Respect, honour and tradition in the peloton
Cycling is a sport steeped in tradition. The unwritten rules of cycle racing have evolved over many years and been cultured in virtually every country on the planet. Cycling is a sport whose ethics and morals are based on fair play and respect for your fellow riders. The Tour de France is the pinnacle of cycling excellence, and arguably the greatest race on the planet, yet the 2012 race has been marred by a number of surprising incidences. Whilst our cyclingÂ forefathers are turning in their graves bemoaning the actions of the mavericks in the peloton, it is these renagade riders who will ensure that the wonderful sport of cycling keeps developing for generations to enjoy in the future. So grab your stetson, jump up on your high horses and take a stance on the moral high ground – here comes my run down of the 2012 Tour’s top tumultuous moments so far!
First up we have the case of huge talent that is Slovakian road race champion Peter Sagan. Sagan’s showmanship and volatile nature is nothing new in the world of cycling. Sprinters, on two legs and on two wheels, are notorious for their egos – it goes with the territory of incredible self-belief that makes them winners. Sagan fits this mould perfectly and at the time of writing, Sagan has won an incredible 3 stages of the Tour. Barring injury, illness and stray rockets, Peter Sagan will be parading the green jersey in Paris on the 22nd July.
I’m sorry, but no matter how great your talent or the apparent ease with which you win stages, a Tour de France stage win should be a life changing result, not just another win. Sagan’s reaction was almost dismissive at the finish line, his pre-planned celebration was an affront to the riders finishing behind him, many of whom can be considered legends of the sport.
It’s interesting to draw comparisons between other prolific winners such as Mark Cavendish. The first words out of Cavendish’s mouth after any win are words of praise for his team, directors and sponsors, no matter how many wins he takes, this distribution of praise never seems any less sincere – this is the mark of a true champion.
In his defence, Sagan seems to have matured throughout the race, whether this is the work of Liquigas’ press officer or his growing experience we’ll have to wait and see, but Sagan needs to be careful not to upset the more traditional members of the peloton
Next we take a look at some underhand tactics of so-called ‘cycling fans’. The 9 riders of Â Team Sky feature two Australian super domestiques, Richie Porte and Michael Rogers. Both riders are incredible in their own right, but are selflessly riding in support of team leader Bradley Wiggins in the 2012 Tour. A small group of Australian fansÂ were heard booing the Sky duo on stage 12 as they battled to reign in a break by compatriotÂ and defending champion Cadel Evans. This is downright awful, both riders are doing a great job and they should be heaped with praise as they deserved, not intimidated for chasing down a fellow countryman. Rant over.
Of course yesterdays stage was marred by a local carpet fitter who spilled a box of beautifully sharp tacks on the road and inflicted a train of punctures on the peloton, support cars and TV crews on motorbikes. The ever newsworthy Cadel Evans was a victim and left stranded at the top of the climb waiting for a new wheel for a team mate to arrive. When BMC’s resident Brit Steve Cummings finally made it up to Evans, he too had suffered a puncture. We had this problem in the Tour of Britain last year but to have such an issue in the world’s most presigious bike race is unprecedented and what followed demonstrated the utter respect that is present between pro-cyclists.
Pierre Rolland watched the carnage of his fellow riders nursing puncture after puncture and, unwisely, seized the moment – he went for a break at the front of the peloton down a fast descent. Now that’s just not done at this level, openly benefitting from somebody else’s misfortune. Misfortune that was not their fault in any shape or form. It is an unwritten rule of bike racing that if a favourite for the GC punctures and is without team help, the lead riders sit up and wait. Evans was stranded for over a minute and a half at the top of the narrow climb without a usable wheel and then was hit again by a front wheel puncture on the descent. Wiggins and Team Sky had sat up to wait for their rival. Rolland had spat in the direction cycling’s traditions. He was reeled in and kept his head down for the remainder of the race. The BMC team dragged Cadel Evans back into the peloton and normal service was resumed again.
Mr Wiggins, who is making great waves in his post stage press conferences, was diplomatic in his assessment of the situation -
â€˜There is nothing to stop more of that stuff happening. Weâ€™re just riders at the end of the day and weâ€™re there to be shot at. Literally. I just thought it was the honourable thing to do to wait for Cadel. No-one wants to benefit from someone elseâ€™s misfortune.â€™
Referring to Rolland’s attack, Bradley said – Â
â€˜I thought it was a little bit uncouth at that time. So many guys punctured at once, it became quite apparent very quickly that something was up. He didnâ€™t just attack once, he attacked twice. It didnâ€™t seem very honourable.â€™
The 2012 Tour de France is proving to be one of the most exciting in a long, long time – for the right reasons, the wrong reasons and just downright patriotic reasons.
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