Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Giro 2008: ouch and ouch again

As a cyclist I know that falling is part of the game, but not a good part. I never want to fall and I never want to cause anyone else to fall (yeah, sometimes I have wished the worst on some idiot but not often). I especially hate it when riders are weaving around for no reason other than their own desire to shake people off. OK, fine, that happens, we all want to get a gap and ride alone to glorious victory. But how often does it work? Versus how often it causes a fall? Sometimes - possibly every time - positioning with stealth and cunning beats those stupid pre-sprint desperation weaves.

And then there are just plain accidents. Potholes, punctures, car doors, crossed wheels, too fast into a corner, a nudge here or there and... boom! And in a tight bunch the slightest wrong move in the middle or side can send someone off the road. It happens.

Which brings me to a stage of this year's Giro I'd rather forget. Stage 3: It was a day characterised by breakaways, crashes and high speeds but, as expected, the third stage of the Giro d'Italia came down to a bunch sprint. Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) did precisely what his team-mate and race leader Franco Pellizotti yesterday suggested he would do, winning in Milazzo and thus making it a double success for the acid green squad. That's the good bit. Good on Bennati. Good on Pellizotti.

But this is the worst of it:At the start in Catania, there was concern about the stage's technical finish, but the worst wrecks occurred mid-stage. One massive pile-up took down riders such as stage two winner Riccardo Riccó (Saunier Duval – Scott) and David Millar (Slipstream Chipotle H30) while another put Bradley McGee (CSC) out of the race with a broken collarbone. McGee's team-mate Stuart O'Grady, who was doing his first Grand Tour since he was seriously injured in last year's Tour de France also crashed, and while he finished the stage it was later found that he also broke his collarbone.

Both McGee and O'Grady are coming back, either from obvious or more hidden maladies, and it's a shame to see them go out of the race. There were others hurt, too: Other riders caught up in Stage 3's mass crash included Saunier Duval-Scott's Riccardo Riccò and Eros Capecchi. Both riders have undergone X-rays and been cleared to ride, with Riccò dislocating a finger on his left hand while Capecchi's suspected broken collarbone turned out to be muscle injury.

I'd like to say we can fix this sort of thing, but how? Bike racers draft in packs. It's the sport. Proximity is both a danger and a blessing - the convivial bunch rolling along is a great thing that no other sport shares. Perhaps we need full-body armour (ventilated of course) and/or crash detection and prevention radar.