Yorkshire went Tour de France mad this weekend. There must be shed-loads of servers somewhere in California (or wherever they are) full of nothing but photos of the TDF as it sped through the Dales and slogged over the hills of West Yorkshire. I can’t resist adding to them.
We joined the thousands lining the road through Leyburn to watch, as German rider Jens Voigt (168 -second from right- in the photograph) the oldest rider in the race, “rested” at the back of the peleton as it sped on to Harrogate, having just secured for himself a King of the Mountains jersey by leading the race over the day’s big climbs.
The next day, 60,000 people lined the road over Holme Moss in West Yorkshire. The most gripping part of that stage, however, was the steep climb in Sheffield as the “big guns” of the Tour fought it out to assert their authority on the race. Sicilian rider Vincenzo Nibali came out on top (I’ve got 50p on him for the yellow jersey in Paris). The day after, London went crazy as the German sprinter Marcel Kittel made it 2 out of 3 and Slovak rider Peter Sagan came second to hold on to his Green Jersey.
Britain was spellbound – despite the fact that star British rider Mark Cavendish had, sadly, crashed out of the race in the first stage. Of course, defending champion Chris Froome is in there, holding his own against the likes of Nibali and Contador and if countries can be said to have self-exteem then Britain’s has been raised by the growing success of British cycling. The whole experience, though, got me wondering. Here were Frenchmen, Germans, Italians and Eastern Europeans (among others) bringing Europe to Britain. Britain couldn’t get enough: which begs the question, is this country really as Europhobic as it likes to think? I, for one, hope not.
Finally, back to Jens Voigt. He’s 42 and this will be his last Tour. He’s now ridden in 17 and he last won a King of the Mountains jersey 16 years ago. He has a reputation of being a domestique-par-excellence. His record is not one of great wins but of working tirelessly for team leaders over the years, burying himself to put them into winning positions. He’s also famous for this soundbite:
He comes over as a generous-spirited, witty character who always has times for his fans. The likes of Jens Voigt crop up in all sports now and again. Here he is, burying himself for Andy Schlek in 2010. It’s the teamwork that makes cycling such an engaging sport: