AVB’s sacking in limerick form – not an everyday occurrence

Who says university isn’t fun? We had an interesting assigment to write a poem about a news story. Being the sport-obsessed fool I am, it had to be the big story of the time: the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas. Here is my limerick-style attempt.


There once was a rich man called Roman
Who wanted a team full of showmen
His Portuguese boss
Had yet another loss
And Chelsea’s season was frozen

He called his buddy the Special One
Who people were sorry had gone
Jose couldn’t kid
He’d stay in Madrid
And Roman’s back at square one

It could be the Spaniard called Rafa
Who’ll come in to be the Blues’ gaffer
Fernando might score
But the fans aren’t sure
For the Spaniard’s as mad as a hatter

They beat the giants of Naples
And Europe’s glory is still on the table
But the vital race
To capture fourth place
Could be nothing but just a fable

Now Chelsea’s position could dive
While the Gunners and Newcastle thrive
Roman must pick
But has to be quick
Or it’s Thursday nights on Channel Five


Posted in All | Leave a comment

A Day with Daley

I hate running. Ask anyone. Seriously, ask. They’ll say: “Tom? Great guy. Intelligent, funny, charming. Tell you what though, he’s not a fan of running.”

So it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I agreed to go for a training session at the Millennium Arena with Olympic legend Daley Thompson.

My fellow BT Storytellers have been frantically writing pieces for our “Dedication” challenge. I, sadly, was too swamped with university work that I couldn’t spare the time (it takes me a long time to come up with funnies). But my own dedication came from my willingness to travel from Oxford to Battersea Park, early on a cold, late November morning.

The x90 - Coach of Heroes

Olympians? Pah. Try travelling on the X90 for two hours THEN going for a run. That’s what heroes are made of.

Self-praise aside, I was genuinely excited to meet a true sporting great. Someone who not only won two Olympic gold medals, and not only sports one of the most famous moustaches in the world, but someone who is the subject of one of the most addictive computer games ever. Daley Thompson’s Decathlon must have resulted in countless cases of Repetitive Strain Injury and broken ZX Spectrum keyboards. But it was a classic.

Daley Thompson's Decathlon. A true "finger-basher"...

Joining some lucky employees of BT, who won their place at the session thanks to spending the year taking part in various active ventures, I braced myself for a morning of suffering.

But I did myself a disservice.  Would you believe it? I’m fitter than I realised, despite the ever-threatening semblance of a beer belly.

We did some laps and some stretches. And although I might be fitter than I thought, I’m certainly no more flexible. A long spine and crane-like legs mean I’m not the bendiest of souls, although it did mean almost decapitating the poor woman stood next to me when doing leg-stretching exercises. Luckily, she remained with head.

Next up, we moved indoors. In the corner of the empty gym, we spotted some pads and boxing gloves, and then I may have uttered a swear. Boxing training is hard work, especially for someone with biceps like cocktail sticks and the upper body strength of a common garden ant. **Awaits libel case from garden ants for defamation of character**.

Ants: Possibly stronger than suggested

Daley worked us hard. Don’t think this Storyteller lark is all glamour. Not for those who didn’t wangle a trip to the BT Olympic Ball, anyway.

Have you ever tried punching something as hard as you can for an entire minute? If you have, I suggest therapy may be required. But, in all (OK, some) seriousness, it’s exhausting. And we had to do that a LOT. And kicking too. Very good for stress relief, but very bad in that I ended up sweating enough to fill a small paddling pool.

It did, however, give me a taster of what top athletes do in training. I was knackered after a couple of hours; some of them do that sort of thing for MONTHS. Kudos, is all I can say.

Plenty of fun was had, and I got to chat with the great man himself. A big character, not afraid to take the proverbial Michael out of anyone, he’s a great ambassador for BT and the Olympics. Expect to see his glorious ‘tache many times over the coming months.

