Sport on TV: Mark Cavendish's driven round bend but it's all downhill from here
Sunday 07 July 2013
The 100th edition of the Tour de France gives the opportunity for plenty of flashbacks and, perhaps unusually for these pedallers, no drugs are involved. On ITV's highlights package Le Tour de France 100 (ITV4, Wednesday) we were told that a century ago, a certain Hippolyte Aucouturier won the second stage in Marseilles in 14 hours, 28 minutes and 53 seconds. A bit slow? To be fair it was 374km long. There probably wasn't a sprint finish.
The race has, of course, undergone plenty of revolutions over the years and ITV are showcasing this summer's latest French fashions by shoving Ned Boulting into a wind tunnel. Chris Boardman made him wear the latest skin suits with "turbulence-inducing creases – inducing the effect that golfers with their dimpled balls have known about for ages". It all looks tight and sounds painful but that must be what it's like being a model and anyway the sport does seem to have a masochistic streak.
The suit shaves six and a half minutes off Boulting's time and he could probably draw some admiring glances if he were to wear it down the beach this summer – not least because he shaved his legs as well as his time.
The agony of the race is always gorgeously counterbalanced by the ecstasy of the picturesque French countryside and as the Tour progressed through the South of France there was plenty of bare flesh on view. As the helicopter flew over the beach at La Baie de Cassis, Phil Liggett said, almost as breathlessly as the cyclists: "And it looks like lots of people are enjoying themselves down there."
After all the sprints last week Mark Cavendish will be looking forward to "having a little bit of a rest through the mountains" as the race entered the Pyrenees yesterday. After his victory in Marseilles on Wednesday, he rather ignominiously crashed on the way into Montpellier and ended up next "bunny-hopping" over curbs and roundabouts in a bid to catch up.
The crash left him fuming and back among all the cars and motorbikes of the Tour caravan and, as Liggett said, "it's so dangerous back there, you can't believe how dangerous it is, the drivers of the cars need eyes in the back of their heads". Anyone who has ventured over the Channel to take on the French roads in midsummer will know exactly how the Cavman felt.
When the riders choose to go the wrong way around the roundabouts it could be any one of us emerging from the Eurotunnel terminal into the streets of Calais.
So Cav missed out on his 25th stage win, which would have put him third in the all-time list. "Cavendish is singlehandedly keeping the world's cycling archive afloat and providing us with a whole raft of graphics with which to assault you to underline the magnitude of the career we're watching unfold," the verbose Gary Imlach said before the Manxman had his little accident. Frankly it was touch-and-go if the Tour would finish before the sentence.
But the day before in Marseilles, Imlach was rather less inclined to sing Cav's praises after his stage win. "Is there anything more to say about him or shall we go straight to the competition?" he asked. It was only day five and already Imlach is flagging. Sometimes you get the impression that the commentators find it harder work than the riders. We all know it's really just a three-week holiday in the sun.
Next up in ITV4's growing range of sports coverage was the Darts European Championships, with Matt Smith exclaiming: "The tungsten travellers disgorge in Mannheim!" Even the late, great Sid Waddell might have struggled to generate such enthusiasm. Smith must be really looking forward to the start of the football season.
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