Chris Froome yesterday evening left it late to overhaul ex-England cricketer Kevin Pietersen and former Spice Girl Melanie C to win the Wheels For Heroes race on Zwift. That’s a sentence no-one could have predicted at the start of 2020, moreover on a weekend that in normal times would have seen the climax of Tour de France build-up race, the Criterium du Dauphiné.
(NB - To watch the race, go to the 20-minute point of the video above)
These are, of course, far from normal times, but while some sports are slowly returning – the FA Premier League resumes behind closed doors on Saturday – we’re still almost two months away from seeing the return of cycling, with the revised UCI WorldTour calendar due to start on 1 August.
Online platforms such as Zwift, however, mean that competitive cycling in at least a virtual form has been able to continue and while it is no substitute for the real thing, it has provided some diversion – and not least last night’s event in aid of Wheels For Heroes, broadcast live by Sky Sports, which pitched four-time Tour de France winner Froome against some very unlikely opposition.
Besides Pietersen, who dreamt up the challenge with Froome, and the pop star formerly known as Sporty Spice, others tackling Zwift’s Volcano Course were footballers Ryan Giggs and Steph Houghton, ex- England cricketers Andrew Flintoff, and Darren Gough, the singer Olly Murs, golfer Lee Westwood,. Rugby union star Maro Itoje, and broadcaster Kirsty Gallagher.
Held in a handicap format, riders headed out at staggered start times on the 22-kilometre course, four-time Tour de France champion Froome, naturally, the last one out as he set about chasing down those who had set off before him.
Hosted by Laura Woods and with commentary from comedian Romesh Ranganathan and the inimitable Matt Stephens, it made for a hugely entertaining evening’s TV, and you can watch the race in full above.
It was held in support of the Wheels For Heroes initiative set up by Brompton Bike Hire to provide free loan bikes for NHS workers, which has now raised £334,000.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.