Thursday, March 28, 2013

Astonishing


If you are a fan of professional cycling, and in particular a follower of British cyclists, you will have long since adopted the words of Rudyard Kipling "If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, And treat those two impostors just the same," as a personal motto. British cycling, despite its successes of 2012, has a history of ups and downs that is by no means unique in sport but nevertheless does help make watching the events that pass before your eyes seem akin to riding the famous cobbles of the Paris-Roubaix classic.

When successes do come along then they should be savoured and mulled over, replayed over and over again in the mind. Louis Saha, in his book "Thinking Inside the Box", makes the observation that we see sport replayed so many times over and over again whilst actually enjoying the 'live' spectacle that we are sometimes left with the impression that our opinion is shaped not by events in real time but by the whims of the director or editor of the programme we are watching. A goal can be replayed four or five times between the ball hitting the back of the net and the game being restarted that we often forget the build up to the goal and view the incident in supreme isolation.

Yesterday afternoon Mark Cavendish produced a sprint finish at the end of stage two of the three day event "Three Days of De Panne", in Belgium that will live long in the memories of those who saw it 'live'. We have become 'used to' and spoilt by the sprint finishes of Cav over the last four or five years or so, the sprint finish at the end of the 2011 World Championships in Denmark was probably the high water mark, or high saddle mark, before yesterday.

Cav rides for The Omega Pharma-QuickStep team these days, having amicably split with Sky last year after a financially rewarding but ultimately professionally unrewarding relationship which saw his ambitions repeatedly sacrificed for the greater team good. At his new team he is surrounded by team mates who know how to put in the best possible position to achieve his goal of as many sprint finish stage wins as possible. Yesterday he was helped, into a strong headwind, by the efforts of his team-mates Iljo Keisse and Niki Terpstra. It's often difficult to gauge from television pictures how strong a headwind is but the flags along the course yesterday showed exactly what the riders were heading into.

When Omega Pharma-Quick Step took the lead of the race with over 4 km to go you wondered whether or not they would be caught and burned off before the finish, when the breakaway group, which had been reduced to three (including Cav) was caught with less than a kilometre you go, and before it made a right angle turn into the headwind, you feared for the worst, but then Cav made a sprint from around two hundred metres that must have caused his lungs to burn and every muscle in his body to cry out for submission. Such was the power of his sprint, which ultimately led to him winning the stage by half a bike length, that even the Eurosport commentators were briefly silenced as their brains struggled to connect with their mouths and convey what their eyes had just witnessed.

6 comments:

Span Ows said...

reading your last sentence, I get the image of them thinking "Bloody Brit"...

Paul said...

Spot on - I think they had already prepared their 'plucky Brit loses' speech!

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