There’s a professional road cycling team that lives and trains in my home town. We’ll see them out on the Blue Ridge Parkway and the steep mountain climbs that rise from the valley floor surrounding the city. They’re skinny, clad in blue and fast as hell. Having a pro cycling team in your town seems cool—and it is—it means your town has legitimate rides, worthy of the best in the business. Also, it means you’ll never get a significant KOM on Strava. It means on any given ride, no matter how good you’re feeling, you’re going to get passed by someone who’s probably just out for a casual recovery ride. It means there’s always gonna be someone faster that you living down the street. Always. I was on a lunch ride the other day and spotted one of the pros, looking like a blueberry in his blue kit, pedaling up a long, gradual hill. He was maybe 20 yards ahead of me and meandering at a casual clip. Naturally, I decided to race him, standing and hammering into a higher gear and blowing past him about three quarters of the way up the hill, delivering a light and pithy “on your left” as I pedaled to victory. It was the single most satisfying achievement in my cycling “career.” Now, you could argue that this pro didn’t know he was in a race with a weekend warrior desperately trying to fight off middle age. And you could argue that the pro was actually slowing down as I passed him because of the red light in front of us, a red light that I blew through in my blinded quest for victory. These are valid points to make, but I’d argue that since the dawn of Strava, we’re all racing. All the time. And maybe more to the point, in Trump’s America, winning is winning, right? No matter what the circumstances? I mean, to quote DJ Khaled, “all I do is win, win, win no matter what.” At least, that one time, against an opponent who didn’t know he was in a race, and was slowing down to obey traffic laws, all I did was win, win, win no matter what. Pretty much every other time, those lyrics don’t apply to me. Of course, on my ride today, I was put back in my place. I was in the midst of a brutal climb, suffering and sweating onto my handlebars and generally wondering why I don’t just play golf when another pro from the same team came breezing past me. She wasn’t working too hard. Wasn’t really sweating at all. I think she had a bagel in one hand, but I couldn’t be sure because she blew by me so fast. She may as well have tapped me on the ass and said, “good job, little buddy.” Order was restored. The speedy blueberries are back on top and I’m way, way down towards the bottom.
“I talked to the coach (Wenger) and the most important thing is to have the support of the people around you, who have faith in you, the staff, my team-mates. “Anyway we can only answer on the pitch and that is also why the FA Cup was important.” Giroud, though, will not hold any grudges, adding: “I am not really angry at him (Henry), we will talk about that together. “It is true that I found it surprising, but that is just football. “I don’t hold it against him and we will have a laugh about it when we see each other again.” Giroud’s goal at Wembley was a first in some nine appearances, having earlier been in rich scoring form, and saw him start on the bench as Theo Walcott was given his chance following a hat-trick on the final day of the Barclays Premier League season against West Brom. The French international, however, stressed he had no issues with Wenger’s decision and overall was happy with his season. “I had three difficult months. It was the first time I had been injured for so long, there was a lot of work to do, I had to be patient, work harder,” Giroud added. “Some people said that I came back stronger. I did some good work to get back in shape, re-boosted and balanced physically. “After that, I was very clinical and had good fortune. I had very good statistics in spite of a little drought at the end of the season. “It’s still a super season, and is great to end with a trophy.” Arsenal are expected to further strengthen the squad in the summer. Veteran Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech is a well-reported target, along with Monaco’s defensive midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia and Morgan Schneiderlin at Southampton. Arsenal’s pre-season campaign includes a trip to the Far East for the Barclays Asia Trophy Singapore during mid-July, which will also feature Stoke and Everton. Giroud, though, also suffered his fair share of critics, especially in the wake of a disappointing personal display as Arsenal lost 3-1 at home to Monaco in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie. Henry, who is Arsenal’s record goalscorer and spearheaded the Invincibles side, went as far as to claim manager Arsene Wenger need to sign “a top, top-quality striker in order to win this league again” in the wake of the goalless draw with champions-elect Chelsea on April 26. While the World Cup winner has since moved to clarify his post-match TV pundit comments, claiming “people took it a bit the wrong way,” and instead stressing that “Olivier Giroud needs help”, the Gunners frontman will continue to take everything in his stride. “It is part of the game. I will never win unanimous support,” Giroud said at a press conference as he prepared with France for Sunday’s international against Belgium. “Apparently Titi (Henry) corrected himself recently, he said that he was thinking about competition, that he wanted Arsenal to have many strikers who can score goals. “He was a little brutal at the time, so it caused a fuss, but that is what he’s asked to do as a pundit and I didn’t lose any sleep over it. “Of course, it hurts your pride, it brings into question the work you do every day. “It irritates you, and I was a little annoyed, but I quickly put it behind me. Giroud took his tally to 19 with a late goal in Arsenal’s 4-0 win over Aston Villa in the FA Cup final at Wembley last weekend. It was a positive end to a campaign which had seen the France forward sidelined for some three months with a broken leg, then battle back into the side following the £16million deadline day purchase of Danny Welbeck. Arsenal forward Olivier Giroud is not about to lose any sleep over “brutal” criticism on his game from former Gunners striker Thierry Henry or anyone else. Press Association