Counting

Well, there’s this:

Bradley Wiggins has become Britain’s first ever Tour de France winner, ending the country’s 109-year wait for victory in sport’s toughest endurance event.

And there’s this:

Thousands of British cycling fans are flooding into Paris as Bradley Wiggins prepared to become the first Englishman to win the Tour de France in 109 years.

Let Malcolm clarify:

It’s hardly 109 years for some very good reasons.

No Brit rode in le Tour before Charles Holland and Bill Burl in 1937. So chop down the 109 to 75.

It took until 1955 and Brian Robinson for a Brit actually to arrive in Paris — creditably, in 29th place, and until 1958 for him to win a stage. Settle for 57 years, perhaps?

It wasn’t until 1962, and Tom Simpson, that any Brit improved on that and came near the top quality. So, make that 50 years. That was, anyway, about when the Brit public started to take anything like a serious interest in what was previously a purely cross-Channel diversion.

“Names” became known and recognised this side of La Manche. Jacques Anquetil, after his fifth win in the Tour, was voted the BBC’s international sports personality of 1964. He was followed into local popular fame by Merckx, Hinault and Fignon. When Stephen Roche won the Tour, and then finished the Triple Crown (also the Giro and the world road-racing championship), despite Charlie Haughey muscling onto the podium, Roche was adopted by the British media as some kind of an honorary Brit — particularly so because he joined Sean Yates, Malcolm Elliott and Robert Millar in the largely-Anglophone Fagor team for 1988.

After which le Tour was a UK hot topic.

To complicate the numbers further, there’s also this:

Le Britannique Bradley Wiggins (Sky) a remporté le 99e Tour de France, dimanche 22 juillet. Il signe ainsi le premier triomphe anglais dans la Grande Boucle. Le Londonien, qui est âgé de 32 ans, portait le maillot jaune depuis le samedi 7 juillet.

Ah, yes. There were one (1915-1918) or two (1940-46) periods when Europe was otherwise engaged.

Anyway, chapeau Milord Wiggo!

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Filed under BBC, Britain, BSkyB, Dublin., History, Ireland, London, nationalism, Paris, World War 2

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