IT’S ALL OVER NOW
“Ce n’est pas toi – c’est moi”
This is, I imagine, how the Tour de France would speak if she were an auburn-haired Parisian bistro-working beauty ending a three-week fling with a gauche British exchange student from Guildford.
For close to a month, you’ve been inseparable: picnicking together in the Alps, spotting bears (and that even rarer creature, Haimar Zubeldia) in the Pyrenees and debating the merits of Bjarne Riis’ record-setting time up Hautacam in the Jardin des Tuileries.
Around day 14 of the whirlwind romance, she even managed to convince you that those youths hanging around Montmartre with Astana-embossed sweatshirts were trustworthy characters.
Emmanuelle – let’s give her a name, if it’s not too painful – sent you running for L’Équipe every morning to read of the exploits of Pinot, Bardet and old Jean-Christophe Péraud. Feeding you pain-au-chocolat and Balzac, she simultaneously inculcated in your brain the palmarès of every rider on Bretagne Seché Environnement.
Then, brutally, on a gloriously sunny Sunday, having drained the Champs-Elysées champers you had bought for her, she is gone, muttering sweet nothings about a date in Aigle with a wealthy older man from Lancashire.
The broken-hearted trip back home may yet yield an unexpected detour on the Eurostar for a rebound date with a minor Belgian stage race. The Vuelta, Clasica San Sebastian and World Championships are great for a late summer Spanish fling, but none of these can hope to fill the hole opened up by the departure of this wondrous woman.
Every summer she dupes and beguiles you in an identical manner. From those frosty beginnings in a nondescript northern European hostel, through the Alps and Pyrenees and along the Riviera, the ice melts, until by Paris you’re begging her on hands and knees to please complete one more lap of the Champs-Élysées with you hand in hand.
It’s love that brings you back, time after time: despite Emmanuelle’s repeated run-ins with the Gendarmerie; despite her ever-increasing commercial interests that threaten to push you, the hopelessly infatuated voyeur, to the side. Despite her occasionally baffling fashion choices of polka-dot shorts and self-interested face-pulling, and all the cheating former lovers who have been suspiciously erased from her contacts book; her uncomfortable new narcissistic ‘selfie’ habit.
Each year she looks excitingly different whilst somehow remaining comfortingly the same –sometimes imbued with Gallic fervour and, at others, sporting a distinctly English twang. This year’s mid-winter break in Sicily clearly served her particularly well.
Yet you, silly old fool, never fail to fall for her again, despite knowing that an end – and rejection – is certain. Then again, no one who was in love ever claimed that it made sense…
STATS THE WAY, UH HUH, UH HUH
5 – Numbers of time Haimar Zubeldia has finished in the top ten overall of the Tour de France.
6 – Number of riders who have won all three Grand Tours. Vincenzo NIbali joins Anquetil, Gimondi, Merckx, Hinault and Contador.
The final kilometre of La Course by the Tour de France from the best angle in the house: Marianne Vos’s bike:
Ever seen a breakaway stop to eat and wait for the bunch? Abdraimzhan Ishanov trades a 15-minute advantage for some food and rest at the 2013 Tour of Portugal.
As Emma Pooley bows out of cycling, here’s highlights of her 2010 Flèche Wallonne win: