Super super Saturday – when cycling and rugby collide


Way back in 2012 when almost nobody read my blog except my family and a few friends I really enjoyed writing a piece about one special Saturday. The onset of spring was its theme, marked by “La Primavera”, the classic … Continue reading

Here we go! Pedalling off to the Rugby World Cup Final at Twickenham.

Photo by Kevin Mayne

Courtesy of the ticket lottery almost a year ago I am in England for the big match, my first time at Twickenham for many years. One of those bucket list occasions, to attend a world cup final in almost any sport but especially one that I played and then watched most of my life.

Also an opportunity to catch with family and friends who I am connecting via a couple of days of folding bike touring around very wet but gorgeous Autumnal landscapes. “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” indeed.

Photo by Kevin Mayne Photo by Kevin Mayne

Very tempting to bike to the game too, but I will content myself to arriving by train tomorrow so a few beverages can be consumed, got to get into the spirit of the occasion after all.

Now the final dilemma. Who to cheer for? England long gone, the other home nations fallen by the wayside leaving an Antipodean challenge between New Zealand and Australia.

All Black Haka

Logically I can say I am a neutral and I am looking forward to an amazing match, even better if it goes to extra time. Emotionally I can say that English sports fans will always cheer for the underdog, which in this case is probably Australia because New Zealand have been so good.

Of course it is also fun to wind up the Kiwi half of the family and various friends all around the globe, although they tend to have a bit of a sense of humour bypass when it comes to rugby. You can easily substitute the word rugby into one of the quotes of Bill Shankly, the legendary Liverpool football manager, who said of the round ball game “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that”.  (Murray, Stuart – are you reading this?)

But I have conferred with my English colleagues at work, I have had DNA testing done, read the small print and we categorically agree.

It is NOT possible to cheer for Australia. Can’t be done, won’t be done.

Yes we can hope for a nice, tight exciting game. Or we can hope that the All Blacks give the Aussies a right good kicking, that would be just fine. Game on!

To the Stade de France to watch France play the All Blacks at rugby.

Stade de France All Blacks vs FranceI love watching sport in big settings. Feeling the restiveness of the crowd, letting the anticipation build. And when you go to one of the sporting cathedrals, old or new, you are soaking up all the feats that took place before.

Now I am living in continental Europe I have the chance to add a few more special events and venues to my collection.

Stade de France

Stade de France is like a spaceship that has landed in the Paris suburbs. And like many of the modern stadiums it has a great bowl effect that not only gives great sight lines but it magnifies the sound. ”La Marseillaise”, now there is a national anthem to blow your socks off when sung by a passionate French crowd.

I was watching with some New Zealanders but I have to say I was cheering for France. I have been following rugby for about 35 years and for the whole time those big black bullies have loomed over us so I always back any Northern hemisphere side playing against the ABs, even if they are the team of my in-laws.

All Black Haka

An excellent evening, although the bullies won again. Must be the Haka.

This one is for Andrea – “Crime and punishment”

Mrs Idonotdespair has a charming sister in Australia.

On Saturday they conversed by text about the error of my ways.

Placed in Salzburg, a UNESCO recognised world heritage site and centre of culture from Mozart to the Sound of Music (OK, stretching it a bit) I was able to use the power of the internet to guide us to the only Irish pub in town showing the British and Irish Lions rugby team playing against the Aussies.Murphy's Law, Irish pub Salzburg

Less a pub than a hobbit hole tunneled into the rocks behind a period facade Murphy’s Law was the perfect venue for the handful of hardened fans needing a fix.

From their positions thousands of miles apart the sisters agreed that the only appropriate punishment was that I would visit every stall at the riverside craft market without complaint. That’s a lot of stalls. Salzburg Riverside Craft market

I hardly call it fair. My brother-in-law watched three games of rugby that morning. But I guess he wasn’t in Salzburg at the time.

Did I mention we won. Worth every stall Andrea, I was good the whole time!

Climate change stops play

My sort of new discovery this year has been the Belgian passion for cyclocross – or perhaps I should say what I have discovered is live cyclocross on the TV and the extensive coverage of the results in the mainstream media, even pushing back the all consuming monster that is football. (Cyclocross tab below to see other posts)

I can’t help but feel sorry for the organisers is this week’s World Championships in Louisville Kentucky. First time in the 43 years of the championship that they have left Europe. US Cycling is in desperate need of a lift after the nightmares of Armstrong and cyclocross is quietly growing as a new branch of the sport so it could be a real celebration of the sport for them.

So how about this for the news:

Louisville, KY – February 1, 2013. Forecast data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) project that high water levels in the Ohio River will cause Beargrass Creek to flood the low lying areas of Eva Bandman Park in Louisville, Ky, in the early hours on Sunday morning and that water level will continue to rise for the next 48 hours.

That is such a shame for the organisers, now they are relying on a special barrier and moving everything to today, Saturday.

Having seen Niels Albert, Sven Nys and the rest compete in mud so deep they couldn’t ride and on ice that put even the best on their backsides I have a sneaking suspicion that they could and would ride in snorkels and flippers if asked. My money would be on Albert, he’s the tallest.

The sort of good news is that Belgian TV will now show all four events on the one day – about four hours of coverage. Bad news for me is that I’m going to have to improvise – today is the day my other sporting passion kicks off – Rugby’s 6 Nations tournament also involves lots of blokes thrashing about in the mud but as I posted last year only at the very end of the series does it begin to overlap with cycling. Having to make such choices this early in the year really is unfair!

UCI’s live Youtube feed should do it, then I can capture both as I did for Milan San Remo last year.

Oh well, it does mean lots of time to get the ironing done.