Pageantry among the puddings
Sunday 18 June 1995
Some friendly but forthright officials told us where to put our car and we settled in the dinky little grandstand to take in the scene. The organisers had chosen an exceedingly picturesque spot for the Start/Finish straight. The riders lined up beneath the towering ramparts of Rochester Castle, on the Esplanade that runs along the bank of the River Medway.
The line-up was mighty impressive: some of the longest and silliest team names in British sport were represented. Among the 66 starters were Rob Hayles of Computer Personnel-Futurama-Sports-Tours-International, and Glenn Longland of Radford Accountants-Sirius-Impsport-Reynolds, preparing for battle with the tough Ambrosia Desserts foursome and Chris Lillywhite of Karrimor International- Mongoose. We felt sorry for the commentator.
A quick burst of Carmina Burana (you know, the Old Spice music), and the Right Worshipful the Mayor of Rochester on Medway, a jovial figure with an optimistic hairstyle, stepped up with a Union Jack to start the riders off. Only he was caught unawares by the starting cannon, jumped a foot in the air and just remembered to wave his flag when the midfield was filing past.
The multi-coloured field, looking like a swarm of demented jellybeans, zoomed down to the first corner, a narrow hairpin. With much squealing of brakes and a fair bit of "After you" "No, after you", they got around it and set off up the steep hill towards the Castle for the first time, with an hour of racing ahead of them. The soundtrack blared "Run away, run away if you want to survive." We stayed put, declining the free rice puddings being touted by the Ambrosia girls, and the blandishments of the five-foot pink fluffy Duracell rabbit.
Our only gripe with the Rochester Grand Prix concerned the stuff coming over the loudspeakers. Disco music, the William Tell overture, air raid sirens and a commentator who said "Believe me" so often that we started not to. He also did the sponsors' plugs, going in for rhetorical questions in a big way. "Have you tasted one? You should. Ambrosia Desserts." "Read all about it. I do. Where do I read it? Cycling News." The best was: "Canon. For all that photocopying. If you want some of that, go to Canon."
Meanwhile the cyclists whistled past, reeling off the laps. "Believe me," the commentator said, "this is chess on wheels." That would have been impressive. Adrian Timmis, riding for the almost-sensibly-named Team Orange, broke away from the field and established a 20-second lead, cheered on by the crowd on the ramparts.
There was a nasty smash at the hairpin: one of the riders leant over a little too far for the corner and in an instant brought down five others with much pinging of spokes and scraping of knees. But they were all soon up and off again.
Timmis hung on to win by five seconds, to tumultuous acclaim. As "Fanfare For The Common Man" played over the speakers, Timmis, Chris Walker and Mark Walsham climbed on to the grand prix-style podium and sprayed champagne- style wine over the photographers. Then Tina Turner started singing "Simply the Best", and we left.
There's no doubt that the Rochester Grand Prix had all the trappings of a top-flight sporting event: it was well organised and well attended, the racing was close and Tina Turner was played. But somehow it was difficult to take the whole thing seriously. It might have been the yoking of "Rochester" and "Grand Prix". It might have been the cries of the rice pudding vendors. On reflection, though, the finger of guilt points to the giant pink fluffy rabbit.
WHEN Neil Warnock quit as manager of First Division Huddersfield Town recently, Adam Farmer was one of the first applicants for the job. "Can I please be manager of Huddersfield Town?" he wrote to the club. "I think I can do it." He has not been successful. Alan Sykes, the club secretary, said: "I am sure he will understand we are looking for someone with a little more experience." Adam is five years old.
A FREUDIAN slip from Sara Andrew, Mrs Rob, in a Daily Mail interview last week: "I'm not going to start buying designer clothes. There just isn't that sort of money in rugby league."
Latest in Sport
Phil Neville and his fellow Match of the Day pundits given warning by the BBC after 'smash them' comment
Manchester United transfer news and rumours: David De Gea could leave for FREE; £38m for Marquinhos; £37m bid for Mats Hummels;
Transfer news LIVE: Manchester United to make £37m Mats Hummels bid; Inter plan Yaya Toure move; Shola Ameobi joins Crystal Palace
Gabriel Paulista: Talented Brazilian could grow into world-class defender at Arsenal
Liverpool transfer news and rumours: Mario Balotelli's agent speaks as Brendan Rodgers swoops for German duo
- 3 Russian girl takes her own life after parents find pornography on her computer
- 4 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 5 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...
£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...
£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...
£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...