when crankpunk got knocked off his bike by a woman in a red toyota and broke my hand 3 weeks before the Tour of Qatar there were no reporters, no photographers and certainly no news anchorfolk poring over every detail of the crash, but then, though crankpunk may be English, tall and also have a dodgy haircut, one thing i am not is Bradley Wiggins.
when El Wiggo gets clattered by a woman in a minivan coming out of the petrol station, one hand texting and the other fiddling with a Cadbury’s Fruit & Nut wrapper whilst driving with her knee (probably) it not only makes his local Chorley Herald newspaper, and not even just national news, but becomes an international media sensation. then the police turn up and ask her ‘do you know who you hit?’
ignoring her first reply (‘yeah, course i do, some skinny-arsed anorexic mod in a leotard’), the constable politely informed her that she’d whacked a national institution, no less – the venerable Bradley Wiggins. that a nation such as England can actually give a crap about any cyclist getting knocked off his bike is, to a cranker who rode there many a moon ago when there was no Cavendish, no Wiggo, and no GB Crack Track Squad but a lot of anti-cyclist feeling, amazing. the hoopla that ensued from the accident has been revelatory.
of course, there’s no real chance that the roads will become safer because Wiggins (and then Shane Sutton a few hours later) got knocked off his bike, but the reaction to it all is indicative of the upsurge in visibility (don’t excuse the pun) of cyclists in the UK. suddenly it’s become ok – if not downright cool – to pedal the lanes and thoroughfares clad in lycra, and that has to be a good thing.
other indicators that cycling is growing are the always over-subscribed sportifs that have sprung up all over the UK and Ireland in recent years, and the fact that the Cycling Touring Club (CTC) – another British institution – was this year awarded full charitable status. which, when you think about it, is quite incredible. and it makes great sense, that national organisations that encourage better health and mental well being through exercise get the tax breaks and other benefits afforded to charities. if more people can be kept fit and content it means less strain on the health services, and – well, innumerable benefits to society as a whole. a well-adjusted person is a wonderful thing, and the more the better. ride a bike, feel good about yourself, go be nice to others. too simple? well, most really good things are, when you think about it…
the CTC this year has a whopping record 70,000 members, and that’s surely going to grow. Wiggins, Cavendish, the GB track kings & queens, the head of the CTC, they are, in a very real sense, ambassadors not only for the sport but for an alternative way of life. for, like surfing, say, or serious climbing, cycling is a way of life, not merely a past-time.
so you could say that if it means more exposure for the sport, El Wiggo getting knocked off his bike is a good thing. no, i’m not being serious, not really. but when i checked all the non-cycling news sites and saw countless paragraphs detailing the accident, i did think ‘wow this is awesome!’ sorry Bradley… apparently he has a fractured rib and a dislocated finger, and i wish him, and Shane Sutton, all the best. it seems both could have been much more serious accidents. good to see though that the Tour de France winner’s most important finger is working fine…
the growth of the sport in the UK is very much down to the success of the GB track crankers and the Tour guys, and it really is a success story. a new generation is coming into the sport without blinkers on, thanks in great part to the recent exposure of LA and his cronies. they are still starry-eyed for sure, but they now know the way the game is played and can surely be more prepared to speak about doping and to ask for advice if ever the issue is raised within a team. anyway, let’s get more bike lanes, more biking charities, and more famous guys knocked off their bikes. onwards and upwards!
or should that be offwards and downwards…?