In the great unwritten book of the Tour de France

Avto 7 July, 2017

Photo: Jeff Pachoud Agence France-Presse
The Slovak Peter Sagan (second left) seems to have given a nudge to the British Mark Cavendish causing the fall of it a few meters before the finish line.

The disqualification of Peter Sagan — probably the biggest star of the pack — has provoked a lively debate this week at the Tour de France. The Slovak has he violated the code of ethics of cycling in the barring (or not, depending on the version) the road to Mark Cavendish ? And besides : what does this code of rules, largely unwritten ?

By putting Peter Sagan at the door of the Tour de France, race officials were unanimous on at least a point : they do not have cold in the eyes.


For the past few seasons, Sagan has imposed himself as the most formidable catalyst of a pack became otherwise well strategic. Brilliant in many phases of running, slobbering, bold, the cycling team Bora-Hansgrohe likes to try all the moves — and often succeeds hers. Double world champion, he has won the last five green jerseys in Paris (the classification by points, which reward typically the best sprinter).


But Tuesday, the day after another stage victory won in the sprint by Sagan, the commissioners have surprised everyone by returning to the leader of the Bora in the side of the road. “He has seriously put in danger several runners in the sprint to Vittel, said the president of their jury, and Philippe Marien. We have applied an article of the regulations of the international cycling Union, following which the commissioners may decide the disqualification of a rider. “The team of Slovakia has protested, but in vain : Sagan has had ranger cycling shorts, jerseys, and other eyewear spectacular. Ciao.


Three days later, the analyst Louis Bertrand did not come back yet. “It appears to me to be considerably exaggerated as a penalty,” he said in an interview. They would have been able to remove points, the downgrade… But the disqualify — a sanction is very rare — so that the different shots don’t clearly show who is at fault on the sequence ? “


“I can identify several serious incidents recently that have not given rise to this type of sanction,” adds the former cyclist Dominique Perras, now an analyst with RDS. It is really exceptional as far, and I have a bit the impression that it was made like in hockey, when a blow of the stick gives a penalty more severe if there is blood : punishing the result rather than the gesture. “In this case, Mark Cavendish himself a “superstar” of the sprint — had to abandon the Tour, was wounded in the collarbone.


Keep his line


What happened ? It is all a matter of perspective. The first looks like Cavendish was pushed directly by Sagan in a safety barrier. You can see on the times, what appears to be an elbow, blunt of Sagan versus Cavendish when he emerges on his right. But the second would be something else : Cavendish who tries to sneak into a mouse hole and loses his balance, touching Sagan in his fall. 70 km/h and at full adrenaline, it comes out at the right elbow and open the left leg to keep her balance.


Also a former rider, the bicycle manufacturer Gervais Rioux — bikes Argon 18 have tasted a first victory on the Tour this week with Fabio Aru — a reminder that any sprint finish is done under conditions where ” it rubs fort “. “The job of a sprinter is risky, there are often accidents, he said Friday to the Duty. Even if they are acrobats, it happens that there is simply not enough space and that the runners fall. It was like that when I was running, it is still like that. “

We attack the leader when the race was deployed, and not in a moment of vulnerability
Dominique Perras, a former racer and cycling analyst at RDS

The ethics of the sprint is quite simple, “says Rioux :” can You move a bit your line once, but not two. After that, it is all a matter of interpretation : the commissioner may deem that you are depressed for good reasons, or not. “


“There is a basic rule that we learn, a teenager when we made the race,” adds Dominique Perras : it should be ride right. In a sprint, you can’t change the trajectory, and the one who is in front has priority in the corridor. What underlies these rules is that no one wants to fall… “


Not to attack


More broadly, the code of conduct of the cyclist is mostly a matter of unwritten conventions, indicate Bertrand Rioux and Perras. In July 2003, for example, the German rider Jan Ullrich was reported in the “meantime” and its main rival, the yellow jersey Lance Armstrong in the climb to Luz-Ardiden. Armstrong had dropped the first time because of a bag held by a spectator, before a walk in the park a little further away. Rather than attacking at this time, Ullrich had lifted the foot until Armstrong back in the saddle… and drops sharply before the peak.


“You do attacks not a yellow jersey on the ground, which has a puncture or has to stop to urinate,” says Louis Bertrand. This is not so much that the other will expect, rather, that they are not going to force the note to allow him to return. But these codes-there are mainly for the bigger names : it was necessary for the platoon to stop at each and every fall, it would roll no. “


But everything is relative : if the flat tire occurs in the middle of a flat stage or in the last climb of a mountain stage, the reaction can be different. “Take last year, when Chris Froome broke his bike on the mont Ventoux [after being in a collision with a motorcycle] : the other members of his group did not get to run with him out of solidarity, reminiscent of Louis Bertrand. At a given moment, the race is played out here, in the heat of the action. “


“We attack the leader when the race was deployed, and not in a moment of vulnerability,” said Dominique Perras. But it is true that we do not raise the foot if there is a mechanical problem in the last pass. It’s part of the race. “


But Gervais Rioux pointed out that there was another unwritten rule that has its value : “The guys want to win with panache. “A word that often is combined with the style of Sagan…

Ce text is part of our “Outlook” section.