As a Brit, and a pro cycling fan, you might expect me to be rooting for my countrymen at the forthcoming Tour de France? Waving my Union Jack at the TV, stroking my pet bulldog, and eating roast beef like a raving jingoist.
Not the case.
Not only am I not that raving jingoist, I’d also much prefer someone French to win.
At this point each year, pre-Tour, it’s traditional to remind ourselves how many years have passed since that happened. Thirty-three, for the record, via Bernard Hinault back in 1985.
I’m a big fan of the two current main French hopes.
There’s Romain Bardet, perhaps the most French of all the Frenchmen. His new column in Rouleur magazine has added a new layer of French-ness to an already very French bloke.
Back in March, in that very magazine, he said this, in reference to his love of a nice glass of red wine:
“…that love of wine tasting has helped me rediscover an essential quality in life – sharing. The collective tasting of wine and contemplation has transcended my relation to time, fixing in my memory moments that would naturally be ephemeral.”
Transcended his relation to time…fixed moments that would naturally be ephemeral…
I mean…to someone like me, who appreciates a bit of pretension now and again, this is world class stuff.
I can only assume he’s uttering these words while puffing away on a Gauloise, legs crossed, in a scruffy suit, seated outside a hip Paris café. Whatever; any sportsperson uttering such poetry has got me as a fan.
He’s also quite handy on a bike.
He’s a true mountain goat, with that skinny climber’s physique, and has a daredevil approach to descending which makes him a threat at the crest of every summit. And style wise, he absolutely nails the long-short-sleeves look in that tremendous brown/white/blue AG2R livery.
Alas, he shows all the signs of being a very high class podium contender who never quite wins the big one.
The other hope, of course, is Thibaut Pinot, the epitome of the moody enigmatist that the French do so well.
He’s the simple country boy from the Vosges mountains, as comfortable pottering around the family home tending to the cattle as he is pottering around the pro peloton tending to the business of sporadically, spectacularly, looking like the best rider ever to throw a leg over a bike.Embed from Getty Images
He, like Bardet, is unquestionably world class. But. But…
Is he a killer?
Does he have that pathological commitment to winning, every day, no compromise, no quarter given, that winning le Tour asks of a rider? We suspect not. In fact, if he did have all that, he wouldn’t be Pinot, and we’d probably like him a little less.
But, all doubts to one side, assuming one of these two did win it, fundamentally I’d just love to see what would happen – to France, to French cycling, to Bardet or Pinot – if they won le Tour.
Here in the UK back in 2012 Bradley Wiggins became the most famous man in the country. He wore sharp suits and teased people with his snark on telly. A national newspaper produced cut-out-and-keep Wiggo sideburns. He kicked off an Olympic games and was Knighted!
I’d love to see the French version of this.
And just imagine Bardet’s speech on the podium:
“My thought is me: that is why I cannot stop thinking. I exist because I think I cannot keep from thinking…we do not know what we want and yet we are responsible for what we are – that is the fact…once you hear the details of victory, it is hard to distinguish it from a defeat…”
Yeah, OK Romain mate…we get the picture…can you wrap things up now, we need to start clearing up.