These are exceptional times for professional British road cycling. Following on from Chris Froome’s victory at the Giro D Italia and Geraint Thomas’s win at The Tour DeFrance, we now have Simon Yates victorious at the Vuelta a Espana on Sunday.
The understated, quietly spoken mountain specialist from Bury had his twin brother lead him up on the final mountain stage to steal the win this Sunday, which is huge news. Interestingly, I can’t help but notice the minimal, lacklustre news coverage of the massive achievement.
If a British rider got near to a podium finish in a grand tour as little as 7 years ago, it would have made headline news in the sporting world. Let’s not forget that it was only 2012 when Bradley Wiggins became the first British rider to win the Tour de France (109 years after the first race).
Once again, one of our own has triumphed at the very highest level and there is more where that came from. There are few professional cyclists threatening our three active champions in Froome, Thomas and now 26 year-old Yates (who must have at least 6 years left in the tank…if he wants it). As well as this trio, there are other youngsters coming through the ranks who show some real promise for the future of cycling in the UK.
After seeing Yates Vuelta triumph from my cottage getaway in Wales, a couple of things struck me as odd.
The first was that, whilst the TV coverage found on Euro Sports and ITV covered the entire three weeks live plus highlights, this was not the whole story.
The second was that Sky Sports and BBC coverage chose to communicate the news as a footnote in most of their bulletins, placing the uninspiring Wolves V Burnley game higher in the hourly roundup.
At a time the Cycling community is really gaining momentum and popularity, I wonder why we’re not championing our own professional cyclists achieving world-wide success and admiration. One could argue that the act of focussing on failures rather than achievements is a very common British mind-set. But when less popular sports are receiving more news coverage, it just doesn’t add up.
Finally the third thing that struck me as I was driving home from my trip, over the Gateway Bridge, was the complete absence of cycle lanes on both sides. The route from north England into Cheshire and Wales has always been notoriously precarious. And it remains so, even after such strong growth in cyclists using our roads.
It’s apparent the UK still have quite a way to go in terms of cycle safety and infrastructure, especially when comparing to the rest of Europe. We know the support exists from the growing cycling community, and with such strong professional cyclists leading the way, you can’t help but ask the question: “What are you waiting for?”