Tour de France

Danny Coyle

Thursday, 20 October, 2011
This entry comes to you from my hotel room in Montpellier on the eve of the Marathon du Vin.Over the next three days I’ll be running 5km, then 16km then a half marathon through some of the finest wine country on God’s green earth, with the opportunity to sample some of it along the way, and afterwards, obviously.France is well known for its wine, cheese and long distance cyclists, having given birth to the sport’s greatest race, but get a Frenchman off his bike and into a pair of runners and something weird happens.Hand on heart – can you tell me the last Frenchman to medal in a distance race at a major championships? Can you?I couldn’t think of one off the top of my head – which is well insulated at the moment. I need a haircut but am fearful that my abysmal Franglais will result in a hairstyle like that podgy bloke on the X Factor.So I turned to the internet and found Alain Mimoun, who won gold in the 1956 Olympic marathon in Melbourne.Mimoun raced under the French flag but was actually born in Algeria. They’ve got a much better pedigree in distance running, so for France to have claimed him whilst still ruling the North African state was a cute piece of cunning and one replicated by countless other countries since.He was unlucky not to have won more and claimed numerous silvers before ’56 behind the great Emil Zatopek, which earned him the nickname ‘Zatopek’s Shadow.”So it’s the best part of 60 years since a Frenchman has emerged from the darkness to claim a major gold, which is probably why there are no decent French distance runners now – no role models.There could be another reason that may well reveal itself over the course of the weekend. France is stuffed with vineyards. Perhaps the chances of many a potential champion were dashed by the lure of a smiling grape farmer and the bouquet of a big, ballsy merlot five miles in.It’s a theory that requires more investigation and, as luck would have it, I seem to be the man in a position to carry it out.To the vineyards, then. Important work awaits.Find out more about the Marathon du Vin here: www.209events.com

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