Hello boys and girls, especially Marco.
I had a close encounter of the Duffers kind earlier this year and it was a dream come true (which shows I should stop eating cheese late at night).
The place… Luxembourg… After a busy day watching the Prologue for the Tour, saw the riders practicing on the circuit in the morning, all my heroes were there Tafi, O’Grady, Zabel, Armstrong (ok, so a few were missing). Wandered around to watch the prologue and soaked up the atmosphere in the town, had some frites and mayo too. After the action was over I sauntered back to the hotel and relaxed before heading into the night… there was a gig in town, the Scorpions backed by the Luxembourg philharmonic orchestra.. it was free I might add!. Next to the hotel was an Italian place… the smell was dragging me in. Needless to say, it was packed. I got a table and enjoyed the wait for service, i was in no rush. I’d just finished my pizza and had ordered desert when a man was ushered onto the table in front of me. He looked familiar, but his back was to me. I tried to get a look at him in a reflection, but couldn’t. He was tall and had grey hair. I figured i’d wait until he ordered before getting too excited. It was hard to hear above the clamour of the restaurant, but his voice sounded familiar…. not only that, but he was reading a book about cycling, ‘king of the mountains’ and I could see it was an English language version. Just my luck that the waiters then decided to be efficient and my pudding and coffee had arrived and I was struggling to tarry. I was still trying to get a good glimpse of the man who might be king, but no luck. I paid the bill and headed off to town, wondering if I was close to greatness. After the gig I headed for the hotel. I rounded the corner, the Italian was quieter now. Then I noticed grey hair headed out the door and to the street… my timing was perfect. He stepped from the entrance and I reached it. I gasped. could it be? only one way to find out… “excuse me, are you David Duffield?” “Yes, How did you recognise me?” I explained that I’d been behind him earlier and had my suspicions. We then chatted for about ten minutes… I was raving about the Tour spectacle and the whole atmosphere and how it would be great for a UK version. He went into great detail about the problems with UK cycling and how he’d love for a tour of Britain and for the TDF to return. I said that I loved Eurosport’s continued support of cycling, as I worked for the BBC at the time it was great that someone was showing it and how I’d tried to convince colleagues to report on it, without luck. We chatted about the thorny problem of TV coverage and how it’s seen as an unfashionable sport and all the money is in football. He was so enthusiastic about cycling, he seemed to live and breathe it, much as Murray Walker did motor racing, it was actually contagious! The hour was growing late and he explained he had to get up early to get to the start and get all the gossip. He shook my hand and wandered off into the night. A truly lovely man, it was a pleasure to have met him and also to have eaten in the same restaurant I feel I’m part of the folklore now! As i missed the next day’s coverage from the man, I’ve wondered if he spoke of his great pizza from the night before and encounter on the street afterwards.
When he walked past me at the cycle show a couple of months back he gave me a long look, as though he vaguely remembered. I won’t forget though.