Tuesday, July 20, 2010

UPDATED: Spare a Thought for Nicolas Roche

Pappillon knows better than most what it is like to deal in the shady world of back-stabbing evil opportunists and scoundrels - and the French. We've even been accused to be better suited for life in that hopeless and evil realm than pleasant, civilized society (though were that the case, we would attribute such a mutation to the death of Pappillon Sr. and the abandonment of his off-spring - or at least one of them - to wolves by Mrs. Pappillon Sr.). Nevertheless, running with the big dogs means peeing in the tall grass, just as playing with fire will sometimes see you burn. But all's well that end's well, even if Life's a Bitch.

photo Copyright © 2010 Reuters/steephill.tv

Speaking of which...as we sit here brooding about the injustices we've wrought upon ourselves with spectacularly-poor decision making skills regarding our aspirations for success in the import/export field, we sometimes try to convince ourselves that, while life is a b#tch, it's often difficult to forever escape karmic retribution, even if you've won more Tours de France than anyone else. Everyone eventually gets what's coming to them - hopefully.

Nevertheless, the mantra that "what goes around, comes around" is a limp and frigidly ineffective comfort when considering the case of former Irish national champion Nicolas Roche of the Ag2r-La Mondiale cycling team. It's the great travesty of the 19th and 20th of July that most of the English-speaking cycling world cries crocodile tears on behalf of a Christ-like Andy "Preying Mantis-head" Schleck, while nary a thought is spared for the one rider who was truly, positively wronged during yesterday's fifteenth stage of the Tour de France.

photo Copyright © 2010 Fotoreporter Sirotti/cyclingfans.com

Recent converts to the anti-Alberto brigade complain furiously about the Spaniard's supposed violation of cycling's "unwritten" rules, but it was Roche who was egregiously and violently shafted by his French teammate John Gadret (unfortunately a favorite of friend-of-Pappillon, Bobke Strut) in a glaring display of rule-breaking. If it's not codified in Ag2r's contracts as a written clause, it should be, but everyone knows that if you're being paid to ride on behalf of a team leader, one of your principal responsibilities is not only to wait for him should he suffer a mechanical incident, but to give him your wheel or even bike if the situation requires it and he can't continue on his own machine.

Everyone heaping scorn on Alberto Contador for trying to win the Tour de France should instead refocus it on John Gadret, especially if you're Irish!

Why target Gadret for the most epic, grassroots-catalyzed ball-breaking in the history of Internet-followed Tour de France racers and fanboys galore? I'll let Nicolas explain in his own words:

"...Six kilometres from the top of the climb [the Port de Bales], just as the pace began to increase at the front, I punctured a front wheel. I pulled over to the side of the road and as [John] Gadret was riding behind me, I asked him for his wheel as he rode alongside.

This is a perfectly normal request if the team car is not around. To save time, a team-mate will often give his team leader a wheel or even his bike if necessary. I have done it plenty of times over the years, as have most cyclists, amateur or professional, at some stage in their careers.

As our team car was No 11 in the cavalcade and it would take a lot of time for them to get to me through the streams of dropped riders, I asked Gadret -- who was there to help me -- for his wheel. I couldn't believe what happened next. He just shook his head and said 'Non'. At first I thought he was joking, but soon realised he wasn't when he kept riding past me..."

As my team manager, Vincent Lavenu, in the car behind shouted into Gadret's earpiece to wait, I took my wheel out and waited for a new one. All the time the group -- including Gadret -- was riding up the mountain, away from me..."

Is it any wonder then that Roche started his latest column for the Irish Independent with the following lead? "If John Gadret is found dead in his hotel room in the morning, I will probably be the primary suspect."

Why choose sides in a baseless and completely overblown fake-drama concerning a botched shift, when you can choose sides in a serious and legitimate scandal concerning a front wheel puncture and shameless disloyalty and selfishness! You can join the FaceBook group "Don't Ride Like John Gadret - a Shameless and Disloyal Opportunist" to share your displeasure at John Gadret with like-minded individuals.

Quote of the day: "Very angry!!! Puncture happens but being left behind by attacking team mate is other!" An annoyed Nicolas Roche took exception to AG2R team-mate John Gadret's ill-timed attack - just as Roche had punctured at the foot of the Port de Bales. The Irish-Frenchman removed this tweet shortly after putting it up online. - H/T Blazin'Saddles

UPDATE: Expert Analysis - Pappillon asked the victim's father, Stephen Roche (himself a Tour winner - from the "Golden Age" of modern pro cycling, no less), for his thoughts on the stage. We're happy to share them here:

"The highlight of the day would have been the attack of Contador, which in actual fact was the attack of Schleck. People are putting too much emphasis of the fact that Contador attacked Schleck, when in actual fact Schleck attacked first and Contador basically came after him and went by him. I think it was very unfair to say that Contador attacked Schleck, when in actual fact it was the other way round.

