On Friday evening I indulged my two great sporting passions football and cycling.
Velo Magazine had assembled two teams of cyclists for what they called the inaugural “Le Grand Match” in Nice which coincided with the announcement of the Velo d’Or prize winners.
The boys had arrived well before kick-off so that they could warm up and familiarise themselves with their team-mates and have their photos taken with local racers, including my “little cup-cake” (second from left).
Prior to the start, the Velo d’Or prizes were presented to “Best French Rider” Jean-Christophe Peraud, who fought off stiff opposition from Julien Absalon and Pauline Freenad-Prevot to succeed his team-mate Christophe Riblon – coincidentally playing in goal for Les Bleus. Best Junior was Rayane Bouhanni, the younger, taller and – it has to be said – better looking brother of Nacer Bouhanni, the latter also turning out for Les Bleus.
No expense had been spared. Les Bleus and the “Rest of the World” teams filed onto the pitch hand in hand with their mascots, children from local cycling clubs. Someone obviously had a bit of a sense of humour as both the diminutive Samuel Dumoulin and Bryan Coquard had mascots who towered above them. Each of the players had their names writ large on the back of their blue or red football shirts.
After being presented to the crowd of largely local cyclists and the great and the good in cycling in the region, we sang “Nissa La Bella,” the anthem of local club OGC Nice, and play got underway. The boys got an “A” for effort and clearly more than national pride was at stake but by half-time Les Bleus led easily 3-1 after impressive goals from Thibaut Pinot, Remi di Gregorio and Nacer Bouhanni.
— jerome pineau (@jejeroule44) 18 Octobre 2014
Urgent action was needed in the second half and the trainer for the reds, Oscar Pereiro, took to the field. You may recall that after retiring from cycling, Oscar played football for a third division side in Spain. He has a nifty pair of feet.
When I interview riders I often enquire whether they’ve played any other sports and I’ve discovered scratch golfers, artistic ice-skaters, ice-hockey and tennis players and quite a few footballers. In truth, their attitude and competitive spirit serves the well in whatever sport they choose to pursue. But I was impressed with the play from FDJ, particularly Pinot, Bouhanni and Vichot. I learnt later that another of the French team, Jerome Pineau, had a trial at FC Nantes.
After the match Velo magazine put on a splendid spread for the players and guests and I took the opportunity to chat to a number of the players, including Europcar’s Dan Craven who had played for the rest of the world. He agreed he wasn’t one of their star players and I ventured to suggest that he might be happier with an oval ball. But no, it appears he’s much more content with pedals.
It was a great idea from Velo Magazine and I hope they do it again next year and I’m sure the participants would agree with me.
Les Bleus: Riblon – C Pineau, Blain, Cherel, Chainel, Di Gregorio, Soupe, J Pineau (c), Vichot Subs: Engoulvent, Reza, Corbel, Coquard, Dumoulin, Jurdie
Rest of the World: Fumeaux – Hutarovich, Craven, Baggio, Rebellin, Guttierez, Gatto, Agnoli, Capecchi, Van Avermaet, Nuyens (c) Subs: Van Hecke, Siskevicius, Camano, Pereiro