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