Only sport does this

Member Mike Kirby writes another great blog – an emotional account of his love of cycle sport

Is it just me? I was in bits after watching Mark Cavendish win his 31st Tour de France stage in the first  week of the Tour. The commentator couldn’t speak for at least 2 minutes, choked with emotion. Cav’s team were all around him having worked so hard to get him over the line. Big Tim Declercq had pulled all day, even the World Champion did a huge turn for Cav, and the second best lead-out man in the history of lead out men (after Mark Renshaw, Cavs number one lead out man, ever) Mickael Morkov joined the hugs and back slapping, clearly ecstatic. Who would have thought that the victories would continue to flow.

Cav was inconsolable, and still couldn’t really speak for the interviews afterwards. I cried my eyes out, smiling all the time, so much, my jaw ached. But why? Why was this thing, having such an effect on me?


That lump in my throat appears quite often when I watch sport, along with that stinging in the corner of my eyes and that ache that seems to effect the whole of my head as the emotion builds to bursting point. The only parallel is the pride I have in my children.

Cycling is my first love and sets me off like no other. Rohan Dennis pulling Teo Geoghegan Hart to Giro victory, up the Stelvio. Danny Martinez doing the same for Bernal, when he could have won the race himself, he was that good. Or world champions like Ganna and Kwiatkowski burning every last ounce of energy for the team leader, before pulling over, almost to a dead stop sometimes, wobbling from side to side, such is the exhaustion.

At the other end of the peleton, my heart aches so much for Chris Froome as time after time he is shelled out the back. He has worked so hard, struggled in ways we can only imagine, to get over the career, and indeed, life threatening, injuries. Somehow his confidence in his own abilities does not dim.

It is that completely selfless sacrifice of your own chances in the cause of your team, your family. It is the physical courage laid bare. It is the same when I watch rowing. Every member of that crew is turning themselves inside out for the team. Gets me every time.

The travails of mere mortals like us seem inconsequential, but that is to underestimate how hard we work to get what we want, how we all strive to improve, to achieve more, or overcome life’s challenges and to live a fuller life and to get the best for our families.  Thinking about it like this, makes our heroes struggles totally relatable and that is what sets me off.

But what of my reaction to Cav? I am not even a Cav fan! I am sure that over the last few years, wrestling with illness, he has written himself off many times. Such is the fragile self-confidence of even the most mighty. It is certain he had been written off by the ‘experts’: He was ‘lucky’ to get to the Tour. He was only there to support Ballerini. He stood no chance against the new crop of fast men. He knew all these things, but still the fire burned. There is no stronger driving emotion than proving the nay-sayers wrong, showing the people who do you down.

And prove it, he did,  three more times. Just falling short in Paris. I suspect he has what he wants now. But I also think he will be back for more next year, when no doubt, he will be too old, too slow, too past it. We may all have been written off at some stage in our lives, fragile self-confidence battered by insensitive teachers or inconsiderate colleagues or thoughtless bosses. And we have proved them wrong. I have. That is why Cav’s story is relatable and that is why I have a lump in my throat just writing this. Is it just me?