The Bos-Impey Crash

Apr 20 2009

Since I’m stuck at work on Marathon-freakin’ Monday, instead of at home making an Amstel video, I’m gonna burn my lunch break weighing in on the crash (around 3:40 in the above video) from the final day of the Presidential Tour of Turkey.

Public opinion seems arrayed pretty heavily against Theo Bos, all the more so because no sanction was leveled against him. But there’s been a pretty massive rush to judgment in this whole thing, which wasn’t really helped by the fuming voiceover of commentators before they’d so much as seen a replay.

The first description I saw made me think it was a post-finish scuffle, a la Julich and Blijlevens (no sound) after the 2000 Tour de France, so when I finally got around to seeing the tape, I was a little confused. I think what enrages people most is the sudden violence with which Impey goes down, but that should be a clue that all is not as it appears.

The fact is, it’s really hard to knock another cyclist over by yanking on a shoulder. Try it with your friends sometime while riding on the grass. You can make a decent handsling out of it, but taking someone out in dramatic fashion is nearly impossible. It’s easy make another cyclist crash hard while riding a bike, but you generally need to hit their bars (3:35) to pull it off.

Now if you introduce the shoulder of a moving cyclist to something stationary, they’ll go down in a hurry, and I’m pretty sure that’s what happened in Turkey. While it’s almost impossible to see what’s happening behind Bos’s shoulder (another reason not to make assumptions about his intentions) it’s pretty clear that Bos has crashed and is getting darn close to stopped before Impey starts to get pulled.

Putting a hand out on a rider closing you out is a legitimate, though risky, move. It lets your fellow rider know you’re there, and might cajole them into finding a bit more space. Baden Cooke’s last ditch effort to not be taken out by Paolo Bettini in Stage 4 of the ’05 Giro was to place a hand out on Bettini, but the barriers took Cooke down before he could make contact.

While you could argue that Bos’ grabbing Impey’s jersey was malevolent, I defy you to be knocked off balance without latching onto anything in arms’ reach. If you’ve really got to blame someone, you could take issue with the race organizers, who appear to have hired an overcaffeinated spider to manage barrier setup. But I’m really inclined to hold Barloworld accountable for this entire fiasco of a finish.

I start racing in the collegiate C field, so I know what carnage looks like—and this stage rivaled the worst of anything I’ve seen. There were people unclipping, surging forward then freewheeling, and crashes all over the road. At the professional level, holding the leaders jersey means your team controls the race, and is responsible for keeping the pace high. This cuts back on carnage and protects your leader—and it ought to go doubly if your man is contesting the sprint as well.

Barloword looked like they had some interest in organizing with 3k to go, but failed to mount any concerted effort for the line. More importantly, they didn’t protect their rider in yellow. While Impey might have had enough time avoid the crash by moving off the barriers after he felt Bos’ hand on his shoulder, the real mistake occurred when Bos, or anyone else not wearing the Barloworld kit, was able to get right up against Impey in the finale.

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