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.
In a mo, I’m off to play a squash match. Something I do several times a week. I’ll dig out some old kit, check my racquets & grips, fill my water bottle with a strange home-made concoction of orange, Ribena & salt and hop on my trusty two-wheeled steed. Unfortunately, my well-practiced pre-match preparation won’t leave any time for stretching and the post-match warm-down will involve pride only. London Pride. Tonight’s opponent is Saffer-Kyle and it should be a good match: he’s way younger than me, fitter and, following promotion last month, is playing at his highest-ever level. One of us is on the rise and it isn’t the ginga midget.
Two bitterly opposed combatants. Their rivalry played out in front of a huge television audience. An outcome too close to call. Both wealthy beyond the imagination of their followers. Winning is all that matters. One cool, calm & collected. The other rattled, emotional and shooting from the hip. One claiming the system is rigged against him and that even his own team are sabotaging his campaign. The other silently taking the moral high-ground. The underdog, snubbing one press conference after another and resorting to social media to make his ‘disrespected’ point. Perhaps the elderly Bernie holds the key?
In answer to the TUE (Therapeutic Use Exemptions) revelations of the last couple of weeks, Sir Bradley deemed to give journalist pal, William Fothergill, an ‘access-all-areas’ interview in this weekend’s Guardian. By all means do have a read if you’re interested on finding out more concerning the grey areas of drug use professional teams operate within, but I suspect, like me, you’ll be left a tad nonplussed by his range of reasons and excuses.