2012 has definitely been a spectacular year for cycling, and British cycling in particular. Even a few months later, it’s still nice to say Bradley Wiggins wins the Tour De France
There were the days when, in Britain, we got excited at the mere presence of a rider in the Tour de France. With the exception of Robert Millar, UK riders in the Tour de France were invariably a domestique, a nearly-ran, drug user or something similar. But, no matter if he finished 154th – we still were in awe at a British rider making it into the exotic world of European road racing. But, that has all changed in the past few years. In particular, it really is the time to be Bradley Wiggins – who won just about everything apart from the prize for ‘negotiate British roads without been hit by a motor vehicle‘ I guess there are some things you just can’t train for.
Perhaps the most underrated rider of the year is Chris Froome with 2nd place in the Tour de France, 4th place in the Vuelta, Olympic medallist, but not even on the short list for those who candidates who were not one of 12 candidate’s for BBC SPOTY.
Poor chap was even criticised for being a bit too good on the mountain stages, temporarily leaving his team leader gasping for breath. It’s not often we have the luxury of criticising British cyclists for being too good. These days, we’re asking ourselves why are British cyclists so good? – a nice change from why do the wrong leaves bring our trains to a standstill? The only downside was having to spend more time explaining how the tour de France works. Just wait until the Tour comes through Yorkshire in 2014.
The Olympic Spirit
Olympic Stadium. photo S.E Star / CC
Even if you’re tired of hearing it; the London Olympics were really superb – beyond even the optimists’ wildest expectations, and inspiring even the most cynical of British cynics. It was simply the pinnacle of sport; evidence that sport really can bring out the best in people. In Britain we are very good at being cynical and pessimistic, the Olympics was a reminder we can also do some other things very well.
On the road I caught a glimpse of the mens Olympic Road race, the fact that it gave the most disappointing result in the entire Olympics didn’t really matter. (In pantomime style. It was won by ex-druggie A. Vinokorov ‘boo – hiss‘ – and not won by our hero Mark Cavendish ‘for he’s a jolly good fellow‘) Proof that live sport never has to follow the script.
But, whatever the result, it was still great to be part of that 1 million audience lining the route through London. It’s nice to see cycling on the front page for positive reasons. My trip to Box hill road race circuit two days before was also a real personal highlight.
In the velodrome, we won nearly as many medals as the number of times Victorian Pendleton burst into tears. But, the Queen of the track came away with a well deserved gold medal. Just a good job, she didn’t try to become an Olympian in dancing. But, even Queen Vic was slightly over-staged by the ultimate Olympian and all round good egg – Sir Chris Hoy. At the Olympics, there was the odd cliché too many. But, when Sir Steve Redgrave congratulated Sir Chris for overtaking his Olympic gold medal record – all the cliches were fully deserved. Great Moments of the Olympics
Amidst all the success, it’s still worth bearing in mind sport always needs people to just miss out. You can’t have all the winners without a few 4th places and last place. 4th place
The Olympics took us to unprecedented heights so it was rather ironic, that 2012 was also the year the cycling gods decided to catch up with ‘the most sophisticated, professional and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen.‘ Lance Armstrong (‘boo / hiss’) reached a fame that few sportsmen ever have. During his long run as drug pusher, serial winner of the Tour de France, someone should have shouted to Lance Armstrang (‘USADA are standing behind you‘. To which L.A. would have replied ‘O no they’re not‘. But, we know in the best pantomines the villains always get their comeuppance eventually. The higher you rise, the further you fall. But, you feel if L.A. could go back in time, he would make exactly the same decisions again. Some people just prefer infamy to anonymity)
L.A. may have gave cycling unprecedented exposure in North America. Yet, many cycling fans felt cheated that a guy who won seven tours in a row was someone we couldn’t appreciate or admire. How could you really admire a cyclist who associates with a doctor like Michael Ferrari and chases down nobodies who speak against doping?
photo: Richard Masoner – CC. flickr
Even if the UCI responded with their usual incompetence, dithering and extreme lack of humility, you sense it is still a very different sport from ten years ago. There’s a lot of progress still to be made, but hopefully, the likes of US postal doping conspiracy’s won’t be seen again. In the future, we hope cycling books, will not be dominated by doping exposes – but may actually be about cycling! Though if you have to read one – Tyler Hamilton’s gives a good flavour.
So 2012 was a good year for cycling. We had a great Tour De France, we finally finished off some business which should have been dealt with 12 years ago. And to boot it all, 2012 was the year when everyone finally stopped doping completely. So that’s all very good.
Role on the Tour de France in Yorkshire, fuelled by nothing more than Yorkshire puddings, real ale and over-enthusiastic whippet fanciers wondering what on earth is going on.