One of the distinctive characteristics of cycling fans is their idiosyncratic appreciation of other sports.
This normally takes the form of, ‘Oi, mate, call that a sport? That’s not a sport…’ and so on. A sport can fail to be a sport because a) it’s posh, b) it’s common, c) it’s too soft (well, strictly speaking all other sports are too soft, but some are really taking the piss, like rugby league), d) it in any respect fails to involve a bicycle for the entire event. (The last four words had to be added after the invention of triathlon.)
We should not be so narrow-minded. Other sports have much to offer us. Just for a kick off, take gymnastics. In gymnastics they don’t fanny about with ‘double twisting, yak, yak, yak’, they give certain manoeuvres names. The Tsukahara, for example, which summarises a vault using a handspring with a quarter or half turn onto the whadda-ya-call-it. You see how much simpler their way is? I suggest we adopt the practice.
So, instead of, ‘looking over right shoulder when heading into an innocuous turn with just a few kilometres of the Olympic road race to go having played a tactical blinder and set yourself up beautifully for the win so you crash like a muppet, wrecking all hope in both that race and the time trial and letting bloody Vinokourov win’, we can simply say, ‘the Cancellara’.
And ‘Puncturing in the final TT of the Tour, taking a very slow wheel change, getting going again, unshipping the chain, stopping, taking another wheel change, putting the chain back on, wiping your hands on the grass, taking a spare bike, changing your mind about the spare bike, taking another wheel change, cursing the manager, and grumpily cycling off’ will be simply ‘the Riis’. (Search for “Bjarne Riis Stage 20” on Youtube if you haven’t seen this routine. It’s just hilarious. There is another ‘Riis’ manoeuvre, but for legal reasons I think I’ll steer clear of it.)
Other sports have other things we can use. For instance, both rowing and swimming suggest an almost limitless enthusiasm at the IOC for giving medals to events that consist of several competitors proceeding very slowly in straight, parallel lines. I suggest straight-line 4000m racing on a similar format.
To keep it slow, we’ll put bikes on sets of rollers mounted on their own wheels, designed with gearing so they trundle along at about one thousandth of the rider’s actual pedaling speed. Thus we’ll be able to do the whole shooting match in 4 metres, or on top of a generously-sized coffee table, obviating at a stroke the need for an expensive velodrome. The rollers will be designed to make sure Philip Hindes can still fall off.
(From rowing, incidentally, we might also note the cyclists in the background, none of whom are a) Bradley Wiggins, or b) even trying, keeping pace with the sport’s finest athletes. If that isn’t evidence for the natural superiority of cycling I don’t know what is.)
From diving, we might take the knowledge that even if people know nothing whatsoever about a sport, they do like it to finish with a big splash. So I propose putting the aforementioned coffee table on the edge of the diving pool. Winner of the 4m individual pursuit is the first one to hit the water. Deductions, naturally, if they make a big splash, which ought to work as a sort of handicapping system against Sir Chris Hoy.
In next week’s column we will investigate the possibilities offered by combining cycling with other sports – something which ought to go down well with the people who brought you the Omnium – starting with a combination of cycling and pole-vaulting This ought to fit in nicely with the IOC’s stated aim of reducing athlete numbers.
Great Inventions of Cycling – 2012
The Olympic Stage Race
OK, I invented this myself, and only last week, and it doesn’t actually exist at all. But it’s a great idea, even if I say so myself, and I thought I ought to get the ball rolling.
Taking my inspiration from Olympic sailing, which goes on, and on, and on, and on, and means that sport gets an amount of coverage that’s entirely disproportionate to both it’s normal public support and it’s watchability (I love sailing, but it’s terrible, terrible television), I propose a grand Olympic stage race.
To last for the duration of the Olympics, it could take a little of the Games on a tour of the host country, perhaps accompanied by a travelling flame, and an Olympic-themed caravan.
No King of the Mountains, no sprints competition, no medals for stage wins, just an overall general classification for Gold, Silver and Bronze. Probably best to leave out the time trials as well. Add to the mix small teams, like the road race, the one-off nature of the event and a probably unfamiliar parcours, and I reckon we’d get great, open racing, suicidal breaks, and unpredictable finishes.
The only downside I can see is it’s going to be hard to have an Olympic time trial with the same riders, unless we had it in the middle somewhere on a non-GC counting ‘rest’ day – which might even shake up the tactics a bit, by seeing who races it hard and who noodles round.
I’m quite serious about this. When it happens, and it will, I want the credit.
Acts of Cycling Stupidity
Wednesday last, at Hampton Court, we had a sort of a time trial do. 300,000 people came along, as is normal with British TTs now, and most of the world’s media. Sky News were camped on a verge outside a house, complete with satellite truck, presenters, cameras, microphones on big sticks, and all the accoutrements of the modern high definition broadcaster.
Out of the house emerged a middle-aged woman, who assessed the milling crowds, the banners, the helicopters, and the Sky crew. She marched over, and said, ‘Have you come to cover the planning application?’