The Prince of Wales helping with the post stage doping control.
Finally after a tough week and a day we arrived at the grand finish in Cardiff, the biggest city in South Wales.
As everyone knows the final stage always ends up in London but cycling there has been in lock down since the journalist Adam Boulton wrote a brilliant and well researched piece for some newspaper calling for an end to the “senseless worship of bicycles”. After he exposed Cycling UK, the lobbying behemoth who’s whopping £5 million income dwarfs that of the entire motoring industry, people decided they’d had enough. The normally law abiding, courteous and attentive drivers of London started speeding through the streets and red lights, began honking and hurling abuse at anyone holding them up, they blocked pavements, Sadiq Khan continued what he was doing and suddenly it was too dangerous to hit the roads on two wheels. But because we can’t go to London we are here and it is wonderful.
I have been chatting quite often to a Mr G.Thomas throughout the race. He’s a pleasant fellow and much nicer than his boss who’s usually angrier than a Feargal McKay tweet. He has told me all about Wales. His favourite make is the humpback.
Towards the end of the stage Mr Mark Cavendish rode up to me and enquired where the final sprint point was so I said “Usk”. “That’s what I’m doing” he guffawed and sped off laughing. Honestly! Mr Cav comes out with some wizard japes!
There were plenty of undulations in the terrain today and the toughest climb was the Marlborough Drag known as ‘Alto del Marlborough Drag’.
Edvald Hagen-Boss won the stage and Lars Boom won the overall championships of the Tour de of Britain sprint cup, the most boring edition since its inception.
Today was probably the hilliest of this years route. I managed to get the Strava KOM on the final climb of the day, The Winchcombe, known as the Col de la Coix de Fer of the Cotswolds. Unfortunately this created quite a storm on Twitters. The previous holder of the record time was a Mr Bob Pilchard and unbeknownst to me he has openly talked about taking pot and LSD on the 60’s. As soon as my KOM was confirmed accusations of drug taking came flying in my direction. How, folk were saying, was I able to beat the time of a known doper. The conclusion they all drew was simple. I must have been taking drugs myself! Things didn’t end there though. It soon emerged that Mr Pilchard once voted Tory and sometimes spits food on people he talks to. My reputation is in tatters but I’m sure I will be allowed to plead my case by my Twitter accusers.
Our United Kingdoms of Great Britain team car was broken today, I’m not sure of the exact problem but someone from British Cycling HQ mentioned something about women drivers. Luckily, because our team and Team Skye are pretty much the same thing we were able to get our bottles and bidons from their car. On my first visit to the vehicle to get supplies for my teammates to “take aboard some sustenance” I was met with the now familiar sight of David Brailsford-Sir who was glaring at me through the window. He told me as he was handing me the bottles that one good turn deserves another so I had to first replenish his team before coming back to get fereshments for the UKofGB boys. “Fine” I said, “I’ll be back in a Jiffy”. I heard him screaming something at me, probably words of encouragement, as I headed up the road. When I returned the car window was rolled up, and it was ruddy well tinted so I couldn’t see Mr David to get his attention. I always thought windows were meant to be transparent but never mind.
I’m glad the race finishes tomorrow, a week of cycling is just about as much as I can take. I can’t imagine what riding a Grand Tour would be like, it’s tiring enough watching the likes of the Giro. Though seeing it on TV you do have to contend with the three week lecture on glacial features and types of aggregate from Carlton Kirby.
Dylan Groenewegen won the stage and Lars Boom still leads the Tour de of Britain sprint cup.
Brian Cookson finding it hard to contain his excitement after a visit to the Keswick Pencil Museum. He would later say of the trip; “I had the time of my life”.
Today’s stage started in Newmarket which is more known for its horse racing than cycling, though Tony Gallopin or Laura Trott would feel at home there! Also, this is a sprint stage so there will be no horse category climbs!
Seriously though, it has been lovely talking to so many new riders this year. At my last Tour de of Britain I spent most of the time listening to Bradley Wiggins-Sir moaning about some rascal called Mr Chris Froomes so a variety of banter has been wizard. I would have to say the best bunch of chaps come from the Team Dimension Data team. They help a charity called Qhubeka and its marvelous hearing from them how bikes are helping people in Africa. When I rode at TEAM wiggins one of the managers there, a certain Mr Simon Cope, seemed keen on helping charities such as Qhubeka and World Bike Relief. I heard that he once flew all the way to Swaziland with a bag of pedals.
