The Sprint

Great weather and a good group for the July 4th Holiday Giro Ride With most people off from work for July 4th, there was the usual Holiday Giro Ride last Tuesday. Initiated by a single email with a subject line of “Giro Tues” and a message reading simply “7 AM from Starbucks,” the large accumulation of riders rolled out promptly just two days after what had been, at least for me, another weekend of back-to-back Giro Rides. With summer fully upon us down here in New Orleans, it promised to be a Great weather and a good group for the July 4th Holiday Giro Ride With most people off from work for July 4th, there was the usual Holiday Giro Ride last Tuesday. Initiated by a single email with a subject line of “Giro Tues” and a message reading simply “7 AM from Starbucks,” the large accumulation of riders rolled out promptly just two days after what had been, at least for me, another weekend of back-to-back Giro Rides. With summer fully upon us down here in New Orleans, it promised to be a brisk and sweaty affair, of the sort that transfers a gallon of salty perspiration from skin to headsets and seatposts and gets you home with wet shoes and a soaked kit that has to be peeled off inside-out and hung out to dry. Being only the beginning of July, it could have been worse of course. We started with a temperature around 84F and ended with it at a relatively subtropical 95 about three hours later. That was just a taste of what’s to come later this month and next, no doubt. With almost no wind and a big holiday group containing a lot of people whose game plan didn’t involve being in the front half, it was easy sailing for those who wanted it. The 18 or so miles from the overpasses out to Venetian Isles was completed at a nice brisk average speed of 25 mph, ramping up to 35 at the turnaround sprint for those so inclined. I backed off at about 34, myself. By then the heat was getting hot and the hot guys were getting toasted, which kept the speed on the return trip down Chef Menteur more in the 23-26 mph range, which was pretty casual with such a large group on such a windless day. After crossed under the interstate and got onto the service road I was near the back when Pat came riding up and said that Brian Bourgeois. had a mechanical. I looked back, but we were already around the bend and I couldn’t see anyone, so I turned around to see if he needed help while the rest of the group continued on unaware. Shortly after I’d turned another rider came by and said that Brian had told him he was OK and to go on, so I turned around again. By then we were probably two minutes behind the group. We started a nice two person time trial at a moderate pace, knowing that the group had already dropped back down to holiday ride speed, and finally caught back up somewhere around the end of Bullard. Almost everybody who started was together all the way to Lakeshore Drive, which is kind of unusual for the Giro but really nice for a holiday ride. Two people at a table for one So I got home, peeled off the wet kit, and got onto NBC Gold to watch end of the Tour de France where things were setting up for a big classic pack sprint. It’s the final 200 meters and I see Sagan and Cavendish in pretty good positions as the whole sprint starts drifting right. Sagan sees an opening to the right along the barricade. Cavendish is already trying to accelerate from behind into the same opening. I say out loud, “there’s not enough room!” Cav tries to make some space for himself by, I can only assume, leaning onto Sagan, but it’s like a little bird trying to push a tank out of the way. Sagan holds his line. Cav practically bounces off of Sagan and hits the barricade and goes down, sliding left right in front of two others who launch into and over him like it’s a ski jump. Lots of theories about that elbow Sagan, completely unfazed by what’s happening behind him, takes a close 2nd place. Cavendish eventually limps across the line with a bandaged hand and holding his arm in that classic “I’ve broken something” position across his chest. The officials relegate Sagan, presumably because he threw his elbow out and moved a bit to the right when Cavendish tried to squeeze through, and then they think about it more and decided to disqualify him completely. Cavendish has a broken scapula and is out, Sagan is out, fans start armchair officiating. From what I’ve seen, I can’t find much fault with what Sagan did. Cavendish took a big risk trying to come through an opening that was already closing. Had it been anyone but Sagan in the way, he might have pushed his way through, or he might have caused an even bigger crash. Had the leading riders not drifted right, none of this would have happened in the first place, so I think there was a lot of blame to go around. From the officials’ perspective, I think the key thing here was that they had earlier warned the sprinters that they would not be tolerating dangerous riding like they usually do, and I think Sagan’s DQ was basically used as an example. Certainly we’ve seen much worse in prior years’ sprints that didn’t warrant disqualifications. On Thursday we had a nice big group up on the levee for the long Thursday ride. The weather hadn’t changed much except that there were some big clouds scattered around, and the pace was pretty good most of the time, depending on who happened to be at the front, and never got out of hand. On the return trip we averaged around 24 mph with perhaps a bit of an occasional tailwind that kept my heart rate at an average of only 138. As we neared the Huey P. Long bridge I figured that a few of the riders were going to sprint as usual, and after a few of them went by I got onto someone’s wheel, but there was already a big gap so after a short effort I eased up. The next thing I know I see Brian Baum rolling down the grassy side of the levee as his bike flies through the air. Apparently he sprinted for the bridge, then eased up just as Matt, who he wasn’t expecting, came flying past him to his left, causing him to crash. Unfortunately, he hit the asphalt first, taking a lot of skin off of his arm and leg. He got back on the bike right away and hurried back the last few miles home before the epinephrine could wear off.

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