The Vuelta, season 2016 .
Life for a professional cyclist can be harrowing. The risks associated with the sport often extreme and recently highlighted by Sagan’s outburst when he was knocked off his bike in La Vuelta.
Sagan’s rage is understandable, his behaviour questionable. My issue is that if he and every other professional is not able to race safely how on earth are we, the weekend racers, warriors or commuters ever going to win the battle of safety on our roads.
La Vuelta, like the Giro and even Le Tour de France also suffer the indignity of the current trend by teams to start riders in their line-ups without ever having any intention of the rider finishing the race.
We focus on the young heros and rising stars. Here in Australia there is much focus on OGE and Caleb Ewan has had a great year. He is exciting to watch, dicing it up at the pointy end of the bunch. Head down, just like Abdu back in my day, a bit scary at times to be around but great spectating.
The issue is, why race him. I don’t find it correct that teams field riders for half a race. If an athlete is rostered not to finish, to only ride a portion of a tour for experience he shouldn’t be in the event. He is not ready.
Teams and riders are critical of event organisers re safety and financial returns but likewise they need to have some respect for the events that they are racing in in addition to the team members who missed the roster and who would have loved to ride the grand tour to the end.
Riding a Grand Tour is a privilege and there is an internal selection process within each team for riders make the cut. If a rider wins a stage and later pulls out for no reason other than preservation, or to prepare for a forthcoming event I believe their results should be null & void.
If a team wishes to nurture a young talent there are plenty of events that are suited to this important task. There are 2 day, 3 day, 5 day, and 10 day stage races. The calendar is littered with races which can protect a young developing rider readying hims for a Grand Tour like the Tour de France.
The intention from the outset should be to complete the job, that is where the experience is gained. Its fantastic that Caleb won a stage at the Vuelta but he was racing from the outset to do only half the race. His withdrawal reduces the merit of the victory.
I have briefly touched on unification of riders and teams mentioning Velon. Velon has huge potential – change is necessary and I am happy to get involved however – if riders and teams want a piece of the action then respectfully they should reconsider how they apply themselves to the task of finishing a race to the end.
Finally, the drivers and moto riders have a horrendous task and as pro’s we are equally frustrated by the non appearance of the neutral or team support vehicle should we have a mechanical. A tour can be lost by such poor chance.
Written by Phil Anderson