The scorching summer sun is searing outside, a gentle breeze is keeping everything delightfully bearable as the current heat wave continues to please. Inside the blinds are down and the room is cool and still, I sit, sipping a cool mineral water and enjoy, on television, the penultimate day of “Le Tour 2013”.
In it’s usual way the race has looped around France, taking in the classic scenery of the Pyrenees , Normandy and the Alps, all jolly good for the French tourism industry. This year’s Tour is to be the first to be completed on only French soil since 2003.The last week has featured a final set of Alpine stages that can only be described as brutal. They are tough enough on a motorbike, let alone on a pedal cycle! It included a double ascent of L’Alpe-d’Huez, the first time the tour has featured a double climb of this difficulty.
As the sun warms the Cornish countryside, inside I am transported back to France and the cool sparkling rivers of the Drôme, the windswept dunes of Normandy and the high peaks of Savoie. This TV coverage is terrific, I recall as a youth with my cycling mad friends, desperately trying to get current information about Le Tour. Those were the days of our heroes, Merckx, Thévenet and Hinault, when in the UK the only reports were found tucked away in the sports section of the Daily Telegraph. In those days we dreamed of “ten speed racers”, “Campag” gears and double butted frames…how things have changed.
Then we were blissfully unaware of the problems of doping, even though Tommy Simpson had died on the slopes of Mount Ventoux with a pocketful of amphetamines in 1967. Then came the Nineties and the “Tour of Shame” in 1998 when Voet was arrested with a veritable pharmacy of illegal substances…followed on by the Armstrong years, enough said! Now, things are supposed to be better; Wiggins won last year and Froome leads today, both claim to race clean and most people believe them, I do anyway, but only this week two top track athletes were revealed as testing positive…
So excuse me whilst I indulge myself for a few hours as the Peloton heads towards todays finish at Annecy-Semnoz. Froome leads by 5mins 11seconds, will it be enough? We’ll know by this evening!