Training done. Aches to be expected the following day. The X90 journey home was infinitely more satisfying than the way there. I still hate running, but it’s definitely more fun if you get to do so with an Olympian.

A legendary athlete, stood next to Daley Thompson.

Posted in All | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Olympic Broadcast training, and the agonising wait

Waiting for an important email is akin to some of the worst kinds of torture. You refresh your mailbox every 30 seconds; you can’t think of anything else; you hope you don’t get rejected.

Sounds remarkably similar to when I first asked my girlfriend out…

I’m waiting to be told whether or not I’ll be working at the London 2012 Olympics. And the wait is agonising.

It’s 5.30 in the morning. The alarm goes off. I slowly rise, bleary-eyed, and make my way to get the coach to London. Oh, and it’s a Saturday morning. The only times I’ve seen that hour on a Saturday have involved copious amounts of alcohol and no sleep on the Friday night.

“It’ll be worth it,” I tell myself, “I can always sleep through my lectures instead.”

I’m on my way to City University London for a workshop with Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS), and an interview for a (cliché alert) once-in-a-lifetime job opportunity: to be working at the 2012 Games.

Being as thorough and professional as ever, my preparation on the coach consisted of watching episodes of Spooks and American Dad on my iPad, before the fun of negotiating the usual weekend London Underground service. “Usual” meaning “little to none”. Obviously.

So, with a mixture of tiredness, excitement, nerves and tea inside me, I head to uni for the first of three days’ training and interviewing.

Day one is a toughy; we spend the entire day in one lecture theatre being told about various aspects of the jobs done by OBS, and we’re shown various videos from the Beijing Olympics, with many of us thinking: “How the hell are we going to beat a spectacle like that?”

9 hours later, the day ends. We’re all pretty tired, but most of the lucky so-and-sos there have a short journey home. I have the joy of a coach journey back to Oxford. On a Saturday night. And it’s busy. And warm. And I’m grumpy. Needless to say, refreshment in pint form would be required when I got home.

Days two and three are job specific – various roles are available with OBS including camera assistants and video loggers. I’ve gone for ENG Assistant (ENG stands for “Electronic News Gathering”) which will involve being part of the team that produces the Olympic News Channel. Remember the rolling sports news on the BBC Red Button they used in 2008? That.

Roughly 1,500 students were shortlisted for 1,000 jobs so we were all feeling pretty confident, thinking that two out of three of us in the room would get the job.

But then…BOOM. Massive bombshell alert: there are only three definite ENG positions left. Now, my maths isn’t great – I have proof that I failed miserable at university – but there were 20 of us there that day, so I made it a one in seven chance. Suddenly I’m not prepared to put my (imaginary) mortgage on getting this job.

In this situation you have to stand out. In a good way, obviously. My gingerness wasn’t going to be enough this time; I’d actually have to make myself employable – no mean feat.

On Sunday we get an in-depth explanation of the job. We’d be working at one (or two) of the venues, getting close to the athletes in a hope of getting an interview. The Olympic News Channel also produces features on people involved behind the scenes – the construction workers, the local communities; even the people who make the flowers that the medallists lift up.

We’re given several team exercises, one of which – the most disastrous of which – involves building a tower out of straws as high as possible which could support the weight of a Terry’s Chocolate Orange. Now, those things may be fairly small, but boy are they heavy. Just ask Dawn French.

That miserable failure aside, and with the weekend rapidly fading away, it was once again time to enjoy the stop-startery of the London roads. (“Stop-startery” should be a real term. I’m going to patent it.)

Just one thing remains: the interview. And if you consider the number of interviews I’ve had, and compare it with the number of jobs I’ve successfully got, you’d be a fool to think I was any good at interviewing. Six months of unemployment in 2009 led to weekly rejection. And not just by women; I didn’t get any jobs either.

But I’m determined to give this my best shot. And the interview’s in the afternoon too. Bonus. I can catch up on well-needed sleep and remove the bags from my eyes that make me look like a panda that’s experimented with drugs and hair dye.

