Impey the first(ish) African to wear Yellow; and I am happy to admit I’m obcessed with the Tour de France

Before I get started, a quick word of congratulations to Daryl Impey who today became the first African* to wear the Yellow jersey when he finished on the right side of a small finish line split in today’s stage to move ahead of his team-mate Simon Gerrans into the race lead. All he had to do was finish seven places ahead of Gerrans, but the three second gap between the 16th and 17th ensured he moved ahead on time also.

*According to Phil Liggett, Impey is the first South African born rider to wear Yellow, but not the first African born. That would be Richard Virenque who apparently was born in Morocco. You learn something new every day. Saying that, Virenque may have been born there but he is French. Impey grew up in Africa and that’s good enough for me.

So it was while sitting watching this quiet stage in which the entire peloton stayed together for almost the entire day setting up a bunch sprint that Andre Greipel won, that I realised just how obsessed I am with the Tour de France. The stage itself was far from anything memorable. Mark Cavendish crashed and had to chase back on and that might have left him a little tired to properly contest the sprint he finished fourth in, and Impey took Yellow, but aside from that it was lots of scenery and lots of admiring how the commentators fill hour after hour with interesting talk when nobody is doing much.

If I had ten dollars for every time they mentioned the wind and the potential of splits just ahead, I’d be able to take weeks unpaid vacation at work and fly myself over to watch the Tour in person. Today was one of those days I’ve talked about before where you wish you were in some small town at the side of the road, sipping a tea or a cold beer, watching the Tour’s caravan roll by and then edging to the side of the road to watch the race itself speed through. The weather looked nice and you wouldn’t have missed much out on the road had you not been able to find somewhere with a TV.

Yet I sat and watched it all. A recording of it. I knew the result of the stage and I had seen the final three kilometres — the only three kilometres that mattered — yet I sat down this evening and proceed to watch the entire days coverage. Three and a half hours of it. 150 odd kilometres of the bunch rolling along and Phil and Paul trying to tell me something new every couple of minutes.

But I’m not surprised at my obsession at all, it just took a stage like this for me to be reminded of it. I’ve no problem doing it and tomorrow I’ll do the same again.

Now it just so happens have had the time and the chance to sit down and watch it. If I had something else on that kept me away from it I’d miss the stage, or at least whizz through the recording to the final five kilometres. If I missed the stage I’d be sure to read the report later and scan the results sheet carefully. Actually, I do that anyway.

Yes, the obsession knows no bounds … at least not at simply watching the days stage. I bought four Tour guide magazines … all with virtually the same gibberish in them but enough differences to make them all interesting. Today I bought the latest issue of Cycling Weekly, despite the fact I knew the results from the three days in Corsica they’d be reviewing and had read post-race reports and rider reaction from various websites. I have even bought a couple of iPad editions of L’Equipe — the French sports newspaper — despite the fact I cannot speak French. Thankfully though the digital editions can be translated but I got them as much as to get a feel from the race from France itself and to see more of the pictures from the event as anything else. Sad? Yes. Obsessed? Yes. Ashamed? Absolutely not. It only lasts three weeks. I’m a cycling fan all year round but never like this.

This is the only event where I might decide not to bother going out for a spin on my bike because the days stage looks too exciting. That’s the problem living in Canada and following the Tour. The racing is on in the morning and that’s when I like to go for my weekend rides. When I used to live back in Ireland it was much easier: Go for a spin, come home, shower and sit down to relax and watch the afternoon’s stage.

Then again, don’t think my obsession was ever quite as drastic then as it’s grown to be now. Sure I would spend summer days as a teenager off from school lying on the sofa all afternoon listening to David Duffield fill the airwaves of a dull flat stage with the most unusual of stories, but there was no Internet then. Certainly no Twitter and the newspaper coverage in the UK back then was useless unless it was the stage Chris Boardman won the prologue. Back then I could tune in, watch the stage and tune out again. Mosy through Cycling Weekly’s reports later in the week.

Actually, before that I somehow seemed capable of doing whatever kids do on long summer days without a care in the world for the result only to return home around 6 O’Clock to watch the half-hour — HALF HOUR — highlights on channel four. That covered the days main action and told us the results and standings and that did us until the same time tomorrow.

Could I really go back to that now? Switch off the Net, read race reports in the daily paper or Cycling Weekly, avoid the days result and tune in to watch the recording of the final 15 kilometres only? the idea of it sounds like the simple life, but I doubt it.

Anyway, tomorrow the action should ramp up a little with a medium mountains stage. It’ll probably wash away the pure sprinters but the likes of Peter Sagan could hang in for a shot at his first win. I had tipped Jeremy Roy to win today’s stage … it’s well suited to an escape artist like himself, though I predicted this before the Tour started and thought that by now Sagan would have a win or two in the bag.

It’s also a last chance for some form of rest before the serious punishment of the high mountains arrive on Saturday. We’re getting down to the nitty gritty and this obsessive is very much moving into his element.

Stage 6 result

1. Andre Greipel (Lotto) in 3h 59-02

2. Peter Sagan (Cannondale) s.t.

3. Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) s.t.

4. Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma QuickStep) s.t.

5. Juan Jose Lobato (Euskaltel-Euskadi) s.t.

6. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) s.t.

General classification after stage 6

1. Darryl Impey (Orica GreenEdge) in 22h 18’17”

2. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) at 3″

3. Simon Gerrans (Orica GreenEdge) at 5″

4. Michael Albasini (Orica GreenEdge) s.t.

5. Michal Kwiatowski (Omega Pharma QuickStep) at 6″

6. Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma QuickStep) s.t.


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