Lance in a tickle, Geraint in a pickle, call out the dogs!

Business Day - - SPORTS DAY - KEVIN Mc­CAL­LUM

It was, surely, a co­in­ci­dence. This week Geraint Thomas had his Tour de France win­ner’s tro­phy stolen from a bike show. On Thurs­day Lance Arm­strong tweeted Thomas a mes­sage: “G – bum­mer, dude. I got 7 of ’em if you wanna bor­row one.”

Just af­ter noon on Thurs­day, Thomas posted a pic­ture of him­self and his wife with glasses of cham­pers on a plane: “USA here we come.”

Co­in­ci­dence? Well, of course. No cur­rent pro­fes­sional cy­clist would be seen with Arm­strong these days.

Al­though, the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of Arm­strong has been on an up­ward curve. He has, af­ter a fash­ion and in a fash­ion, em­braced who he was and what he did.

His life ban re­mains in place, but he still com­petes in those events not sanc­tioned by the en­forcers of the ban. He hosts a pod­cast dur­ing the Tour that is sharp, sar­donic and in­sight­ful.

He has paid back some of the money he made while dop­ing and rac­ing, enough for Floyd Lan­dis, who helped blow the whis­tle on him, to start a cy­cling team to go along with his dagga busi­ness.

And he still had seven Tour de France tro­phies and jer­seys.

Thomas does not have his lit­tle bowl. He called the per­son who stole it “some knob”.

Tro­phies get nicked. Which is as cheesy a segue for me to tell my favourite story about when the Jules Rimet tro­phy was taken in 1966. The tro­phy was stolen four months be­fore the World Cup from a stamp ex­hi­bi­tion. Se­cu­rity took a break and it was nicked.

It was the big­gest news in Eng­land of the day. The po­lice set up a task team. The sec­re­tary of Eng­land’s FA went to a sil­ver­smith called Ge­orge Bird and asked him to make a solid gold replica. Panic in the streets of Lon­don.

Some­one called Jack­son de­manded a ran­som of £15K. The po­lice even­tu­ally ar­rested “Jack­son”, a 46-year old Sec­ond World War veteran called Ed­ward Betch­ley as he tried to pick up the ran­som.

Dave Cor­bett left his flat in Nor­wood, south Lon­don, to make a phone call and take his dog Pick­les for a walk.

“Pick­les was run­ning around over by my neigh­bour’s car,” ex­plained Cor­bett. “As I was putting the lead on I no­ticed this pack­age lay­ing there, wrapped just in news­pa­per but very tightly bound with string. I tore a bit off the bot­tom and there was a blank shield, then there were the words Brazil, West Ger­many and Uruguay printed.

“I tore off the other end and it was a lady hold­ing a very shal­low dish above her head. I’d seen the pic­tures of the World Cup in the pa­pers and on TV so my heart started thump­ing.

“I slammed it on the desk in front of the sergeant and said: ‘I think I have found the World Cup’. I re­mem­ber his words: ‘Doesn’t look very World Cuppy to me, son.’”

Pick­les be­came a su­per­star. He was named dog of the year and starred in a movie called The Spy with a Cold Nose. He went on TV shows.

Af­ter the fi­nal, when Eng­land had won 4-2, they were in­vited to the cel­e­bra­tory din­ner. The wives of the play­ers weren’t even in­vited. Pick­les uri­nated in the lift shaft. A dog has got to do what a dog has got to do.

Cor­bett made money from Pick­les, a four-year old mon­grel he had taken off his brother’s hands be­cause the dog ate fur­ni­ture. “I got my­self an agent. The same as Spike Mil­li­gan’s. He made me £60 a day, bloody bril­liant!”

And Pick­les the dog? Well, sadly, a year later, Cor­bett’s sixyear old son took him for a walk on a choke leash. Pick­les spied a cat and es­caped. They found him af­ter search­ing for an hour. He was half­way up a tree, dead.

He was buried in the back gar­den of the house in Ling­field, Sur­rey, where Cor­bett, now 77, still lives.

He bought the house with the £3,000 he made from Pick­les and his fame.

Thomas needs a Pick­les to find his tro­phy. He needs some twit to try and sell it. Tour de France tro­phies can’t have a big mar­ket.

Some­one some­where is sit­ting look­ing at it. pos­si­bly with the re­mains of a three-day hang­over won­der­ing what the hell to do with it.

They are pick­led.

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