Let’s Talk Sprinting

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Let’s talk sprinting. I got a little riled when I was watching the finish laps of the Junior 15-16 National Championships in Madison last weekend and the announcer was saying something about now is the time when the elbows come out and that the sport becomes a contact sport. I was wondering why he would be spewing something that is really obviously wrong and against the rules of cycling. It seems that he was doing a disservice to the spectators who most likely raced bicycles. So he was signing off on contact during sprints.

Then flash forward to yesterday in the Tour de France. Cavendish knocking down Veelers at the finish will be the most common topic. To me it looks like it wasn’t intentional, but Cavendish obviously was at fault. I guess when you have a car named after you, any publicity is good publicity. It just adds to it all. But, that wasn’t the reason for the encounter. It is very hard keeping track of the riders in front of you that are peeling off from their leadouts. It surprises me that there aren’t more guys smashing into the leadout guys from behind constantly. It looked like Cavendish tried to avoid the contact, but then leaned back in, which is what he would have had to do to stay upright.

But, his statement about what happened should have not included – “All I do is follow the road … There will be net forums with people going mad about it but I follow the road, I’m not going to hit the barriers …” They weren’t anywhere near the barriers and you can’t follow the road if someone is in your way, ie you can’t ride through other riders, which he did. No matter what, he didn’t deserve having urine thrown on him today in the time trial.

Anyway, enough of that, I want to address what happened before the Cavendish problem. If you can find the sprint on video somewhere, which I can’t, and watch from 2 km in, you notice all the contact before the red kite. Peter Sagan is bumping continuously with a Orica-Greenedge guy. But the real obvious foul is when Greg Henderson headbutts a Argos-Shimano guy to keep him at bay.

When the officials went back through the video to decide if they were going to relegate Mark Cavendish, they should have DQ’d Henderson for instigating contact. Headbutting isn’t a part of bike racing. It is so weird because it seems that 90% of headbutting, historically, is done by Australians and New Zealand ex-track riders. I never noticed anyone headbutting when I was racing down there, on the road, but they definitely do it now a bunch.

Someone needs to start addressing the contact issue. Like I stated above, publicity is publicity, but let’s try to attract publicity to the sport through extraordinary feats, not by endangering our peers by doing something anyone that clips in can do.



13 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Sprinting

  1. Anton

    Cavendish got away with it yesterday but the court of public opinion splashed him with urine today.

  2. Carl Sundquist

    I watched it about 8 or 10 times over the course of the day. Its posted on Shaun Wallace’s FB page


    First, P&P claim Kittel has no interest in the green jersey, just stage wins, so he’s not spending energy setting up and contesting the intermediate sprints. Regardless, he made a heck of a sprint to come from 6 riders back and so far from the finish line.


    Second, IMO both Veelers and Cav had culpability in the crash. Veelers was 3rd in line, Cav 4th, and Kittel 5th. At just about the same time, Veelers looks over his right shoulder, then Kittel jumps to the left (the more direct line to the finish line) and then Cav jumps to the right.


    Veelers had started out just to the right of the white line but drifted left by a meter while looking over his right shoulder, then (with his head down, looking underneath/behind himself) moved back to the right. Cav started his jump as Veelers started moving right, back across the white line. Veelers kept going to the right and Cav, who had initially given adequate clearance to get by Veelers, started left. The curve in the road was still probably close to 50 meters away, but Cav was slightly heading for the apex. The two came together.


    As a leadout man, once your sprinter comes off your wheel, you still have the objective to be an obstacle for other sprinters to come past. But like sprinters, you still have to maintain a good line; you can’t swerve to block other sprinters trying to come past you (not that Veelers was swerving, but he wasn’t holding his line and following the natural racing line of the road). But in the process of being an obstacle to other sprinters, you have to expect some brushes and bumping.


    In the end, IMO, it was a racing incident.

  3. ted

    Cavendish does himself no favors in the court of public opinion when he takes the AP reporter’s recorder away while the guy is interviewing him (yesterday), or flips out about his bike (last week), or tells people at press conferences to F off. I watched the finish live and he sure did look like he threw his shoulder into Veelers. He looked like a guy too desperate to get in a sprint he already lost. I assumed he’d get DQ’d, and am sorry he wasn’t. The urine thing was pretty sad.

  4. ted

    PS – when a rider like Carl Sundquist (and Steve, as always) give their perspectives, as above, I learn a little more about the sport.

  5. Just Crusty

    It looked to me like Cavendish had room on the right to go around Veelers. Had he done so without contacting Veelers, todays discussion might have been that there was a lot of pushing, shoving, and headbutting further back in the peloton while Cavendish had the mad skills to go around Veelers.

    It’s unfortunate but with so much video out there an athlete, while competing for that next win, would do well to be aware of how things will be analyzed in minute detail and finally judged in the court of public opinion.

  6. channel_zero

    I’ve noticed ASO goes to some effort to cut out the head butting and shoulder-rubbing that goes on in the lead-ins for the sprints. If you watch the event live, you’ll see it. But, the highlight reel never shows it.

    IMHO, it was a racing incident for sure, but Cav worked hard to minimize his role in it, despite the photo posted above. What was more interesting to me was the number of comments on some sites and their moderation. Lots and lots of Cav fans want to believe his story.

  7. Mark

    It was really fun times back before the “3K rule”, and the “1K rule” for that matter. Imagine those additional 20+ GC guys and their respective teammates all trying to fit in there today.

  8. Brian P

    It looked to me like Cav got pissed (at himself) for dropping Griepel’s wheel and letting Veelers over to move him off his line. He probably passed a little too close to Veeler’s as a result, but ultimately I agree it was a “racing incident.”

  9. Kevin

    Cav had poor positioning, and he dropped his shoulder and moved aggressively into Veelers knowing damn well he was going to knock him down. Race incident? So deliberately riding across someone’s wheel and doing a shoulder check for good measure is a race incident? From my experience, a race incident means some unintentional bumping here and there, maybe moving over to someone’s wheel not realizing someone is in your rear quadrant perhaps but nothing blatantly malicious. Cav however had Veelers in clear view. Cav got upset when he realized the train had left the station and he wasn’t on it so he took the most direct path to attempt to get on Kittel’s wheel which was right through Veeler’s. When I watched the replays it only confirmed what I first saw. True poetic justice to see Kittel own him in today’s sprint. Cav’s erratic and immature behaviour after the finish spoke volumes about what he knows truly happened.

  10. josh

    Wow… Ol kevs got it figured out. Yeah….cuz you ate generally thinking of maliciously knocking someone off their bike when you are cross-eyed, in O2 debt, going fulltilt sprinting for finish line at 38-40mph… I’m sure Cavs first thought as he was sprinting for Greipels wheel was ‘hey, let’s knock Veeler on his Ars’…cuz they don’t see and have to race each other 50+ times a year.

    But Kev, you got it it all figured out.

  11. Jeff

    What the heck are you guys looking at? Watch this one from 1:04. Veleers looks back, see MC, puts his head down and inconspicuously drifts WAY over the white line (which makes a really nice point of reference of where they are in their lanes) into MC’s path. He’s clearly trying to get into MC’s way.

  12. josh

    No Jeff, you’re wrong….goes Kev has got it totally figured out. On top of chasing the Green jersey and winning stages, Cavendish is now in the midst of the last 500m, trying to maliciously take out other riders in some sort of rage of retribution.

    Kev’s got all figured out.


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