“And now here they are: the most daredevil group of drivers who ever whirled their wheels in the wacky races, competing for the title of world’s wackiest racer…”
So went the opening credits to a well-known children’s television series that applied equally to the first week of a certain French bike race.
From the moment the peloton extricated itself from the Royals’ all-too-real embrace outside Leeds, the riders have consistently outdone the 2D heroes of the small screen, starting with the clash between Simon Gerrans and Mark Cavendish that would have made Roy Lichtenstein proud.
Unlike in most childrens’ animation, the line of morality here was difficult to draw. Cavendish was no Dick Dastardly as Gerrans made him out to be – particularly since he came away with race-ending injuries – but his behaviour was certainly not something Peter Perfect would have aspired to.
Dastardly was infamous for his uncanny ability to reappear at the front of the cartoon peloton having skipped most of the race, as well as the numerous foul means he used to make his fellow competitors crash.
He may have taken inspiration from the 1904 Tour de France, when several riders took the train in lieu of pedalling and spectators placed nails on the road to cause carnage.
Nothing quite so underhand has gone on in this year’s race. But Gerrans became the villain on stage seven when he veered across Andrew Talansky’s path.
‘Pitbull’ Talansky accused Gerrans of cutting him up and demanded an apology. The pair eventually kissed and made up but even so, in the pantheon of dog-related cartoons, it ranks some way below The Lady and the Tramp – or even Scooby and Scrappy Doo.
Chris Froome, meanwhile, could have done with riding The Anthill Mob’s impenetrable Bulletproof Bomb. Despite suffering more bumps and bruises than Tom at the hands of a whole season of Jerry, he still had the courage to ride on with a fractured wrist and hand, before abandoning prior to the stage five cobbles.
If Torvill and Dean had danced the Bolero on unicycles, the result couldn’t have been any messier than that day on the pavé. Only Vincenzo Nibali seemed immune to incident, doing his best impression of Mr Incredible to distance Alberto Contador, who seemed temporarily deprived of superpowers.
Bertie had just started to resemble Beauty when he was struck by a severe case of the Beast. The aftermath of that tibia-shattering stage 10 crash was more Hammer Horror than U-rated Disney sweetness. Bjarne Riis hanging out of the team car like a Danish Dr Frank-N-Furter didn’t help the image.
As for Andy Schleck? I hope they never make a cartoon of his fall from grace. It’d make Requiem for a Dream seem as tragic as the Princess Diaries.
STAT’S THE WAY, UH HUH, UH HUH
0 – Editions of Paris-Roubaix raced by the new king of the cobbles, Vincenzo Nibali
4 – Number of Frenchmen in the Tour top ten after stage 10, the highest number at this point since 1989.
Don’t try this at home: ex-pro Robbie Ventura rides one-handed on the brutal Arenberg.
On Big Mig’s 50th birthday, here’s his shock attack into Liège in the 1995 Tour (11.25 onwards).
2009 Astana stars Armstrong, Contador and Leipheimer reimagined as graphic novel demigods. Beautifully rendered, spectacularly over-the-top. And hilarious.