Recently, for Cycling Weekly's review of the year, I was asked to think about the odder moments of my year on the road covering racing.
There was the time my phone broke while I was interviewing Mike Teunissen at Paris-Nice, meaning I had to drive to the top of the Col de Turini without a phone, and then had to rush back to Nice to buy a French phone that evening. There was the moment it snowed in Ghent ahead of the Tour of Flanders, putting the whole event into doubt. There was the day I spent in a team car at the Tour of Britain, which involved a crash and an encounter with sheep.
The strangest thing that happened to me this year happened on the second rest day at the Tour de France, however, when I played cricket in Carcassonne.
Carcassonne is famous for many things. Its faux-Medieval citadel, cassoulet, the Cathars, and the tile-based board game come to mind immediately. One thing it is not known as is a bastion of is cricket.
Come to think of it, nowhere in France really is, not since they finished second to Britain at the 1900 Olympics anyway (let's not get into the particular weirdness of this match, please).
This might be why I stood out, striding around the Occitanian city with a cricket bat which had been purchased at a Sports Direct in Bristol and travelled around Denmark, France, Belgium and Switzerland for 15 stages for this moment, a rest day cricket match on a petanque pitch next to the Aude.
The Tour de France can be an all encompassing thing, and so to take a step back, do something different, and puzzle some Frenchman by playing a back garden version of the greatest sport in the world - sorry to cycling - as the evening drew in on Monday night in Carcassonne. The most confused people appeared to be the Cofidis team, who had the pleasure of staying right next to the madness.
Some cursory research by myself and my Cycling Weekly colleague Chris Marshall-Bell had established that there were some fellow cricket fans on the staff of EF Education-EasyPost.
Up stepped their English DSes Tom Southam and Charlie Wegelius, along with South African mechanic JJ, to face a motley crew consisting of CW and CyclingTips journalists, along with Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl’s press officer, Phil Lowe. JJ, Southam and Lowe all impressed, as did Marshall-Bell, but it wasn’t really about the half-noted score. It was a moment of release in the heat of the biggest bike race in the world, and a chance to bamboozle the people of Carcassonne.
Cricket in Clermont-Ferrand next year, anyone?
Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1