Caught by the River

Shadows and Reflections – Roger Clapham

8th December 2012

In which, as the year comes to its end, our friends and collaborators look back and share their moments:

There can only really be one thing for me to talk of when it comes to recollections of the past year – Wednesday October 17th, at 5 am, and the birth of our second daughter, Nancy. The whole year has revolved around her birth – my wife’s pregnancy was quickly categorised as medically “high risk”, coming on the back of previous difficulties, and therefore involved frequent visits to Whipps Cross hospital in East London (whose maternity staff we are eternally grateful to it should be noted). However, our problems were nothing compared to those some people have to face, and ultimately the stars were correctly aligned, so with a huge sense of relief, great joy, and the seemingly necessary blood sweat & tears Nancy joined us on that day.

But it’s a personal thing, the birth of your child. So, at the risk of a good shoe-ing when my nearest and dearest read this, I will move on and mention another date that resonated with me this year – Sunday July 22nd, and seeing Bradley Wiggins, resplendent in the maillot jaune, riding into Paris and winning the Tour de France with a 3 minute 21 second lead over his teammate, fellow Brit Chris Froome. It’s not often I have a lump in my throat let alone a swelling of national pride in my chest, but that afternoon I did (I had been drinking though – that may have been to blame).

This was a big deal though – the race itself has been going since 1903, and I’ve been watching it since about 1988 in a semi-fanatical state – but finally, it had been done: a British rider had won the Tour de France. Bloody hell.

Purists may complain Wiggins’ Team Sky had bought the race, with riders who would be team leaders elsewhere acting in servitude to Wiggins, riding en masse at the front of the pack all day long, discouraging breakaway attacks (far from a new tactic) and so on. But in the end Wiggins was the strongest rider, and best suited to this year’s course by a country mile. The fact that he backed up his athletic performance by colourfully swearing at journalists who implied he was doping, then joking to the assembled throng on the Champs Elysees that Sunday afternoon from the top step of the podium they were about to draw the raffle just confirmed it – he was one of us, just a regular bloke, albeit one who could ride a bike far better than you or I could dream of.

Then he went and won an Olympic gold medal the following Thursday, as you do of course. And a new national treasure was born.