Grow some balls

August 22, 2012

Cyclists are amazing creatures. They risk life and limb for their sport, flying down mountains at speeds in exces of 100kmh protected only by 0.3mm of lycra on their bodies and 200g of foam on their heads.

Some even risk their lives with blood transfusions, experimental drugs and amateur voodoo.

So why don’t they have the balls to be honest about their tactics when they step off their bikes?

  • We all remember Contador claiming he never saw Schleck had a mechanical in the 2010 Tour (Sure, it’s normal that your opponent is 50m ahead of you and suddenly slows down to a “Gerard Vroomen-pace”)
  • Yesterday we had Sky claiming they never knew Valverde had crashed (Is it really that tough to pick out the only guy to wear the race leader’s jersey)?

These are only two examples but there are dozens. I love the unwritten rules about when to wait and when not, and I love it when they are broken or don’t apply and I love how they are then discussed endlessly.

I would say there was no reason to wait for Valverde, the pace had already picked up, the race was on and echelon riding is a skill that some haven’t mastered and which regularly involves crashes. It’s as fair to lose time there as it is in the mountains or in time trials.

But whatever you decide to do, just freakin own up to it afterwards. Don’t insult the fans by coming up with some idiotic story that you didn’t know what was happening*. Insult your rider-colleagues all you want, but take the fans seriously.

Just get off your bike and say:

We saw Valverde crash and yes, he’s the race leader, but he’s also an whiner** and a doper***. And remember how Movistar didn’t wait for Levi at Paris-Nice? Not that we minded, because that was good for us and we don’t like Levi either. But anyway, when we saw him crash we thought “payback time” and so we hit it.

But I have to say, those Movistars were bloody strong, I mean they had been on the front already for hours but they still managed to pull back from 1min15 to 30 seconds. So we made a quick call to BMC, they agreed on the price and helped us get the gap back to close to a minute. Good thing too, because after all that effort Valverde didn’t lose anything on that last climb, so he’s super-strong and a real threat and we need some cushioning.

Wouldn’t that be amazing to hear? It won’t matter on the road, whether they say it or not, the people in the peloton know the real story anyway. But it would surely be nicer for the fans.

* The irony here is that by Sky saying they didn’t know Valverde had crashed, they suggest they would have acted differently had they known. Presumably that means they would have waited for Valverde had they known he’d crashed. That’s even MORE unbelievable, as in effect that would mean there IS an unwritten rule to stop when the race leader crashes.

** By all accounts, Valverde is a pretty nice guy, as are Froome and Contador.

*** OK, we don’t know he was a customer of Fuentes. But we do know his dog was a customer.

28 Responses to “Grow some balls”

  1. TrickyDicky Says:

    Post of the week. Thanks Gerard. Some of these people really think we must be fools – Portal, Froome, Flecha and Lundquist (sorry for the spelling). Other riders up the front echelon – such as Roulston I think – have been quite open that “payback” for earlier Movistar behaviour was discussed. Just be open about it.

  2. Stephen Says:

    I’ve always wondered how much truth there is to the “we didn’t know” from the pros given that they have race radios. I can completely understand it in the cases that they don’t from my own experience racing. More than once I’ve been belting up a hill, get to the top to look back and see how much of the group remains only to be told there was a crash further down at the corner and its only us. I guess when your right on the rivet, you sort of zone everything else out.


    • Well, either they listen to the team radio, in which case they knew (even though the Sky DS claimed his TV was broken, he would have seen Valverde through his windscreen!)

      Or they don’t listen to the team radio, in case we can abolish them because that would mean you also don’t hear the “safety” announcements.

      But with regards to yesterday, some riders said everybody knew. As they said on Flemish TV, it happened in the front of the peloton, so 160 riders rode past it.

  3. Alastair S Says:

    Very well said sir.

    Agree about Valverde seeming to be a nice chap. He may have been fuming about how he lost the jersey but he kept his cool & dignity when confronting Sky post finish (which is more than can be said of his DS).


  4. Bang on the nail – it’s about being grown up about things and the type of morality I’d try to teach my children to be honest. We all make spur of the moment decisions and sometimes they may even just be wrong ones, but we say why we’ve made them and move on.

  5. Lloyd Says:

    Brilliant article. Well said. Maybe one day a footballer wil say I cahnged clubs because they are going to triple my wages and I have a better chance of winning a cup. Instead of the little boy inside me told me to make the move. Grow some balls RVP.


  6. I agree completely with the sentiment, but then again, this is a sport where deceit is endemic, no? So after Truth and Reconciliation on doping we can have it on attacking the unfortunate.


  7. I think the whole ‘controversy’ has been generated by a lack of understanding of the mores of bike racing and a lack of willingness by some riders to say to journalists: “Stop asking stupid questions. If you don’t know about cycling, don’t write about it.”.

