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Letters to Cyclingnews - April 14, 2006
Is Boonen the rider to break the Curse of the Rainbow Jersey?
Boonen is the most refreshing thing to happen to cycling in the last decade.
His fresh looks, good sportsmanship, team spirit, approachability and down to earth nature is a credit to him, his parents and in part to the great sport of cycling.
My first thoughts when he won the world road race championship in Madrid last year was would he be exposed to the supposed "Curse of the Rainbow Jersey" as many before him have been. I feared that he would, due to the greater exposure of the Rainbow Jersey, be a marked man but hoped that his power and amazing ability to read a race would carry him to at least the success he enjoyed in 2005. So far the latter has prevailed.
As for the curse, it appears that after last Sunday's Paris-Roubaix race the exact opposite may be happening, after finishing 5th then being promoted to second place. Is the curse a fallacy or has Boonen finally broken the mystical hoodoo that hangs over the wearer of the "rings"?
There is still a long season ahead and much for Boonen to achieve so hopefully (touch wood) he can continue to have the cycling gods shine down upon him and wear the rainbow rings with pride not trepidation.
Brighton, Victoria, Australia
My admiration for Tom Boonen has grown by leaps and bounds. We always knew he was a great rider. Now, we see that he is a great man, as well. His frank and honest assessment of the race and his position that he considers himself the fifth rider to cross the line that day, not the second, speaks volumes for his character. Chapeau!
I rode with Saul when he was in his teens at our local Thursday night ride. He was tough then and he’s tough now. My two-year-old and I sat in the rain to root him on during the Mt. Alto Time Trial in Rome at the Tour of Georgia. Saul, we are praying for you and will keep doing so! We will root for you no matter where you are.
Over the last few years, I have been able to volunteer at the Tour de Georgia. During the inaugural event, I was introduced to a young Dalton bike racer named Saul Raisin. The 2003 Tour de Georgia saw him win the best young rider jersey.
Apparently he attracted some attention of some teams overseas because he wasn't there in 2004. I saw him again at the Tour de Georgia in 2005 and watched him race his heart out. I have become a big fan of his since watching him the first time. This year I volunteered to work the inaugural Amgen Tour of California instead of working the Tour de Georgia. Before the prologue I had the privilege of walking in the pit area of the hotel we were staying at, and as I was walking around looking at the different bikes from the different teams, I saw Saul getting ready for his bike.
After receiving his bike and looking it over before getting ready for a training ride, I asked him if he would mind signing my shirt. He was more the willing to sign that and have a picture taken with me. Anytime anyone came up and talked to him, he made them feel right at home. Saul is such a nice guy and I really hope that he recovers quickly and can resume his cycling career. I know he's in my prayers and lots of other people here in Georgia. Get well soon Saul, and get riding again.
Greg LeMond was shot in a hunting accident and came back to win two Tours de France.
Lance Armstrong contracted testicular cancer and came back to win seven Tours de France.
Not to make light of Saul's condition, but if history is any indication, the cycling gods have just tipped American Saul Raisin for future greatness.
Get well, Saul. The top step of the Tour de France podium is waiting for you.
The modified Trek 5200 featured in your coverage of bikes the Paris- Roubaix on April 9 seemed quite pedestrian, especially when compared to the Time VRX raced by Boonen and covered the day before.
Although your reporter remarked that Hincapie's choice of wheels have raised a few eyebrows, I was particularly surprised at the choice of fork - borrowed from a Trek "commuter level line" because of it's 47 mm rake. How tragic for George that his efforts and excellent form were wasted by what seems to have been a half-assed bike, ‘cobbled together from bits and pieces’ and clearly not up to the task at hand.
I guess one measure of how much the atmosphere at Discovery may or may have changed might be measured in how many heads roll after this unfortunate debacle.
John W. McBurney
Who looks out for George?
I cannot believe that George Hincapie's steerer on Discovery's Trek bike busted on the cobbles. Someone had to have taken the decision to change that steerer or not before the race. Apparently it was not done. How come he didn’t get a new bike after his first fall? It was early in the race - the other Discovery guys could have gotten him to the front again.
Does the Discovery team management look out for George as they did for Lance? Do the same mechanics that looked out for Lance look out for George in the same way? Was it just luck that Lance had no serious mechanicals in the seven Tour wins? Or was it that he was looked out in a special way by his handlers?
Does George deserve any less?
