Monday, 22 July 2013

Le Tour De Frantic

It's the same with bus's, you wait ninety nine years then two come along together.  Another win in the Tour de France for a Brit' and the delight of hearing our national anthem blaring across Paris and because of the occasion whoever was watching having to listen.  That this was to be a celebratory one hundredth event just added to the fun.  The fact that "our" Brit' was born in Nairobi was little mentioned.

The French managed only one stage win but Riblon won the prize for being the most combative rider, that is the one who made a fair number of the stages more interesting to the media and the public than they might have been.  Otherwise it was thin pickings for the French who are having to accept that the Tour is now an international event with a lot of foreign money "invested".  They are reaping the benefits of globalisation and their event is now a world marketing exercise.

So it is almost natural that the Sky team featured prominently amongst the contenders generally although their effort became concentrated on the Yellow Jersey of the leader and winner. The coming of digitised satellite TV with all the technical advances have made it very different in many ways from the past.

One of the less attractive features is that along the route at key points and especially on crucial mountain stages all the nutters, mad exhibitionists and escaped loonies of Europe are gathered together for the crowd scenes.  Perhaps quiet arrangements could be made for the 2014 Tour to start rounding them up for deportation to one of France's more unpleasant penal settlements.

They could be put to useful work growing biofuels.  Along with them, I wonder about all those motorised caravans very evident along the route with some ordinary ones.  One question is the size of the total investments in these beasts of the road that is made by people following the Tour.  There must be many who are spending their children's inheritance living semi-rough to follow a bunch of bikers around.

The put down answer to this is that helps to promote economic growth.  It may not be long before the government decides to put one third of us on bikes and make the other two thirds run around following them.  But this leads to another little mentioned matter.  It was in the time of John Major the Muddler that more sports funding was put into cycling.  Whilst the Sky name as sponsors was all over the place no mention was given to the State or Major.

Nor was there any mention of all those in the past gave freely of their time and resources to keeping cycling going as a sport without much recognition or help, even when the occasional medal or win happened.  It was always not just a lesser sport, but worse a plebian one without any relieving celebrity interest. The BBC were always very sniffy about reporting it.  If only Lennon and McCartney had ridden tandem now and again.

The picture above if of the two greats of French cycling of fifty or so years ago, Jacques Anquetil on the left and Raymond Poulidor (with cap) on the right.  Jacques had robust ideas on drugs, such as what the hell and it's up to the rider if he needs a boost.  This was an age when pep pills were in common use.  After his time was the age of the Baby Boomer when anything went, especially down the throat.

After this it gradually became realised that this stuff had a number of problems.  One was that international competition was not just between the participants but between the backup squads of biochemists and experts in chemical synthetics.  You were not just what you ate, but drank, sipped, had injected or implanted.  As testing and analysis was way behind discovery and delivery for many years there was a hopeless quest for control and preventing it.

Now it seems to be catch up time with the virtues of stringent regulation, monitoring, careful analysis and control of all medications as a feature of administering these events.  It is odd to see the politicians being strongly in favour of all this for sports events and competition whilst denying its efficacy or use elsewhere either in the economy or in government.

The Tour now ends with one of those whizz bang flashy productions that all seem so similar despite the vast effort and expense put in to making them an individual entertainment.  Perhaps it may not be long before the techie who devises the best feature is named the winner of the Tour.

It is all very different from even the recent past.  One can understand why so many in France would like it to be even more French.  The organisation is now not just coupled to world media but the Tour becoming less French in many ways.  We are promised a start in Yorkshire.  Perhaps another year the finish might start to go international, say removed to Pontefract Racecourse.

Allez les bleues.

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