Last night something remarkable happened on the News at Ten. Road cycling received more than its usual 20 seconds of coverage. It’s been a summer of sporting “almosts”. There’s England in the Euro 2012 Football and Andy Murray in the final at Wimbledon. Bucking the trend there’s now a pretty reasonable chance that not just one Brit, but one of two could win the Tour. Although Chris Froome would need to takes out his radio ear piece and decide to ignore the orders coming from the team car for that to be a reality. But next year promises to be a real scrap, unless Sky makes Froome an offer he can’t refuse.
The BBC piece attempted to deliver an idiots guide to the Tour and explain just what it means to win it. Most media coverage is of the simple scoring sports; football, horse racing, rugby even darts; whoever gets the most points or crosses the line first wins. Tennis, Formula 1 and cricket are about as complicated it gets. So, whilst it’s easy to grasp that the Tour winner’s the one who makes it round the course quickest, the BBC struggled in two and a half minutes to explain the subtleties of the tactics or mechanics of the sprinters and climbers competitions. I learnt about the sport during Channel 4’s 30 minute daily coverage in the 80’s and I’m still figuring out what’s happening.
So far the British public have become used to the idea that we’ve got some good cyclists; but mainly the track breed. The zenith was at Beijing in 2008 where all but two of our fourteen cycling medals came on the track. It’s worth remembering that the women have already established a beach-head in road cycling; Nicole Cooke claimed the first GB medal in 2008 with a rain-lashed gold.