I was very disappointed, as were many, to see Hincapie go down along with his chances in the ‘Hell of the North’. Does it really seem unreasonable to expect that a bicycle company make a bike, especially for their pros, that can stand up to this course? Sure I understand the unexpected, and the potential hazards, but If I remember correctly they (France) had repaired/reconditioned many of the sections of this course. I've read, from several sources that many of the bikes that are used in this race are trashed after this race. I hate the whole idea of "throw away" or "one time use". I think Boonen was very smart to go with a fork that had a STEEL, yes you can check, a steel steering tube. Sure his bike was over 8.4kg (18.5lbs), but nothing broke. And he helped removed one factor, from the list of obstacles in this race.
What is our fascination with carbon fibre/composite, or even worse - aluminium? Why didn't, or don't (or maybe I didn't notice) riders use titanium, or even steel frames, especially in races like P-R? Even with all this so called technology that we have here in the 21st century, the average speeds are the same now as 40 or 50 years ago. And even in the Tour De France, the pace has only increased 3-4km/hr since the 1970s. So where are the huge technological advantages that we are told exist?
It seems ridiculous that we pay so much money for something that will not last and really doesn't make us go faster, or more comfortable. So what's the point? Don't misunderstand me I love technology, and I drool over many of the new frames and components, but I hate all of the marketing hype behind the products. I’m willing to pay, as long as I know that I'm getting real quality, not just hype! But unfortunately, I think there is too much hype, and too little quality (long lasting quality) around today. I think we need to try and be a little more particular and discriminating with our purchases, so cycling companies will give us real "quality"!
You’ve got to feel sorry for George Hincapie. But what I'm wondering is what equipment manufacturers think when something like that happens (maybe you could ask Scott Daubert). While your Joe Average is not ever likely to break a steerer tube, you’ve got to wonder how many Belgians will be buying Treks after watching George's steerer shear off like that regardless of how one in a million such an event is.
This is (of course) horribly unfair to Trek/Bontrager: maybe it was just a little bit of over tightening from a nervous mechanic before the race began. Or maybe it was Hincapie's earlier crash at kilometre 31. Or maybe it was the hammering the bike had taken during the recons over the past few days. In this regard, I thought Scott Daubert's comments on George's use of carbon rims were interesting: "we were stopped on the side of the road watching the team go by, all seven riders, and as George went by, he said: 'I'm hitting every hole, I'm trying to break them'; he was actually trying to tear them up!".
Great race though, and full credit to Cance - a true hard man's win, finishing alone in the Velodrome (even if the train crossing incident hadn't occurred he still would have gotten there alone). I like Boonen but it's nice to have someone else win. And Tom can feel good having saved Ballan's life by stopping him ducking under the barriers at the crossing (would have made for very interesting live coverage if he hadn't; that was a pretty big locomotive). Bettini for two out of three at Amstel, Fleche and LBL…
I was surprised to see Hincapie was using an aluminium fork on a bike that was built for Roubaix. After reading about all the high tech fiddling Trek put into the bike (buzz cancelling bar ends??). It kind of reminded me of the story about NASA spending millions to make a pen that worked in zero gravity, while the Russians just used a pencil - a word to Trek: K.I.S.S.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
What a surprise...I mean, I had my fingers crossed but I knew this spring as with every spring since 2001, Jan has issues in pre-Tour preparations. He has once again created himself a safety blanket for his failure at the Tour. This winter and spring there were no mentions of Jan's weight issues as were so many years in the past, but what do you know - a knee issue arises.
It’s always something - I think he makes too many excuses - I mean, who gets hurt training? What a joke! Jan is really starting to piss me off; actually I pull for him but there’s always something…it’s what I call an excuse. I think he needs to be the underdog as was in ‘97 when he won the Tour NOT as team captain.
Why do you think Lance always said Jan was his biggest threat? Oh, just to play head games with him...to have expectations of Jan is to make Jan fail. He can’t take the pressure - ever since 2001 his palmares are weak. No one can argue that...if he had heart he would be "the Cannibal" but he is an underachieving cyclist who constantly has to create himself a safety blanket to fail.
I guarantee Jan will not win the Tour in 2006. Probably not even the podium. GO, Ivan Basso, go...you don’t hear weight issues or knee issues there; no excuses. Does Jan think Armstrong’s template for success is going to work for him? Is he not his own man? Everyone else thinks Jan needs race miles to build form as his strength in the Tour builds each week…he gets stronger as it goes on. Doesn’t anyone else find that Jan always has himself a crutch with which to fail?
