What’s happened to sportsmanship?
Sportsmanship is one of the values we hold most sacred in any code of sporting endeavour and at the Tour de France this code and its values have been put to the test.
In a disappointing turn of events Richie Porte and Michael Rogers have faced booing from Australian cycling fans on the roads around France. This sort of behaviour has been rightfully deplored by many fellow Aussies involved in cycling, including commentators Mike Tomalaris and Rupert Guinness and on the Orica GreenEDGE website by Matthew White.
As cycling increases in popularity and more fans new to the sport begin to understand the tactics used by the teams and the peloton, we can hope that this sort of ‘misunderstanding’ of rider allegiances sorts itself out in the eyes of those Aussie fans who have misplaced their code of good sportsmanship.
That seems to be the argument put forward by some, however, ignorance is not bliss and therefore should not be allowed to excuse this behaviour.
Yes, Australians are keen to see Cadel Evans win the Tour again and his exciting riding feats over the past five or so years, especially, have introduced many Australians to a sport that was once so foreign to them.
Interestingly, though, other Aussie riders such as Adam Hansen riding for Lotto- Belisol or Jonathan Cantwell riding for Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank have not reported such poor behaviour. This may well be due to them not being as recognisable (to, dare I say it, ignorant Aussie fans) or it may be because their role in this edition is not to help another rider win the yellow jersey.
Either way, the ignorance argument is not acceptable to fans of any sport.
It makes perfect sense that Richie Porte and Michael Rogers are doing what they are paid to do and that is to see Bradley Wiggins finish the tour in yellow. It does not take an expert in cycling to figure this out.
On the other hand, what has been wonderful to see this week is the sportsmanship displayed by Bradley Wiggins when he waited for Cadel Evans who suffered multiple punctures after tacks were placed on the road during stage 14. I wonder what the Aussie fans who had been booing Richie Porte and Michael Rogers think of this act of sportsmanship?
One thing Australians pride themselves on is their commitment to sportsmanship and fairness in sport. This is evident in our football codes, with the highest individual accolade in Australian Rules football being the Brownlow Medal, awarded annually to the best and fairest.
We are also extremely lucky and proud to follow a code of football where fans are not segregated. One of the great joys of Aussie Rules is attending games with friends who follow the opposing team. It is disappointing to think that this attitude to sport has not translated to cycling, but then again the ANZAC Day game between Essendon and Collingwood is not about patriotism.
We are all Australians and this is the attitude that needs translate onto the Tour de France.
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