Although a Brit, I haven’t lived in Blighty since the beginning of 1998, having moved to Denmark, then Finland and now Arizona. Although I read The Guardian on a daily basis online, many things that grip and obsess the nation totally pass me by. Today however, I find myself at one with my country men and women – Bradley Wiggins has become the first British winner of the Tour de France. Although I love football, Wiggins’ victory gives me more pleasure than seeing England winning Euro 2012 would’ve done. And that’s saying a lot.
Although I’ve never raced a bike myself, I do like to occasionally go cycle touring and I often commute to work about 45 minutes each way, even in 110F heat. I’ve also followed the Tour de France since the famous showdown in 1989, when Greg LeMond beat Laurent Fignon by just 8 seconds on a final day time trial finishing in Paris.
I was fortunate as a teenager that one of my best friends was a keen bike racer (@DrRobLamb on twitter). After seeing the drama of the Fignon-LeMond battle, I started asking him about tactics, who the riders were and so on. Once you develop some understanding, of the sport you begin to appreciate that a stage race such as the Tour is more than just who has the strongest legs and lungs. It’s about teamwork, psychology and racing intelligence. In some ways it’s a game of chess (or maybe poker) played out at 40 mph and at the limits of human endurance. At university I met more cycling fans and learned from them too (one of my uni pals now writes the excellent blog Cyclostyle).
So it gives me immense pleasure to see Bradley Wiggins win this year’s Tour. Not only for the huge magnitude of the achievement, but also because of the nature of the man. Team Sky’s stated mission when formed was to win the Tour with a “clean British rider within five years”. They’ve done it in three. Wiggins’ performance this year has been a big improvement on previous seasons and some cynics have questioned his integrity. He has responded powerfully and eloquently. Today, instead of hiding in the peloton to avoid potential accidents, he risked everything, battling to the end to lead out his teammate Mark Cavendish (Britain’s other male cycling superstar) to win the sprint on the Champs Elysées.
And on top of all this, the man collects guitars!!!
Today, The Guardian writes of how the French have warmed to ‘Colonel Wiggins’ or ‘Le Gentleman’ during this year’s tour
They have been told about his collection of Gibson and Fender guitars and Lambretta and Vespa scooters, and about the roundel on his helmet – originally the RAF insignia, appropriated in 1964 as a pop art device on a T-shirt worn by Keith Moon, drummer with the Who, and then adopted as a symbol of the Mod revival.
A bit of Googling has led me to this article from Cycle Sport magazine, where Brad talks about his favourite bands and a favourite guitar.
I just spend ridiculous amounts of money on guitars, it’s the one real indulgence I have – that and clothes. I really got into vintage guitars, and to be honest right now it’s probably safer than keeping your money in a bank. They never decrease in value.
If there was a fire in my house and I could only save one, I know exactly which one it would be. I’ve got a Gibson ES-335 in ebony black with a Bigsby which is 20 years old and in mint condition. I kind of love that guitar. Those 335 Gibsons are my favourites – mine’s my pride and joy.
Some more Googling also turns up Le Gentleman cradling a nice looking Tele in classic butterscotch blond
Colonel Bradley Wiggins. 2012 Tour de France Champion. Scholar, gentleman, guitar geek, legend.