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.