You need to check out the photo below. It is of the altercation between Jake Keough and Rahsaan Bahti at the Dana Point criterium a couple weeks ago. You can find it live here on Insidecycling.TV.
The video seems pretty self explanatory. Cut and dry. I guess there seems to be some ongoing debate on whether it is fair to use a video to judge the altercation. I think we are lucky to have such good footage.
Anyway, I wasn’t at the race and this is probably the end result of an ongoing saga. But, it can’t be allowed. I’ve heard rumors about what happened. Bumping, threats, etc.. from earlier races. But, it really doesn’t matter the cause. There is no excuse. I don’t really know Jake Keough. I’ve not had much contact with him. But, he needs to have a “time out”. A pretty long one at that. Probably for the rest of the season. I don’t know about Rahsaan’s penalty. Most of what he did, other than throw his glasses into the field, wasn’t caught on video.
I’d heard lots of people defending Keough’s aggression justifying it by saying that there needs to be an etiquette respecting the leadout train of United Healthcare and that Rahsaan wasn’t doing that. From my perspective, that is bullshit. This tempo riding to control criterium racing has to stop. There is no place for it here.
There are a lot of things that are going wrong in American criterium racing now. But, by far, the worst problem is the introduction of contact. Somewhere down the line it became somewhat accepted to take your hands off the bars to touch someone. A tap to say, “I’m here”. That progressed into pushing. Usually towards the end of the race. The last couple laps. It is so dangerous. Head butting and elbows are both included in this. It is just wrong.
The leadouts that these teams are doing now are not really leadouts. Look how many laps out that the United Healthcare Team tried to control the race. It can start with 15 laps to go. It is insane.
The normal tactics are this. A team will put all 8 guys on the front and rotate. But, they aren’t going fast. Probably less than 30 mph. Usually not even as fast as the race was going previously. So, the rest of the field is jammed up behind these guys jamming on their brakes before each corner and then having to jump after. A full on interval session multiple times a lap. It is very ugly and dangerous. And the mass at the front keeps the other teams from getting together and getting organized.
Just because a Pro team puts all its riders at the front, especially during a criterium, doesn’t mean that the other riders have to “respect” their tactics. I say just the opposite. If they want to put all their riders on the front and stay there, then they have to back that up and accomplish that by riding fast. Really fast.
If these teams would go to the front when they have the ability to go fast and ride fast, then the whole problem would not occur. A good example is the St. Paul Criterium during Nature Valley last year. Bissell put their whole team at the front the entire race and rode “slow” chopping the field every corner. Then Colivita took over with a lap and a half to go and rode 60kph and there was virtually no one left to sprint. I finished 10th that day and was probably 300 meters behind the winner. That is what a leadout is supposed to be. Something going fast enough that guys like me can’t get involved in the leadout because it is going way too fast.
So, I don’t know who from USAC is going to address the problem. Normally the riders take care of problems like this. But, most the riders now have never experienced anything but what has been going on. I’ve talked to a few people that might have the power, but no one seems to think it is that big of a deal. Maybe they should come to one of these criteriums first hand, especially during a stage race, when the teams are trying to control the field for the GC leader, and witness it first hand. Or, maybe there just needs to be more cameras in the field to “catch” the altercations on video. I don’t know. But, it isn’t going to get any better unless it is addressed quickly and sternly.