I bet Jan knows deep down that he can’t handle pressure; he will never say that though, I bet. In 1998 with the yellow jersey he CHOKED, as Pantani took nine minutes out of him in one stage. He has never been expected to win since…just the way he likes it. Until this year he was deemed the favourite, but when he cracks on the Alpine and Pyrenean stages we can "blame" his knee or lack or race miles…just the way he likes it.
Toronto, ON, Canada
How about a moratorium on all stories about the totally inactive Jan Ullrich if he doesn’t show up for the Tour de Romandie? You could always have a special feature if he does manage to find his cleats and bike and kit in a future event, calling it a return from retirement.
Do we even know he paid for his 2006 license yet? Any proof? Any scoop on his weight, partying or girlfriend(s)?
Maybe a new UCI rule on relegation – or has he not already passed the critical periods?
Prediction as of today for his potential TdF, should he start – DNF in the Pyrénées before going to Lourdes and announcing 2008 plans for a bratwurst mobile vending cart along the course of the Grand Prix Zurich route.
It's only April and we already have a possible winner in the "Stupid Cycling Decisions" category. According to the UCI's president, "the rules are the rules". I didn't realise the rule stated that it was permissible to pass under the barriers "if you're sure there is not a train coming". I guess in France (and maybe Canada, eh) they only get one train a day through each crossing and if you see one go by, the barriers no longer apply to you. Or maybe, "the rules are the rules" except when they are not.
To address Mr McQuaid's concern for impressionable young riders following the example of Hoste, Van Petegem, and Gusev, I assume the UCI will somehow alter all the pictures of the second group passing under the barriers to show a sign reading something to the effect, "This is perfectly acceptable, these fellows KNOW there isn't ANOTHER train coming". Simply put, disqualify all of them or none of them.
I watched the Paris-Roubaix race on television Sunday night and was surprised when the first group of racers to cross the closed railroad crossing was disqualified, but members of the second group, who waited, but still crossed a closed railroad crossing were elevated to the podium, not disqualified. I read President McQuaid's explanation in today's cycling news and I am appalled at his statement. The same rule was violated by both groups of cyclists. The only conclusion I can come to is that the decision was based on favouritism and politics. Those involved in the decision should be ashamed to have discredited such a fine race and its results the way they did. What a black eye for the UCI!
I too saw the debacle of Paris – Roubaix and was reminded of a mate whose tractor was hit by a train on his farm about 20 years ago when it was bogged on the tracks. After the collision, he said "Trains can't swerve and they're not too f***ing good at slowing down".
Whatever the reason that the boom gates were down, it doesn’t matter. Whether it was a lack of planning by the race organisers or the pace of the race being too quick – it doesn't matter. The rules are the rules and should be applied equally to ANYONE in breach.
Controversy once again. As one writer has already noted, let's be thankful that for once it's not doping, and that the world outside of cycling generally doesn't care and won't put their two cents worth into the mix. As for the McQuaid viewpoint, it's no wonder there's so many Irish jokes around although I think he's still the best one.
The solution to all this is rather simple. Could Mr McQuaid please stand between two closed barrier arms to check if it is a high speed train coming or not.
By the way Paddy McQ, if you're reading this, I'm about as serious as a peloton all riding the Stalingrad wheel (see CN tech on April 1)
If UCI rules state that riders must wait for a train to pass and obey the gate lowering and red lights, then this rule should be applied in the same unbiased fashion. The rule must be applied to the Hoste chase group and Boonen chase group uniformly.
In terms of safety, for Pat McQuaid to use this to defend Boonen’s group closed crossing is completely non-sensical. As we all know, there is no prior information given on train direction and speed, and thus Mr McQuaid's statement about the relative safety of the Hoste group crossing versus the later Boonen group is completely fallacious.
If safety is the main concern, as Pat McQuaid said, then Hoste’s group was actually safer, because the train was far off and the cyclists could see the approach. The Boonen group may have had a second train with a lower probability of detecting it, as the nearby departing train may have hindered the tracks. Futhermore, the sense of sound would be masked by the departing train. Boonen’s group would have a harder time seeing and hearing anything besides the first train, thus going through blindly could be more dangerous.
