The cycling season has been underway for a couple of weeks and we’ve profited from our proximity to that racing. Friday I watched the Trofeo Laigueglia, now moved to a Friday to avoid it clashing with Tour du Haut Var, and over the week-end we watched the latter. The race seems to have settled into a format where stage one finishes on a circuit around La Croix Valmer and stage two explores the glorious hinterland behind Draguigan with a three-circuit loop around some of the walled towns, affording plenty of viewing opportunities for the largely French public.
The sun shone all three days which made the racing, and the viewing, a whole nicer prospect. But the cherry atop the icing on the cake was that one of our friends won one of the stages, finished third on general classification and was awarded “most combative”. If you follow cycle racing, you’ll soon appreciate that not everyone wins races. It’s a team sport but only one member of the team can win, unless, of course, it’s a team time-trial.
At this early point in the season, teams are keen to get that all-important first win under their belt and, having succeeded, it tends to open the floodgates. More wins follow. It’s also one of the few occasions where a team leader, getting into his stride for his objectives later in the season – a grand tour or classics victory – will allow one of his key helpers to try to take victory. Or, maybe, one of the young, up and coming riders from one of the ProContinental or Continental teams will hope to catch the eye of a team manager at a ProTour team.
It’s not unusual to bump into friends and acquaintances at such races and a bit of banter helps to fill in the time until there’s television coverage on the big screen and/or the peloton hoves into view. On Sunday we were handily placed on the barriers about 10 metres before the finish line. As the peloton came past, on its first circuit of the finish town, it was hotly pursuing the Norwegian national champion Thor Hushovd (BMC) while a number of his team mates were well-placed in that pursuing pack. He was soon swept up and the peloton remained largely intact until the final run in when race leader Carlos Betancur (Ag2r) and Amael Moinard (BMC) leapt free. The two worked to maintain their small advantage with the former taking the overall and the latter the stage win.
It so happened that my beloved had Amael’s eldest son (5 years old) on his shoulders, so he had the perfect view of his father taking the stage win. He understood exactly what had just happened, he was so thrilled and much enjoyed being swept up in the post-race excitement and interviews. Both Amael’s sons accompanied him on stage for the prize-giving but, at only 21 months, it’s doubtful that the younger one appreciated what he was witnessing. The eldest boy took possession of the trophy and I’ve no doubt it has taken up residence in his bedroom. There was however a certain sense of deja vu as the last time Amael had won back in 2010, on the final stage of Paris-Nice, his elder son had accompanied him onto the podium but he was then too young to enjoy the experience.
For us, it capped off a marvellous week-end of racing. There’s really nothing better than seeing a friend win a stage. Made all the more memorable, as we shared the moment with his wife and children.