The first cycling shirt I ever had was the back and white Peugeot strip from in the early eighties, I must have been about 10 or 11 at the time and it was probably a Christmas present from Mum and Dad. I remember clearly that just like the shirt worn by the French professional team, it was simple in design with the Peugeot logo printed clearly above black and white checks around the chest. It was, and still is, a classic.
I would learn later that it was the same shirt worn by riders like Robert Millar, Phil Anderson and Stephen Roche as they made the move to professional cycling from the top French amateur outfit, ACBB. These are sportsman whose careers I’d follow closely over the next few years as I’d became a keen, if below average, amateur rider.
Up until 1985 my exposure to the sport had been little more than the annual Grand Prix of Essex, a prestigious early season amateur classic usually won by a rider from the fantasticality named, Manchester Wheelers. Along with the Grand Prix of Essex there where of course Dads own cycling stories, which amounted to little more than a rusty track frame hanging nostalgically the garage. It was an Ephgrave, and he’d talk about it in almost reverential tones, smiling with pride as he ran his hands gently over the lugwork. There was no doubt that it had once been a truly lovely machine, however I don’t think that he’d ever actually ridden it, not whilst awake anyway.
So that was that, a ten speed racer and the Peugeot team shirt, nothing more than an occasional interest. All that would change in the summer of 1986 when Channel 4 covered a sporting event that would change the course of my life.
Enter, The Tour De France. And men like Bernard Hianault, Laurent Fignon and Robert Millar, sportsmen demonstrating unimaginable feats of endurance with one of the world’s most picturesque countries as a backdrop. Continental cycling has always been the aspiration of British cyclists, and The Tour is no exception. A three week traveling show of guts, glory and the human being in its finest form. And some EPO as well.
Anyway, it’s on for another week, so there’s enough time for plenty more about The Tour, the prologue in London and why cycling is better then football.