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.Embed from Getty Images
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.Embed from Getty Images
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.