Vuelta 2017 - Final Thoughts
By Dave Land, posted 12 September 2017
We are blown away by Froomey's brilliance. So are the children.
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Up to stage 11, it was untrammelled joy to watch Chris Froome at this year’s Vuelta. Stage 11 was a tough watch; the stage 16 time trail was out-loud cheering. The day after, out-loud swearing. After that it was back to joy, and a steady heart rate.
I've been watching some of it with my 10-year-old daughter, who spends most of her time asking why 'Froomey' is not at the front, or winning the stage. The delight with which she watched the final climb of stage 9 was something I should have filmed and sent to Team Sky's PR people.
I think this was mirrored by Froome's own joy in being in red. We know that this is the Vuelta, and so it's not Le Tour; with all that that implies. It feels like he unleashed himself, and basked in the joy of riding his bike, racing (and winning), without all the outside stress that the Tour brings. We might, in fact, say the same of Contador – he looked like he enjoyed himself for the first time in a while. Froomey’s ride was shaped with real ambition: to conquer the demons from 2011 and do something only done twice before, win the Tour and Vuelta in one season. And even then, it has never been done this way round – Tour followed by Vuelta.
Credit: Quino Al
Credit: Daniel Llorente, 2017
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But despite this year’s Vuelta delivering some great racing, it also allowed space for commentators to outline reasons to dislike Chris Froome (or more accurately, Team Sky). That’s fine. Sky does have a tactic to strangle, or control racing. It does impact on riders’ potential to be daring. But so, what? Cycling needs much better representation. The international sport and domestic riding to and from work suffers from the media being very contradictory. All sports deserve to be castigated or praised at one time or another. But no other sport is so closely tied to what is an every-day pastime. We might choose to wonder why some people even watch cycling; but given the current nature of global politics, we might instead revel in the joy of people racing bikes and its potential to inspire people of all ages and abilities to start riding their own bikes at weekends, down the shops or to work and school.
Luckily, if we're smart, none of the negativity needs to drip down to our children watching elite athletes on bikes do exciting things, either on the telly, or by the roadside. We can help them to remember that it is, after all, normal people just riding their bikes - fast.
Last weekend many of these budding enthusiasts watched Froomey hold out against the odds on what is to normal people an unfeasibly steep place to push a bike up a hill, let alone just ride the bike.