That’s why the UCI rule doesn’t have a clause with a relative safety written in it. When the gates are down and the red lights are flashing, this signals an incoming train, and the riders must stop. The UCI rules do not have provisions for the consideration of variability in safety to be interpreted in real time or after the fact.
Gosh, it looks like McQuaid never took a course in critical thinking. His rationale on the relative safety is erroneous and is an excuse that fails basic logic.
Futhermore, the chastising Leif Hoste received from a senior UCI officer was inappropriate and unprofessional. Was it necessary for the race advisor to come to do this in public? That a senior race official would do this makes me wonder if there was a hidden or unfair agenda.
I have read the letters section of Cyclingnews and it appears that everyone is on board with the unbelievably inherent illogic of Pat McQuaid's reasoning. I was disappointed with the disqualification but could understand the rationale of applying the law as it is written in light of the serious consequences of wrongly timing a train crossing. I was more disappointed with the discrepancy in applying the law to the two groups. However, I was livid when I read Pat McQuaid's statement and I have trouble understanding how someone can rise to the top of an international organization with the apparent deductive reasoning powers of a pre-schooler. (I know he is not stupid, he is making excuses for the golden child of cycling who makes fans believe in our sport once again, which is also important long-term.)
I applaud Boonen's honesty in stating his real position is fifth, and for refusing to go on the podium as runner-up (only as Protour leader). I also applaud Messieurs Pescheux and Leblanc who stated the law should have been applied with discretion, that’s to say not applied, given the circumstances of the race. This last part should ease fears that there is some ASO conspiracy plot towards Discovery that I read in some letter sections.
My fear is that people are so outraged against the rulings in the race for extra placings that the performance of Cancellara has been missed. He rode one of the great Roubaix races, riding the favourites off his wheel fair and square. He is only 25 and put in the performance of a lifetime that would only be expected of a veteran (...or Boonen, also 25, but that is another story). The UCI and race commissaires owe it to Cancellara to put the situation right and reverse the disqualifications so that the focus can be on a dominating performance, not a procedural bungle.
When the barriers are down, the riders are supposed to stop as per the UCI rules. Nobody would cross when a train is near but if it is not visible or far off some people would cross. The decision to go when the barriers are down depends on how much one has to gain or lose. The first group had riders who were obviously had something to prove. Besides it takes only one man to go and the whole group would emulate him to prevent losing a spot on the podium in an important race. Van Petegem said that Hoste went and so he had to follow. The second group had Boonen and he had nothing to prove. Besides, perhaps the train would be seen coming so the second group stopped. But yet again they took the same decision of the first group and decided not to wait till the barriers were up in case the other riders behind them would catch them.
As per the rules, both groups should have been disqualified. But the judges took the decision in retrospection to disqualify the first group and not the second one. The judges knew that there was only one train and rightly deemed that the actions of the first group were dangerous. But the second group didn't know that there was only one train. Two tracks could easily mean two trains crossing each other. Therefore the actions of the second group were also dangerous and Mr. McQuaid explanation is not justifiable.
The riders are focused on the race especially in the last part. In the heat of the race they are liable to take wrong decisions. Hence it was the duty of the organizers to post a marshal at the crossing to prevent the riders from crossing in case the barriers were down. "Prevention is better than cure".
Andrew Salmon has got it wrong in how he shares blame in his letter.
1. He expects organisers to halt trains. Andrew has obviously never had to argue with a train company over track access. There is more chance of steaming the Orient Express up the Champs Elysee than halting a train for a bike race, even in France. His other option is to change the route to avoid level crossings. That part of France is flat with plenty of level crossings and few bridges. There aren't many route options and the alternatives will mean less pave. No thanks!
2. He blames the 'race referees'. I am not sure of the current UCI regulations, but commissaires used to have various options including stopping breakaways for the same length of time that chasing bunches were held up. There have been plenty of those sorts of decisions and they seemed to result in just as much argument as this disqualification. I'll admit consistency would be nice and rules should be applied but they do have some discretion, depending on whether the race outcome would be changed.
3. He blames Pat McQuaid, someone who made no decision regarding the results of the race and thus completely irrelevant to this discussion.
By the way, this isn't the first time that trains have influenced Paris-Roubaix. Tom Simpson first made his mark on the Continental scene with a long solo breakaway, sparked when he sprinted through a closing level crossing while the bunch had to wait (finally, the only interesting bit of this letter).
