French fancy captures British hearts on Le Tour with Wiggo and Co
08:48 GMT, 23 July 2012
What's that old saying about the weather: 'If to Kylie and Jason in Hyde Park you can't dance, just switch on the telly and watch some Tour de France'.
If the last few weeks have been nothing but dark clouds for us over here, over there was the silver lining of three weeks of eye-catching outdoors action along the highways and byways.
This year, given added appeal by the fact that one of our own, Bradley Wiggins – always easy to pick out in the myriad colours his sunny yellow jersey – won it.
Big winner: Wiggins celebrates his Tour victory with Team Sky colleagues
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The complexities, traditions and sheer duration has never really made this ultimate cycling road race a crossover smash here.
However with Wiggins relentlessly, and ultimately triumphant, Mark Cavendish still the king of speed and an emergent Chris Froome making a name for himself, the road was clear for ITV and Eurosport to capture the nation's interest and, yes, affections.
This they both did by leaving no revolution of a wheel uncovered, and by showing images provided by a host nation broadcaster for whom capturing Le Sprit de Tour is second nature.
As the rain poured here, the relentless helicopter shots of rolling countryside, bustling town centres and ancient towering edifices filled our front rooms with a breath of fresh, moisture free air.
Equally, when the images came from the weaving squad of motorbikes, the sight of sweat, sinew and scabs was positively visceral, as was the claustrophobic crush of crowds that frequently framed the riders – particularly on the narrow mountain rides – and the sudden awareness of sheer speed, as a cameraman would let a rider fly by, then away.
Of the two channels, ITV were the one who hosted on site with Gary Imlach and Chris Boardman, yet decided to put their two men in front of a set of screens that wasted what was going on around them.
Final furlong: Wiggins completed a memorable Tour in Paris
On commentary, Paul Sherwan did well in quickly calling 'conspiracy theory' on Friday 13th, when a series of punctures in the mountains – including to two of the camera bikes – caused chaos in the racing, but also inspired genuine sporting behaviour from the peloton, led by Bradley Wiggins.
I suppose if you’re going to throw a 'sabeau' in the works, at the top of a French mountain would be as good a place as any.
Eurosport's approach, in comparison, seemed to feel a little more laid back throughout – not least of which, when James Richardson (decamped from an anonymous studio to a cycle bar for the Tour’s coup de grace) referred to a 'cheer for the width of Bradley's ring' as the Wiggin's bike gear mechanism was discussed.
There was also much giggling one day on commentary about how some local Monks would no doubt be getting high on the fumes of their own alcohol supply at their monastery.
And the translation of a Luis Leon Sanchez interview (eggy and wooden bits of telly, these interviews, throughout the coverage on both channels) as he received a piece of cardboard covered in signatures, was delivered with tongue firmly in cheek. 'I will keep this with pleasure', they said he said.
All of which lead to a genuine visual feast on the last day as the racing went right to the line and a Cavendish stage win that ITV's Phil Liggett described as 'just all too perfect', as it was coupled with Wiggins also celebrating from the middle of the peloton as Le Tour's nouveau nombre un.
Yellow peril: Wiggins has already set his sights on winning Olympic gold
Yet surely the image of the Tour was that of Friday’s three French donkeys, in their yellow, green, and spotted jerseys, who lined up on cue for the helicopter camera, and in doing so, made complete assets of themselves.
Of course the weather, nor indeed the history, were too shabby all weekend up on the North West Coast of England either where the Claret Jug was on the line in The Open.
Clearly not as expansive as le Tour, the course at Royal Lytham St Annes still provided some of the most unique images in major sport.
For example, it’s not often you get the chance to see a superstar golfer standing on the thirteenth tee of a major on a Saturday evening, and notice that someone has just parked their dry cleaning van in the front garden for the weekend.
That evening, there was also a fabulous aerial shot of Tiger on the 9th which showed just how this famous old links course pokes like a nobbly finger into the compact little community that surrounds it,
And on Thursday on the third tee as Garcia was preparing to drive, we discovered that we wouldn’t be seeing a train whizz by his right ear any time soon as they'd been suspended so as not to put the players off.
Easy does it: Els lifted the Claret Jug after sealing victory in Royal Lytham
Which naturally received one of those well established 'in my day' responses from a man who is all about history and tradition, Peter Allis.
Indeed, so much does the venerable Allis feel comfortable at presenting himself as the keeper of the faith, he at one point felt perfectly entitled to inform the organisers, on air mind, that ‘the price of food and beverage on the course is disgraceful. Shame to lose your reputation for the price of a packet of chips’.
However, I felt this tournament underlined that he no longer necessarily gets to be the ultimate voice of British golf.
For me, Nick Faldo was excellent throughout the Sunday afternoon and although it was Allis' eloquent thoughts that accompanied Ernie Els once he had won, it was Faldo's insight, enthusiasm, sense of commentary 'team' and first-hand knowledge of the players and the game in general, that really brought the last nine holes home.
Not something I saw coming when he was something of a po-faced player, I must admit, but a pleasant surprise on a weekend that reminded us that not only can we put on a bit of a bash, we can also be top banana at the odd one, too.
Come the next few weeks, that is something that’s well worth keeping in mind.