Never before has a cycling article taken so long in coming through my fingertips and into the keyboard. I’ve never been so stumped as to just what to write.
Here we are, almost two weeks into the sport’s showcase event and I am struggling to find something to say.
I should amend that – it’s not that I have nothing to say but that, simply, I don’t know where to begin. Like a love-shorn teenager adrift on a broiling ocean of emotions, I am barely keeping my head above the surface.
The more I know about the professional level of this sport – and I say without affectation that it is not an insignificant knowledge that I possess – the less I want to know and the more I fear.
Watching the finale of yesterday’s stage in the local cycling café was not, for me, the celebration of the triumph of human sporting endeavour that it might have been years ago.
Rather, it was as though with each successive pedal stroke from the race leader I was, by increments of a steadily increasing force, getting the air kicked thoroughly from my system.
It was breathtaking and it left me utterly breathless.
At a table in front of me sat several bike industry people and, as Froome crossed the line, they cheered and clapped and hollered.
At my table sat several friends who have been riding and racing for years. It was all we could do to look at each other, unable to take in what we had just witnessed.
And we’d already been through that process three times with each attack.
It was, said Nicholas Roche of Saxo-Tinkoff, “Unbelievable.”
I looked again at the table in front with an envy that surprised me. They believed.
I’d experienced almost the exact same feeling of letting go not too long ago.
The void of feeling in my gut took me right back to the day I fell out of life-long love with Liverpool FC, after the managers and players came out in support of Luis Suarez after he had been found guilty of racially abusing Patrice Evra of Manchester United.
The same feeling of nausea. Of knowing that something was over and that it would not be the same again.
I realised, too, that it is not the fault of Froome, who, if we are to heed his own words and those of his management, is clean.
I could blame the riders who have gone before. I could wag a finger at the managers who facilitated the doping of years gone by, could rage against the UCI and its presidents, could castigate the race organisers who looked the other way for so long.
I could even blame society with all its attendant pressures and its confusing and contradictory array of signals and codes that besiege us bedraggled humans from all sides, assailing our moral positioning systems.
But right now I am more inclined to turn the dim glow of the yellowed lightbulb onto myself. It is just that I can no longer believe.
The problem resides in me. I lack the requisite faith to make any of what I see worthwhile. The signifiers elicit only one possible meaning, rage headlong to the same inevitable assumption. I want to believe but I cannot. I just can’t make it happen.
Something’s gone, it’s buried, and it ain’t coming back anytime soon.