The interview goes reasonably well. For the best part I say the right things in the right places; I do my best to avoid any awkward “thinking” silences. But I don’t feel I’ve impressed them that much. I haven’t “wowed” them. I mean, I didn’t even mention that I was a sandwich artist at Subway. (For the record – “Sandwich Artist” is commonly called “person who works in a Subway store”. Nothing special. So I’m being ironic. I think.)

Now begins the wait. Two weeks of email-checking, fingernail-biting, nerve-inducing agony.

And here we are. It’s less than two weeks later in fact, and I’ve just seen an email pop up: “We are delighted to inform you…”

YES!! Don’t need to read the rest; it can’t be bad news if they’re DELIGHTED! No-one ever says “we’re delighted to inform you we found someone perfect for the job and it’s NOT YOU,” so I’m fine!

I checked the rest of the email. Just in case. They could be sadists. Fortunately for me, they are not.

So, thankfully no embarrassment after going on for months that I’d be working at the Olympics and wouldn’t need tickets. No need to lock myself away for two weeks next summer while I vegetate on the sofa. I’m yet to find out where I’ll be but I’m extremely happy – and rather smug – that I’ll be there in person.

My next torturous wait is rather longer. Still eight months to go, so I better find a way of occupying myself until then. I think I’m going to be watching an awful lot of Spooks.

Posted in All | Leave a comment

A Classic in London: Madness and the Manx Missile

My sanity is often the subject of much scrutiny. People are flummoxed by me on a daily basis – questions such as “why are you still a student?” or “what possessed you to grow a beard?” have been posed more than once (I don’t have a beard now, my girlfriend won’t allow it). “You actually like being ginger? You really are mad” has made the odd appearance too.

And on Sunday, yet again, my mental state would have been questioned further. “So, you’re travelling to London, early in the morning, which will take two hours, to wait for a further two hours, only to see 30 seconds of sport? That’s it, I’m having you sectioned.”

The madness I refer to is my trip to the Mall to watch the London-Surrey Cycle Classic, a one-off event being run as a warm-up for the 2012 Olympic Road Race. With a start time of 9am, it was an early one for the riders, let alone the spectators.

Not a bad backdrop for the finish...

Several stars of the cycling world were taking part in the 140-kilometre race, which started and finished at the Mall, taking a trip out of London and twice up Box Hill in Surrey. Several riders from the Tour de France were involved, such as Australians Matt Goss and Stuart O’Grady, as well as American sprinter Tyler Farrar (also known from the Transitions Lenses ads); and of course, the man most people had come to see, Mark Cavendish.

Fresh from his green jersey victory in Paris, Cavendish was keen to win on home turf and stamp his authority on the course he’d be racing on in less than a year’s time.

I’ve always been a huge admirer of “Cav” – anyone who can win 20 Tour de France stages in 5 years deserves a lot of respect – and I was amazed when I first saw him in action. “How can such a small guy go so fast?” I would ask. “I’ve got to see this guy in action.”

I’ve kept my supposed insanity in check, and have so far resisted the urge to tour the country roads of France following the peloton, but when I heard of the warm-up event, I instantly thought – in perfect English – “I’ve got to get me involved with some of that”. The kind folks at BT sorted me out with two wristbands for one of the restricted spectator areas on the Mall, and this posed an important question: who can I persuade to come with me?

The exclusive wristband. Yes, I took a picture of it.

It was a simple one, really. Who’s mad enough to follow me in my crazy shenanigans? The woman who’s mad enough to be my girlfriend, of course.

At 8am on Sunday, surprisingly hangover-free after a successful barbecue the evening before, we boarded the coach from Oxford. Knowing we wouldn’t make the start, I was keen to get there in reasonable time to get a decent spot for the finish. And we were rewarded. We settled into a spot by the barrier about 120 metres from the finish.

