Saturday, 3 July 2010

Leave it to the cyclists to save the British in the international sporting arena

The British are indeed coming! With England out of the World Cup following a ghost goal, it could be said that it is down to British Cycling to save the image of the nation in the international arena. With eight riders in the 198 strong pelaton, including Wiggins (Sky) who is aiming for yellow and Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) who is aiming for green, this truely is the year for the British to make their mark on the Road Racings ultimate challenge that is The Tour de France. Not since 1968 have so many British riders made their way to Le Grande Depart. This year the 3,500 strong press corps, 198 riders, 22 Team buses, team cars, and the multitude of organisers and team staff have descended on Rotterdam for 4 days of team presentations, press confrences and drama, culminating in the Prologue stage, and 8.9km Individual Time Trial of the Dutch port. Hosting this travelling sporting community for the four days is estimated to have cost as much as 4 million Euros, but with cycling as popular in Holland as it is in France, and the national pride and spirit boosted by their progression into the Semi Finals of the World Cup, the Dutch are set to enjoy a summer of sporting excellence, for which 4 million Euros seems a small price to pay.

The euphoria seems so strong that not even the reprinting of Landis' allegations against Armstrong and his fellow former US Postal team mates can diminish it. Still, the Wall Street Journal have made sure, along with strong WADA presence, that no one will forget that once again the sport is being dogged with dopping allegations and the backstage drama rubbles on once more.

Whether its a matter of age, or due to the never ending saga that the Landis case seems to be, Armstrong has made it clear that his come back is short lived; this will be his last tour. He came back to the fold in last years Tour de France, ruffled feathers, caused controversy in his public clash with Contodor, and left Astana taking half the talent with him to form Team RadioShack who make their debut on this years tour. With him announcing his departure, commentators can only guess for now who will also be on the move; the Tour de France is not only a race but THE race where contracts are signed and deals are made for the next season.

This years race is on paper, one of the hardest for a long time. The first week will be fantastic for newcommers and spectators as they are given a flavour of the Spring Classics as the peloton graces the pave, then its into the alps, down to the Pyrenees, with two climbs of the Tour Favourite, the Col de Tourmelet, before heading up to Paris.

With such an intense ride ahead, Wiggins is quietly confident that he will be able to show that last years 4th place from nowhere was no meer fluke. Cavendish meanwhile has made it clear that he is going for green, without placing a number on the stage wins he is after. But with the Schleck brothers on fantastic form, Contador clearly wanting to defend his Golden Fleece, and the World Champion, Cadel Evans breathing down everyones necks, its hard to say who will finish on and off the Podium.

198 riders are set to make their mark on the tour. In this race, anything can happen. Hearts will break, egos will be bruised, crashes will happen, and the chase is now on. Let the battle for glory commence.
Vive le Tour.

1 comment :

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