As I alluded to earlier during my equine based japes today’s stage was rather flat. Being a fellow who enjoys climbing I find these days rather boring. Competing in a sprints stage is about as dull as the time, two years ago, when I accompanied Brian Cookson-Obe around the pencil museum in Keswick.
Crikey! Caleb Ewan won again but LarsBoom holds onto the Green Malliot Jaune.
The term MOD comes from the French for ‘modified bicycle’. The above ‘modified bicycle’ is ridden by the writer Richard Moore.
Today’s stage was held in the beautiful town of Clact-on-Sea. The peaceful atmosphere of this typical British seaside town ensures that plenty of day trippers visit the area for a stroll along the pier or perhaps to sit on the beach licking an iced cream and wonder what time the amusement arcade closes. This is a far cry from the Clact-on-Sea of over 50 years ago though. On the Easter weekend of 1964 teams of Mods and Rockers descended on the town to engage in some fisty-cuffs and drove the Daily Mail readers of the United Kingdoms of Great Britain into a worried frenzy about the moral fibre of the country’s youth. Luckily their fears were misplaced and we now they have some great institutions such as UKIP and British Cycling holding the country together. The Clact-on-Sea riots weren’t the only flash points involving the Mods and Rockers. There were further skirmishes in Brighton in May 1964 and La Toussuire in July 2012. The spouses of that final battle in 2012 have kept the traditional hostilities alive on Twitter.
Mr Mod Bradley Wiggins-Sir and Rocking, Rolling Mr Chris Froomes are both great time trialists and I asked Mr Bradley for some advice for today’s individual team time trial. He told me on the phone from his castle, “Listen ere Giles, that Chris Froomes aint a good time trialist. Do you know ow many Olympic gold medals e as for it? None! That’s ow many”. It’s good to hear Mr Wiggins-Sir back to his cheerful self. He has lost a bit of his spark recently, perhaps due to a downturn in his popularity. I wonder if he yearns for the life he had during the 2012 Tour de of Britain when the Sun fakenewspaper printed a cut out Bradley Wiggins-Sir TUE certificate.
Lars Anthonius Johannes Sonic Boom won the stage and now holds the Oxo Tour de of Britain leaders Green Malliot Jaune Jersey.
The Mansfield Council Cycling Hotline receives some information on another two-wheeled maniac.
Today’s stage started under a cloak of secrecy and the feelings of nervousness which engulfed the peloton have never been seen at that level since David Brailsford-Sir watched Shane Sutton at the Parliamentary Select Committee. We snaked around the deserted streets of Mansfield, some keeping an eye on what was ahead of us and others watching the sky above. The experience reminded me of my time flying Spits in the war, always on the lookout for the enemy. The reason for our behaviour was that we had heard there were busy-body, head shaking, tutting members of the local council about. These characters had banned cycling in the town centre in July last year. Nobody wanted to risk the £1000 fines which came into place after reports of anti social behaviour from some human beings forced the Mansfield mafia to bar anyone on a bicycle from their fine town.
After a few close calls we got out safely and headed around the beautiful countryside and woods to the finish in Newark-on-Trent. Along the way we passed through the Sherwood Forest which is a huge structure of oak trees. The area was once home to a gentleman called Robin Hood, Sheriff of Nottingham. The story of this Mr Hood is little known and there is little in the area to even suggest he was from there. There are more people in Nottinghamshire who know that Adam Hansen makes his own shoes than those in the know of Mr Hood’s antics. He was said to have robbed the rich and given to the poor, kind of the reverse of Team Skye taking all the top GC men off other teams.
Another do-gooder from Nottingham is the active travel safety campaigner Mr Loophole also known as “Nick Freeman”. In his valiant pursuit of safety he has come up with some great initiatives such as fluorescent clothing for pedestrians and compulsory licenses and insurance for cyclists. Everyone knows that the licensing and insuring of drivers has taken down the number of accidents involving motorised vehicles to virtually zero but Mr Loophole won’t rest until the roads are completely safe for all. He is up against it in his quest though because somebody is helping drunk and speeding get back on the roads. I am sure the good Mr Loophole can’t fathom who would consider police procedures in cases where someone is known to have committed a crime more important than keeping dangerous drivers off the road. Maybe someone who considers getting massive lawyers fees more important than the countless lives lost on the country’s roads.
