Professionals: Rule 5 and No Room For Protests

F Grimpeur, Banged but not yet Felled - Photo Courtesy of Universal Sports

First and foremost, as a cyclist and a devoted fan of this sport – a Velominatus, no less, – I express my deepest sympathies to the riders who crashed in Stage 2 of the Tour de France.  Blame was cast around, but as pointed out by Ben, there were many months of opportunity for the riders to  express their concern about the route – yet no one did.  That is because it was a good route; one raced by Eddy Merckx so many times the very climb whose descent caused the carnage in today’s stage bears a statue of his likeness.

In the end, the organizers cannot be held responsible for bad weather, and the riders cannot be held accountable for reacting in collective self-preservation when sticken en masse. Perhaps the stage finish should have been contested, and perhaps some will rue today’s lost opportunities, but the strongest riders in each competition will prevail, I’m sure of that. The lines between sportsmanship and Rule #5 were murky, and it really got everyone talking.  We’re all eternally biased by our views and our passion; that’s one of the things that distinguishes us from “science” and makes this a “sport”.  And goddammit, I love it and if there is one thing we do here at the Velominati, I hope it’s that we have a chance to say what we want to say and have a conversation.  No matter how wrong everyone else is.

The point I’d like to make is that what makes each of us a professional in our own little discpline is our ability to separate what we want to do from what we are paid to do.  Tomorrow’s stage three is a case in point.  Let today be what is was; Stage Three will feature a rough ride over some of the worst roads in Europe.  But, the men bouncing over those roads will not be amateurs out for a Tuesday group ride.  These will be professionals – many of whom are paid very handsomely – and their job is to race their bicycles across the route that the race organizers have laid out.

They are paid handsomely for a reason: their job is difficult and not many can accomplish what they are asked to do.  To be a professional cyclist means being able to do things and endure pain that I am humbled to imagine (quite frankly, I’m afraid of needles).  But the reason there is a paycheck waiting at the end of the day is because the professionals are providing a service that is worth paying for.

That “service” happens to be  entertainment.  If you’d like to protest the route, you have several months before the race to do so.  Once the race starts, protests have no place in this sport.  A professional should get on with their job, no matter how difficult it is.

I feel horrible for any rider denied their chance to a “fair” race – including Banged and Felled, Gesink, and Farrar – who may or may not be broken – but the fact remains: this is a bike race and shit happens.  You are paid to race a bike because you’re better at it than we are, and because competition is unpredictable, despite the fact that it may break our hearts.  In that light, to neutralize tomorrow’s race would be as bad as if we’d found a motor in Spartacus’ Shiv at the Prologue; it would be devastating beyond what any of us can justify in our passion of this sport.

Let me conclude this article with Five Ghosts from Tours Past, in case you still think today’s racers have it too hard:

  1. The first Tour was 6 stages and 2,428 kilometers.  This year’s Tour is 3,642 kilometers in 20 stages.  That’s 3.06 times less Rule #5 than in 1903.
  2. Dérailleurs were illegal until 1937.  Mountains weren’t, though, so riders had to loosen their rear wheel and reverse it to have a (marginally) better gear on the way up or down a hill.
  3. In 1913, Eugene Christophe has to repair by welding his own fork after a crash in the village of Sainte-Marie-de-Campan (my favorite  village in France).  He refused assistance as being helped would render him disqualified from the race.  It was each man for themselves in 1913.
  4. In 1963, the Tour organizers reduced the length of the individual time trials (plural) from 111 kilometers to 79 kilometers.
  5. As recently as 1983, the Tour’s passes still contained unpaved roads.

A couple of rough roads don’t seem so bad when you look at that list.

I ask the Pro Peleton: Please don’t neutralize the race tomorrow.  For better or for worse, this is what you’re paid to do.  And next year, when the roads look this sketchy, take it up with the organizers in a professional way so everyone – the fans, the riders, and the organizers, all know what to expect.

