I caught a bit of the Tour de France today, a big uphill climb and surely the last chance for anyone to do anything about Froome and his apparently bomb-proof Sky train, and there was all the usual sights one expects. Flags waving in riders’ faces, people running along after the riders, bikes parked up by spectators who had climbed the stage themselves earlier to find a vantage point, and so on. There was also a guy, by the side of the road, who wasn’t entirely following the cycling. He was instead rather tunefully playing a huge alpine horn, just because he can. I like this guy.
It was inevitable, given the week I’ve had, that I watch about an hour of cycling and the pivotal happening takes place during the 10 minutes I’m in the shower. Froome fell. As the comentators exclaimed, the shock clear from his voice, “blood on the Maillot Jaune!” The next 10 kilometres to the finish, I was gripped watching the way Wout Poels protected and helped Froome to minimise the damage. Sure, Thomas gave his bike, but Poels worked for his team leader in a way that for me was a stunning demonstration of professionalism and skill.
A few months ago I read Domestique by Charlie Wegelius, which I’d highly recommend to anyone interested in professional sport, especially cycling. Having read the book I had to chuckle a bit when I read on the BBC’s report about the Team Sky riders’ “selflessness”. Bollocks! They’re not there to win, and that’s not their definition of a good day. They are there to serve the team, and any supposed display of selflessness is in fact a Domestique quite deliberately doing his job.
Wout Poels will be feeling very, very good tonight, because not only does he know he did an excellent job, he knows everyone within the peloton, especially a certain soon-to-be 3-time tour winner*, knows it too.
*touch wood etc.