Monday, 29 July 2013

What the 2013 Tour de France meant to South Africa.

When the only South African in the 2013 Tour de France, Daryl Impey donned the yellow jersey, South Africans celebrated. He was the first South African to ever wear the Maillot Jaune, he wore it for two days, but eventually (and as expected) he had to give it up to Christopher Froome, a Kenyan born, South African schooled, British rider who kept it all the way until the finish at the Champs-Elysees in Paris, making him the 2013 Tour de France Champion.
Many South Africans claimed him as their own. He did spend many of his formative years in South Africa, and rode for the Barloworld team during his time in Johannesburg.

The sport of  professional cycling is just emerging from the so called "Armstrong period", where performance enhancing drugs were the norm and everybody was involved in illegal practices. Froome represents the new breed of cyclist, one who works hard, but plays fair.

Chris Froome rode for Great Britain and he had a subtle Kenyan flag on his bike, but there is no doubt that his cycling ability was developed in South Africa. He was described as a "rough diamond" by Sky Principle Dave Brailsford when he joined the team, that diamond was shaped and polished by the scientific training techniques of the Sky Procycling team. 

These two riders show that South African cycling is well on track to be a force in the future. With the limited representation that SA had, it fared well and looked good on the international stage. This shows the structures must be working. (I only hope hope that the success doesn't encourage politicians to poke their noses in and destroy all the good work that has been done... It has happened before!)

Another encouraging sign is the MTN Qhubeka team that encourages transformation and development and supports the World Cycling Center Africa to encourage African riders to rise up the ranks of the cycling world. They have an initiative to supply under privileged communities with bikes which also encourages planting trees and recycling.
All these things bode well for South African and African cycling in the future, hopefully in the near future we will see a South African wearing the yellow jersey on the Champs-Elysees on the final day of the Tour de France.