Yesterday’s stage delivered everything that I’d hoped it would and more. It also gave the armchair expertmen plenty of hot air to emit in the mistaken belief that people were listening and cared about what they had to say (blah blah not fair blah GC blah) and have yet to fully understand the phrase “that’s bike racing”. They share pictures of Hoogerland juxtaposed with Neymar and yet moan ceaselessly when it actually happens in a real race.
At times it felt like a film, some fictional variant of what cycling should look like according to our endlessly mythical and epic dreams. I don’t think that’s because of Jorgen Leth, more because it had so many narrative arcs and twists that it functioned on a purely narrative level. If I was being a compete numbskull I’d probably try and map it onto Propp’s morphology and chart the transition from equilibrium to disequilibrium and back again.
It had tons of crashes. It was the crashiest race I’ve seen since every cat 4 race at Odd Down. There was something more baroque and awe inspiring though in the sight of adept bike-handlers being brought to heel by carefully placed cobbles. It made for incredible pictures.
I’m certain someone somewhere on the internet is busy trying to articulate how the bottom one is a renaissance painting, either that angrily mouthing off about how it was an awful business, using a crude portmanteau swear word like “cockwomble” in the hope that they will go up a level on the tweets, rather than just spew out the same hackneyed, unoriginal content as everyone else. The other day someone tweeted something horrible at Jonathan Edwards consisting of another tedious swear word splice. You may not like his commentary, but is that really acceptable? It’s men, of course it’s men, dishing out this year 9 oppobrium, one step across from calling everything “gay” at the back of Mr Engers’ history class.
The ending of the race was as good as it gets. John Degenkolb’s chances have been written off since he suffered a brutal accident in 2016, wiped out by a car whilst training. The narrative represented a gleaming victory for hope and determination from one of the nicest chaps in the peloton. There are two clips doing the rounds. The first one shows the immediate aftermath, whilst riding back to the bus. He is congratulated in the warmest terms by Cavendish and then his dad. The second is his post race interview. I had a wobbly lower lip for both. I think it must be the high pollen count. I was cooking tea and cutting onions.
I think Degenkolb is my new favourite cyclist.