As quickly as Marcel Kittel and his Ettix Quick-Step team mates were efficiently sealing the deal with a win at the Dubai Tour, the organisers of the next race on the calendar, the Tour of Qatar, were busy putting up the ‘no vacancies’ sign and turning them away.
With accusations of disrespectful behaviour from the team and it’s riders in recent editions of the event, the president of the Qatar Cycling Federation Sheikh Khalid Bin Ali Al Thani has apparently rejected their application to race.
Which is quite a snub for one of the big beasts of the pro-cycling jungle.
As he explained the behaviour of the Belgian team: “They’d take too much time changing their shoes, laying around, and then meeting the press while keeping us waiting. They can’t do that. That’s been going on for a couple of years, that’s not the first time. We send people to hurry them up and they talked to them in not a very nice way. Then there were some problems with the hotels.”
Does this sound like the behaviour of a bunch of overpaid and molly-coddled prima-donnas?
Or just the behaviour of a bunch of cyclists?
Admittedly, when me and my cycling mates meet up for a ride there isn’t usually much in the way of a press pack to delay matters. But many is the time when one or other of my cycling companions saunter up to our pre-ride meeting point for a ride, apparently oblivious to the fact that the rest of us have been waiting for fifteen minutes getting cold and grumpy. We often consider just riding off and leaving them, but never do.
There’s no way our Qatari Sheikh would hang around getting cold like this. Perhaps we need to initiate his zero tolerance approach.
Sadly, there are other displays of disrespectful behaviour too. What about the guy who refuses to ride with mudguards in the winter, but insists that you sit on his wheel for four hours swallowing grease, grime, and who knows what else as it’s thrown up from the country lanes.
“But I’ve got an ass-saver,” he’ll say – one of those minimal plastic contraptions that you attach to your seat to prevent a line of muck spraying up the back of your jacket in bad weather. It saves his ass, but provides no defence whatsoever against the cow muck being sprayed across your face.
What would the Sheikh do?
One-week ban, perhaps?
And then there is the mid-ride café stop; surely the cradle of all the worst displays of cycling disrespect. Chief among this is the serial non bill-payer. The guy who forgets his wallet and cadges a coffee and flap-jack off whichever poor fool has found themselves standing next to him in the queue. In this new era of disciplinary enforcement I think we need to all stand strong against this guy, and hit him with the worst possible café-related punishment.
He should be denied his artisan coffee and hand crafted snack food, and be forced to re-fuel with nothing but instant coffee and perhaps a plain Jacob’s cracker if he looks really hungry. For a month. If that doesn’t make him change his ways then nothing will. I know that such stringent punishment would make me think long and hard about my behaviour.
Talking of my behaviour I think we might have stumbled across the fly in the ointment.
My idea to assume the mantle of the dictatorial despot of the Sunday morning social ride, busy enforcing rules and handing out punishments, is based on the premise that I am a paragon of cycling virtue. Am I really above resorting to these behavioural ticks of my fellow cyclists? I fear I may be deluding myself. On reflection, it might be best not to open that particular can of worms and accept that all of us, en masse, might easily be refused entry to the Tour of Qatar by our friend the disciplinarian Sheikh.
As it happens, I failed to get my application in on time this year anyway, having not yet found myself a contract with a top pro-cycling team (my phone is always on, chaps).
Perhaps I’d better stick to pedalling the Lancashire lanes and forgiving my friends their little transgressions. There’s a saying about people, stones, and glasshouses which springs to mind.