Perfect Storm of Crap! All talk of the Mock aside, holy crap. What a day. Yesterday’s stage was dubbed a mini Liege-Bastogne-Liege as it covered a segment of the same course as that particular race. For those not in the know, LBL is one of the major Spring Classics on the calendar. It’s a tough race with lots of short, sharp hills on very small old roads.
The weather was also particularly Belgian Spring Classic-esque: overcast with sporadic bursts of rain.
Considering the number of late crashes on the 1st day, the whole peloton was skittish to say the least, with position being vital all day — partly because the roads were so tight, and partly to avoid being on the wrong side of the inevitable crashes when 200-odd bike riders try to squeeze down roads that are no more than two and a half metres wide. Everyone fighting for position increases the skittishness, and so the first ingredients for the perfect storm begin to brew.
We the staff were on a standard day — send the boys off with various minor adjustments and strapping applied in the bus as they prepared for the day, then get to the finish line (with obligatory car concert en route: highlight track today was “Sister” by The Nixons — yes, I know that’s tragic) to await the arrival of the boys, and get them to the hotel to start it all again the next day.
Things were that easy, I managed to get myself off for a little run and noted the boys still had over 60km to go in the race when I had finished up. Sweet as apples!
That is when the messages started to come in. Stuff like “Christian, Julian, Millar all in a crash, all back on bikes,” began to trickle in. “Hunter crashed hard. Back on bike, back in peloton. More later.” And so on.
Those of us at the finish were obviously glued to the television trying to look for the distinctive orange Giro helmets the boys all wear, and we all had one hand on our BlackBerrys awaiting (but hoping to not receive) the next update from the staff in the cars following the race.
There is an unbelievable sense of confusion, futility, worry and disbelief watching stuff like this go down. We saw the peloton looming on the remnants of the day’s break, and one of said remnants crashed on a corner on the final descent of the day. The next footage we saw was bicycle carnage.
Blokes were bleeding and trying to untangle their bikes, get going again, and not lose too much time. Whilst trying to look around the riders on screen for any of our boys, we started to notice that a lot of the big names were down: the Schlecks, Lance and Contador to name four. Then we saw that Christian had crashed again, and didn’t look in any way comfortable.
At this exact point we received yet another very matter-of-fact message that Tyler had crashed hard but was attempting to finish the day. The three of us who were sitting together (team doc Serge, team nerd/physiologist Quody and myself) looked at each other, each holding up our phones to share the message and were dead silent. It was a bad moment.
Eventually the boys arrived at the bus, in dribs and drabs, all looking frazzled, with none really knowing what had happened to any of the others. They began recalling that they had seen so-and-so on the ground, or had pulled this person back to the bunch only to be waved on by that team mate, and began to describe how they had avoided this crash but been belted by that.
As quickly as we could, we cleaned the boys up and got those needing the hospital moving, and those needing rest back to the hotel as quickly as we could manage. Whilst maintaining a semblance of normalcy, the med team here were keeping everyone updated as to how things were looking and what we could expect for the boys the following day (today).
And today is where the final pieces of the perfect storm fall into place. We have a mini Roubaix stage, complete with stretches of road that are cobbled.
“Cobbled” is an adjective with a unique meaning when used in the context of Roubaix. It at times appears to mean that a truck once drove along a dirt road with the back of it’s tray down, allowing large stones to fall out, which then lay where they fell, were fixed into place and were described as “the road” thenceforth.
That sort of a road leads to vibrations of ridiculous frequency, which is uncomfortable on a bike without shock absorbers at the best of times, but when you’ve crashed multiple times the day before, this becomes a serious issue of pain and increasing damage already done.
We can only hope that the team and the peloton has a better day.