miércoles, 15 de septiembre de 2021

Girona training camp, day 3. Controversies day

There are no cycling events worth their name without a set of controversies that full endless hours of fans discussions. The Girona Training Camp had a full set of controversies today.

Let’s start with the route of the day. 120km, 1700m of climbing. Another short but not flat day in the menu (https://www.unbiciorejon.com/2019/02/javiers-ride-classification-criteria.html).

On paper a great stage to make some great differences in the different classifications. But as always happened the organiser set the route and it is the riders the ones that decide the way it is going to be ridden. In this case the riders called for today to be a “rest day”. 120km, 1700m of climbing. Rest day. 

“TT” Adam took the front of the group as we left Girona and set a comfortable pace for the group. Do you remember Tony Martin in the first stage of the Tour of France 2020? Same thing.

There came the first climb (km 8, mentioning it because you might not realise there is a climb there when you look at the profile) and wanting to warm up I pushed a little bit and I took the KOM. “KOM” Ed on my wheel. True, it was not intentional. But yes, I jumped out of the group. Yes, I took the climb. Yes, no one else seems to have noticed the climb. Yes, I took it. Yes, the points counted. I don’t make the rules!!!

Came the second climb (km 19.6) and I was following “KOM” Ed’s wheel. Yes, he was not going fast. Yes, he grabbed a bottle to drink 200m from the top of the climb. Yes, I passed him. Yes, I took the KOM. Did I sprint? Absolutely not. It just happens I can push 400w for a few seconds the moment I stop thinking about pacing myself. Did I celebrate? Absolutely yes. Think about it this way. Here you have me finding myself competing in a classification no one was considering me for. Didn’t Julian Alaphilippe celebrate when he found himself competing for the GC at 2019’s Tour of France? Same thing.

Next up was me at the front of the group, setting a “rest day” pace as it was agreed and at the time of passing a NON official sign I celebrated with both arms in the air. Was that with the intention of starting the hostilities? Absolutely not. IT.WAS.A.JOKE. That doesn’t mean you are breaking the slightly mafia-like agreement that today was a rest day. IT.WAS.A.JOKE. Some of us like to have fun riding our bikes. If you are in this training camp you’ll need to tone down your competitiveness. 

Still, all these were small controversies compared to the big controversy of the day. The sprints. 

I’ll lay my cards down to state clearly that in my opinion downhill sprints shouldn’t count. They are just not safe. Difficult not to agree with that position. But it is not what I say what counts here. The rules are the rules. 

Well, I had to mention the rules a few times today. First “GC” Denis went solo for a downhill sprint. Then “GC” Denis and “The other sprinter” TY disputed another downhill sprint. “KOM” Ed went for the always important coffee stop town sign sprint with complete disregard to the fact that it was at the bottom of a 16km!!! descent. I also had to call out a sprint from “TT” Adam for being just before a left turn (again, it is not safe to sprint in those circumstances), a sprint from “Consistency” Richard for getting in my line and not allowing me to dispute the sprint, a sprint from “KOM” Ed because the town sign was not visible enough and a sprint from “the other sprinter” TY because there was not a sprint line to get to in his attack (Pretty much any attack from Mikel Landa? Same thing).

None of those sprints counted. Obviously.

As always happens, all types of arguments were exposed. -1% is not a step descent, the sprint was not in the descent but after the descent, you could have never taken that sprint, you also sprinted. All excuses from those not happy with the decisions. Do you know what happens when the UCI enforces the rules of the sport? Same thing.

There were sprints that counted though. “TT” Adam took a town sign in front of “KOM” Ed. In the same town sign “GC” Denis took third jumping out of my wheel after I was working at the front for at least 200 metres. This doesn’t change much in the sprints classification. As far as I can tell I’m still leading it comfortably.

But there were still more (minor) controversies today. 

Come the last climb of the day (km 100, again, mentioning it because you might not realise there is a climb there) and “TT” Adam was ahead. “KOM” Ed attacked. At that point it was “GC” Denis’ responsibility to close that gap but it was me the one that set the pace aiming to close the gap. Was I going against “KOM” Ed’s interests? I guess that is one interpretation of the facts. Was I favouring “GC” Denis’ interests? You could say so. Was I looking only after my interests? Of course. Do you remember Movistar looking after their interests in La Covatilla in 2020? Same thing.

Then it was me passing “KOM” Ed my bottle of water. What a gesture of sportsmanship!! Do you remember the Bartali and Coppis bidon picture? Same thing.

What does “KOM” Ed do a few minutes after that? 

He launched a stage winning attack. On a day where we had agreed it was going to be a rest day. A clear departure from the not written rules of the sport.

Almost futile attack I should add. The Girona town sign arriving from that road doesn’t count (too small, too close to a roundabout, not safe) so he only took the town sign of the small village just before Girona. Nothing of much value. Do you know the value of crossing the flamme rouge first? Same thing.

Especially if you are then last to the house where we are staying. Karma they call it.

In my case I’m not very happy as I didn’t take any sprint today but, hey, you can’t win every day. I keep riding within the most absolute observation of the rules (Do you remember Contador? Same thing) and if you keep yourself humble despite being the best sprinter in the group the results will come. Karma they call it.

The ride in Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/5958863413/

Take care

Javier Arias González

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