It's Good Not To Be The King

Mar 10 2011

Sanchez' finger, from Steephill.TV and ReutersI got to guest post on The Selection today, and my basic thesis was that, despite the fact it means going slower and not winning, being a mid-pack racer is kind of awesome.

Further reinforcement of that theory from today’s Paris-Nice finish: it’s several hours later and the Twitterati still can’t believe it—Sammy Sanchez lost a heads-of-state sprint. Not only did he lose it, but he lost it to Andreas Kloden, who famously lost the closest (and most gangly-limbed) finish in TdF history back in 2005.

Now, it’s not inconceivable that the famously quick Sanchez would have lost—Klodi had a good lead out, and Sanchez occasionally mistimes his final punch. But, being right up at the front in a WorldTour race means a million prying eyes are watching your every move; enter a Reuters cameraman and the discerning eye of @inrng, to catch the Spaniard appearing to use his left lever in the closing meters.

It’s tricky to imagine why he’d be doing this. Braking would seem to be out of the question. Plenty of riders, from experience in cyclocross or on motorcycles, swap the front and rear brakes, but as far as I know, there are no parts manufacturers that have shift/break bodies that are reverseable—right has to shift the rear, and left has to shift the front.

Maybe he was shifting/had just shifted between chainrings because he was worried about running out of gears or chainline, but even with top-shelf electronic parts, a front shift under any kind of power really is sticking your finger in the devil’s eye.

The other scenario (and I think the easiest to explain) is that Sanchez did hit the brakes. He could have done this because he’s a klutz (not unheard of among cyclists) or because he didn’t want the burden of race leadership (the two stages after the TT, while not obvious game-changers, have some potential to be decisive) or because there was some sort of agreement that Kloden would be allowed to win in exchange for money/future support/2012 contract/what have you.

Regardless, people have noticed, and Sanchez will probably have to conjure up some sort of acceptable explanation over the next few days. Much nicer, I think, to be competing at a lower level, or rolling in with the group, to keep any of your dabbling in cycling’s middle layer out of the prying public eye.

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