Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Tour de France organizers stake their reputation on petty decisions

Token race shot. This from Cycling Illustrated.
My heart broke this morning when I saw Ted King in tears, unable to finish a sentence about how his parents were waiting to see him ride into Marseille.

Instead of entering on a bike with the peloton of the Tour de France, King hit town in the team bus, eliminated from the race.

King broke his collarbone in the opening stage on Corsica and had soldiered on, taking the start for the team time trial in Nice. Unlike his teammates, who rode time trial bikes, King switced to his road bike with aero bars, to minimize the pain.

One problem: the official time chip was on his TT bike, and his SRM wasn't calibrated the same way.
He lost his teammates before leaving the starting straight but rode solo, pressing forward. As he crossed the line, his power meter registered 32 minutes, 24 seconds. The cutoff time turned out to be 32:25.

Unfortunately, the Tour organizers timed King at 32:32 and ruled that he had missed the cutoff time. End of discussion. The troubling point is that they've bent the rules further in the past for others. Paul Sherwen regaled the TV audience with his successful appeal when he was 20 minutes out of the time limit. This time around, they showed no lenience.

King's plight spurred a Twitter campaign, #lettedride. It is out of control. Among his supporters are Jonathan Vaughters, the boss of Garmin-Sharp, and Big Jens Voigt, the final artiber of toughness.

It's too late to do anything  but vent.

The Tour officials weren't finished with their pettiness, though. They fined world time trial champion Tony Martin 1,620 Euros for having the world champion's stripes on his bike. That's OK in an individual TT, they said, but not in a team event.

Team manager Patrick Lefevre went Wiggo on Twitter, though he stopped short of using the word wanker: "This is scandalous. Good job #UCI destroy you own your own sport! #fine #tdf"

Cycling has bigger problems than 7-second time differentials and stripes. Decisions like these make the powers-that-be appear petty and in denial about the problems with the sport.

Our suggestion: Use the money from Martin's fine to catch a couple dopers,  and throw them out faster than you chucked Ted King.