I thought I would try and have a chat today with the gentleman called Bernard Eisel who rides for Team Dimension Data Team. I was interested in the academy system in his country and how it manages to churn out many great cyclists. But when I stated talking to him, with my best Aussie accent so he would understand me, he just rode off with a confused look on his face. Another country that can guarantee a production of top youngsters is Columbia. Fernando Gaviria has been a revelation this year and going forward Columbia promises more revelations than Istvan Varjas.
And it was Gaviria who won the stage and Elia Viviani regained the Green Malliot Jaune.
David Cameron showing his usual great conviction on the helmet debate.
Well, before I update you on today I should update you on yesterday. I reported that Edvald Hagen-Boss had won the stage but after the umpires reviewed the finish they quickly came to the decision, after 3 hours 17 minutes, that “Eddie” should be declared OUT. Team Skye riders Elia Viviani was declared the stage winner and overall leader of the race. I’m not sure if the rumours of David Brailsford-Sir entering the umpires room with a stuffed padded envelope for protecting fragile items in the post is true.
What a splendid setting for stage start! Normanby Hall Country Park is a sprawling structure of gardens, meadows and buildings belonging to a gentleman going by the name of Reginald Sheffield-Sir. Reggie m’lud, as he is known locally, is one of the top toffs in the country but also happens to be the father-in-law of the former High Emperor of the United Kingdoms of Great Britain David Cameron. Keen cyclist and and advocate of wearing a helmet, on his handlebars, Mr Cameron had his father-in-law construct some lovely fields of wheat on the property for his work mates and was also responsible for the erection of a pig sty.
I took a stroll around the sty and other farm buildings before the stage start and soon became overcome by a tremendous pong. I looked around for the source of the stench, expecting to find a pile of manure somewhere, but all I could see was a tall bald man with glasses lurking in the shadows. I asked the fellow “Did you just trumpet”? But he just scuttled away embarrassed and muttering something like “It was Emma Pooley”.
On the route there were three climbs on the way including Wrawby Hill, “The Lagos de Covadonga of Lincolnshire” before we finished up in Scunthorpe.
Towards the end of the stage we passed the Humber Bridge. Blimey! What a corker! The 2220 metre long building is the longest bridge in the world and what’s more, the busiest with daily traffic of 120,000 vehicles per week. I saw a long line of lorries going over it heading in our direction and I asked one of the guys if it was one of those driverless truck convoy things I’ve been reading about but as it got closer I realised it was the Team Skye cavalcade. And who was driving the lead vehicle but the phantom farter from this morning. Brailsford-Sir! I should have known!
The Austrian Caleb Ewan won the stage and retakes the overall lead of the race.
David Brailsford-Sir and Shane Sutton met up today to test out Team Skye’s new bikes.
Blimey! The name of the start town is a bit of a mouthful! And that’s exactly what I got from a fellow who turned out to be a, David Brailsford-Sir of Team Skye!
On the way to sign in this morning I tripped over a pile of rowing oars piled lazily next to a lake. Wanting to tidy them away properly so nobody came to any harm I approached a gentleman resembling Harry Hill and asked him where I should stick them. I won’t embarrass you by revealing his answer. It was only as he was walking away that I noticed the word SKYE emblazoned on the back of his jacket and realised it was the mythical Brailsford-Sir who often only comes out of his motor home when the moon is full.
It was a bad start to a tough day and I struggled over the first climb of the stage, Winter’s Gibbet, known as the ‘Giant of Northumberland’. Once we reached the coast things got easier though and I ‘coasted’ down the finish in Blyth! Seriously though, Blyth is the hometown of the famous Mr Mark Knopfler of the Heavy Metal band Dire Straits. The singer is a keen cyclist and he has recently revealed that his band are going to become co-sponsors of Team Skye.
During the run home I thought I would ask Tony Martin about his nickname. “What are Panzer Wagons Tony?”, I said. He said to me in his gruff German accent “Tanks”. His English obviously isn’t that great so I slowly told him “You’re welcome” and rode on. Later on I asked his brother Dan if he could explain Tony’s name de plum but I couldn’t understand what he was saying either.
Edvald Hagen-Boss did win the stage and did take over the lead of the Oxo Tour de of Britain from the Austrian Caleb Ewan.
The wiggins MOBILE will be missing from this years race.
It’s jolly good to be back at the Tour de of Britain after two years. I had a smashing time riding for, and alongside, Bradley Wiggins-Sir in the 2015 race and after taking some time out of the sport to do some research for a book I will be bringing out with someone going by the name of Bikegob Glasgow I thought it was time to get back to racing and get back to the Tour.
