Saturday, June 29, 2013

First Stage Insanity

This was the Tour de France not on PEDs but on hallucinogens.

First, with the peloton fast approaching, a team bus got stuck under the finishing line banner; they cleared the bus as the peloton approached the 6 km mark, but before that mixed information was sent out about where and how the race would finish. The organizers first announced that the race would end at the 3 km banner, but that seemed a recipe for disaster because of a sharp curve immediately following that point on the road. Meanwhile, at the 6 km mark, a huge pile-up collected most of the top sprinters and green jersey contenders, including Cavendish, Greipel, and Sagan. That crash and an earlier one that took down Johnny Hoogerland seemed to have been caused by barriers put up by the race organizers that not only kept away the spectators but also narrowed the road for the riders. Finally, with the surviving peloton about 5 km from the original finish line, the bus was disentangled from the banner and moved out of the way, so that the stage could finish as originally planned. Argos-Shimano's Marcel Kittel took advantage of the depleted field to take the stage and the first yellow jersey of the competition.

As for all the riders who went down at the 6 km mark, the race organizers, in their omnipotent discretion, gave them all the same time as the first man to cross the line. Aside from the fact that the race organizers were responsible for most of the day's problems, the rule is that riders get the same time only after the 3 km mark before the finish. The only reason I can imagine for giving the same time to all those who crashed were to prevent yellow jersey contenders who crashed, such as Alberto Contador, from losing time on the first stage. Seems like an arbitrary and uncalled for decision to me. It will be interesting to see if the organizers are consistent in their decisions over the next three weeks.

Imagine what might have happened if race radios had been banned from the race, as the race organizers would like, making it impossible for team managers to inform riders of the initial decision to move back the finish line and the subsequent decision, just a minute later, to keep it at the original position?

I've never seen anything like it; and hope never to see anything like it again. No doubt the French media will blame the stupidity and chaos on Lance Armstrong.

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