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31 Replies to “Professionals: Rule 5 and No Room For Protests”

  1. Peleton needs to HTFU (squared). Ironically the only man who emerged looking like he has any cojones is called “Sylvian”. And Hushovd is more contemptible than Cancellara, who at last did his team a great service: don’t complain about missing out on an opportunity for maillot vert points afterward, Thor, you should have told Fabian to fuck off and gone for it. While I don’t want a bloke who appears not to have grasped the fundamentals of cornering a bicycle to win the green, not sure Hushovd deserves it either. Thunder god my arse.

  2. Oh, and one more thing – please can we have the Giro back? Mentally hard stages and no crying. I imagine Hinault found it hard to bring himself to appear on the podium with those whingers yesterday.

  3. Bunch of fucking pussies yesterday.

    Neutralize today and I’ll drive over and start snapping frames.

  4. Has there actually been a threat / announcement / rumour that the riders will neutralise the stage? Or are we just fearing the worst – albeit perhaps understandably, in light of the whole “I’ve fallen off my bike and can’t find my friends and the big boys are riding away without me and my DS is too confused without a a tv (or iphone) so please slow down and give me a tissue” fiasco? I’ll be really pissed off if I set the alarm to get up early and end up watching a neutralised cobbled stage. What’s next? A walk of protest up the Tourmalet? Twice?

  5. No – it was just rumour. Looks baseless tough, thank fuck.

    Prize for biggest pussy of the day goes to Chris Horner.

  6. We seem to be merging two different events from yesterday.

    1. Big crash, lots of riders down. Cancellara and others orchestrate a slowdown to let riders rejoin. No problem there. That’s sportsmanship””and, as discussed, fairly common practice in many cases.

    2. With more or less everyone back on””and on a wide-open straight to the finish””Cancellara and others orchestrate a no-race-to-the-finish. That makes less sense to me. Everyone who was going to make it was safely back on; why not let the sprinters have it, if only to acknowledge Chavanel’s strong riding?

    I don’t have any objections to 1 above. 2 is a little stranger. They’ve known the course forever and they knew these descents were treacherous. But here’s the thing: when I’m going down a hill that’s slippery or gravely or whatever, I slow down a bit, because I know that getting to the bottom of the hill in one piece is going to be faster than sliding down on my hip (and I also like my skin where it is, thank you very much). I’ll disagree with some of the comments above and on the other thread and say that I applaud riders not taking advantage of others’ misfortune (maybe a sign of why I like Jan more than Lance), but it’s still a race. I understand rattled nerves throughout the peloton, and I can sympathize with why, in the heat of the moment, the riders thought it best to cross the line together, but it’s still a race.

  7. @Canarypunk

    well summarized between 1 and 2. I can’t quite figure out two either other than to wonder if there was so much chaos and misunderstanding that the peloton didn’t know who was where and how badly they were injured, let alone if they had a bike to ride. sounds like radios were turned off at one point so they couldn’t get info.

    as far as descending on sketchy roads, clearly the Stockeu was more than sketchy, it sounds like it was unridable. sketchy is guys like Banged and Felled and Menchov crashing. Unridable is virtually everyone crashing on a straight stretch, getting up, and crashing again 200m later, and perhaps even for a third time. That shit just aint right.

  8. @Marko
    How bad could it be? Menchov managed to stay up. Jokes aside, you’re right. And that was how Cancellara summed it up this morning. Crashes happen all the time, but when almost half the peloton goes down, that’s not normal. As a result, the only just thing to do was to finish en masse as a sign of solidarity. Cancellara also commented on the relative surprise with the crash. Cobblestones are tough; we all know that. So it should be on today. Looks good so far.

  9. frank :@Frank
    (quite frankly, I’m afraid of needles)

    I guess that means you have no future in the Pro Peloton Frank.

    But anyway, after reading Horner’s comments yesterday – “There’s no place in the Tour de France for a stage like this.” – All I could think was “grow some, biyotch”. The TdF is becoming “Frencher” by the moment. Has anybody noticed that the Tour of California was moved because of all the crying about the weather? So now you have a choice, ride with all the cry baby pussies in the ToC or HTFU and ride the Giro. But now the cry babies can’t complain about the ToC so the crying has been shifted to the TdF.