Upon reading your article quoting the head of UCI using "youth" as a justification for poor decision-making, as the father of a child participating in competitive cycling I felt compelled to write to Mr McQuaid at UCI. The following is an excerpt from my email to him:
My family and I are ardent cycling fans, my son competes in BMX at regional level and thus has encountered in actual competition the idiosyncrasies of "strange" decisions that occur within sports (for example, he was eliminated from a recent final because the judge at the finish line did not see him finish. It was quite simply one of those "human errors".)
What happened on Sunday in the Paris-Roubaix race was quite frankly a disgrace - the handling at the event was terrible, the appearance given by race officials was one of indecision, and the decision smacked of arbitrariness. What interested me most was my son's observations as he watched the replays, because I believe he got it right and all of you, the "experts", got it wrong. I call to your attention this matter specifically because of your press release statement where you were quoted as saying: "From my point of view, the most important thing is that you must consider all the young cyclists who were watching that television coverage yesterday. If they saw those riders going through those gates and took that as example of what you can do and get away with, you can imagine the potential danger in future races." (Quote lifted from Cyclingnews article directly).
Contrast your statement to what my son said to me: "Dad, how can some people break the rules and loose; and others break the same rule and do better than they really did? People should know it's really dangerous to cross before or after the train has passed - what if there is another train?"
My son clearly pinpointed the flaw in your statement above...if you want to set a good example, and use youth as the justification, then the example must be consistent and not arbitrary. In Holland, where we live, one of the greatest dangers (which has killed untold number of people) at railroad crossings, is taking off too soon after a train comes through. All school children when taking their biking exams (yes, they do that in lower school) are taught explicitly that you never cross AFTER the train comes through UNTIL the cross-arms are raised and you have checked both directions...the danger is a second train. Thus, every school child here knows there is no difference in the danger to crossing before or after; apparently some adults don't. Bottom Line: you either have a rule or you don't - you either enforce the rule or you don't.
Your statement to the press was hugely disappointing to me and the example you claim to set. Well, I think my son had it right and you had it wrong. When you plan to set an example for young riders...let’s do it right next time.
There was, however, one fine example of integrity and sportsmanship in all of this, and I made sure that my son caught it. Boonen's integrity in stating openly that "he did not finish second, but really fifth" was quite an amazing thing...my son agreed with him without hesitation; it's comforting to me personally, to know that my son knows what is right...even if the "experts" don't.
John H Armstrong
You really do have to fault the officials in this case. It was reported that officials stopped Boonen's group from crossing - If they crossed after the train passed, I can't believe they would cross without the officials say so. If the officials did indeed give them the "all clear" then how could the UCI turn around and disqualify them.
But this brings me to the Hoste group. I also can't believe that Hoste and co. rode around the barriers while the officials were telling them to stop - if this were the case, those race officials would have radioed immediately and race organisers would have informed the DS of each team that the riders were disqualified. In fact the ASO (race organisers) did not disqualify the riders, the UCI did, so we can assume that the officials did not attempt to stop Hoste and co.
Did the riders err? Yes they did, but the officials on the scene applied the rules inconsistently in the first place. This would be akin to disqualifying a winning goal in a soccer match when after the match instant replay shows that the ball was handled into the net.
But all of this begs the question - How could you route the race over level crossings within 15 km of the finale? I really can't buy the whole passenger/freight/high speed train scheduling - race was 15 minutes early - garbage. Come on! This is Paris-Roubaix! Organised by the ASO, that same group that has the clout to shut down entire regions of France in July so that that a certain race can pass through! Look, you've been doing this race for over 100 years - surely you can figure out a clear route to the finale by now.
My verdict: Officials were at fault - no disqualifications for riders. Fine race organizers for putting riders at risk. Fine riders for violating UCI rules.
My two cents
I can only agree to all the mails regarding the UCI handling of Paris - Roubaix. If "rules are rules" then they should apply to everybody, but apparently they don't apply to the world champ. And why is that?
And why does the UCI not penalise ASO for not doing what they are supposed to do according to UCI rules; namely, ensure that the riders are given sufficient warning about any obstacle on the race course. Even though you can't stop a train - according to ASO - you do know when it’s coming and the fact that the riders went very fast that day is no excuse. The race director had sufficient time to ensure that the riders knew about the train and to assure them that the race would be neutralized if riders were caught by the passing train. Which the race director COULD have done again according to UCI rules.
