Cycling Tour of Britain

Number the paragraphs

I surprised myself by liking this one; it’s subtle. Bear with me!

This is from The Guardian

What does that tell us about its target readership?

The headline is somewhat misleading; the vocabulary used is hostile: “clash”, suffers”, “rude interruption”, and at first it seems as though the writer, Richard Williams, is on the side of Londoners against the intrusive cyclists. Further reading, however, makes it clear that the unwelcoming Londoners are, in fact, the object of his hostility, and that the tone of this headline is one of sarcasm.

The subhead uses elevated language – “unmoved” and “entreaties”- to convey the importance of this event and the emotional heat it generated in some quarters.

The way the inhabitants of Primrose Hill, quite a swanky part of London, are described in paragraph 1 suggests that Williams perceives them as pretentious: “Leaving their cups of espresso macchiato to cool on the pavement tables…” Most of us, perhaps he is suggesting, would be happy with a mug of Nescafe. There is, perhaps, irony in the fact that the Londoners are aping the European culture of espresso macchiato and pavement cafes whilst being so inflexible with regard to the much loved European sport of cycling.

I like the contrast in paragraph 2 between the “gnarled figures” and their “gaudy racing bikes”. It suggests that their priority is with their sporting equipment rather than personal glamour, unlike (we assume) the sophisticated inhabitants of Primrose Hill.

In paragraph 3 the countdown begins. Now, this is what I mean by it being subtle; the article is aiming at the idea that we are in the countdown to the Olympics and that we will mess it up if we don’t sort out London’s attitude to the cycling element of that. This larger idea is posed against the actual timings to which stage 6 of the Tour of Britain was working. The fact that we are constantly reminded of time ticking by gives an edge of tension and suspense to the whole piece.
Work through the piece and make a timeline of events. You can even make it pretty, if you like!

Paragraph 4 returns us to the “elegantly raffish” streets of Primrose Hill, ironically comparing it to a “small town in Provence, waiting for the Grande Boucle” to pass by.”
Why is this comparison ironic?

Paragraph 6 clarifies the difference in attitudes to cycling between Europe and London.
Explain this difference.

What line in this paragraph gives the impression that the writer has personally been on the wrong end of driver selfishness? What word, particularly, from that line, does the work?

Paragraph 7 uses personification to describe the VW Golf.
What is the effect of the word “pottered”?

Two metaphors are used in paragraph 8 to describe the behaviour of the police controlling the traffic.
What are these and what is their effect?

Apart from the attitude of the Londoners, what other problems are faced by the cyclists?
Identify and list these from paragraph 9.

(Dreadnought is a class of battleship; using it here suggests the size of some of the speed bumps with which the cyclists have to contend. It’s a metaphor.)

In paragraph 10 I like the contrast between “the macchiato drinkers” and “the survivors”. “survivors” also links into the battle imagery suggested by “dreadnought”.

Obviously the cream of the cycling crop ( Tom Boonen) are involved in this race, and maybe merit a little more than “polite applause”, which sounds a little half hearted and limp.

Paragraph introduces the entertaining metaphor of “the broom wagon”, the vehicle which brings up the rear to “sweep up” the stragglers and drop outs.

Which word in paragraph indicates that the police were struggling to maintain control over the shoppers?

In paragraph 13 the positive vocabulary, “vast and good humoured crowd” is contrasted with two negative phrases. What are they?

I found the conclusion to this piece quite unexpected. The contrast between the gentle, comic narrative and the sharp warning the piece finally delivers is almost as “brutally unexpected” as the accident with which the race ended.