Stage one of the Tour de France is over, served up with the usual crash, panache and unpredictability that has become its trademark. This soap opera, in its hundredth season, is one that cannot be scripted – not once in my memory has the story ever been boring. And it is never repeated. The beauty of this race is that you never know what will happen, or who will do what, whether it be the riders, organisers, weather or some other outside element. Yesterday it was a poor bus driver.
Over past years it has been easy for me to choose who to support. As a South African who has lived in England for 25 years, I still support SA in all things sporting. No South African has ever been a contender in Tour de France and, Chris Boardman excepted, until 2010 there were no British riders to pin my hopes on. So over the years I have picked my winner on the cut of his jib – his team colours, his bike, his haircut, or no reason at all. Last year Brad was a natural to shout for, and this year, you would think, Chris Froome is a shoo-in. Just look at the reasons: the guy represents Britain, but when he opens his mouth he is obviously a boy from my neck of the woods – you can hear that he grew up in SA. So I should naturally support him, no?
Well, here’s my dilemma. I did my homework and found that Froome is very much from my old stomping ground, in fact he went to school half a mile of my old school – and that’s the catch. He went to St John’s College, a posh private school in Johannesburg. I went to King Edward VII School, known as KES and the best school in the country. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any St John’s notables (yes, I know I’m going to get pulverised for saying this). As for KES, I’ll only touch on a sporting few: Gary Player, Ali Bacher, Graeme Smith (cricket captain), Ray Jennings (wicket keeper, the year behind me at school), Bryan Habana, Joe van Niekerk (No 8, Toulon captain) and Gary Bailey (Man U keeper who sang in the church choir with me). As for St John’s, I can only name an infamous few – my brother-in-law included (see earlier postings about our Edinburgh-Manchester tandem ride).
Now, St John’s wasn’t even our biggest rival – that honour is shared by Jeppe, Parktown and Pretoria Boys – but geographically St John’s was our nearest rival, so there is a certain antipathy between the two schools. For me there was an added delight about that rivalry – my girlfriend’s father worked for St John’s, and they lived in the college grounds, so I took great delight in visiting her there in my school uniform, and enjoying the use of their swimming pool and squash courts with her.
So where does that leave me now? Do I bury the hatchet and shout “Come on, Froomey!” I suppose, reluctantly, that I will have to do that. But there is a small compromise that we can make: Chris Froome, I will give you my support as long if I can spur you on with the KES warcry:
Skiet a ramma doota
SusKanada, Son of Karnovsky
Budias ! Budias ! Budias !
Sas Sas !
Gigomalaia Gee ! Gigomalaia Gee
Teddybears Wha !
Who are we ? Teddybears !
So next Saturday, Chris, when you’re chasing Schleck, Contador and Co up the final kilometres to Ax 3 Domaines and you hear those immortal words, you’ll know that finally a KES boy is shouting in support of a St John’s rival. Go Froome!