When UCI president McQuaid calls on the riders to be a good example for the young riders, it’s a lame excuse for the UCI not securing the course. And apparently the world champ does NOT have to set a good example - he can violate the same rules and get upgraded. It just doesn't make sense!
I feel that this has more to do with politics than sports - a disgrace for UCI and a damn shame for cycling and a prestigious race like the Paris-Roubaix.
The disqualification of Peter Van Petegem, Leif Hoste and Vladimir Gusev was extremely chocking. I watched every second of the race and I can tell you that their decision is unjustified (except for the fact that rail road crossings are forbidden).
After reviewing the video sequence, we can clearly see that the race official was there, that he did not instruct them to STOP. He took the time to see if the train was coming, and then let them go through. Once Boonen and the others came to the crossing, he stopped them because the TRAIN WAS THERE, and if they would have crossed, we would be attending their funeral (if invited).
I have been asking myself why didn't anyone inform them of the passing train 2-3 km before the railroad crossing. The excuse that the race was ahead of schedule is non valid. They knew that the train was passing at that time, so they should have handled it. Instead, they didn’t do anything and then decided to disqualify three extremely deserving cyclist. In the real world, when we do not carry out our task, we get FIRED. LE BLANC and the race organizers for this years Paris Roubaix didn’t do their job. So, they should take upon themselves and only themselves.
What a shame that a wonderful race, so brilliantly fought, had to be decided in that way. Thank God that Cancellara won in such a decisive way (even if it should have been George Hincapie’s race, but mechanical problems decided otherwise).
I disagree on the argument regarding how the train 'crossing' may have looked to young, easily influenced minds. Just yesterday I was in Santa Cruz (Aptos, CA) and rolled up to a railroad crossing next to my hotel...the gates were down, bells were ringing and lights were flashing. I slowed and looked both ways down the tracks (but, you know, when a TRAIN is coming, you generally HEAR it and FEEL it...duh!). The train was about 200 metres away, and I just rolled between the barriers...no problem. As I think about it, I must have done this at least 40 or 50 times in my life - more, if I count walking or running. Even more if I count driving!
Any young cyclist seeing a film clip of this would not be influenced by the action. Isn't it clear that everyone knows that getting hit by a train is well, terminal. I wouldn't risk getting hit no matter what the prize...not in a car, or on my bike, or walking with the dog. I think we all learn this at a young age..we are told, "Look both ways"..."Be careful"..."Trains are dangerous", etc.
The rule was so obviously poorly interpreted, aside from the obvious preference given to Boonen. I think that rules officials (including marshals) and their actions should always be given precedence over written rules in the race. If a commissar allows a hand up or feed because of weather (heat, cold, etc...) outside of the zones defined...it never is a penalty, simply becuase the official allowed the action to occur! If a car is allowed to approach a rider or group with the commissar's permission, it isn't a penalty...so why should the obvious allowance of a three man group to go under a pair of railroad crossing arms in the down position be a penalty? It is very clear from the film that the marshall did not try to stop the first group. And then, even if it was, why is the rule (or expected safety of the riders) not applied to the next group on the road? I'll tell you why...Discovery team riders were in the first group...and Prince Tommy B was in the second group. Discovery is known as an American Team...and the UCI (as well as most of the TdF organization, ASO) would just love to screw anything connected to Tailwind Sports.
In pro basketball, a few years ago, there was something called "The Jordan Rules"...an unwritten set of protections offered that game's best player...now we have the "Boonen Rules"...anything to keep Tommy B on top of the World Cup, or to assist him in any way.
I like the guy, so please don't misinterpret my comment, but fair is fair, and well, it is pretty clear that the French aren't fair, nor is the UCI.
I can't really add anything to what so many others have said about the fiasco at Paris-Roubaix. It's clear a double standard was enforced. The thing it leaves me wondering is that the riders are tested extensively to ensure fair competition - when are we going to demand the same level of professionalism from the clowns running the show?
Bruce Sanders is correct. Pat McQuaid is wrong. UCI Regulation 2.03.34 requires the elimination of riders who cross level crossings when the barrier is down. There is no discretion in the rule; the commissaires must eliminate the offending rider. Thus, the commissaires were required to eliminate Boonen, Flecha and Ballan.
From what I've read, the commissaires delayed the decision for some time. It's probably the case that the commissaires delayed their decision in order to discuss the facts with Pat McQuaid, who most likely dictated the decision. C'est la vie! The rules don't apply to everyone equally, right, Mr. McQuaid? It's just another example of the stupidity of the compromised bureaucrats running the cycling game. If it is possible to appeal the commissaires decision, Petegem, Hoste and Gusev should do it.
