Belfast Telegraph

Froome the bell tolls as the Tour de France ends on a damp note

By Billy Weir

He came, he saw, he rode, he got spat at, piddled on, punched, verbally abused and had his reputation questioned but after 21 gruelling stages, Chris Froome finally conquered.

Yes, the Tour de France reached its denouement in Paris on Sunday afternoon with the traditional strange ending to the world's toughest race as the competitors ambled 109km to the capital with nothing happening until the last 200 yards when all hell broke loose.

This, of course, did not deter Eurosport from giving us three and a half hours of non-action, but like everyone in this part of the world when there's nothing much to talk about, the weather intervened to give commentator Carlton Kirby no shortage of material.

"It's raining at the parade, but I don't think Chris Froome will mind that at all," he began, but given all the manner of unsavoury fluids that have been hurled at the Team Sky rider in the past three weeks, rain would have been the least of his worries as he embarked on the final stage whose footballing equivalent is running the ball to the corner flag in the last minute.

Kirby was clearly distracted though, musing that he didn't think it was going to be a 'damp squid'.

I know it was wet but that's just ridiculous although a drop in the ocean as to what was to come from the man with the mic over the next few hours, with history, art, cooking, wildlife and even hurling getting a mention, with a generous smattering of political incorrectness hurled in for good measure. Cycling was mentioned briefly but I think he got away with it.

"You want to know why the French had a revolution so far ahead of everyone else?" he asked, simply voicing the question that was on everyone's lips, as we passed the magnificent Palace of Versailles.

"I think, possibly, because of the divisions between the rich and the vast majority were just enormous," he explained. "The disparity was huge and the French said 'we're not having zis' and that was the end of that," he added as the politically correct gendarmes warmed up their truncheons.

His partner in crime was a man called Jonno, who mans the social media in the commentary box, and has been dishing out recipes throughout the event and the last day was no exception with 'trout on a bed of Germanic noodles'.

"Germanic noodles, what do they do? Kick other noodles off the plate?" Kirby said and cackled into the distance, and then sidekick Sean Kelly got in on the act warning that the riders would be 'on a snail's pace on the Champs Elysees' although the Irish cycling legend's cockles had been warmed somewhat with news relayed to him of Waterford's defeat of Dublin in the All-Ireland Hurling quarter-final.

Back to the non-action and we past a deserted Longchamps and Roland Garros, although there was about as much action as there was in the race, with Kirby reliably informing us that we were on the 'Avenue Gordon Bennett, which is, apparently, the most stolen road sign in Paris.' Gordon Bennett. It's the same in London, where Sacre Bleu Terrace is the most nicked sign.

By now we thought he was just extracting a golden coloured liquid that may or may not have been hurled in Froome's general direction earlier in the race but the theme continued as things took an unexpected turn.

"Apparently, if you do get stung by a Weever fish or a jellyfish, the best thing to do is pee on it. It's the ammonia that helps it, not that any ammonia was very welcome to Chris Froome," he explained as we wondered if it was any use if savaged by a damp squid.

In their wisdom the organisers decided that because of the wetness and the threat from maritime marauders the actual race would finish 68km short of the finish but they would continue at that stage with 10 laps of the Arc de Triomphe so we would have a sprint finish, a sort of next goal wins before we all had to go in for our dinner.

This allowed Kirby to enlighten us with nicknames of some of the best exponents of this discipline, with Germany's Andre 'Gorilla' Greipel, Mark 'Manx Bullet' Cavendish and Geoffrey 'with his big black beard he looks like a pirate' Soupe.

Of course this is nothing new, some of cycling's greats having similar monikers, including Bernard 'Badger' Hinault, Bradley 'not Biggins' Wiggins and Lance 'insert any suitably insulting drugs-related term here' Armstrong, but things got a tad confusing as Aussie Rohan Dennis made a break for it.

"He's like a terrier, he really is the new badger, especially for those Down Under, the honey badger is a particularly nasty brute, apparently," explained Kirby, and we all wondered just what bodily fluid you would need to smear on if one of those little devils nibbled at your crossbar.

And then a bell sounded to indicate the final lap of a race that officially ended 68km ago, but this didn't stop Kirby, who bellowed 'Froome the bell tolls' as our leader was nowhere to be seen as the sprinters went berserk, with Greipel edging it.

"They call him the Gorilla, but the shadow cast by him is as big as a zeppelin," as the gendarmes closed in on the commentary box, but before Kirby was dragged off to the Bastille, he bade us all a warm adieu and with that the rumour mill over who was allegedly on what kicked into another gear.

I don't know what Froome was on but I know one thing, Greipel's sample shows clear traces of Germanic noodles.

Belfast Telegraph


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