It has been a surreal couple of days. Cycling has been thrust into the public consciousness once again, but for a good reason this time. Our man Geraint.
A Cardiff boy, as humble as the day is long, secured victory in the most prestigious event in the pro cycling calendar, the Tour de France. Best of all, our other man, Luke Rowe was with him the whole way, protecting and supporting him.
Pieces falling into place
Whilst ‘G’ has Olympic gold medals and an autobiography to his name, his road career has been plagued with bad luck, frequently finding himself on the asphalt, injured or in the shadow of Chris Froome. However, this year things were very, very different.
From stage 3, Geraint made it into the top 3 in the general classification and that’s where he stayed, gradually chipping away at the time gap separating him from 2nd and 1st place.
Then stage 11 happened, which saw Geraint take the stage win and with it the yellow jersey. He also took stage 12 for good measure, becoming the first British winner at Alp d’Huez.
He reached the last-but-one stage, the individual time trial with around 2 minutes on his nearest rival, Tom Dumoulin. Tom’s quite well-known for time trialling (understatement of the year), winning the National and World time trial championships in 2017. So no pressure…
Whilst Dumoulin did eat into a few seconds of Thomas’ lead, it was not enough to take the yellow jersey from him. It was a good ride from Thomas, with only one wobble. He reached the line a few seconds off a stage win, but he’d done it, he’d really done it.
Meanwhile, back in Cardiff, Le Tour fever (was originally thinking “yellow fever”, but it turns out that’s a disease spread by mosquitos…) was spreading. The cycle cafes were packed out, fans glued to the televisions. Ride My Bike Cafe even played host to a number of journalists and TV crews. Even the bike shops were starting to feel the benefit.
Welshman Thomas will still be wearing the yellow jersey on Sunday and is set to be crowned winner of the biggest competition in cycling.
Cardiff bike shop owner Damian Harris said he had seen a noticeable uptick in sales.
Even my old PE teacher was getting some attention. Then again, it’s only fair –he did coach Sam Warburton and Gareth Bale as well.
The teacher – who went to the school in the 1960s and returned to teach there in the 1970s – remembers a shy but bright all-round athlete who had a world of possibilities open up for him at the school. “He competed in all sports. He was a very good athlete, same as Bale and Warburton,” he says. “He did well at A-level. He could have gone to university if he had wanted to.”
It was an exciting week for the city, which is now gearing up to welcome Geraint home on the 9th August. It is a shame this excitement will inevitably fade, overtaken by newer ‘news’, the same way the achievements of Nicole Cooke; every 6 Nations Grand Slam; and Joe Calzaghe’s flawless boxing career faded into history.
But right now, as I type this, it’s still fresh; it’s still exciting and it should be savoured. Cardiff has a massive sporting legacy, one which we should capitalise on to inspire everyone, young and old to get out there and do things.
Whilst our main focus should be cycling for transport, there’s certainly no harm in getting people out on bikes for sport as well. The two disciplines are very, very different, with needs that are poles apart, but they are not mutually exclusive. We’re all riding bikes at the end of the day.