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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Le Kangourou - Le Vainqueur




This Blog is pure self indulgence! Bear with me.

For many years – in fact since the early 1980s – I have followed the greatest bicycle race in the world – le Tour de France.

For those of you who do not know what the Tour de France is I will say only that is it the premier cycling event in the world. It is a mind numbingly difficult cycling race where the cyclists race for three weeks all over France – and into neighbouring countries.

This year there were 21 stages – over three weeks - covering 3,430 kilometres – some of which took them up to nearly 7 hours to cover in a single day – and they climbed some of the highest mountains in the Alps and the Pyrenees.

It takes an exceptional cyclist and exceptional skills, courage, strength and mental attitude to win the tour – together with  strong team, good tactics and quite often a good helping of luck.

I first became interested in le Tour when I became aware of Phil Anderson – and when SBS – an independent multicultural Australian television network started televising small segments of the Tour. This expanded until in recent years SBS was televising all of the tour live late at night. I was often sitting up until 2:00 am for three weeks watching every moment of the most fascinating bike race on earth.

(If you do not follow bike racing don’t try to understand what I am saying – just go with the flow)

Phil was the first Australian to win a stage in the Tour and the first Australian to wear the Yellow Jersey.

These are the Holy Grail of cycling. Since then there have been a whole host of Australian cyclists who have gone to Europe to make their mark.

Also since then there have been some fabulous performances from Australian bike riders such as Robbie McEwen, Stuart O’Grady, Michael Rogers - and many others who left Australia to make their careers in Europe and have excelled in the grand tours and in the Tour de France.

These guys are virtually unknown in Australia – except to cycling fans – but live in Europe and are glitterati in the cycling world and in the communities where they live.

There has never really been an Australian cyclist who could win the Tour except Cadel Evans – and he has come second twice. He has come second twice simply because he has not had a strong enough team around him to help him through the mountain stages and he has not been strong enough to do it on his own – very few ever have been.

A few years ago I attended a dinner at which Phil Anderson spoke and at that stage Cadel Evans had not featured in the places – but looked good as a prospect. I discussed this with Phil – and he said that Cadel could only win if he had a team around him that could give him the level of support that could get him there. This is indeed conventional wisdom and is the way it has always been.

Well – I am here to tell you today that Cadel did it by himself – and I watched it happen.

In the last two stages in the mountains Cadel was battling against the two Schleck brothers and Contador who attacked him constantly. At one stage Cadel had to change bikes and lost a minute and 30 seconds and had to chase the Schlecks – and caught them and lost no time on the stage.

He went into the final time trial 57 seconds down on Andy Schleck. i.e. He had to beat Andy by more than 57 seconds to take the Yellow Jersey.

He blew him away! BLEW HIM AWAY!

It was the best performance I have ever seen!

He took the lead in the race by 1 minute and 34 seconds!

He came second in the time trial – losing by only 7 seconds!

It was the most exciting Tour I have watched – and I have watched the last 30. Cadel cried. I cried. Kangaroos sobbed into their pouches. Koalas rubbed tears from their eyes.

Of course Cadel actually has to get over the finish line tomorrow on the Champs-Élysées but this is usually a formality. There will be no challenges on the last day – it is possible but not likely.

So unless a madman leaps from behind a bush and beheads him we can assume that he is the first Antipodean to win the Tour de France. Formidable!

10 comments:

Sandy said...

Oi Oi Oi! I was pleased to hear it on the news this morning but not as pleased as you obviously, you may even be more excited than Cadel. Well done both of you.

Alexia said...

An astonishing feat! very well done, that Aussie!

fmcgmccllc said...

Congrats.

Annie said...

Jim says:
"You are a dimwit. I have told you often that you write well. I have employed many journalists. Anyone who had described the Tour de France in the way you did in your blog would have been marked for promotion - but not to management."

I say bravo!

nzm said...

Fabulous effort from, and result for, Cadel. I had tears in my eyes watching him on the podium yesterday, and that time trial ride was sublime. Jen and I high-fived as the results came up on our screen to show how he blitzed Andy Schleck!

Badger said...

Sandy: Oh I am certainly more excited than Cadel! I am not sure he does excitement.

Alexia: A true champion - considering he has come 2nd on two other occasions - an astonishing feat!

fmcgmcclic: I cannot claim all the credit - Cadel did most of the work going up the mountains - although I shouted at him a lot.

Annie: Yes I have a degree in dimwitedness and now that you have announced it on my blog I shall post a copy in the side panel.

nzm: TT highlight - when the clocked ticked over showing Cadel had moved from behind Andy to in front of Andy.

nzm said...

Oh - today just took the biscuit. Cadel's team looking after their man for the entire ride; everyone behaving themselves; the big team hug just after they came across the Finish Line (those nearby photographers couldn't believe their luck!); the amazing rendition of Advance Australia Fair (who was the singer?); a teary Cadel on the podium and a gracious speech in both French and English. It couldn't have been scripted any better.

Alexia said...

He is a true champion indeed, Badger - I didn't intend my comment to sound belittling. In my view, one of the greatest Australian sporting achievements ever - on our news tonight it said "Australians are hailing it as the greatest sporting victory since winning the Americas Cup" Nah - it's bigger than that!!

And... I do claim some pride for Julian Dean, team member, who is a "local" of the small town I live in and who went to the high school I now teach at. He was a couple of years ahead of my son at school... we all watch every solid ride he makes with great interest.

Merisi said...

I rejoiced with you when I heard the news.
What a man, congratulations Australia! :-)

Badger said...

nzm: I loved every minute of it. The best day in 30 years of watching le Tour.

Alexia: Yes indeed. This is the first time Cadel has had a really good team around him and Julian is a really great rider. This has made the difference.

Merisi: There will be many new cyclists on the road in Australia - the motorists will hate it.