Sunday, 22 July 2012

Brad, Cav and British Cycling Success

As a passionate cyclist and fan of the Tour de France, the success of Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish and British cycling at this year's Tour de France is my 1966 moment!

But there's a part of me that feels about this the same way I did in the 1980s when Indie bands I loved achieved 'cross-over' success and made it big, appearing on Top of the Pops (RIP).

Bradley Wiggins winning the 2012 stage 19 time trial
On the one hand, it's a wonderful vindication of your good taste and perseverance over years of neglect and niche interest - the Tour de France is on ITV4, for God's sake! - and to see the sport of cycling achieving it's moment in the sun is something to celebrate.

On the other hand, it means that a new bunch of fans, unaware of the long history and baroque details of the sport, are going to tramp in to blithely enjoy the pastime you have savoured in magnificent solitude for so many years.

Before you know it, hordes of yellow-clad neophyte cyclists will be clogging every bike lane and b-road, inexpertly pedalling their newly-bought road bikes. Of course, it's only going to get worse if we do well at the Olympics too...

But the truth is that the current zenith of British cycling - and who knows whether this may turn out to be just a staging post to even higher achievements - can only be a good thing.

Just to illustrate: I was cycling today - completing the last stage of Rapha's gruelling 'Circle of Death' challenge - and someone drove past me as I went up a hill, shouting out of their car window. This is something of a regular feature as a cyclist, it's usually someone abusing me for being on their road/not paying Road Tax/etc. But before I was able to shout back a ribald riposte, I realised that what they had actually shouted was: "Go on, Bradley!"

I found that strangely moving; could this be the moment that ordinary people start to move their perceptions of cyclists from impediments, through being fellow road users, to being someone to acknowledge and cherish as they do in France...?

It's early days, but - fingers crossed - it may (almost) be time to 'hug a cyclist'!

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