Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Martin sees the peloton

Two things that young children find more exciting than the spectacle of the world's greatest cyclists passing by in a dizzying pageant of athleticism and colour:

1) A circling dragonfly.

2) High-fiving a police motorcyclist.

Fair enough. Both these things are excellent.

Still, there are two kinds of people in the world. Those who think it's worth standing around for two hours in the burning sun (12 noon, Cambridge) or pissing rain (3.30pm, London) for a fleeting 30 seconds of partially obscured joy, and those who do not.

There's a silence after the peloton goes by - a sense of expectation that some further spectacle may yet present itself, which you absolutely should not miss out on; that perhaps Froome, Kittel and Contador are just a gentle curtain-raiser for the real event - a grand prix of dogs riding children's tricycles, perhaps. Yet no dogs came. And as the crowd eventually dispersed in Cambridge, I heard one 70-something man turn to another and say, 'Well, there you go then, Martin. Was it worth it?'

This companion of Martin's, I felt, was a person committed to seeking out the disappointment of others and dragging it into the open with some measure of triumph, like a cat with a dead bird.

(It was all in his tone of voice. I am very sensitive to these things.)

But Martin – casquette on his grey head, peak pushed reverentially upwards, a believer, a hoper – simply said, 'Oh yes… Absolutely wonderful.'