when i was young enough to have a teenager’s bedroom, like most other guys of my age, i had hero posters on my walls. much as i’d love to say these were of tommy simpson, eddy merckx and their peers, at that time in my life i had no interest in cycling. those were years filled with strategically leaving open drum catalogues around the house (a ploy which failed miserably, i might add) and regular pleading with my father to allow me to purchase even a single drum, let alone a compete set.
that was another failure.
so, aside from the coin-filled biscuit tin capped with a cork table mat that sufficed for paradiddle practice, and was kept hidden under the bed alongside my drumsticks, the nearest i could get to being an aspirant drum god was to have posters on my wall of buddy rich, gene krupa, phil collins and bill bruford. the only bicycle in my life was a raleigh twenty, replete with dynamo powered lights, a kickstand and a large tartan covered saddlebag that aided and abetted my daily paper delivery run.
no speed was harmed in the making of my teenage years.
i did get to see several of my drumming heroes, including buddy rich, believe it or not, but i’d to wait until my college years to surreptitiously acquire a drumset while hiding the fact from parental gaze. so while i was whiling away the days in illustrative and graphical bliss, eddy was devouring his competitors for breakfast, entirely surplus to my requirements.
now that i’m old and wise enough to appreciate every shoe-cleated pedal cadence, to intrinsically know each facet of the modern complication that we call the bicycle and to comprehend the three-dimensional strategies of the grand tours, mrs washingmachinepost is not well-disposed towards my decorating the bedroom walls with images of robert millar, marco pantani (they’re out on the landing) and any one of a number of first tier riders. like sven nys or jeremy powers for example.
a similar regime exists at my place for work, for though the walls surrounding my ‘booth’ were once home to more cycling paraphernalia than can be seen at the chapel of the madonna del ghisallo, a period of internal re-decoration around two years ago, of necessity had them all taken down. sadly, they have remained down.
that, however, does not preclude my having heroes; though i might place that in more grown-up terms by referring to them as simply cyclists i admire. debbie’s in bruichladdich plays home to the majority of my visual aids adjacent to the red chesterfield sofa, made all the more palatable when accompanied by froth. there is little doubt that the past few years have made my velocipedinal obsession just a smidgeon more acceptable in polite company, and in more general terms, points means prizes. to see british riders atop any podium you care to mention has become, dare i say it, almost commonplace.
that is, at least, until sunday’s world road-race championship fiasco in tuscany. but here i believe the members of team gb are labouring under a grave misapprehension. for in post race interviews, trying unsuccessfully to justify why an entire eight-man team had abandoned still with around 100km to race, the get-out clause seems to be that we, the tifosi (when in rome) can’t expect medals on every occasion. if you’ll forgive my slight misdirection, i could not agree more.
however, these paragons of british cycling virtue are guilty of much, much more than not achieving a medal; they are guilty of betraying our trust, our support and most of all, our credibility.
many sided are the modern-day arguments put forward to ameliorate poor performance. even before sunday’s race began, it was pointed out by several sources, including that of team gb themselves, that the course did not suit sir bradley or mark cavendish. it’s easy for armchair critics such as myself to point the wavering finger, but are these riders not paid for their abilities and thus ready, willing and able to encompass all the requirements of being professionals? is it not incumbent upon them to at least try their hardest on their behalf and ours, rather than happy to head for the team bus after only a couple of laps because they’d lost contact on the wet descents?
alhough i realise i am being somewhat flippant, how would most of us react if the plumber we had engaged to remedy a water leak in the bathroom, simply downed tools citing unfavourable piping. or think how your own boss would respond if you were to leave your desk for home prior to lunch, on the grounds that you “just weren’t feeling it today”.
bradley wiggins, mark cavendish and chris froome have all enjoyed the applause, the bouquets, the cuddly lions and most importantly, the substantial remuneration that comes from their successes. much of this has come their way because those of us ‘ordinary’ mortals have been happy to buy into this success, installing quick-step flooring in the sitting rooms of our sky tv equipped homes, clicking upon the sky jersey thumbnails on rapha’s online shop, and one or two of us may even have stretched so far as to have purchased an asymmetric pinarello. i’m not naive; that’s how sponsorship works.
so, when it comes to a cold, rainy italian sunday in september, the least we ought to expect from our heroes is some reciprocal respect. yes, the weather was crap, no the course may not have been entirely to their liking, but surely it would not have been too much trouble to have raced as if our lives depended on it? for even had brad, mark or chris finished the day amongst the lowly placings, at least they would have finished and we would not have had the ignominy of being taunted by our colleagues and workmates as to the frailty of those engaged in what procycling magazine refers to as ‘the toughest sport’.
it has been said that every country in the world has climate; only britain has weather. with the possible exception of chris froome, members of the british world’s team must surely have spent more than their fair share of hours in freezing rain and gale force winds? yet portugal and spain topped the podium, the very countries we’re mostly keen to visit for some sun, sea and sand.
i didn’t particularly care whether medals resulted or not; it was enough simply to see my ‘heroes’ riding with the best in the world. sadly, i didn’t get to and i hope they’re ashamed of themselves.
Brian Palmer is the man behind the washing machine post, a splendid cycling blog written from the whisky-soaked Scottish island of Islay. In reverence to Brian’s “continuing disagreement” with capital letters, we leave his poetic prose untouched. Why not follow him on Twitter.
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