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We were talking about middle aged men in Lycra and everything, but let's talk about younger men in Lycra now. Let's have a good, manly conversation about sports. So Irishman Sam Bennett picked up a green jersey in the Tour de France for a while during the week there. It's the first time since Sean Kelly wore the green jersey, which is four points classification prize that an Irishman has worn the jersey. So John Kelly were that 31 years ago. Now, David Walsh, chief sports writer with the Sun-Times, is is there off the Tour de France.


David, welcome to the tour. Was in doubt this year, wasn't it? Right up to the starting point, really? Yes, it was Brendan, and as soon as the tour started, everybody was asking the question, are we ever going to see Paris? Because France was is in the middle of a serious second surge with a huge amount of new importance. The very place where the race started Nese on the Cote d'Azur was what they call a red zone, meaning that, you know, that they there were virtually in lockdown.


People on the streets had to wear masks. People now in the workplace have to have to wear masks. So it means that, you know, we get to the stage end of a Tour de France and every journalist working on the race, every broadcaster working in, you know, on the race, no matter where you are, you have to wear a mask. And if you're in a sweltering press room and you're working for four or five hours, you know, people come to you and say, you know what, you've got to you've got to go.


And so, you know, it's it's I suppose you could say this whole experience. And it's it's it's a very difficult thing for for the people in teams because they're all in separate rooms. And you see a colleague and another team and you'd like to have a coffee with them. You can't it's that's against the rules as well. So the protocols are on a different level to anything you could imagine. And this is a kind of a hope of resilience, a belief that the race should get to Paris and and that and that the Tour de France, in a sense, you know, decide, yeah, see a picture of covid-19.


And I kind of hope that if somebody said, you know, the way the French population see, this is a third of them are against the race going ahead to third or fourth and final, third will wake up their make up their mind, depending on how the French writers are doing. Yeah, yeah. Of course. I presume there's a lot of testing going on. Is there have any cyclist tested positive so far?


No one to stop numbers to at the beginning. And then they will it will all undergo tests on the first race day, which is Monday. And we will see then, you know, we're obviously in it. And there's a protocol in place for that, too. If two people within a team, whether the kind of support staff or riders, if to turn a positive test, the entire team has to leave the race. So given that every team has about 50 to 60 personnel involved, you'd imagine it wouldn't take that much for two to test positive.


And if that happens, the team is gone. And that's what you know, that could be the team of the yellow jersey. So, you know, covid-19 might have a very big bearing on how this week. Yeah, a lot of sports obviously going on behind closed doors at the moment.


As you point out, it's not really possible to have the Tour de France without spectators, isn't. No, it's not, and if you in the what of the clouds, like I would say. Well, remember, the Tour de France takes place in July every year since its beginning, whatever it was, one hundred and seventy years ago. And it's always been in the holiday period, July, where the cakes are off from school. So the crowds on the roadside are big.


So the crowds on the roadsides in September were always going to be less. But they're not insignificant. I mean, some of the towns the people have turned out in, the numbers that I was looking at is kind of unusual. I wouldn't have noticed any great drop off. You don't see a lot of social justice given the crowds. How come they fought? But on the other hand, pretty much all of them are wearing masks. But but it does seem like the Tour de France is slightly different for sure.


And you'd have to say, you know, we're now a week into the race. And so far it's been a pretty interesting turn.


And in terms of Irish interest, so how well is it doing? Well, he's doing extremely well to get himself in the green jersey, and he's very competitive in the spring. So it was a fun sprint. But disappointingly for some, you know, he he had a couple of opportunities to win stages and it just didn't happen for him. Now he's got the absolute highest level. And he did finish, you know, a good second to the Australian team of Ireland and cannot be known as super, super fast.


But what if there's some dinner that evening? You're going back to the Kimoto. Pretty disappointed because the team Gakuin, a quick step that he was for a lot of work for him. They set it up gone, but he didn't win. And that would have been a disappointment.


And can you explain to people who might not understand this fully, what is the green jersey green versus what they call the points jersey?


I think based on you contention, because the sprinters can't compete for the yellow jersey because they will never get off the mountains in the same time. And what they lose in the mountains means they're out of contention. OK, so so the Green Zone, a security zone, it's meant to find the best owner around or somebody who can sprint in the intermediate sprints that happened during the stage, somebody who will compete at the at the end of stage, for instance.


Well, somebody who can climb the mountains and keep accumulating points on games that are not strictly serene. But overall, you know, the guy who wins the green jersey is going to be a very accomplished bike rider, especially good on the roads.


Tell us a little bit about Zambonis. I mean, he arrived and he was he was born in Belgium, but that's being encouraging for the homeless so remarkably, you know, not in the same town that deliver John Kerry to the world. So, I mean, he's done extremely well because when you come out of public insurance, you know, the comparisons are going to be pretty difficult to cope with because Kelly was a one off, you know, a guy who got to world number one, who won masses of race and something that was never going to achieve that level.


