It’s official – the Tour en Angleterre has been a huge success, and don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise.
It didn’t take Ken Livingston and his smug mug, or even Tour boss Christian Prudhomme chortling like a Bash Street Kid to persuade us tonight that London has loved the Tour. Many will claim that the feeling hasn’t been mutual, but that’s a one-sided view. Team bosses don’t come more cantankerous than Marc Madiot and I stood by today as he waxed lyrical about the way the London has hosted the Grand Départ.
OK, Wiggins didn’t win, but not a single person who attended today’s prologue will have been left cold. The course was a triumph from the moment it was unveiled last year; what we didn’t know was how Londoners would react to road closures, the tourist invasion and cycling’s murky current connotations. Tonight we do know – everyone from the uninitiated to the aficionado went home having enjoyed every second.
It’s a pity, but large swathes of the Tour press room haven’t been so enthusiastic. L’Equipe put on a good spread this morning, even printing two covers – one English, one French – but the snooty indifference of some foreign papers has smacked of parochialism. Yes, London’s expensive, yes it was hard for the riders to train, but, correct me if I’m wrong, does this sport not desperately need to broach new frontiers? Now, if ever, surely the answer is that yes it does.
The prologue itself was fascinating. I’ve never subscribed to the theory that such a short, specialised discipline is an irrelevance for the overall contenders; the reality that favourites who have under performed in past prologues have very often under performed later in the Tour. With this in mind, Andreas Klöden’s ride on Saturday should be viewed as a shuddering statement of intent.
Form and ability clearly aren’t a problem for the German; I just doubt whether Klöden can hack the pressure…