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Here we go ...
By Dave Land, posted 01 July 2017

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In the first of series of personal observations Chris Froome devotee and JRTB founder Dave Land bares his soul…

I don’t care anymore. The gloves are off, I don’t have to pretend that I’m really into the spring classics, or that the Giro is much tougher. Le Tour has arrived, and I am stupidly excited.

My love affair with Le Tour De France is singularly connected to the rise of Chris Froome. Whilst, as a newbie my first experience was reading the newspaper in 2012, which was making claims about a big rift between Wiggo and Froome. I remember very clearly thinking ‘Who is this upstart? What’s he doing causing Wiggo grief’, along with ‘The Tour De France, yes, I am aware of this’.  At this point, Wiggo was the hero of the nation. A super-cool Olympic gold medallist who was at the forefront of Britain’s cycling revolution, and was going to be the first Brit to win the Tour. Even as a non-roadie at that point, I was becoming more and more interested in the Tour – which partly shows how shallow I am, but partly that the cycling zeitgeist was hitting everywhere. The Olympics then came and were brilliant and went. At the end of that summer I found a strange programme on the telly box which was a big race in Spain; I recognised those black jerseys from Team Sky, but not much else. I forgot about it not long after, and went back to dragging my mountain bike up and down muddy tracks, woodlands, hills and, now and again, actual mountains.

Then the 2013 tour happened. I have never felt emotionally attached to sporting wins, outside of Britain doing quite well at various sports. Yet here was something I was entirely glued to. There was Mark Cavendish, I remembered him from other places, and there were the guys in black (although, as we know, very few black guys), and there was Chris Froome, again, and I really really wanted him to win, and he did. And a few weeks later, after many months of whimpering, I got permission to buy a road bike. This is one of the most profound things to happen in my adult life. The next two years we went to watch; Yorkshire, London and Paris.

I accept I am not one of the old school fans that have been standing on wet roadsides in France since 1971. (although I’m highly suspicious of the sudden growth of that gang). Instead I embrace the role of the recently converted, lycra-loving, middle-aged cyclist. And I wonder what I will think of the tour when Froomey isn’t in it – I know I was less interested once Nibali took over in 2014. But I also think that being a cyclist doesn’t mean you have to be a cycle racing fan. Much of the time I just ride my bike.

I genuinely do now prefer the Vuelta as a race to watch, although this year was the first year I’ve really watched the Giro (thanks Quest), and I loved it. Nevertheless, Le Tour is on another scale, and I love it all. Yes, we know it is ‘the biggest annual sporting event in the world’, but it is a curious thing, a monumental event, without links to world championships (so boring) or Olympics, yet bigger than all those things added together. It is not something that logic does very well to judge. It is an emotional relationship; one that being fairly new to, makes it, if not stronger, then certainly more vocal.  In the way that ex-smokers are the most vociferously anti-smoking, as a new convert I am loud, passionate, often misinformed and gobby about it. Roll on Paris!

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