  10. @Cyclops
    Absolutely right. I was disappointed as well that Andy, in a pre-race interview, said this isn’t Paris-Roubaix, it’s the Tour de France. That’s right, Andy. It’s the Tour. It means you have to ride your bike along the entire route, not just up mountains and smooth roads.

    Stud ride from both those skinny little climbers today, though. Couldn’t have been easy with the crashes from yesterday.

  11. Yesterday (mini-LBL) blew. Today (mini-PR) was wicked. Good Cadel was a sensation flying under the radar there! Would Fabian have tried to stop the show again today if A Grimp crashed again? Lame. Surely A Grimp should have waited for Lance and Contador when they crashed? They waited for him!

    Farrar is broken, but riding on. Millar also has a broken rib and finished today in the third(?) grupetto with quite a few unbroken hitters. Hard as nails Rule #5 legend.

  12. “Within only 200 meters of cresting I could see Lance fall about 10 places in front of me on a straight road. When I saw that happen I knew something wasn’t right – and that was immediately followed by my wheels disappearing from under me and my sliding across the ground” David Millar, Stage 2.

    Since I haven’t weighed in on the Stage 2 troubles, I’m putting in my ten lines here. These guys knew this was a narrow cobbled section so everyone had to go fast to be in front. I heard there was oil on the road hence carnage. Oil=Carnage. They are not pussies, they can handle their bikes better than we ever will but no one can if it’s slick as ice. Probably only part of it was slick so some guys rode right past wondering what the problem was. I say good on Faboooo for what he did. He is the Patron in the yellow jersey. Someone should stick up for the racers.

    OK, I’m done, move on. No need to fire this up again.

  13. Cancellara is a Cunt of the Highest Order for pulling that stunt yesterday and throwing his weight around. He now sits just above Armstrong in my PRO cycling CoTHO list.

    Him neutralising the race had fuck all to do with safety, the only reason the cunt-bucket did it was to ensure that the Grimpeurs got back into the race. Fuck-monkey, I hope his engine runs out of fuel in next years Paris-Roubaix.

    @frank Farrar is third on my list of CoTHO after his stage 1 racist outburst.

    Talking of which, why wasn’t Petacchi DQ’ed? Seemed to me he moved way off-line and caused a crash…

  14. @john I’ll give that +1.

    ‘You’re murderers!’ I want to take that quote and with all of that emotion and scream it again. Because of this reckless and dangerous game the organizers have played with the riders’ health, I lost one of my best friends in bike racing due to a broken collarbone…You can’t imagine how angry and how pissed off I am over this daft decision to include this stage in the Tour. It may well be that we have Fabian back in the yellow jersey and Andy at the top end of the classification, but we would swap it all to have a healthy Frank back.

    JENS! today after Stage 3

    When you cut away the post-race venom (of which there is much in those words), I respect the hell out of Jens! for them – he’s a domestique’s domestique, and he’s lost one of his riders to protect. Sad, really. But Jens… he eats SAD and shits MAD.

    Faboo sacrificed the yellow yesterday for his team, and today with everyone square… he sacrificed the peloton. They had their chance.

    This race *might* rival the Giro.

  15. Losing F. Schleck was the price Saxo had to pay for offending the cycling gods on Stage 2 with their clever mendacity.

  16. @david
    You’re starting to sound like one of those loonies over on the Cycling News forum. I think there has to be some kind of rule about never wishing any harm on any rider in or out of competition. Period. Actually, there doesn’t have to be a rule, it should be an unspoken truth.

  17. @Kermitpunk
    ++1. Let it be writ that no rider wants to see another rider crash, much less get injured. No one wants to see a race decided by DNF’s due to injury.

