TEAM SKY’S KING OF COMEDY
It hasn’t been a great first week for Chris Froome at the Vuelta. A(nother) crash was followed quickly by a sense of helplessness and weakness rarely seen these past three years as Alberto Contador attacked on stage nine and drove the stake of his advantage home during yesterday’s time trial.
It’s just as well, then, that Froome has another career lined up for when his cycling legs finally fail him – as a master of unintentional slapstick comedy.
This was the week when the Sky leader took a break from staring longingly at Alberto Contador’s posterior as it shot stylishly up the road to try to rescue the Ice Bucket Challenge from the depths of preening, un-ironic narcissism.
There was a touch of Richard Briers’ iconically hangdog Martin Bryce from Ever Decreasing Circles about Froome as he sat down for his dousing, flanked by Tim Kerrison and the eminently more photogenic Peter Kennaugh.
Kennaugh, you can tell, loves these occasions as he grabbed Froome by the shoulder, leaning over him like the cool younger brother who has only convinced his slightly nerdy elder sibling into this by virtue of a thousand wedgies of increasing severity. Then the fun really started.
“I was nominated yesterday by Sir Dave Brailsford,” began Froome, the emphasis on the honorific suggesting that a cult akin to the Daily Mail’s deification of Sir Cliff has developed within the Death Star.
Froome’s own nominations were, how shall we say, more than a little offbeat. The relationship between he and Alberto Contador has invariably seemed to be too genuinely frosty to be consummated with a bucket of freezing ice.
Relations have evidently thawed since the spring, when Froome dobbed Bertie (and himself, it must be added) in for going untested for doping on Tenerife – because the Spaniard and one-time victim of an underdone steak was first to be named.
If the nomination of Contador was on a Peep Show level of realist domestic dysfunction, then demanding that Christian Prudhomme undergo this suddenly-ubiquitous ritual humiliation was more in line with the dark surrealism of The League of Gentlemen.
Or perhaps I am pursuing the wrong line of thinking. It was only a year ago that Prudhomme gushed: “I find Froome very elegant in his way of speaking with a sweet voice and his eyes are very expressive.”
The Tour de France director might not have expected his affections to be reciprocated in such watery style. Cast Prudhomme as Gerard Depardieu and Froome as Juliette Binoche, and it’s not so very far from a potentially steamy French arthouse romance.
At the time of writing, Alberto Contador has undertaken his Ice Bucket Challenge. The status of Monsieur Prudhomme remains unknown. Perhaps he is biding his time, waiting in the Vuelta wings with a custard pie for Team Sky’s new king of comedy.
[Ed – Prudhomme has now performed his Ice Bucket Challenge. No baked goods were thrown].
STAT’S THE WAY, UH HUH, UH HUH
6 – Number of professional time-trials that Tony Martin has won in a row.
The Tour of Britain starts on Sunday in Liverpool, and we can’t wait for it after watching this refresher.
Flooded roads, cinder tracks and Eddy Merckx in his prime: fabulous footage from early 1970s Vueltas.
Edvald Boasson Hagen visits his first cycling club in Lillehammer.