In every sport there are dead legends, in every sport there are living legends and in every sport there are the men who provide the invisible thread that binds past and present together: Jean Bobet is such a man, brother of the triple Tour winner Louison, and now a celebrated writer on the sport they enjoyed together. Here is Louison’s training partner and confidant, a man who rubbed shoulders with all the greats of the 1950s, and who was at Fausto Coppi’s funeral: a day he remembers for the fact that ‘in death as in life, others appropriated Fausto.’
Picture if you will the most rock-solidly traditional bastion of the sporting establishment, with a history going back over a century embedded in the very roots of this sport. Our team wears colours that go back more than 20 years and have been worn by the greatest athletes in this sport, to win the greatest events. The design is instantly recognisable because the colours are also are worn by amateurs the nation over as they compete. Our team is sponsored by a company that is a national institution, one that has probably provided every family in the country with locomotion of some kind, either car or bike or moped.
There is much that is unique about Kazakhstan, but it must be the only country in the world where the coach of the national football team has been heard to complain that the nation’s cyclists enjoy a higher profile and greater financial resources are available to the athletes pedalling on two wheels than their counterparts kicking round balls.
July 23 2006.
Discovery Channel directeur sportif Sean Yates is at Paris’s Gare du Nord on his way home to England after completing the Tour de France. From the ticket queue he sees a man sitting on the ground, who looks vaguely familiar. Yates goes over and recognises Graeme Obree, Scotland’s double hour record holder and double world pursuit champion. He is wearing a floppy hat and a dishevelled look.
“Graeme, what are you doing here?”
“I’ve been on a stag do. I was standing on my wallet and passport so that I wouldn’t lose them, but then I walked away and I’m not sure where they are now.”