Tour analysis: Retribution

It occurs to me that some of you, dear readers, have likely not been as tour obsessed as me. On the one hand, good on you. Internet obsessions tend to betray too much time at a desk on sunny days with not enough engaging stuff to do (that would be, increasingly). On the other, for shame. This years race has been a barn burner.

(I’m not going to induldge in profligate, Huffington-esque hyperlinking here, so go find the relevant clips on youtube.)

Today’s stage promised to be another mundane sprint stage, until things got rowdy at the front at Mark Renshaw got himself not only relegated, but booted from the race. There are lots of arguments to make here: did the race jury take enough time to consider the evidence, was Julian Dean equally if not more guilty, why a DQ rather and a relegation and fine? I can’t comment on the first, and while the answer to the second seems yes as likely as no, Renshaw’s subsequent cutting off of Tyler Farrar is as mean spirited and dangerous as it was intentional. Relegating someone with no GC or points aspirations is obviously symbolic at best, and fines seem little stronger (the guy that went after another with his front wheel last week was fined 300 francs). So booting Renshaw is logical, if not totally sensical.

Is does make sense in the large context of racing on the continent this year, an explication of which will also answer another question that is perhaps the prime example of thing Todd Gogulski has been spectacularly bad at articulating (and Gogo’s set the bar high for himself). First, watch this:

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=12857426&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=00ADEF&fullscreen=1

The Luckiest Man in the Peloton from Cosmo Catalano on Vimeo.

Beyond being an illustration of why I wish to never ride in a huge pack in my life, Cosmo’s analysis gives us a spectacular view of the crash that got Cavendish fined and more significantly, protested against. He’s made himself a hard guy to like throughout his career, and especially this year, and it seems to me correct to look at Renshaw’s relegation as at least in part a push back at Cav’s continued douche-i-ness.

Cycling is a sport/activity/passion that tends to engender close relationships, and at its best moments, introspection (read Jens Voigt’s blog for Bicycling this summer). Over years of a 10 month racing season, those relationships are bound to be incredibly important, and the respect for that community is the only thing that for me explains the neutralization of stage two this year. Gogo tried to get at it, but failed to evoke just how important the respect of your colleagues must be during a grand tour. What’s worse than being in the gruppetto on the Madeleine during a 90+ degree day? Knowing that all the guys around you think you’re an asshole. No one is immune to that, no matter the insularity of their arrogance.

I’ll have some fun stuff to catch up with when I get back on Sunday.

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