My apologies for my long absence, dear readers. I have been keeping myself occupied by moving to Hamburg to start a new job, and thus ruining the fundamental principle of the Southern Oatcake brand by leaving hipster Brixton for a meaty, lagery, altbeit very pleasant, corner of northern Europe.
Anyway, you haven’t come here to listen to me ramble on about my life plans. You are here, of course, to find out how Tour de France drinking game went (the rules are make lots of predictions, and have a drink for every bad one. In the words of four time TdF stage winner David Millar: “Making predictions is difficult, especially ones about the future”). The short summary of how it all went: I won’t be doing la Vuelta drinking game. The long read: below. If you don’t care about cycling, and you are only here to see how I have savaged Blackpool, skip to part 2.
Let’s take a look back at my TdF predictions, starting with the top 10, in random order:
Jakob Fuglsang , Vincenzo Nibali , Geraint Thomas, Egan Bernal, Rigoberto Uran, Romain Bardet, Thibaut Pinot, Nairo Quintana, Adam Yates, Richie Porte.
And the actual top 10, in order:
Egan Bernal, Geraint Thomas, Steven Kruijswijk, Emanuel Buchmann, Julian Alaphilippe, Mikel Landa, Rigoberto Uran, Nairo Quintana, Alejandro Valverde and the Two-Wheeled Tricolour Warren Barguil.
My one line of lessons learned at le tour 2019: your team need not to bother winning a stage to fill out the top 2 places with your riders, and the French are back! I won’t be showering the successful with well earned praise, there is the rest of the internet for that. Instead I will simply focus on the failures, as ever.
To the drink penalties! Adam Yates had a very dissapointing tour, and downing a pint of Strongbow Dark Fruits in his “honour” was far from enjoyable. Although at least he could dispatch his twin brother up the road to bring back two magnificent stage wins for Mitchelton Scott and the beautiful town of Bury. Simon Yates then, the best thing to come out of Bury since Dr. Gary Neville, Tracey Neville MBE and Mr Phil Neville (sorry Phil). Simon Yates then, the best thing to come out of Bury.
GC-wise Romain Bardet was similarly disappointing. He did bag himself the Polka Dot jersey when no one was looking, after taking the first two weeks off to enjoy a leisurely cycling holiday in sunny France. Pint. As if a reflection of Bardet’s tour itself, this one came with a free Apple Sourz.
A similar story for Vincenzo Nibali, who struggled on GC, but was first in the bar after the stage to Val Thorens with a saddle bag of prize money to get through. As it was with me, another beer please barman.
Richie Porte finished 11th, but at 5 minutes 10s down on 10th place, I can hardly feel myself cheated. Pint of Fosters, please!
Four drinks in and we come to the unfortunates. Jakob Fuglsang hit the deck and had to go home, and I hit the bar for another one. Occupational hazards of the TdF and its, as yet unofficial, companion drinking game. And finally Thibault Pinot. Likely the strongest man in the race until injury forced him to pull out in heartbreaking scenes. I had a large glass of Pinot Grigio, as it seemed fitting. Unfortunately I was in Walkabout. Like Thibault, I was left with the bitter taste of regret in my mouth. And additionally, the bitter taste of the wine.
On to the jerseys. My predictions:
Yellow jersey: Geraint Thomas. Green Jersey: Peter Sagan. Polka Dot Jersey: Michael Woods. White Jersey: Egan Bernal.
And what actually happened:
Yellow jersey: Egan Bernal. Green Jersey: Peter Sagan. Polka Dot Jersey: Romain Bardet. White Jersey: Egan Bernal.
It was back to the occupational hazard with Woodsy- but boy can that lad climb with broken ribs. That is the Wood name for you, brilliance in the face of the toughest tests. I think I enjoyed that pint but they have all merged in to one by now. And G! A very respectable second, but a much needed pint this time, as a 22 year old winning le Tour brings one’s own life in to sharp focus.
Part 2: The Blackpool Bit
Instead of the usual pub trip, we upped our game this year and went to watch a round of the PDC Darts in Blackpool! As modelled below, shit shirts were on the agenda. It turned out mine was relatively inconspicuous.
A brief review of the darts: I think Robbie Cross beat Mickie Smith, but they both need to give Mile Jedinak his song back. I was up in the cheap seats, occupied with decanting my 4 pint pitcher of strongbow dark fruits or carling (normal strongbow was also available).
But the really interesting thing was Blackpool itself. The half of the UK that watch Strictly Come Dancing, which includes my mother who flatly refuses to read my blogs, romanticise Blackpool as an old world paradise of song, dance and enjoyment. Although this illusion was dealt a blow when it was reported that the new Strictly judge Motsi Mabuse wrote “Every dancer knows the town, which is the ugliest that I had ever seen.” These comments may come from 20 years ago, but this seriously irked the British press. A newcomer, offending one of our most heavily promoted shows, whose sparkling Britishness fills up Saturday nights for people who have given up on leaving the house, and provides easy news for a quarter of the year? Why not just join the horses and take a dump right in front of Buckingham Palace?
This report sent out further shockwaves amongst the newspaper readership, who got to read a story that did not begin life on someone’s twitter feed.
To Motsi’s partial credit she only did one of those apologies where you don’t say sorry and end up talking about something different you once liked. But in this writer’s view, she should have doubled down. And when I say in my view, I mean: it was actually in the view of my actual eyes. Some images:
While I ruin any hope I had of presenting Strictly one day, my only real regret is not taking more pictures.
The thing that you really notice as the train pulls in to Blackpool North station is that every house is pebble dashed. Why?
To the credit of the station the toilets were very clean. But it was not their destiny to remain so, as when I entered two of the sinks were occupied by men washing their feet.
Time to hit the town then. I made a beeline straight to the promenade to find my hotel, and more importantly a bar to start the drinking game with Big Josh. Although apparently I was late; at 3pm every pub I walked past wheezed out the fumes of a thousand long-spilled pints of John Smiths. And don’t think I am making this up, dear reader, I have spilt a John Smiths or two in my younger, more confused days. When I was merely Mini Midlands Oatcake.
The rest of the night having largely been covered in section 1, I skip to night’s end, which was me forcing down a Doner from The Godfather Pizza, Burgers and Kebabs. I got through a third of it before my sense of smell forced me to stop, before falling asleep on what will be the last night I will spend in Blackpool.
The next morning I awoke and headed to the station, stopping off at a vast Sainsburys to buy a big bottle of water to douse the hangover. Despite the store devoting around 50 square meters to non-alcoholic beverages, I had to settle for a fruit flavoured sparkling water, as it was the least carbonated thing I could find. This is not a joke aimed at fat northern people, some of whom are not even actually fat. I was pacing around that store for 10 minutes without success. The fizzy, fruity water did not shift my hangover during the 5 hours of warm, packed train rides it took me to get back to Brixton.
Would I have been happier if the trains were better? Would I visit Blackpool again if the trains were faster? No. I imagine this article has been somewhat offensive to the people of Blackpool, whose town is in inarguable need of economic regneneration. If only there was a £56 billion program of public works focussing on deprived cities, instead of creating the ability to blast through pristine countryside at 250mph to get there, for you to never go back again. We can dream.
And if you only read along to find out my first thoughts on German culture: I kind of like Rammstein now, but I can not get over the water fountain in the gym that gives out sparkling water. So I still have some way to go.