Then the wait began. But we were kept amused by several things including a cheerful announcer, some over-exuberant banging of the barriers for anyone who happened to walk past, and Claire Balding filming a VT by the finish line. Before we knew it, we were being told that the riders were 10k from the finish and we’d be seeing them very soon.

In the meantime, British rider Kristian House had secured a win in the King of the Mountains competition as he led a four-man breakaway over the top of Box Hill. “King of the Mountains” is possibly a slightly misleading title; “King of the Inclines” may have been more fitting. Box Hill does reach the dizzying heights of 224 metres (or 735 feet in English), but that shouldn’t take anything away from House’s excellent achievement in the race.

But we were all waiting for the big finish. The bunch sprint. The breakaway had been caught, and everyone was together for the finale. Veteran Norwegian rider Kurt-Asle Arvesen made a dash for glory with 5k to go, but the British riders worked together to reel him in, and set up a potential win for Cavendish, the Manx Missile.

A crash at the 3k to go mark ruled out Farrar – a shame as he’d been in fine form after a successful Tour de France – and before we knew it, the first riders appeared on the Mall.

The riders appear in the distance.

Then they were gone. 400m covered in the blink of an eye. Cavendish made his move at 150m so we were in the perfect position to see his legendary acceleration in action, and he wasn’t caught. As they crossed the line we saw Cavendish, arms aloft, so we thought it fair to assume he’d won. It was a perfect sprint from the Manxman, and he was quick to thank his fellow Great Britain teammates for getting him in the position to win.

Cavendish was also delighted to see such big crowds along the way. Well, I assume complaining that “it was so busy I couldn’t even go for a wee” was his way of saying how great the crowds were.

The Olympic course will be extended to 250km and climb Box Hill nine times instead of two, so it will be a much bigger test for the riders next year; but Cavendish has laid down the marker, essentially saying to everyone else: “If there’s a bunch sprint, just try and beat me.”

So, two hours of travelling and two hours of waiting to see a textbook finish from the greatest sprinter of all time.

Mad? Possibly. Worth it? Definitely.

This piece was originally posted on the BT Storytellers website. You can view it here; if you’re feeling really nice you could even ‘like’ or Tweet it. Let’s just say you do that, and we won’t have any problems, OK? Ahhh, I’m just kidding!

But seriously, like it. Please.

Posted in All | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Obligatory Football Season Preview

Yes, you’ve probably read about a thousand of these already. But humour me. I may even make a funny. Although I’m not promising anything.

“Is it back already? But the season’s only just finished!” The immortal words of my long-suffering girlfriend are more relevant than she probably realises. It’s been quite a short off-season, with the Europa League qualification meaning the season technically started on June 30. (I’m sure there was earlier stuff – FA Cup qualifying and the such – so let’s not split hairs.)

But tonight kicks off the football season proper. Hull and Blackpool have the honour of what is now the customary Friday night curtain-raiser, before a full programme of Football League action and the eagerly-anticipated no-one-cares-about-it-unless-they-win-it Community Shield between City and United.

So, who are the contenders and who are the tail-enders? Who will be cracking open the champagne, and who’ll be feeling the pain? Will I stop making crap rhymes? And more importantly, who I have I pinned my hopes – and five British pounds – on in a stupid accumulator bet? Of course, if I’m right, I’ll win £10,000 or something. But clearly, I won’t.

Have I built up my superb “knowledge” enough yet? Good. Then you’re ready.

[Disclaimer: The Premier League and League Two will get a lot more coverage, as they’re the ones I know the most about. Well, a fair bit about. A couple of things, you could say. There’s only so much capacity in my brain for in-depth football knowledge. Especially when you’ve got Red Dwarf/Father Ted quotes and obscure film references to contend with.]

 Premier League

Tip: Manchester United
Ones to watch: Sunderland

Outside the usual suspects, we have…no-one of course. Are you mad? I thought not.

