The world’s biggest, annual, free spectator sport has drawn to a close for another year.
For the past three weeks we cyclists have been able to experience our version of TV heaven! Throughout this three week period, whether a rest day or not, all 21 stages – and the extended highlights – of the Tour de France have been covered live on Euro Sport and ITV 4.
The decision to broadcast such in-depth coverage on two well-known commercial channels must be a sure sign that the popularity of this sport remains as high as ever. This year, the icing on the cake for Team Sky and British cycling fans across the world has of course been the race win by Geraint Thomas, marking the fifth Tour win in six years for Great Britain. For me, the real win is the humility present in this unique sport, which cascades down from its participants at the top level right down to the grassroots, thanks to the likes of Hoy, Wiggins, Froome, Thomas and many more. Froome’s unequivocal acceptance of his new role to assist his team mate rather than going for glory himself in the last week really stands out for me, as does Thomas’s modesty and humility when realising he had finally won it after the individual time trial.
Good sportsmanship aside, one of the key reasons why cycling is so unique is that it remains the only major sport I am aware of where spectators can physically communicate with and access the top stars with relative ease and usually at no financial cost to themselves. Not only that, this interaction is willingly reciprocated by these sporting leaders.
Many of the top cyclists, including those mentioned above, will willingly ride with members of the public on training or even social rides. Compare this to Football where Premier or even Championship league players, rarely even stop to talk to fans when alighting from their team coach.
“… the last time I cried was when I got married!” – Geraint Thomas, after winning the Tour de France 2018.
In his post-race interview, Thomas’s moving response will have struck a chord with many people, including those who don’t cycle as well as those who do. His human reaction was easy to relate to for anyone who has been lucky enough to experience or witness a great achievement of any kind. That initial feeling of shock, joy, relief and then a huge overwhelming wave of emotion as it sinks in that something we have been working to achieve for months or even years has finally paid off. Geraint Thomas is seen as the sort of guy who is comfortable to be in the background, there to work for the team and comfortable letting others take the limelight. He comes across as an ordinary man who might well be in your own cycle club, who keeps to himself and who you occasionally see down at the pub. This is what makes his win all the more endearing and heartwarming.
Vive le Tour, and chapeau to the sport of cycling and all of us who ride in it!
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