Stop calling the 2012 Tour de France ‘The Ashes’
As a cycling fan, no mixed sporting metaphor irks me more at the moment than calling this year’s Tour de France ‘The Ashes’. Anyone who uses it either understands practically nothing about our sport or is appealing to a mainstream audience.
Of course, this year’s tour has everything for an Australian mainstream audience; English Bradley Wiggins versus Australia’s Cadel Evans who just happens to be defending champion. There is also an Australian team to cheer on and as a result more support among media outlets whose names don’t start with SBS.
But let me explain why using this metaphor is wrong.
Firstly, Evans is surrounded by a multicultural team. Wiggins is too, including Australians Richie Porte and Rogers. Howzat?
Secondly, there are other strong contenders for the title this year: Canada’s Ryder Hesjedal, Russia’s Denis Menchov, Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali, and Netherlands’ Robert Gesink just to name a handful.
Thirdly, anything can happen in a Tour and while I pray nothing happens, Wiggins and Cadel could easily crash out of contention. This is no Blues versus Maroons game. The Tour for Sky and BMC would practically be over.
Ultimately however, this metaphor expresses minimal understanding of cycling culture and the cycling fan.
Don’t get me wrong, as an Australian, I’m patriotically proud to cheer on Cadel. I cried last year and each time I see footage of him rolling down the Time Trial start ramp the day before he rolled into Paris triumphantly.
I am also delighted to cheer on GreenEDGE as they scoop up victories on and off the road.
I also know many cycling fans who follow other sports and sweat Collingwood coloured blood or hate Chelsea. But when it comes to cycling, most of us don’t get too fiercely tribal. The Flemish cycling fan may tell a different story, however, on the whole we are one big global tribe, warts and all, with our own culture and our own language.
We may be living in Japan or Sydney, but we dream of drinking Belgium beer and eating frites and mayo, in Belgium. We speak a mixture of French and Italian cycling words and have started to ‘speaket’ Fabianese.
Our spiritual cycling home is the narrow lanes of northern France, or the forest of Arenberg, or the high mountain peaks of France and Italy.
It does not delight me when Wiggins loses a team mate or to see him isolated in the chaos of the final 10 kilometres of a sprint stage.
Neither am I delighted to see Australian Matthew Goss lose, but I grin from ear to ear when I see Cavendish cross the line.
I cheer on GreenEDGE rider Matthew Albasini, but jump off the couch and fist pump the air when Slovakian ex bricklayer Forrest Gumps it over the line. (I even secretly cheered on Andy Schleck when he broke away on Stage 18 last year, but shhh, don’t tell anyone).
My name’s Rachel, and I’m an Australian cycle-holic. To whoever crosses the line in Paris wearing the yellow jersey in a few weeks, I will yell chapeau. And probably cry.
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