Manchester United have added some young talent in Phil Jones, Ashley Young and David De Gea, without losing anyone they’ll really miss, except for talismanic goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar. His departure could prove difficult, but they’ve got enough of a mixture of experience and fresh talent that I think they’ll do their best to show they don’t ever miss anyone.

Chelsea are entering a transitional phase with new boss Andre Villas-Boas – who, incidentally, has increased my girlfriend’s interest in football considerably – and will steadily look to replace an ageing squad.

Arsenal are STILL in their transitional period; it’s about time they cut their losses, sold Cesc Fabregas, invested it in a decent goalkeeper and a proper striker, and then – only then – would I consider them anything other than top-four contenders. Who knows? That could still happen before the end of the month.

Liverpool showed signs of things to come at the end of last season, and with a potentially deadly partnership of Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez, they could be in the mix. I’d even put a cheeky fiver on Suarez being top scorer this year. You heard it here first. (Probably not, actually. Better not say I was the first to say that. You never know, REAL journalists might be reading.)

And finally, Manchester City: the Beverly Hills 90210 of the north-west. They’ve not spent insane amounts – just the £38m on Sergio Aguero, plus the signing of  Gael Clichy – not compared to last year anyway, but the squad is a strong unit and you’d be a fool not to consider them challengers.

The Tevez saga looms overhead, but many speculate their FA Cup victory in May will open the silverware floodgates. Metaphorically, of course. A flood of silverware sounds dangerous. And messy. And who would have to polish it all?

Outside these five, my team to watch is Sunderland. Steve Bruce has made some shrewd signings, with the likes of Craig Gardner, Wes Brown, John O’Shea, David Vaughan and Sebastian Larsson joining the ranks. Bruce has also gambled £8.1m on Ipswich’s Connor Wickham – a hefty fee – but it may be a risk that pays off. Expect to see the Black Cats challenging for a European spot this year.


Tip: West Ham
Ones to watch: Brighton

Should be a tight one, this (said the actress to the…no, no, mustn’t). Several teams have the potential to challenge for promotion, including last year’s playoff contenders Reading and Cardiff City. Nottingham Forest – another team to miss out on playoff glory last year – have a good manager in Steve McClaren (who’d have thought I’d say that 5 years ago) and have a strong chance. Leeds United will always be up there, but their leaky defence cost them last year and they could suffer the same problem again.

A lot of money will be on Sven Goran Eriksson’s Leicester City. He’s been a busy man in the transfer market and is building a title-challenging squad, and if – excuse the upcoming cliché – they gel quickly, we could see the Foxes return to the top flight.

But for me, West Ham are the clear favourites. Sam Allardyce has the experience, the knowledge and the style to guide the Hammers straight back into the Premier League. They’ve lost some key players including Matthew Upson, but Allardyce has made some astute signings too; Joey O’Brien, Kevin Nolan and Matthew Taylor are reunited with their former boss at Bolton and have plenty of experience between them. Expect this to be a brief flirtation with the Championship.

One other team to look out for: Gus Poyet’s Brighton. The Seagulls have a new home – the superb-looking American Express Community Stadium (or Amex Stadium as everyone’s already calling it) – and Poyet has done an excellent job so far. They’ve made some good attacking signings, with Craig Mackail-Smith and Kazenga Lua Lua looking to replace the goals from former striker Glenn Murray, who defected to rivals Crystal Palace. They may even squeeze a playoff place in their first season back in the Championship.

League One

Tip: Huddersfield Town
Ones to watch: Bournemouth

Here’s where I struggle for knowledge. But going on what I saw in The Football League Show last season, when I could be bothered to stay awake, I have to go for Huddersfield Town. Along with Brighton and Southampton, who ended up taking the automatic promotion spots, Huddersfield finished well clear of the chasing pack. Lee Clark has taken well to management, and after the disappointment of losing to Peterborough in the playoff final, he will be desperate for the Terriers to make the step up.

