Sunday, 24 July 2011

Waltzing Matilda

It's an Australian winning the Tour de France for the first time ever. Just got off the telly watching the final stage of one of the most gripping of races for many a year. On a bright sunny day in Paris, against the wonderful backdrop of the Champs-Élysées, the sight of Cadel Evans winning the Tour de France was a moment to savour.

Apologies to the readers who are not sports fans, for the second consecutive sporting post. But this was a special race and a special result that I simply can't resist posting about. The Tour de France is the world's premier cycling race. Has been so for 100 years. It is run over 3400 kms and in 22 days. One of the greatest endurance events in the world. On flat stages, cyclists clock average speeds of 50 kmph. Steep climbs have to be negotiated and on the descent, crazy speeds of 90 kmph are reached. The majesty of the towering mountains of the Alps and the Pyrenees provide the backdrop. As does the beautiful French countryside. And some gripping sporting action.

Alas, for the last few years, cycling as a sport has been hit by massive doping. Almost every rider seemed to be doping and many a big name got caught and banned. The sport seemed virtually doomed. But this year, the Tour de France was almost dope free - only one rider got thrown out. Speeds came down and it was an open open race. Any one of 6 or 7 could have won it , virtually until the penultimate day. Extremely competitive it was and every day had a plot with the outcome  not certain till Saturday's penultimate stage. Stirring stuff.

The sport seems to be dominated by Europeans. A few Latin Americans are seen. No African or Asian even rides the race. The Amercians have a peculiar situation - not many ride the race, but two great winners in the past - Greg LeMond, and the sainted Lance Armstrong, have been peerless and flown the flag for America. But the Spaniards, the Belgians, the French, the Italians, the Germans and the Dutch are seen all over the race.

But today , it was a day for Australia. Cadel Evans, almost the only Australian cyclist of note, won the Tour at last. He had finished second twice before. He is 34 and old in the sport. His time seemed to have past. But not this time.  He was very brave in Alps and his performance on Thursday and Friday was majestic. But he still wasn't in the lead going into Saturday's time trial. How he blew them away and won it with a supreme effort, will be the story of this year's Tour.

Australia may not go mad tonight, but overjoyed it surely will be. Its a great sporting nation, full of heroes. But even in that elite company, the achievement of Cadel Evans is something special. Australia is not a powerhouse in this sport and by sheer grit and dedication, and after so many disappointments, Cadel stands on top of the world on one of sport's greatest theaters.

Can I hear the strains of Waltzing Matilda in the background ?

14 comments:

zeno said...

was expecting a Murdoch from you :)
not that i am complaining while am enlightened :)this again reinforces my faith my request yu shld consider being a columnist

Anonymous said...

aussie, aussie aussie.....ouw, ouw ouw !!!!!!!!!

Trevor

RamMmm said...

Tour de France for me, was Lance Armstrong pedaling his way to glory (furthered by a soft corner for him as one who cycled over cancer), the mountain climbs, the jerseys and the TV cameras that go along with the riders. You caught all the excitement including the picture perfect scenery there in your post. :-) Good that there aren't much of doping allegations this time.

Ravi Rajagopalan said...

It should be Cycling Matilda...

Ramesh said...

@zeno - Awww. Thank you. The Murdoch affair stinks awfully. The worst thing about the UK is the British press and Murdoch is singularly respnsible for the depths it has descended to.

@Trevor - Go Aussies !

@RamMmm - Oh yes the days of Lance Armstrong ruling supreme were wonderful. Unfortunately that era will forever be tainted by the extent of doping scandals. Thankfully, this year a fresher Tour de France seems to have emerged.

@Ravi - Indeed it should have been !

Deepa said...

All I knew about cycling was Lance Armstrong. Thanks for the post. A refresher amidst the cricket mania!

Vishal said...

There is something unique about this blog. The writer keeps on writing about topics which are out of the world - again and again! nd I as a reader keep on wowwing, Awowwing and wowwing! Worth reading, Ramesh! For me also, cycling was all about Lance Armstrong.

Ramesh said...

@Deepa - Yes Lance brought glamour and glory to the sport. But every year, its a gripping sporting event, even after he's retired.

@Vishal - Try watching it next year. Its usually telecast live in India. It can be a gripping spectacle.

raghavendra kotla said...

I know about 9.58 seconds sporting event, but this is 22 days event :-) Even though I heard of Tour de France before, today I read the full page on wiki. This sport really requires strength and Perseverance. Thanks for the post.

Ramesh said...

@Kotla - Yes its a little longer than the 100m dash, but could be every bit as interesting. Maybe you'll watch the Tour next year.

Sandhya Sriram said...

I checked some 5 times and then @ 9,00 PM on Sunday evening closed my PC disappointed that it is one of those really busy days for Ramesh and no posts and look at this...

another beautiful post on sports but Beyond the lord of injuries, more refreshing and as Vishal said, We only keep wowing and wowing.

the icing on the cake is the song... i am hearing it for the first time and i really really loved it.

Thank you Ramesh for blessing us with these pearls from your ocean, Pearls of wisdom, pearls of humour, pearls of knowledge, pearls of entertainment, pearls of everything...

Ramesh said...

@Sandhya - Sorry; it was a late late post. Just didn't get the enthu early enough. Glad you liked the song - its the unofficial anthem of Australia - somewhat like our Vande Mataram.

hemarao said...

Couldn't agree more to all the comments!
Its very interesting to get to know/hear things one would have never bothered about otherwise.
Now watch out what you write, Sire, there are some people building their GK around your posts. Thanks :)

Ramesh said...

@hema - Oh no - such useless trivia are of no use to building GK :)

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