  8. Skater Says:

    Hurray, awesome post Gerard!
    Perhaps you’re in the position to put a prize on the most honest and ballsy post-race statement for the next Giro?

  9. Jesus from Cancun Says:

    Good article. I found it through Charles Pelkey’s Vuelta Live Update.
    I always thought it was not right to take advantage of a rival’s misfortune to attack. I think it’s OK to chase and throw a water bottle to someone who attacks when the race leader is down. I did it once and got suspended for that, so it’s not something I recommend, but you get the idea.
    That unwritten rule keeps things civilized in the peloton over the seasons, and keeps the contenders in good terms, generally. I don’t think it’s good when it becomes normal to sprint away as soon as you hear a crash behind, or when you see a rival feeding or raising his hand for assistance.
    After all, what goes comes back, and it is a long season with the same riders in the bunch. I rather see the peloton as a brotherhood than a war zone, competitiveness aside.

  10. Craig Watson Says:

    Completely agree, GV. and, thanks for the laugh!


  11. Maybe it’s just me but is Piti there just having sour grapes. He blames Sky for leaving him behind when Moviestar has done it time and time again. Then He blames them for starting the crash which is even crazier. He asks for respect but given that he has never owned up to his own doping and the victories he stolen he deserves no repect and just need to shut up and race.

  12. Simon Davies Says:

    Your best blog ever, more of the same please.

    I am not religious but Do unto others as you would have done to yourself, Froome & and Sky can expect no quarter given in future.

  13. Luis Oliveira Says:

    Spot on, really. Only point I would make is that those are “white lies”, little spins PR/DS tell to justify whatever needs to be justified.

    Funny, though, that this receives this much attention when we have much, much bigger, more damaging non-while lies in the sport.

  14. Ralfo Says:

    Gerard as always very clear!!!

  15. Gummee! Says:

    I watched most of the Giro this spring. Wasn’t there a Movistar rider or riders that did something in contravention to ‘the rules?’ I remember the announcers talking about it, but can’t remember specifically. Too much lactic acid has gone thru my brain since then.

    If so, then payback’s a ‘bear’ huh?

    M

  16. al b _ madison Says:

    Seems like the stop & wait unwritten rule more applies to those in the leader’s jersey when a rival goes down. Wiggo this year, or like when Jan decided to go mountain biking & the yellow~wristed one waited up for him.
    Or, you need like a Hinault type to tell you to sit up & if you didin’t, he’d hop off the bike & beat you like you were a french protester.
    As for honesty, well, that gets PR’d out of people in a hurry.
    Please keep posting AND being honest GV!


    • That’s not really the unwritten rule though, that’s more the fake magnanimity approach. When you’ve already sewn up victory, you can wait for rivals and appear gracious. But until you’re sure you’ve beaten them, you take advantage of situations like that.

  17. Rod Says:

    All these unwritten rules are a mess… what if I am leading a race (fat chance!), having a horrid day, and pretend to have a mechanical/flat at a crucial spot? Should the race stop to see if my problem is legitimate? Unless someone deliberately puts others in danger (i.e. commissars call for relegation), staying upright and keeping a functional bicycle rolling are part of racing. Cancellara might have won much more this year otherwise.

    Seriously, my last two races have been lost opportunities due to poor positioning at splits created by crashes or lack of skill. I should have known better. If this was just pedaling hard, we’d have the races on rollers or computrainers.

    I may suggest a different set of rules, which are conveniently written down in a book- The Rider, by T. Krabbe. I offer an excerpt:

    ” Road racing imitates life, the way it would be without the corruptive influence of civilization. When you see an enemy lying on the ground, what’s your first reaction? To help him to his feet. In road racing, you kick him to death.”

  18. Evan Shaw Says:

    Like in Breaking Away the movie, young Dave Stoeler pretending he is Italian finds a pump thrown in his spokes. “Dad it is ok now, I just didn’t realize they all cheat ” By the way I was in that movie. I loved it then and still do.

  19. Evan Shaw Says:

    When we raced in the 70’s wool shorts in the rain 5 lbs and itchy, salt tablets and never drink water to improve hot weather capacity raw steak eaten at start line or stuffed in shorts for boils. No aero anything. And no whining no excuses winner takes no hostages. Crash get up fix your bike and kill yourself to rejoin or at least finish the race for god sakes. Hassle another rider you find yourself enjoys a not so gentle shove into the ditch. No waiting etcc


  20. Nice one!
    Grow some balls.
    Honesty is one virtue that only the truly courageous can possess.
    There’s always an interest to protect and someone to hurt by saying the plain truth.
    We’ve got to brave it if we’re truly brave or grow the balls if we want to be brave.


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