Monday, July 16, 2012

Bicycling: Contact Sport

Yesterday in stage 14 of the race that never ends, 30 riders were caught out by a box of tacks tossed on the road by a "fan." Police are investigating, but because the Tour is the grand event in the only sport that lets you actually reach out and touch a world-class athlete while he's competing (note to readers: do NOT do this!) there were literally thousands of fans standing by the road at that particular summit.
The race was thoroughly disrupted. Defending Tour champion Cadel Evans was forced to change tires and/or bikes at least three times. He sits in fourth place in this year's Tour, close enough that he could still win the overall title.
In a show of good sportsmanship, the current leader, Bradley Wiggins, slowed the pack down (after chasing down one rider who apparently didn't understand why everyone was going so slow) so that Evans could rejoin them to compete.
Whoever did this ought to know he was responsible for at least one serious injury, a broken collarbone to Team Astana rider Robert Kiserlovski, who was forced to drop out of the Tour.
Oddly, this is not the first time fans have tried to deliberately injure riders. Tacks were thrown so often on the course by angry farmers and residents that officials thought about cancelling the Tour when it was a brand-new event.
And even just a few years ago, Oscar Freire and Julian Dean were hit by pellets from an airgun.  
It's rare the sport where the athletes have more class than some of the worst fans. Usually, they compete neck and neck.