Posts Tagged ‘Cav’

The tifosi at the World Championships

October 4, 2013

toscana 2013 finishing gate at road race

Me and Jen are in the seating area by the finish of the World Championship road race, surrounded by hundreds of bellowing Italians. It’s the final lap of the 16.6km circuit, and they are chanting one name: “VIN-CEN-ZO! VIN-CEN-ZO!” Determined Nibali, with the hopes of the host nation resting upon him, has refused to allow Joaquim Rodriguez to escape on the descent of the Fiesole. Earlier, there were long, deep groans followed by much emphatic gesturing towards the video screens when the Giro d’Italia champion slipped on the tarmac, as if the rain’s treachery had caused a deep, personal offence to each and every one of the tifosi here in Florence. “If Nibali wins,” Jen says, stifling a laugh at the very un-British outpouring of emotion, “we’re going to have to run for cover.” I get the feeling we may have to do the same even if he doesn’t…

Such passion is a contrast to four days earlier when polite applause greeted the competitors as they turned into the corner of the time trial circuit that took them north away from the bank of the Arno. Marco Pinotti got a big cheer, as did podium boys Cancellara, Wiggins and Martin, but that was about it. A bewildered Japanese lady got Jen to explain to her how a time trial works after enquiring in broken English if the event was “a European match”; a British woman who had probably wandered down the road from the Uffizi asked two men if they could move out of the way so she could take a picture (the tabards should have been a giveaway: they were press photographers, dear). It’s fair to say these were not big cycling fans.

But seated here at the incongruously named Nelson Mandela forum, it’s clear we are among those who know their Fabians from their Nairos. When Mark Cavendish slows down at the 150m sign moments before becoming one of the 146 riders to abandon, the Italian crowd instantly give the former world champ a rapturous round of applause; some even stand up for him. (A side note on Cav: I would love to know what an annoyed-looking Geraint Thomas said to the Manxman around half an hour into the race as Great Britain needlessly wasted their energy leading the peloton on the 100km-run to the finishing circuit.) One fan who gets to his feet is a testy blond fella in the front row who is not at all pleased that some of those in the crowd from the seats behind him are now politely jostling for space by the barrier. At one point he has a loud argument with one of the attendants. I’d like to tell him he should cool it: he’s in the one sheltered area of the circuit, unlike the poor wet sods on the other side of the road who have to endure diluvial conditions for hours. But I don’t speak Italian, and he’s got a Vinokourov-like pugnacity about him, so I don’t.

The haves and the have-nots: we have a roof, these poor drenched souls do not.

The haves and the have-nots: we have a roof, these poor drenched souls do not.

Each time the race rushes towards us, I experience a measure of what it must have been like when the first cinema audiences saw the Lumiere brothers’ locomotive seemingly burst out of the screen. One second they are televisual images, the next they are right in front of us, like Morten Harket stepping out of his rectangular, one-dimensional prison into the real world. By the time poor Purito becomes flesh and blood for the last time, it’s clear he is about to lose. The Italians yell and cheer, but they’ve stopped banging on the barriers. There’s a sullen silence moments after Rui Costa raises his arms in victory and then everyone begins to shuffle off, except for the Italian Vinokourov. He’s staring into the distance, making a quintessentially Italian hand gesture: thumb, index finger and middle finger pinched together, tapping the side of his head. The azzuri: what were they thinking? Minutes later, as Jen and I trudge with the crowd under the finishing gate, I want to know what the tifosi are thinking too.

The DYNAMITE! Five: The week in cycling, remixed. Issue #8

June 10, 2011

5 DOWN The Dragon Ride
A mood of high dudgeon pervaded the sportive community this week after many Dragon Ride participants noticed they had been omitted from the official list of finishing times – and there was some surprise, to say the least, that the feed stations at Britain’s best-known mass-participation cycling event were handing out bags of crisps to carb-starved riders. Those aren’t the sort of cock-ups you want at the UK’s premier sportive, especially since it landed a big-name sponsor in the form of Wiggle and has been awarded “Golden Bike” status by the UCI for next year’s edition. But speaking as a former poster-boy for the Welsh hill-romp, this blog would like to put the criticisms and general moaning into some sort of perspective: responsibility for the timing chip problems – reportedly caused by mounting the race numbers too tightly – is ultimately down to the company contracted to provide the equipment, not the organisers, and the nutrition is certainly better than in 2007, when finishers were handed “gels” which actually turned out to be, er, sachets of lubricant. That experience really did leave a bad taste in the mouth. Quite literally.

4 DOWN Mark Cavendish
Being the wittiest tweeter in the peloton, Mark Cavendish naturally reacted with good humour after discovering on Tuesday that the water supply at his home in Tuscany had been mysteriously cut off. “Got squirrels living in my hair and mushrooms growing in my feet now,” he quipped, and later admitted he had used the lavatory before fully realising the consequences. That’s the sort of toilet-based humour this blog loves, but we can’t help thinking that there’s a more sinister side to Cav’s predicament. Because if you’ve seen Jean de Florette, you’ll know how they deal with outsiders in the more bucolic parts of the Continent: deprive them of water in the hope of driving them away. Somebody help the poor guy before it ends in tragedy!

3 UP Walker Savidge
It features two chaps thrusting their crotches while another seems delighted to be caught between them, so it’s no surprise that this snap of Taylor Phinney, Danny Summerhill and Walker Savidge has been bringing the LOLS this week following its appearance on yay cycling! and Cycleboredom. But the image is lifted above the usual level of homoerotic fratboy tomfoolery by the expression on Savidge’s face. Just look at him on the right: the quiet dignity, the stoical acceptance that the photo might resurface, say, three years after the event, but those who snigger at it will never, ever be able to take away his sense of self-worth. Or maybe he just didn’t realise where Phinney and Summerhill had their hands. Actually, it’s probably the latter, isn’t it?

2 DOWN Cycling websites
A Tour de France star jets in to Britain, sets a record in an area of the capital known to amateur cyclists throughout the UK, and not one cycling website which doesn’t have a print equivalent bothers to report it. Strange, but true. In fact, The DYNAMITE! Files’ site stats reveal that a few inquisitive souls googling for information about the intriguing event ended up here – so for them, here’s this week’s news about…

1 UP David Millar
You know how it is – your autobiography is about to be published, so your agenda includes a swanky book launch, a round of interviews, and mercilessly crushing the fragile egos of every competitive amateur cyclist in London, Surrey and beyond by doing the fastest-ever lap of Richmond Park on your very first visit. Damn you, David Millar! Setting off at 7:23am on Sunday as part of a clandestine time trial he had organised for his Velo Club Rocacorba buddies, the Commonwealth champ completed an anticlockwise circuit of the hallowed 6.7-mile loop in 13min 35secs, giving him an average speed of 29.595mph. And the BBC’s footage of the event, which was removed on Thursday after the Royal Parks complained, featured a post-ride interview with the great man wearing a natty beret. As they say, hat!