I think this is really the only correct position – when rules are broken, the consequences must be applied fairly, otherwise you’re just out on a training ride. If the riders hadn’t gone around the gate, there would have been no need to apply the rules and a mistake was made by not applying it to the second group.
Whether it’s a good rule or a bad rule (what would be the alternative; a rule that states that it’s ok to dodge gates when the riders think it’s ok? That would be like a training ride! These riders, especially the Belgians and French, have been racing organized races in this area since they were about two years old. They knew the rule, they just wanted slack. It’s ridiculous that so much of this discussion is about the organizers or even what the train was carrying – I mean, really.
Unfortunately, applying the rule still leaves the race falsified – or at least not precisely as it would have been if it hadn’t happened. It’s really a no win situation. No amount of back-end administrative acumen would or will make that better. You can argue all you want about ProTour points: and everyone cares about that so much all of a sudden?
What was fundamentally lost was an element of the spectacle and beauty of a race that fans depend on for those qualities, and no application of the rules would have fixed that and no ‘reversal’ of the judgement made will restore it now.
But even that disappointment is as much a part of bike racing as anything else is, and you can’t legislate or adjudicate everything.
In general, I find that the race organizers were negligent in allowing any of the racers cross the barrier.
When racers approach as the first and second group did, they are in the heat of battle. Their senses and emotions are lit up and their judgment is clouded by the excitement, the aggression of the chase, especially later on nearer the finish as in this case, where all of the riders still believed there was a chance to reel in the leader.
The organizers have a DUTY to protect them from themselves, to ensure they don't rush headlong into an unsafe situation. Tom Boonen physically restrained a rider from rolling around him and into the path of that train - watch the tape - you'll see it and he comments about this himself in published reports. That rider would have been vaporized had Boonen not reached him. The marshals would have let him go, they were not in position to stop anyone.
The racers must be physically prevented from crossing the barriers until the barriers release, who wants to be responsible for making the call as to anyone having enough time to cross? What if a riders slips? Or a high-speed train is coming undetected from the other direction?
Whether or not the trains come is impossible to guarantee, there will be railroad crossings in any country, there must be course marshals dedicated to protecting the riders. In this case they failed miserably and nearly cost a man his life. Enforce the rules and there is no need to disqualify anyone.
Benjamin M. Brown, Jr.
Blacksburg, VA, USA
I believe that equipment should be checked and rechecked for strength. Equipment should be able to withstand the rigors of the punishment that many crashes and the cobbles throw at it at Roubaix, and be dependable. George Hincapie was cheated out of his hopes and dreams to win this race with equipment failure. It should be obvious that equipment will take abuse during a race like Paris Roubaix, and provide security. That was incredibly sad to witness George Hincapie crashing due to obvious equipment failure.
We can only hope that George will heal quickly and give us the amazing year that he deserves.
The UCI already does enough to legislate their views and rules. Let the boys race and let them be responsible for their own actions. They have already assumed the risk inherent in bicycling racing each day they pull on their team kit. I think the decision to disqualify Hoste, Van Peet and Gusev but not to suspend Boonen leaves me to wonder if the decision would have been the same if Boonen were the first one through - let them race.
This will be my final comment on the disqualification, then I’ll go and sulk for the missed opportunities with the Discovery team with Leif Hoste, cheer on Cancellara as I did when I read the live coverage on www.cyclingnews.com and take my cycling sock out of my mouth so I don’t swear at the computer screen for the ridiculous UCI ruling.
We all agree McQuaid has gone over his bars, broken a spoke or come out of his pedals – settled, I’ve let it go – thanks to all the letters I read.
We all agree the decision is not fair – whoever you were rooting for; Belgian, US, Swiss, Russian, Italian – settled, I’ve let it go – no money was lost by me on the race.
So, what’s the solution?
Give those disqualified their points and placings back – the crowds have gone home, the cameras have been turned off, the reporters have wrapped it up – the only ones still at the finish line watching the podium are us cycling nuts.
Let’s rush McQuaid and make him sign over the podium positions and points to the disqualified – what the heck let Boonen and company keep their points too. The pen is mightier than a slippery cobble, it can still be done. Then McQuaid will have to face the real die-hard cycling fans, those who bet on the race! Rush him!
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