pro cycling

Vuelta Espana 2020 Stage 9: largely quiet, and then suddenly very LOUD

The autonomous community of Castile and Leon is big, and empty. People, for some reason, don’t live here. As the peloton rolled gently through agricultural stripes of farmland and past mild geological features we had the sense of a day off.

A coupe of unheralded Spaniards headed up the road to fulfil the required roll of ‘break.’ Reeled-in with twenty kilometres to go, even then the peloton continued a stately progress. No sniping attacks. Spread wide, defensively across the road, this was to be a whole lot of not very much followed by five kilometres of Deceuninck-Quickstep versus Bora-Hansgrohe, for their sprinters Sam Bennett and Pascal Ackermann.

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Look, what do you want me to say?

I would love to describe a swooping acceleration into an atmospheric, beautifully perched Spanish town, but I can’t. Apologies to the people of these parts, who I’m sure are very lovely. But Aguilar de Campoo had the look of a functional, lightly industrial kind of place.

If there was charm afoot, it was well hidden.

Big wide main roads. A near deserted out of town street scene lined with manufacture and brutal practicality. A finish line, nowhere, populated by no-one (and it’s Covid, of course, so I get the lack of people, but still…).

Into the finish, we hadn’t seen Sam Bennett for a good while, which meant only one thing. He was hidden, tucked away in consummate control, and would appear from behind a lead-out man with two-hundred metres to go to sweep clear and win.

The brutal predictability of a highly confident sprinter.

He was hidden. He appeared. He won.

Or so we thought.

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The race commissaires had a good old look at the video replay and relegated our celebrated Irish sprinter for over-aggression in the face of mild opposition. Emils Liepins, Trek-Segafredo’s Latvian sprinter, on the receiving end.

Bennett was adjudged to have barged him a couple of times and was punished. And even then, in the spirit of a lethargic day, tempers remained largely un-frayed.

Pascal Ackermann, of Bora, promoted to Stage winner, sympathised with Bennett. The Quickstep man himself was seen debating, firmly but fairly, with the officials who’d sent him packing. A general sense of “look, this ‘aint ideal, but we’ve all had enough of mass finish-line sprint-finish pile-ups haven’t we…” and a quiet acceptance of the decision.

It was left to Patrick Lefevere, Bennett’s team boss and professional outspoken, irascible Belgian, to inject a dose of aggression into proceedings. Lefevere rarely holds back when things don’t go the way of his team, and he quickly called “bullshit!”

He was soon ranting on Twitter, asking the Trek team boss, less than classily, how many sprints Liepins has won, and spewing sarcasm and bile into an already saturated Twitter-sphere.

Sure, it was day very much in need of a dose of passion, but I’m not sure that’s any way for a sixty-five-year-old bloke to behave.

9 comments on “Vuelta Espana 2020 Stage 9: largely quiet, and then suddenly very LOUD

  1. Lefevere is a bit of a loose cannon I’m afraid

    Liked by 1 person

  2. « Unclass » as Cancellara would’ve said [of Lefevre].

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Max Garrety

    One can debate the sprint, line and speed but how far does the UCI go In sanitising the whole concept. Clearly there are incidents of barging others into the barrier, which is appalling but equally a shoulder barge to get your line is to be expected, within reason. After hours of mindless flat cycling, the nano-second decision making in the sprint is brutal, almost gladiatorial, and whilst no-one wants injuries, there has to be some level of ‘combat’. For all the criticism of Lefevre, at least he’s passionate about matters.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fair point Max. Totally agree that a bit of agression is all part of the sprint…it’s a tough call. I just find Lefevere arrogant and rude and could live without him. I’m sure he couldn’t care less what I think though 😄

      Like

  4. Max Garrety

    I always think it’s a tricky one; look at F1: there’s a lot of people can’t stand Lewis Hamilton, despite his amazing success; closer to home there’s Chris Froome. Driven success demands a focus that may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it gets results. Everyone would love a G or. Dan Martin or Roglic but we’re all human. Short of stopping everyone 1km short and feeding them into fenced lanes in order to prevent human interaction, there will always be argybargy and, as someone who played a bit of rugby, it will always need that level of ‘fight’.

    Liked by 1 person

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