that I’m watching the Giro d’Italia race around the streets of Jerusalem still requires a leap of faith.
But it’s an actual fact.
And in our post-truth world, actual facts can be tricky things to come by.
It took some effort to quieten that part of my brain that thought something fishy was afoot. That I was being duped by a set-piece on a movie-set on the outskirts of Turin. That the cut-away camera shots of Israel were anything more than stock footage.
For a while I thought I sensed the hand of Donald Trump (not a feeling anyone would want) in proceedings.
And then, bringing us all back down to earth with a bump, came “Crash” Froome. A side of the accident-prone waggly-elbowed one that we thought was long gone – he fell off his bike, innocuously, pre-race, on a practice run.
The kind of blunder that used to be his forte.
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🎥 @chrisfroome ‘s Jerusalem crash during the TT recon @giroditalia ☑️ ••• ••• ••• #Sporza🇮🇹 #Giro101 #GrandePartenza #Jerusalem #AmoreInfinito #vrtNWS #reporter #Procycling #inhethartvanhetpeloton #WorldTour #cycling #odyssey #journolife @sporza.be #tuttoilrosadellavita #Giroditalia ••• 🎥credit Videohouse/EurolinX
Out on the roads (of Jerusalem, allegedly…) Tom Dumoulin, time-trial specialist, current Giro champion, and winner of today’s stage was quick, and smooth, and arrowed his way around the twists and turns of a tricky course.
Froome, on the other hand, appeared a tad tentative. Nervous even. He lost thirty-seven seconds on the short 9.7km course.
Was the crash playing on his mind?
Nerves, of course, are to be expected on the opening stage of a Grand Tour. I myself – seasoned armchair veteran of dozens of bike races – was apprehensive.
When it became clear that Eurosport had paired Carlton Kirby with Sean Kelly in the commentary box I felt my heart-rate rise and sweat bead up on my forehead.
Kirby, and Kelly, in Israel, given free reign to ramble.Embed from Getty Images
Surely at some point the politics of the region would crop up. The idea that our favourite double-act could avoid a diplomatic faux pas for three hours seemed implausible.
How long before Kirby offers his own thoughts on the viability of a two-state solution, I wondered, and just how badly might Sean Kelly mangle pronunciation of Benjamin Netanyahu?
I was on the edge of my seat.
I needn’t have worried.
With the usual random mid-race fixations – thick legged time-triallists, Simon Yates’ middle name (Phillip, for the record) – politics never got a look in. Not a sniff of regional tension.
The fact that I sat down for the evening highlights and was not surrounded by the smoking ashes of a post-apocalyptic world reassured me that events had gone off without incident.
For other Giro contenders like Fabio Aru (50 seconds down), Miguel Angel Lopez (56 seconds down), and Michael Woods (1 minute 2 seconds down), the day was not so stress free.
Their respective challenges, after 9.7km, already reduced to rubble.
(Top Image: via pixabay.com)