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Billy on the box: Welcome to the velodrome

By Billy Weir

Published 11/06/2015

Pregnant pause: Sky’s Orla Chennaoui grabs a quick word with Bradley Wiggins before fetching some clean towels and hot water just in case
Pregnant pause: Sky’s Orla Chennaoui grabs a quick word with Bradley Wiggins before fetching some clean towels and hot water just in case

It was shaping up to be a weekend to forget for some of Britain's golden boys from the Olympics but in just one hour (and a wee bit) all was put right with the world.

On Saturday it looked as if things were getting off to a promising start, Andy Murray levelling matters in the storm-delayed semi-final of the French Open with Novak Djokovic, but then fate intervened with an outbreak of foot in mouth disease.

It started with presenter John Inverdale, never knowingly not guilty of flying the flag (the Union Jack or Scottish Saltire depending on result) as he confidently proclaimed: "It is an extraordinary reversal of fortunes and clearly the force is with Murray at the moment."

In the commentary box, hopes also sprung eternal, Jim Courier asking Mark Petchey "okay Petch, who you got?" like two schoolkids exchanging Panini stickers in a playground.

"Impossible, an impossible question and they're not my forte, sit back, relax if you can and enjoy the mesmerising tennis of these two," he said, and we did, well, from one of them as in the blink of an eye Djokovic romped to victory and Britain's hero become that scunnerin' Scottish bloke again.

"You don't become World No.1 by throwing yourself a kiddie party when things don't go your way," added Petchey, while the World No. 3 was tucking into jelly and ice cream and watching a balloon modeller fashion shapes of Serena Williams.

"It was so close, but so far for Andy Murray," he concluded but for another golden boy it was a case of Mo Farah, not so good, with rumours of his coach's alleged wrongdoing casting a shadow on his achievements but surely his most damning secret is that he actually seems to enjoy Quorn.

I can't imagine it featured on the menu of real Eastender Bradley Wiggins long before he became a Sir but he was back on familiar, if somewhat changed, ground when he attempted to break the World Record for how far you can go on a pushbike in an hour.

The Olympic Velodrome is now the Lee Valley Velopark but was where Wiggins began his career when it was just a gravel track, with Sky there to cover every moment of the big day. Almost.

Of course, this being on Sky meant that it was going to take more than an hour, presenter Sarah-Jane Mee guiding us through much build-up before proclaiming "It's time for the talking to stop and the cycling to begin" only for some more talking thanks to some adverts.

When we came back a man was whizzing around a velodrome and a commentator was going ballistic.

"Bradley Wiggins is never late to a party, he's gone early. Welcome to a day of purity, pure focus, strength and determination to achieve the undiluted goal - go as fast as you can on a bike in 60 minutes from a standing start - pure and simple," said the breathless man on the microphone, who, when he finally took a breath, told us he was called Carlton Kirby.

He is better known for his stints on Eurosport where he enlivened many a dull stage of the Tour de France so no better man to keep us all awake while one man went round and round a track on his own.

And on it went. Nearing the end, Carlton was so far gone he'd begun to measure time in a peculiar fashion, blabbering "10 minutes to go, that's two Tom and Jerrys, nobody is laughing in here" as a large woman with a frying pan played swipe at Bradley.

"He's a greedy man when it comes to distance quite clearly and one hour is the length of this dinner and he's feasting himself on this velodrome," he added, but at least there was no Quorn.

In the end he managed 54.265km, or nearly 34 miles for those of us old enough to remember Tom and Jerry, and Carlton couldn't have been happier had Spike the bulldog walked on, put a paw round Bradley's shoulders and said 'that's my boy'.

"He's getting everything he deserves this man, what now, a Lordship? They couldn't give him a Lordship because he'll do something else and they'll have to make him a Duke," continued Carlton who had just about as much strength left as a knackered Wiggins to sign off with "he came, we saw, he conquered" as Emperor Wiggins took the applause of his people.

"This is the closest I'll ever come to knowing what it's like to having a baby," said the new world record holder who was walking like he'd given birth to a small hippo and unwittingly unleashing a torrent of stupid people into overdrive on Twitter by saying how dare he compare riding a bike to the wonders of motherhood.