But he's achieved very good level and he's fortunate in one respect. But he he's he's competing at a time when the salaries of firefighters have gone seriously up. So he's only been showing Kelly every day and he's making a very good career for himself based on on on a lot of times, in an overall sense, something was much more Logansport now than it was in college. I can say that was a few kind of defiles, but it was mostly continental Europeans.


Now it's now it's it's much more Logansport. I mean, not just Tour de France was won by the Colombians last year to initially was was won by an Ecuadorian last year to Spain, was won by Slovenian. Now, they were nations that didn't really win grantors until now. Yeah. So so the chances of seeing you. Well, so the chances of seeing another golden age of that kind of Stephen Roach on Callear for Irish cycling are very diminished now, are they?


Absolutely. You know you know, Brendan, it's not unlike like the Premier League. There was a time when when I would have had three players with Liverpool and Three Republic International Screen with Manchester United. If you go back to that team of 1990, Italia 90, we're never going to see that again because because the Premier League has become global and digital for cycling at the Tour de France. I mean, I. I first turned up on the Tour de France in 1983 and I remember arriving into Poland Monday afternoon.


Sean Kelly had just won the yellow jersey and Stephen Roach had the white Jersey professional rider and Kelly also had the green jersey. So to me, the biggest test for generalizability in the Tour de France and that Monday afternoon and so on them, I mean, that kind of stuff is never going to happen again because because we're talking now about a very different kettle of smoke. OK, tell us about this year's race.


I so you were racing that it's going to be vintage year and it's kind of hard to predict who's going to win. Yeah, it is. I mean, the temperature is done differently. Primo's Rutledge, who's a Slovenian with the Jumbo's machine. Now, that's interesting because Team Sky, who became Timimi, is now and are now is to be is the team created by the French for the English guy. They have won seven of the last eight years.


And in many of those tourists from Switzerland, they've been totally dominant. This year. It's different jumbuck charisma. A Dutch team has been stronger than Britain is for each team, and their leader looks better than Britain's for its leader at this point in the race. Now their leader is very strong Slovenian Rockledge. But Bracelet's leader is the Caribbean who won last year. Very young guy. Twenty three year old. You can turn out and turnout is going quite well and for now has proven that he does very well in the third week.


Rockledge has a slight advantage now there in the Pyrenees this weekend, I would expect will to maybe build on that advantage, but not to get rid of burn out. So I think the race is going to go all the way into the third week. And to me, it looks really interesting because while Rutledge is a desert favorite, I think I think the Colombian has got to, you know, as he still has a lot, I could well get himself back into the yellow jersey setting up an year.


Does that change? You mentioned their team Skyy transitioned into now enhanced Grenadiers. Does that make any difference to anything or is there anything significant about it?


Or is just a change from when they were Sky Brendan? They were really well funded. They were the best funded team independently. And then Ineos came along and mean the company owned by Jim Ratcliffe, who two years ago was well, the Sunday Times said was on there they list. He was Britain's most wealthy man. So the investment in the team is even growing. So no team is the kind of resources that any of us have. And yet somebody in Ireland has created a team that looks better than them now on a smaller budget.


But if it's. That's coming on board as I was doing anything to increase the pressure on Bransford, because we're Sky, we're thinking this is good for us. This is a this is a good way of promoting our brand, Jim, recklessly thinking, you know, it's a decent way maybe to promote the brand, but I want the team to win. So the pressure on on Bracebridge is going to be more intense now, I understand, under Sky sponsorship.


So in that respect, it has changed.


OK, people will remember, of course, that you were embedded before with Team Sky and at the time you stood over them in terms of not having a doping control. Would you still stand over that?


I think generally I think generally you could you can make that argument that they don't have a doping culture. And I don't believe those nearly as much doping independent analysis as there was back in the day. I mean, we see young guys coming in. They're like, you can Bananaland. And there's a new young star from from Slovenia Challenge Gotcher, who's like 21 years of age. And he's been riding really well on the tour. I don't believe that could happen if there's a huge doping culture because there is only so there's always been a culture in this sport that when the young guys come in, even in the past days, they didn't get put on a doping program straight up.


So young guys couldn't find it really difficult to make a big impact during the year and also not to Armstrong or Miguel Duran. It was the older guys who tended to dominate in relation to Team Sky, what they did with Bradley Wiggins and giving him a therapeutic use exemption that he didn't need in 2012 was long. And it completely leaves me certain that I'm sure with many others leaves you with a big asterisk. After Wiggins's victory in the Tour de France, the first person to win the tour has an asterisk after his name.


That information came out four years after the act was done, and at that point, a lot of people revised their view about how to praise for Federer and his team. And that will always be there like a scholar on anything the team has achieved. OK, David Rightest, thanks.


That was fascinating. And a great primer for anyone who's watching a better Tour de France. More in lockdown text to say she's watching the Tour de France every day. She says, I know diddly squat about bike racing, but it's like a mini break in France every day. That that's as good a reason as any to watch it. All right.


Let's take a break and listen back on the Archie radio player, Brendan O'Connor on Archie Radio One.