Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Thoughts on the Sagan situation

Wow, I had a post for this week sketched up, but scrapped it because... well... this is such a polarizing topic right now. I know, exactly what everyone wanted/needed, another opinion post by somebody who isn't a professional or a sprinter. Perfect. So let's dig in.

First, I think Sagan was certainly at fault.
Put down the pitchforks, let's talk about it. For what it's worth, I think a DQ was pretty over the top, but again, hard to know all the factors at work.

Unfortunately, I have not seen exactly what rule they used to infringe Sagan, I can only assume it is 2.3.036, but if I'm wrong please correct me and point me to the right source.

“Before the Tour de France, we warned the sprinters that we would look very close to every sprint. And that is what we did today”

– Philippe MariĆ«n

I copied this from the UCI's Road Race rules

Sprints 2.3.036 Riders shall be strictly forbidden to deviate from the lane they selected when launching into the sprint and, in so doing, endangering others. 

I think a lot of folks are caught up on the physical part of the sprint and the elbow. I'm of the opinion that the elbow was a combination of Sagan's arm getting hooked on Cav's hood, and also him trying to hold balance (his left knee also shoots out at the same time) and I'm also of the opinion that despite how it's portrayed on velonews/cyclingnews/etc, the elbow / contact had almost nothing to do with the decision, except that it was able to lend credibility to the "serious case" standard, which I'll agree with the masses was excessive and BS.

That said, while I don't think Sagan should have been ejected, I do still believe he is in violation of 2.3.036, definitively so. When watching the overhead video, right before the tree's block the line of sight, it's pretty clear that Cavendish has a line. From the head on view you can also see there is room for a body if nobody closes the door. So the question is, was closing the door on Cavendish an acceptable tactic or not.

That opens the question, at what point is the sprint initialized? I think it's fair to say that at around 50m to go both Sagan and Cavendish have launched into their sprints, (at a certain point you either are sprinting or you aren't, the road is ending) certainly Demare (who also had a horrendous sprint) is initiated. At that point, Sagan falls foul of the above. He continues moving in towards the barriers, and which point Cavendish leans into him to keep space...following which Sagan leans back to keep himself upright, and then carnage ensues.

Unfortunately, some of these rules are sort of written in pencil, not ink. When is the sprint initialized? What is the lane selected and how far does it extend?

In track cycling sprint events, in the last few hundred meters the lead rider in the spinters lane is required to stay in the lane regardless of anything else that happens around him/her. (3.2.041 and 3.2.042) That's because trying to move up the track once the sprint is initiated (200m is common distance) can easily cause carnage and/or block another rider.

Of course Track cycling and road cycling are apples and oranges. Nonetheless, the rules are similar, with the exception that the track rules are slightly more clearly outlined.

It's my opinion that Sagan did nothing malicious or with intent to stop Cavendish's sprint, but that he merely continued with his momentum and it happened to cross paths with Cav who was accelerating on the outside. Malicious, absolutely not, however, negligence is not a free pass from judgement. Therefore 12.104 should not have been applied, and Sagan should have continued to race. However, with that said, he was deserving of some judgement if you believe he did not follow 2.3.036.

What I think, briefly, is not that what Sagan did was so much wrong in a vacuum, but when you account for WHEN he did it only then does the necessity of a penalty look clearer.

One thing is for certain, we lost two very entertaining players in le Tour de France.

This is what the UCI handbook says about irregular sprints
10.2.Irregular Sprint 10.2.1. One-Day Race Relegation to the last place in his group + 200 Relegation to the last place in his field + 100 UCI CYCLING REGULATIONS E0217 DISCIPLINE AND PROCEDURES 14 10.2.2. Stage Race 1 st offence: relegation to the last place in his group + 200 2 nd offence: relegation to last place in the stage + 200 3 rd offence: elimination + 200 1 st offence: relegation to end of his field + 50 2 nd offence: relegation to end of stage + 100 3 rd offence: elimination + 200 Moreover, the Commissaires Panel may, in particularly serious cases, eliminate and fine a rider with 200 on the first offence 

here is a link to the regulations from the UCI to study yourself.

I know, Sagan is beloved. I am a Sagan fan. I'm also a Cavendish fan. Cavendish has been on the wrong side of the rules before (a good number of times) and has been involved in a good amount of crashes. That isn't a defense for Sagan fans to use in this case however.

I don't envy sprinters, professional or otherwise. What they do requires split second choices and nerves of steel. Hesitation on Sagan or Cavendish's part on stage 4 would certainly have resulted in something other than a win (as it turned out it did anyways) for both... I think things went tit's up, and sometimes when things go that way you make people stop and look closer than they normally do. In this case, under scrutiny, it seemed something needed done. I don't agree with what that was, but I agree SOMETHING should have been done.

Interested to hear what other's think. I believe we'll be talking about this for a long time. Unless of course Froome end's up running up a hill again.

Thanks for reading, I really appreciate it! I hope only the best for all involved.

- Christopher Morelock

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