This morning I was in my local branch of Waitrose, where I came across an elderly but very friendly check-out lady.
After exchanging pleasantries about the weather (“looking like a nice day today”) and the upcoming Olympics (“I hope the weather stays fine for it”), the conversation shifted abruptly.
“Isn’t that Bradley Wiggins going well” she said, quite out of the blue.
I had to agree that indeed he was doing rather well and we proceeded to spend the rest of my time at the till chatting about the Tour de France. Surprising, to say the least.
But perhaps it isn’t that surprising, come to think of it. After all, in this Great British summer of sport, we are about to witness perhaps the finest moment of all. And that is before the Olympics even begin.
For those who are a bit baffled at this point, let me explain.
The Tour de France is the highest profile cycling road race in the world and has been a highlight of the cycling calendar since 1903.
It runs over 3 weeks, leading its competitors through some of the most beautiful countryside and over some of the most brutal mountains in the world.
During the Tour’s entire history, a British rider has never won the race. Until now, that is.
With just the (largely ceremonial) final stage to go tomorrow, concluding with the riding up the Champs Elysees in Paris, I don’t think it is tempting fate to say that Britain is about to end that unwanted record in style.
Bradley Wiggins is the lead rider for Team Sky, the cycling team launched in 2010 with the stated ambition of providing Britain’s first ever winner of the Tour.
And what’s more, this was to be “before 2015”, the Team Sky boss announced to widespread disbelief at the time. Well, it looks like he has reached his goal 2 years early.
Wiggins has dominated this year’s race, wearing the coveted Yellow jersey (which denotes the overall race leader) consecutively for the last 15 days of the race.
Superbly supported by his team mates – it seems that cycling is very much a team sport these days – he has never really looked in any danger of losing it.
He has also managed to win many friends along the way by his outspoken stance against doping, his willingness to conduct interviews full of honesty and devoid of clichés (and sometimes even in French) and his sporting behaviour when ordering the peloton to slow down and let his main rival (Australian Cadel Evans) catch them up after he had suffered a puncture.
If, or should I say when he wins, it will be a hugely popular victory. And that is not just amongst the Brits.
I saw a report on the TV news earlier today which suggested that this is one of the greatest ever performances by a British sportsman. In any sport. Since the beginning of time.
Now, whilst “greatest ever” is a pretty huge claim to make, if Bradley can capture the imagination of even a check-out granny in Lewes, then just maybe he is deserving of that accolade.
Either way, Bradley Wiggins, I raise my chapeau to you.