Bonjour Tash Appreciators,
On telly-boxes, interwebs and newspapers around the UK, people are hearing the name Bradley Wiggins and about his exploits in the Tour de France. Of course, Tash Appreciators were alerted to the chances of him winning the Tour some weeks ago and this is everyone else trying to catch up.
Unfortunately, even after learning his name, they are still behind the times. As soon as Wiggins was given a shiny new jersey on the podium atop la Planche des Belles Filles, after ferocious 750 metres of “wall” with a 20% incline, the Tour ceased to call him Monsieur Wiggins. He then became le Maillot Jaune (the yellow jersey).
To understand the Tour you need to understand le Maillot Jaune.
In cycling, the jersey is everything. Unlike football or rugby fans, who wear the colours of their favourite team, if you see amateur cyclists out on their bikes I can almost guarantee that they won’t be wearing yellow. The reason for this is that they know the yellow jersey has to be earned and cycling fans know what goes into getting the chance to wear it.
Being le Maillot Jaune is similar to winning an Olympic gold or the world cup. It is the highlight of any cyclist’s career to wear the jersey and, during the stage(s) where they have the honour to wear it, they push their body to the absolute limit in the hope of defending it.
Last year, a Frenchman called Thomas Voeckler went through sheer agony for 10 days to keep the jersey even though he knew he could never keep it all the way to Paris. His efforts during the penultimate stage of his time leading the Tour will go down as one of those legendary shows of determination that often happen when a rider is chasing/defending yellow:
He climbed the Col du Galibier, a proper mountain which happens to have a road to the summit, like a man possessed and, in a way, he was. All the greatest cyclists have worn the yellow jersey and you’ll often see cyclists exceeding themselves while wearing it as if they are channeling the strength of past champions.
Bradley Wiggins’ team mates know exactly how difficult it is to win the Tour and most of them know that they do not have what it takes to stand on the Champs Elysées wearing it themselves. They also know that if they can’t win it themselves then the next best thing is to be on a team which works for someone who can. Because the Tour cannot now be won without the help of a team, the team mates of the winner enjoy a degree of reflected glory (see Chris Froome this year).
After the stunning combined effort of Sky yesterday in getting him to the summit of La Tourssuire, Wiggins could not be better placed going into the final week. I don’t think the UK has enjoyed such a glorious ride round France since the “Tour” of summer 1944 when they, along with Charles de Gaulle et al., taught the traitorous Petain and his fascist allies a lesson by coming ashore with the Free French Forces and the might of the free world. Naturally, General de Gaulle rocked a Tash throughout:
I’ll end this week by wishing le Maillot Jaune bon chance for the remainder of the Tour and advise you that chanting “ALLEZ ALLEZ ALLEZ UP UP UP” whenever you see a Sky rider on telly is now compulsory for all Tash Appreciators. Wearing stupid costumes, waving flags/tridents and running or jumping up hills while chanting it is optional but very much encouraged.