I love my wife with a passion. And for 49 weeks each year I am faithfulness personified. Although I probably wouldn’t – OK, I absolutely wouldn’t – pass Jesus’s terrifyingly strict interpretation of adultery as including even a lustful look, by the more achievable standard of not actually fucking women to whom I’m not married I can claim an unblemished record. But for 3 weeks each year I can’t get enough of my bit on the side. Despite the fact that she’s an outright bitch, and that in almost every sense we are hopelessly ill-matched, I know that when she starts strutting her stuff I’m going to be putty in her hands once again.
And who is this irresistible, demanding, imperious lover? Well, in fact it’s rather odd to refer to my femme fatale as she at all, since she consists of 192 men with bulging, albeit hairless, thighs and testosterone levels off the scale. She is, of course, the Tour de France. I’m at a loss to explain my infidelity, and if it’s got any homo-erotic tendencies, then I must be in the deepest denial since I am certain that my attraction has got nothing to do with those thighs per se. So what, then?
The attraction that binds me so resolutely must most definitely be the attraction of opposites. The riders of the tour are deeply competitive whilst frankly, my dear, I couldn’t give a damn. They have the stamina to continue long after I’ve decided that sitting down and admiring the view is much the better part of valour. They are all physical strength whilst I often wonder why I didn’t make a career out of modelling those wimpy “before” images that adorn all the best muscle-building adverts. They’re full of team camaraderie and motivational hugging when all I want to do is wander lonely as a cloud. And of course I’d as soon sit on a nice sofa whilst leaving it to them to experiment with just how narrow a saddle can be before it extends your bum-crack all the way up to your neck.
No, it’s not a relationship built on shared enthusiasms or empathic compatibility. Rather, it’s one of those infatuations that rests on worship from a distance, and the aching knowledge that my lover will never even look at me as she surveys the crowds of dashing suitors from whom she can take her haughty pick. But that does nothing to dampen my ardour. Indeed, it inflames it. I love the complexity of her team tactics that can deliver a sprinting winner with an advantage of micro-seconds after 6 long hours in the saddle, as was the case for Mark Cavendish today. I love the raw brutish strength that will see a lonely winner at Ax 3 Domaines on Sunday who can cycle faster up a mountain than I could downhill with the wind behind me. I love the pure intensity of the individual time trial, man contre la montre as the French so descriptively put it. I fear I can turn a blind eye to my lover’s manifold faults as I love also the long and noble tradition of cheating that has graced the tour from its earliest days, whether by accepting a lift from a passing car, or by pumping oneself full of whatever drugs are in fashion. And I even love the tacky caravane that heralds the arrival of the tour, and provides employment for an army of litter pickers after it has passed. But perhaps most of all, I love her beauty, her fields of sunflowers, her ancient castles, her snaking mountain passes and her long avenues of poplar and plane.
So brazen is my love for this extraordinary event that I make no attempt to hide it from my wife’s jealous gaze, and indeed have even persuaded her to come with me whilst I make love to my July slut. And so we both acted as marshals when the grand départ was in London in 2007.
I know. It’s shameful, and really rather kinky. But I can’t help it. The Tour de France is my bitch, and I’ll do whatever she wants me to do.