But crikey! I nearly never got here at all! The chaps I ride for, TEAM wiggins, have been in a competition this year between six British teams to qualify for the tournament, with only four going through (Team Skye had already gained a spot as top seeds). Me and the rest of the TEAM wiggins riders found the going tough in the qualifying races. We had lost some of our best riders, including Mr Wiggins-Sir at the end of last season and I thought at times that perhaps we weren’t able to handle the pressure. And blimey there was a lot of pressure! Entry to the Tour de of Britain was the top objective of the year for the team. If I won the final qualifying race we would have got there but I didn’t. I felt I let the team down, I was in great shape, the other riders rode well, the support staff looked after me well, they even kept asking me if I was absolutely sure that I didn’t have hay fever. But forget about them, I have made it to the race after being selected to ride for the United Kingdoms of Great Britain team.
The whole thing kicked off today in Edinburgh which is the second largest city in Scotland behind the countries capital Glasgow. And crikey! the starting point was outside my namesake, St Giles Cathedral! Seriously though, we went along the royal mile, Scottish for royal kilometer, out of Edinburgh and down towards the boarders and eventually ended up in Kelso beside another religious erection, Kelso Abbey. There were three KOM climbs along the route including the feared Dingleton known as ‘The Severe Judge Of The Boarders’. The last time the race had a stage finish in the town two years ago we ended up outside Floors Castle who now co-sponsor the Quick-Step team.
One of the best things about riding in the Tour de of Britain is getting to meet some of the worlds top riders. I was able to chat to the Polish rider who’s name is Michał Kwiatkowski. The super-domestique has recently helped Team Skye to successfully defend the Tour de France so I was expecting to find him in fine fettle but his mood was rather morose. During our chin-wag he explained to me that while he has had a great summer his mind is occupied with the coming spring where his team will force him to win some of the most prestigious one day races in the world.
Caleb Ewan of Austria won the stage and leads the Oxo Tour de of Britain.
I am delighted to announce that the well known cyclist and historian, Giles Ripwell, will be writing for the website and telling tales from within the peloton during the upcoming Tour de of Britain. The ‘Gentleman On Two Wheels’ shared his insights here during the race in 2015 but has since been out of the sport to research a book with Bike Gob Glasgow about cycling in the United Kingdoms of Great Britain.
Mr Ripwell feels fortunate to be riding in the competition. He had hoped to be competing for TEAM wiggins but Bradley Wiggins-Sir’s squad failed to qualify for the event. However at the last minute, and after switching his allegiances from Austria, he was selected for the United Kingdoms of Great Britain team and he hopes to repay the countries faith in him by not finishing last.
You can read past articles from Mr Giles Ripwell here:
The last Frenchman to win the Tour de France was Bernard Hinault way back in 1985 when he won his fifth Grand Boucle. He came close the following year to making it a record six titles, in ’87 his supposed heir Jean-François Bernard finished third and Laurent Fignon was runner-up by the smallest of margins two years later. Through the 90’s Richard Virenque podiumed twice but never really looked like winning, the following decade countless ‘New Hinaults’ came and went and now it is 32 years since ‘The Badgers” success.
At times things have been desperate for French racing fans but their appetite for some home success in their race has never wavered. That hunger may soon be satisfied but the closest I have come to seeing a French Tour victory was in 2011 and the nearly man was Tommy Voeckler.
He was a popular but unlikely source for plenty of excitement on the roadsides during that Tour. After he wore the yellow jersey for 10 days in 2004 his high status among French fans was assured for ever. Stage wins in 2009 and 2010 and his natural attacking style only added to his esteem. But his highest finish in the Tour de France was 18th, during that 2004 edition, and in his seven other entries in the race he never got close to the top 50. He wasn’t a GC man.
His reputation outside of France is a little more mixed. Some love him, some get feelings of angry annoyance as soon as they see him. He is old-school, not interested in heart-rate monitors and power files. He races on instinct which makes him entertaining to watch. But he also tries to be too entertaining at times. He loves it when there is a camera trained on him so he can show us through various facial expressions how he is feeling, desperate for the viewer to understand that though he is winning he is suffering terribly which makes what he is doing heroic. In the days before television races would be explained by reporters in the various newspapers. The days events would be told in epic terms, with the truth often embellished, to keep the reader interested. The character of Thomas Voeckler could easily have been lifted out of the pages of L’Auto.