Other challengers, as far as I can see, will be Brentford, Carlisle, Leyton Orient and MK Dons. But my dark horses are Bournemouth. Not so dark, I guess, after their 6th place last year, but they lost influential manager Eddie Howe during last season and have a youthful squad. Young manager Lee Bradbury has his work cut out, but Bournemouth could be a stern test for many of their League One counterparts.

League Two

Tip: Oxford United
Ones to watch: AFC Wimbledon

“That’s the kiss of death for us, then,” cry my fellow Oxford United fans. My tips haven’t always fared well – I said Bradford would win League Two three years ago (oops) – but I found it too difficult to say no. Chris Wilder has assembled a superb squad, there’s a wonderful set-up behind the scenes, and in 18 years I’ve never seen such optimism at the club. Nine new signings have been made as Wilder has looked to improve on last season’s poor defensive record. Michael Duberry, formerly of Chelsea fame – and whose manager Ruud Gullit affectionately called him Mickey Dubes (I very much approve of this) – played in the SPL last year and could form a strong partnership with new captain Jake Wright. Several fingers are crossed for a solid start to the year and a further climb up the football ladder.

Other challengers include Oxford’s great rivals, Swindon Town, who the Yellows will be excited to play for the first time since the 2003 FA Cup (which Oxford won 1-0 by the way; thought that needed mentioning). New manager Paolo di Canio has renovated the squad so this could be a season too soon for them, but they’ll definitely be up there. The first meeting of Oxford and Swindon on August 20 is definitely one to watch.

Enough about that, though. Shouldn’t let Oxford monopolise my League Two preview. I’m trying, here, OK?

Several teams will challenge for promotion, including Football League new boys – and big spenders – Crawley Town. Some bookmakers even have the Reds as favourites for the title. They’ve got a strong squad and have every chance of back-to-back promotions.

As well as the new boys, challenging for the top three will be Shrewsbury – who missed out in the playoffs after coming 4th last season – along with Rotherham and Port Vale, both with new managers and are very much determined to return to the third tier.

But my team to watch has to be AFC Wimbledon. Everyone knows the story, and if the Dons could reach the same league as MK Dons and the prospect of a grudge match, the loyal fans would certainly be rewarded. The season could go either way for them – they could really struggle, but they could also spring a few surprises. Either way, it’s an exciting year for the London side.

Well done, you’re nearly at the end

So, that’s it. I guess I should also add that for my accumulator I’ve tipped Luton Town to win the Blue Square Bet Premier. I mean, it’s about time they did, right? But I’m not going into detail – I’ve taken up enough of your time. And to be honest, I can’t be bothered.

So, when I win my many thousands, you’re going to have to put up with one smug ginger man. We don’t have much cause for smugness, so if it happens, humour me, won’t you?

Enjoy the season. See you in May.

Posted in All | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

That’s Just Cricket

The last few days haven’t been my most productive.

I could blame it on a lack of self-motivation, the beautiful weather, or perhaps the shoulder injury obtained from playing tennis in surprisingly humid conditions.

I could even blame it on drinking far too much at the weekend and claim I’m suffering from a four-day hangover.

Unlikely. Especially as I know the real culprit is cricket.

The quintessential summer sport saps my will to do anything else and draws me in like a zombie to a fat kid. It monopolises my time, tempting me to stay with it just a little bit longer. It arouses my interest by showing how exciting it is, and keeps me coming back for more like some crafty pill-pusher. Test Match Special is my drug. And I’m hooked.

England’s second Test match against India finished on Monday with a convincing victory for the home side, after an up-and-down topsy-turvy state of affairs. Wickets, runs, hat-tricks and controversy. A veritable feast of entertainment from what has a reputation as a boring, stuffy sport.

But the most important thing to take from the dramatic match at Trent Bridge is the enormous sense of sportsmanship.

