Sunday, July 15, 2007

Two Wheels Good, Four Wheels Bad - Mimitig

I didn't think up that title lightly - as a long-time fan of Formula One, Touring Cars and Le Mans, it is a sorrow to me, and shaming that all the headlines and column inches these last few days about four-wheeled motorsport have been about the McLaren/Ferrari spy scandal. Now, this is with the courts at the moment so least said the better, but what I must say is that Ron Dennis is one of the most honourable men on the planet and it is, to me, unbelievable that he would be involved in anything dirty. The real sadness is that whatever the outcome of the case, this year's championship will most likely be remembered primarily for the skull-duggery and not for Lewis Hamilton's amazing debut as an F1 driver.

However, with MotoGP and Le Tour taking centre stage this weekend, I do celebrate the men on two wheels. It's not just that they are totally and utterly insane: in what other sports do men compete carrying serious injury? I mean, in athletics some French long-jumper received a gentle spearing by an errant javelin and went off injured! Huh, our men are made of sterner stuff. In bikes they ride with broken hands, feet and occasionally legs.

Today, Andreas Kloden climbed back in the saddle with a fractured coccyx and his team mate, Alexandre Vinokourov took the start with both knees and one elbow stitched up (not counting the really nasty wound on his right buttock). They stayed safe on the first mountain stage today, watching while unknown Gerdemann took the win, the Maillot Jaune (so he got the cuddly lion) and the white jersey. Australians Cadel Evans and Michael Rogers did themselves no disservice and remain on course for a high General Classification. Over at the Sachsenring, another Aussie claimed pole for the bike race. Young Casey Stoner is really looking like a champion this season.

But it's not just the competitors that throw wide the gulf between the two and four-wheeled sports. Readers of my previous articles will know that I have a keen ear for commentary - mostly preferring chaps on the wireless, but I don't always turn the sound off on the telly and I have been following a few pairs of commentators for many a year now. In F1 we have the pairing of Brundle and Allen. Now, Martin Brundle is an ex-racer who knows his stuff and still puts himself on the line getting into racing cars and risking making a fool of himself. James Allen is a complete idiot who thinks he knows it all, but knows less than the average fan and it's obvious in the commentary box that Brundle despises him. Doesn't make for good commentary.

Move over to the motor-cycles and we have the utterly charming combination of Steve Parrish and Charlie Cox. Now here's a thing - Charlie has never ridden a bike in anger and doesn't pretend to have that experience. An ex-tin-top driver who has discovered bikes through his BBC contract, he is the perfect foil for old racer Parrish - who still gets on the bikes to take us through a lap of the track. Charlie, an Australian, uses his immense depth of language - metaphor and simile being his speciality (he needs that like a third armpit, they're sliding around like dogs on lino, it's a nightmare in a bubble car, he's flat out like a lizard drinking being just a few examples) and Steve is so modest about his own past as a TT winner, that we sometimes forget how important his name is in British motor-cycling.

It's much the same in the road-cycling. Paul Sherwen and Phil Liggett share the same warm camaradie as Charlie and Steve. They never mention their own achievements but work so well as a team. When they describe a stage on Le Tour, it could be filled with memories of what they'd done, but it never is. They are quite possibly the best commentating duo on television in this era. The Tour also benefits from the best presenter - Gary Imlach. Immaculate credentials within the sporting fraternity make Imlach an instantly recognisable name (and football fans will know exactly what I mean here), and his front-of-the-house partnership with British cycling legend Chris Boardman is one that over the last few years has become a benchmark for presenters and specialists. Of course it helps that Boardman still gets on his bike to ride the final K or so of a stage and explain the trickeries of the course for the viewers, and helps that Imlach is still in awe of Chris's achievements in the saddle.

But isn't that what we look for in commentary? Experts who are not afraid to get their hands dirty and presenters who are true fans, of the sport and of the heroes. Formula One is just so lacking.

Zounds, or possibly Zut alors. This was supposed to be a preamble to a piece tomorrow rounding up the first week's racing in France with maybe something on the motor-cycles, but it's already too long. Without GU's stringent 500 word limit, my passions run away. I'll return later.


MotM said...

Let's have more!

The biggest problem for the commentators in F1 is that they have this tremendous build-up that lads to... discussion about tyre wear and pit strategy. For all of Lewis Hamiliton's impact and profesionalism, the last thing F1 needed was another pragmatic brilliant qualifier and pragmatic points-gatherer.

I agree with your admiration for the two-wheeled talkers but I favour Eurosport for the MotoGP and lament the absence of Duffers from the box in the TdF. They are all talented broadcasters who mix knowledge and humility perfectly with Gary Imlach the best TV sports presenter by a lone break distance, but the two-wheeled specialists have much more raw material.

Sastre and Rossi for today?

DoctorShoot said...

so full of information and reflection you really are on peak best form and in your element these past couple of weeks. I am enjoying your racing writing v much.

Can you please direct me to where I should be looking for your updates?

mimi said...

Doc- go to Lycra, leather and rubber. Not a pervy website, just my Sunday round-up that the good Lord Ebren was kind enough to publish. I'm reckoning on a report tomorrow, then handing the maillot to Mouth for a few days while I'm away.
Thanks so much for all your support.

DoctorShoot said...

thanks mimi
lycra leather and rubber it is... (alternatively titled: 'disco, fast car, and lovers lane: a fast-track to love')

Tweet it, digg it