This is the problem, see. In the early hours of yesterday morning fifty gendarmes searched the hotel of the Bahrain Victorious Team as part of an investigation into alleged doping violations. Today, Matej Mohoric of that team held off an entire peloton’s worth of pro cyclists to win his second stage of this year’s race.
And so what are we supposed to think?
We would like to celebrate the epic strength of a solo stage win. Wax lyrical about the flat-backed riding position and the forty-eight kilometres per hour average speed over the two hundred kilometre route. But to do that requires a cognitive dissonance. To hold the competing narratives of a late-night police raid and a stunning display on the bike.
I don’t know if Mohoric, or any of his teammates, have been up to no good. How would I? That would be speculation. But I’ve watched a lot of cycling over the years and I’ve come to understand that there’s an awful lot of middle-ground between naiveté and cynicism.
I sit somewhere on that spectrum.
We’d anticipated a fifth stage win of the race for Mark Cavendish today, but a huge breakaway ultimately left the peloton fifteen minutes in arrears on a hot, rolling day. Cav and his Deceuninck Quickstep team clearly felt relaxed about the idea of the break hoovering up the day’s Green Jersey points, preventing his rivals for that competition gathering any, and strengthening his position in the jersey.
“Also, you know what lads, we’ve done all the chasing in this race and we’ve got loads of wins thanks” said Quickstep, through the medium of pedalling along pleasantly in the peloton, “we’re havin’ a day off!”
Attacking his nineteen breakaway companions twenty-five kilometres from the finish, meanwhile, Mohoric would not be seen again. Crossing the line he did the ol’ finger-to-the-lips shushing gesture, followed it up with a keep-it-zipped, and I briefly lost my rag in front of the telly.
Tone deaf.Embed from Getty Images
Yes, Matej, I get that a police raid at 2am is not a pleasant thing to happen, but don’t tell us to zip it. We’ve seen this story before and it’s ended badly lots of times, so forgive us for not being entirely relaxed about the cleanliness of the sport we love.
Tomorrow, we have a tension-free time-trial (Pogacar will not lose six minutes), before Paris, and the tantalising possibility of a Mark Cavendish Champs-Elysees special.
Why break Merckx’s record on a non-descript Stage 19 in Nouvelle-Aquitaine when you can do it on the Champs, eh Cav?
(Image: courtesy Flowizm via Flicr CC https://www.flickr.com/photos/flowizm/48757587461)