And then he walked, gingerly, into the sunset, asking his missus what was for tea and had she done the ironing, while in a commentary box manic chortling was barely audible as a small mouse was being tortured by a cat in an emptying velodrome.

Carragher saves his best for last in Berlin

The curtain came down on the footie season on Saturday night with the Champions League final and with it the end of an era as both Sky and ITV took their final bows.

For Sky it is goodbye to football's biggest show, while for ITV it's only highlights in the future, with BT Sport the new home for the competition from next season, so there was a last day at school feeling as Graeme Souness and Thierry Henry got the Ker-plunk out in Berlin.

Being Sky they were going to make the most of it, almost two hours of build-up in the hands of Jeff Stelling, and an early highlight being Souness' dismissal of Juventus' rising star Paul Pogba.

"I am yet to be convinced by him. Does he grab games by the scruff of the neck?" asked Souness, no stranger to grabbing opponents in such a manner, while Stelling concluded, as the camera panned in on Pogba, that "he has a lot to learn, believe me, suit with trainers".

England's gain was our loss as England call-up Gary Neville was replaced alongside Martin Tyler by Alan Smith, while Jamie Redknapp was abandoned on the sidelines and only allowed back to the studio once he promised not to break Jamie Carragher's Buckaroo.

By the interval, Barcelona were a goal to the good and Stelling was in overdrive.

"For Juve's players it is now quite clear, it is an Italian job and now they have to blow the doors off the Barcelona defence," he hinted.

Juve had enough dynamite to blow one door off but goals from Luis 'bite yer insert part of anatomy here' Suarez and Neymar, the man with no mum, meant Barca had won 3-1 and Tyler followed in Stelling's path.

"This in the end was a bridge too far and the wall came down in Berlin," he said, but at least didn't say they took our breath away.

For Stelling it was all too much, the post-match celebrations showing the retiring Barca skipper, Xavi, celebrating.

"Xavi didn't get on the pitch during the 96 minutes but he's on there now bidding his farewells," he said, which was all well and good except that he'd come on in the 78th minute. Unbelievable Jeff.

The general consensus was that Barca were brilliant and Carragher, who had clearly been biding his time, saved the best for last with his parting shot that had them rolling in the aisles.

"Four times in nine years, they've changed football, there's no point covering the competition next year," he said in deadpan fashion before we all remembered that this would mean Robbie Savage, Michael Owen and Owen Hargreaves. We're not laughing now.

Meanwhile, on ITV, time was at a premium, Mark Pougatch breathlessly trying to cram everything in between breaks, but still allowing time for two men on cellos to play the same thing twice, but at least it meant we didn't have to try and work out what guest pundit, Alex Song, was trying to say.

That year he has spent at West Ham hasn't improved his English, although I suppose we could say the same for Andy Carroll, but he was hardly a like for like replacement for Roy Keane.

Personally, I'm delighted that ITV will have highlights only now as it always felt live matches were getting in the way of Corrie and programmes like Paul O'Grady's Britain's Got the Funniest Window Boxes, but it was particularly cruel that as the curtain came down, up popped Jose Mourinho in an advert for BT Sport Europe. Will it be special? One will have to wait and see.

The good, the bad and the ugly

THE GOOD: ITV4’s coverage of the TT Races has been first class and backed up by several jaw-dropping films about those magnificent men on their flying machines around the island, but even movie makers couldn’t devise a story as fanciful as Ian Hutchinson, a man who almost lost a leg in a crash five years ago, coming back and winning three races at this year’s event so far.

THE BAD: It’s time to bring an end to the pointless exercise that is international football friendlies with ITV giving up valuable air time to the Republic’s no-score bore with England on Sunday. “A waste of an afternoon really, a waste of space,” said Paul Scholes, but he was just a bit miffed because Murder She Wrote had been taken off air.

THE UGLY: Vinnie Jones has been in some right ropey roles since his transformation from footballing head the ball to movie head the ball but his new advert for electronic cigarettes will take some beating. You have to wonder how long it was before the director plucked up the courage to say ‘err, Vinnie, you don’t have to light them’.

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