Ian Bell’s controversial out/not out debacle on Sunday afternoon could have left a bad taste in the mouth and tarnished what has so far been a superb series but, to the enormous credit of India captain MS Dhoni, the match encapsulated what many have described as “the spirit of cricket” after an outstanding display of gentlemanly conduct.

Bell was given out, rightfully so, but it was all a bit of a to-do on the pitch. Some thought the ball had crossed the boundary – Bell included, hence his premature walk from the pitch – but it hadn’t. Andrew Strauss and Stuart Broad looked on from the balcony, clearly fuming, but Dhoni was technically correct.

However, Dhoni’s decision during the tea break to reverse his appeal was a superb gesture, particularly when you consider Bell had already scored 137 runs and India were on the back foot.

This kind of act is very rarely seen in the world of sport nowadays, and it sets an example to all, particularly with the Olympics less than a year away. Team GB, take a leaf from the book of cricket! Maybe you could even stop for tea during your events.

Perhaps not the 100 metres though. Although the shotputters seem to have already invested in the idea of cake.

I jest. But, in all seriousness, the events at Trent Bridge have shown that sport can – and should – be played with fairness in mind.

Wow, that was all a bit serious, and definitely not up to my usual ranty standards. I apologise. Must be on a come-down.

Oh well, self-motivation restored. Good job really, TMS doesn’t return for another week.

Posted in All | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cavendish: A Name to Remember

If I asked you if you knew who Sir Chris Hoy or Rebecca Adlington were, you’d probably think I was being patronising.

But what about Tim Brabants? Paul Goodison? Mark Hunter and Zac Purchase? These guys all won gold medals in Beijing but aren’t household names.

Last weekend saw one Team GB member from Beijing, Mark Cavendish, take the coveted sprinters’ green jersey in the Tour de France. Cavendish will be aiming for gold in the road race on July 28 next year after being the only British cyclist to fail to win a medal on the track at the Beijing olympics in 2008.

Cavendish won the final stage for the third year running (Image: BBC Sport website)

Last Sunday in Paris, Cavendish took his 20th stage win in his fourth Tour de France to go equal fifth in the all-time list of stage wins, behind great names such as Eddy Merckx (34), Bernard Hinault (28) and Lance Armstrong (22). His first of what will undoubtedly be many overall victories in the points competition – earning him the maillot vert or “green jersey” – was the first for any British rider.

But Cavendish is still not the household name in the UK, despite fellow cyclist David Millar describing him as “like David Beckham” in France, Belgium and Italy.

This year’s Tour was one of the most exciting for years, with no one rider dominating proceedings. The phenomenal solo win for Andy Schleck up the Col du Galibier showed the world how exciting the sport can be.

The heroics of French rider Thomas Voeckler, who managed to hold on to the overall lead for 10 days through several gruelling mountain stages, earned him the love of his home nation. The photo of him crossing the line at the top of the Galibier, his face showing pain and happiness after knowing he’d held on to yellow, is an iconic image that is synonymous with this superb sporting event.

Along with some outstanding stage wins for Norwegian giant Thor Hushovd, the Tour has been packed with drama and excitement.

Australian winner Cadel Evans was rewarded for his consistency and determination in the mountains, and few will begrudge him victory after his second place finishes in 2007 and 2008.

But for me, this year’s Tour will be the Tour which put Cavendish into the history books. He may not defend his title next year, with the Olympic road race so soon after the final stage in Paris, but the smart money would be on the Manx Missile being back in green the following year, and even challenging Merckx’s record before his career is over.

Cycling is not a widely-covered sport in the UK, despite great British success over the years, particularly on the track. The likes of Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton have raised the profile of olympic track cycling, but Cavendish has not had the publicity, or indeed the reverence, that his achievements should have earned.

Should he continue his fine form on the road for the remainder of the year, and take gold in 2012, that could all be set to change.

Posted in All | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment