Tuesday, July 31, 2018

France is de la Tour

Not much competition for Welshman of the Day today; obviously it's going to be Geraint Thomas, the man who won the Tour de France at the weekend, thus becoming the third British winner of the event (but, oddly, the first British-born winner) and the sixth British winner in the last seven years. That last sentence sounds a bit contradictory until you realise that in addition to Sir Bradley Wiggins' trail-blazing win in 2012 four of the wins were accounted for by one man, Chris Froome.

It's impossible to celebrate the unprecedented success of Team Sky in the Grand Tours - Froome has now won all three of them, the Tours of Spain and Italy being the other two - without also mentioning the cloud of doping suspicion and allegations that hangs over Wiggins and to a lesser extent Froome. No specific suspicion has ever been attached to Thomas that I know of, but he does ride for the same team and so there will be some suspicion by association, as unfair as that might seem.

Doping, and doping in the Tour de France in particular, is a long-running and complex topic and if anyone has any romantic ideas about the old-school cyclists being unsullied Corinthian paragons who lived on nothing stronger than a couple of glasses of red wine a night then they should read about Jacques Anquetil and Eddy Merckx, among a host of others. Just as the selection of one drug and not another for prohibited status is at least partly arbitrary, so is the decision to expunge the wins of Lance Armstrong, Alberto Contador and Floyd Landis from the record books but not, say, Anquetil, who was pretty open about his drug use.

Well, that turned out less celebratory than it should have, so I should follow up by saying that I'm convinced that cycling now is cleaner than it's ever been, but that equally people will find new ways to cheat and new drugs to take that aren't yet on the banned list. Equally, I've absolutely no reason to imagine that Geraint Thomas is powered by anything more sinister than leeks and Welsh cakes - on that subject I should say that I heartily endorse his choice of Tan y Castell Welsh cakes, as they are indeed the best.

I should also say that my wife photographed his wedding in 2015 and he is apparently lovely, and so is his wife. And he's called Thomas so I expect we're probably related.

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