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.
One of the best things about watching the Tour is witnessing the pleasure it gives to everyone involved in the race. Whether it’s the excitement of the massive crowds on mountain stages, the joyous celebrations of a rider winning a stage or comfort that @nyvelocity gets from the Tour de France inspired tractor art by French farmers. The role the Director Sportifs who manage the riders have can be a stressful one so it isn’t surprising that they can lose control of their emotions from time to time too.
Marc Madiot the ex-cyclist and twice Paris-Roubaix winner had been manager of La Française des Jeux since its inception in 1997. The Tour de France would always be their main focal point of the year but going into 2012 they had only 7 stage wins in 15 editions. Stage wins would be all they could hope for too. An overall win was never possible if you considered the strength of their riders and they had to watch from the sidelines as the other French teams won the King of The Mountains jersey at various times over the years.They were very much the ‘petit poisson’, but Madiot knew things were about to change.
French cycling in general had been in the doldrums for years but things were starting to look up as many exciting young riders with genuine talent were beginning to emerge. FDJ had one of those talents and his name was Thibault Pinot. Only 22 years of age and although he still had much to learn he had already shown he had exeptional climbing ability by wining the climbers jersey at the 2010 Tour de Romandie. It was only a matter of time before he showed his worth on the biggest stage.
The moment he chose was a medium mountain stage ending in Porrentruy, Switzerland. With 6 categorised climbs already completed he had been part of a large breakaway chasing down two lone leaders. Nearing the top of the final climb of the day, the category 1 Col de la Croix he had escaped from the break and caught the final man up the road Freddie Kessiakoff. Aftet steaming past him and peaking the climb he only had 17km of descent then flat road between him and the finish. On the descent the liked of Froome, Wiggins, Evans and Nibali got their act together and briefly looked like they’d catch up with Pinot but the closer the finishing line was to him the more likely that he would complete a famous victory. Marc Madiot wasn’t taking any chances though. In the team car behind his rider he started shouting encouragement to the young climber through the radio. The shouting soon became screaming then screeching and before long he was shrieking out the window, banging on the car door as with 1km to go the victory was certain.
It was a great moment and brought a smile to everyones mouths. It showed exactly what the race means to people. Perhaps the only person who didn’t appreciate the rabid and deafening nature of Madiots way of dealing with staff morale and probably learned to turn off his team radio before trying moves like that in the future.