  18. @Kermitpunk #1. It does seem the ability of Canadians to detect irony may be deficient. At least, you write as if I seriously wished F. Schleck to be hurt. For Christ’s sake, I invoked fucking cycling gods. Do you think I really believe in them? If anything, I’m not talking about my wishes, but karma. I do in fact believe Saxo was cleverly mendacious. And, if you go in for the karmic view of the cosmos, which I don’t, you might well see it as a natural ocurrence. I’m making fun of that view of things. I also praised Saxo for being master players. #2. It’s just false that no rider wants another to crash. Putting pressure on riders in the hopes they either back off or crash is just a common racing tactic. What you hope for, if you are humane, is that that they are not badly hurt. I’ve been in a number of races where when people crash, my partner and I immediately jump on the front and drive the pace so everyone caught behind them are shelled. And, you don’t think Saxo, having taken control of the race on the cobbles so efficiently were hoping crashes would seperate their GC guys from the other GC guys? Really?

    Jesus Christ, Kermit, harden the fuck up.

  19. Yeah, Crashes-O-Plenty for Stage 2. At first I though the protest finish was a little lame.

    Then looking at it from the aspect of most of the favorites went down – Tour tradition is about the strongest rider winning – not being taken out by a crash. Okay, now I see it. Sort of large scale Lance and Jan scenario, back when they repaid each other after crashing out.

    Then I heard Levi’s post race interview about what mayhem it was – granted I sure – but then complaints about the team directors losing contact, so they didn’t know what was happening. That twisted my thinking back to it’s a race – screw the electronics – and get on with it.

    All is okay though after just watching Stage 3. Kick ass, tough stage – the real deal. Should the cobbles be in a Tour stage? Hell, yes. Adds some drama and excitement. Do I want to see people get hurt? Of course not – but that’s part of the game. Too bad for Frank Schleck – that sucks, but part of the racing deal.

    I don’t know why people assumed Contrador would fall apart over some cobbles. The dude is pro and lives on his bike. Gotta admit Lance looked bad ass – covered in dirt and bandages – flying through the race traffic, catching back up after the flat. Cool stuff.

    Man, the Tour rocks…..

  20. @Dan O: “don’t know why people assumed Contrador would fall apart over some cobbles. The dude is pro and lives on his bike.” Despite that god-awful pistolero salute, after last year’s Tour, I only had immense respect for Contador. He’s a pro. He’s a champion. No doubt. It’s his race to lose at this point.

  21. I heard Phil Liggett yap about 67/194 Riders this year are racing for their first time in the tour, when watching on Monday. Now I know they are not noobz, but the nervousness and possible anxiety of being in the Motha-frakkin’ TdF would add enough stress on my riding skills, and mental attention unless they HTFU’d.

    I HTFU more than I should; maybe I wouldn’t have run into the problems these guys have? :P

  22. @Jarvis et al:
    There is a point missing in the whole on this in reckoning Cancellara’s tactic on stage 2.

    a. Cancellara exudes class. He is a hardmans hardman. See this years Flanders tape please for anyone who disagrees

    b. He is a super domestique for Andy little Grimpeur. He did his job, which he is paid to do and selflessly gave up the malliot-juane in sacrifice for keeping his GC’r in the race.

    c. How stupid would it have been tactically for him and the others to go on..and race…when all the GC’rs were virtually on the ground, minus a small group and Sylvain Chavenel?? Nobody literally had a dog in the fight, Pharmlong was down, Cuntoder was down, Grimpeurs were down…that is the strong teams and there was nothing left but to piano pace it home

    d. Steeped in tradition and a hierarchy is the Tour de France. You must respect the maillot-juane or recieve the Silca pump through your front wheel in a steep descent at 60k/hr..deservedly so. One tradition is the call that the leader gets to coordinate such a call as to piano pace it in. Some like it, some don’t, but we must respect it. It happens. Pharmall did it for Ulrich. Some did not do it, but it is the call the maillot-juane gets to make. We don’t have to like it, but the reality is that there is a ton of racing to go yet and they all realize it in the peloton.

  23. @Dan O
    Totally agree; the Tour isn’t just about climbing mountains fast. This stage scared the shit out of the skinny climbers and some of them rose above, and – heartbreakingly – some didn’t. To watch Cuntodor float over the stones like one Peter van Petegem was impressive as hell, not to mention A. Grimpeur. Very cool.

    Good to have you back. And let us know how you do with racing the Tour on oil slick roads!

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