The fact that Schleck had mechanical trouble – that's his problem. It's all just part of the race. You can't just stop the race if some guy makes a mess of his gears, or his gear change or chooses the wrong gear or has a mechanical problem, that's just the way it goes. Contador was actually hesitant to go on, he looked around a couple of times before he actually put his head down, and he was with Menchov and Sanchez so what was he expected to do? Should he have backed off and said “I'm sorry, my good friend down the road there has had a problem and I'm going to wait for him”?

Schleck was blessed with the stage into Spa where Cancellara actually cancelled the race so Schleck could get back on again. At the end of the day, it's all part of bike racing. If the guy had been on the ground, and had a fall, or an injury or whatever, you'd say yeah okay, it's not the in thing to attack – but the race was in full flight and Andy Schleck launched the race himself.

I didn't hear his comments at the finish, but for me I have no problem at all with the way Contador rode and I think we should look at the thing from the mechanical cycling point of view rather than that of a journalist who just sees the guy attacking, he doesn't see the actual mechanics of the thing. People believe what journalists say, like Contador shouldn't have attacked – but that's just coming off the top of the journalist's head, whereas if he analysed what happened he would have to change his view because Schleck attacks, first of all, then Contador comes after him and goes past him – as he's going past him, Schleck has a problem.

Contador was in full flight, so he can't stop. Well, he could have stopped, but they're in the middle of a war and you don't stop the battle because a guy's chain has come off. They're professional bike riders, it's not a game they're playing – these boys are getting paid for what they're doing in a professional sport and we all love to see the attacking and the spectacle.

Andy Schleck rode a brilliant race to get back and only lose 30 seconds because he came back to earn 12 seconds on top of the climb. It was a great ride by Andy Schleck, and that's what makes champions. Contador could have said “Andy, I'll wait for you because I'm going to take the Yellow Jersey off you anyway, in Bordeaux” and then we would all have said Contador is no tactician, he has no panache, he's just relying on the final time trial. I think what happened today was great racing and don't focus on the fact that Schleck had a chain problem as it's all part of bike racing."

Final Thoughts: Thanks to Nicolas Roche himself for the follow on Twitter - we promise to restrain our tweeting so as not to flood your inbox. Click here to follow Roche yourself, and to show your support for Irish cycling (and Team ag2r-LaMondiale). And of course, you can follow Pappillon on Twitter, where we post links to shocking direct evidence of doping every time another 50 followers are added.


  1. +1 good post, funny. what a jerk that Gadret - makes Contador look like St. Francis. Papp did you ever race against Roche (v2) or was that after your time?

  2. the french really have it in for the irish this year - first the hand ball that put us out of the world cup - and now this! Most annoying thing though seems to be the French reaction which is - 'gadret is better than Roche in the mountains, what's the big deal..'

  3. Anon, that was before my time. Thanks, though.

    Ferg, thanks for your comment. I agree that the Frogs seem to think that it's that time of year to take advantage of the Irish. Hopefully John Gadret gets what's coming to him, somewhere down the road. And I hope that involves a flat tire, far from the pit, on the last lap of the cyclocross world championships...

  4. Nicolas Roche21 July, 2010 11:09

    Joe, thanks to you and all of your readers for the burst of support during this Tour. As for Gadret, I am not going to go for a pint with him yet...

  5. Stephen Roche seems inconsistent in his judgements, as he argues that what Contador did was within the rules of accepted decorum, whilst Carlos Sastre was out-of-bounds (and worse, stupid!) when he attacked after Sanchez's crash.

    See for yourself:

    "I thought Sastre's attack was a bit stupid as well because if you saw Sanchez on the ground at the start, it looked very bad. I'm sure the riders got across their radios that it looked serious, he is a contender and it was the initial part of the stage, it hadn't warmed up yet. We saw Contador intially saying to all the riders, and especially Sastre who wanted to go away on the front, to back off – whereas Sastre went on.

    You can debate under what circumstances do we race and what circumstances do we not race? I feel they should race when the race is on – when Sastre went off the front, the race wasn't on. He could have backed off and let the other guys get back on, so I was quite content that he didn't get across to the main break and that his actions didn't work out because I didn't think it was very sporting. I was a bit disappointed."

    It's getting impossible to manage all of this unwritten rules crap!

  6. Anon, I don't know what to tell you - though it seems like Roche assumes that Sastre knew it was Sanchez who'd crashed. I'm not sure if that's the case, and I am a bit disappointed to hear him taking satisfaction in Sastre's failed effort.

    I for one thought it was, well, kind of sad and pathetic to see Sastre riding so anonymously. I don't know what explains his radical form difference in comparison to the Tour he won, but he is Spanish and everyone is a lot more fearful to risk doping right now... Or it could just be the fatigue from the Giro, plus lingering injuries from the Giro, injuries from early crashes in the Tour, and a general lack of motivation.

    Remember, Sastre didn't intend to ride the Tour and was basically shanghaied into starting by his team.

    Sastre is a few months younger than me, but if my condition when I get out of bed is any indication, it can't be easy for Sastre to continue performing at the top level w/o the benefit of a comprehensive medical program - which I do not believe he can risk right now, and which he may never have benefited from.

    I definitely feel a certain pity when former champions like Sastre start to return mediocre results...


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