In many facets of life, beer has a lot to answer for. For me personally, an over-indulgence in the amber nectar has accounted for most of my long-distance escapades. Mind, you’d be forgiven for thinking that once ‘signed-up’ a life of sober abstinence and training then takes over in attempt to get through the task in some semblance of reasonable shape. And of course you’d be wrong.
Ben Stokes, the bad boy of English cricket is not an idiot. Ben Stokes, the man’s man of willow & leather is not a have-a-go hero. Ben Stokes, the hard-living embodiment of Beefy Botham is a thug and a criminal. With a rap-sheet that includes spending a night in the cells, a six-month driving ban and a formal on-the-record caution for obstructing the police, slugger Stokes went one better in the damning video of last week’s street brawl and was rightly arrested on the suspicion of causing actual bodily harm.
I realise an early morning rant probably isn’t the best way to start your day but has there ever been a less likeable blonde hottie than Maria Sharapova? Following her recent dismissive remarks regarding her fellow players who dared consider her to be any less white than the knickers she so fabulously flaunts, I read an interview with her and have to say she’s probably the most deluded, ugly sportsperson I’ve ever come across. Why, she even makes the bully of the peloton and king of all dopers, Lance Armstrong, appear a thoroughly well-balanced, easy-going chap who you’d love to have a cold-one with. As it transpires, the only cold-one Maria would give you would be a cold-shoulder.
Yes, we love and idolise our sporting heroes but for every whiter-than-white Jessica Ennis Hill and holier than thou Chris Hoy, there’s a bad-boy waiting in the wings for us to silently root for. I’m thinking of the likes of original madman Ty Cobb who hated everyone and spared not even his own teammates the pointy-ends of his sharpened spikes; of Iron Mike Tyson who prior to his rebirth as a loveable and funny-ish former athlete had the completely justified reputation as the ‘Baddest Man on the Planet’ both inside and outside the ring; Let’s not forget figure skater, Tonya Harding, who put the hit out on Nancy Kerrigan before the 1994 US Championships: Or our very own Sir Wiggo of Bradley now forever TUE-tainted.
T’other day, whilst out on a cycle ride, I was fortunate enough to see three buzzards angrily protecting their territory from one another. What they didn’t know was that a much larger Red Kite was about a hundred feet above them, ready to take on the victor! The reason I mention this is that usually when out with the boys I see nothing but someone’s lycra-clad a*se and their rear wheel. More often than not these are testosterone fuelled, scalp-searching, lung-busting endeavours where distance, ascent and pace all play an equal part, with the holy grail being a three hour, twenty-average, hilly sixty miler.
ust occasionally the planets align and circumstances conspire for opportunities to be presented. The Grand Tour (no, nothing to do with clapped-out Clarkson and his posh-boy pals) proved to be just such a case. For many years I’ve followed the Tour de France and when I noted it was passing directly through one of my favourite regions, specifically via several of my favourite towns, it was an opportunity too good to pass up. The plan, as such, was to load up the bike and cycle 500 miles in five days, ride Stage 10 (Perigeux to Bergerac) on the (real) Tour’s rest day, watch the pros do it properly the following day, and spend a while recovering round the pool.
Many of us are soon to be engulfed in the fun, frivolity and general all-round hysteria that accompanies July’s Tour de France. It is to cyclists what SW19 is to tennis. What lends the Tour its global appeal isn’t just the terrific exploits of endurance but the shenanigans, skulduggery and subterfuge, that have always been part & parcel of the race, and have helped cement its super-human reputation. I stand by the fact that, along with Italy’s own version (Giro), it remains the world’s toughest professional escapade.
Having run a couple of marathons in my time I was delighted to see a new world record of just two hours twenty-five seconds was recently set by reigning Olympic champion, Eliud Kipchoge. And, by shaving almost three minutes off the current record, he did it by the proverbial country mile, literally and metaphorically! Just imagine how he felt when realising it ain’t going to make the record book, not now, not ever.
A belated New Year’s resolution is that I’m going to swim more often. Rightly, or more likely wrongly, I do think my best swimming remains ahead of me, whereas my other sporting endeavours are most definitely behind. So, it’s with some trepidation I read that swimmers worst fears are justified: lots of people do pee in the pool. Canadian scientists have designed a simple procedure that analyses the concentration of ‘Ace K’, an artificial sweetener used in virtually all processed foods, that passes through the body completely unaltered. Putting it to the test in over thirty public pools they unsurprisingly found the compound in abundance in every single one.
Apart from his inability to ever witness any misdemeanour committed by his players and even though he masterminded our exit from this year’s FA Cup competition, I’ve always thought Arsene Wenger a decent enough gentleman. Measured, loyal, intelligent and diligent, he’s obviously done a sterling job for Arsenal but it’s time for him to bow-out with grace and dignity. Crashing-out of the Champions League last week 10-2 on aggregate against Bayern Munich was a shocker and surely signals the end for the manager.