Lee’s Lowdown: Crash, Bang, Wallop!

Lee Rodgers has been keeping his eye on the happenings in Australia and Spain this week and we are sorry to say carnage and injury are involved. The outcome for the Giant-Alpecin team was not good, but could have been much worse. Simon Gerrans, on the other hand, crashed but came out on top Down Under. Phil Liggett has also been in Australia, his crash was due to a very different fall, one from grace.

Four weeks into the new year and already we’ve seen three significant crashes, two that were literally and physically painful for those involved, and another that is altogether more of a metaphorical car crash. One of them may have scuppered the early season for those involved and could have killed someone, one spurred another to victory and the last really should be condemned loudly from the rooftops for the absolute load of bollocks that it represents.

So, to Crash Number One, which hospitalized several members of the Giant-Alpecin team and took place on a training ride in Spain. Caused by an Englishwoman who seems to have become confused as to which side of the road she should be driving on, the crash resulted in John Degenkolb almost severing his finger, left Warren Barguil with a fractured scaphoid in his wrist, Max Walscheid with a fractured hand and tibia, and, most seriously, saw American Chad Haga with a serious lacerations across his lower face and neck.

It could have been much worse

Haga’s mother left a FaceBook message saying that surgery had gone well, and I am sure I speak for all of us here at PezCycling News when I wish Chad Haga all the best in his recovery, though, judging by his tweets over the past couple of days he seems to be in good spirits, as he took to Twitter to let people know he was looking on the bright side of things:

“No TV in the ICU, so Twitter is my entertainment. Maybe some levity will make me feel better,” Haga wrote. “Whoever said ‘lead with your face’ is an idiot. Definitely don’t do that.”

“Weight loss technique for the ill-advised: smash your face on a car, you won’t eat for days,” he said in yet another.

“I guess I should update my whereabouts,” he wrote in one that really made me chuckle, “but I doubt ‘the room with blue walls’ will help them much, & I don’t know their policy on catheters.”

Joking aside, this could have been a far more serious accident than it was and the riders can consider themselves fortunate that we are not mourning one of them this week. In March of last year one of the toughest competitors I ever faced was hit and killed by a driver on the wrong side of the road, whilst out training in Hong Kong. Colin Robertson’s death was finally adjudged to have been his ‘own responsibility’ and the driver involved, one with a record of bad driving, was fined a paltry $534.24.

He was charged with “careless driving.”

Colin at the front, doing what he loved

I don’t know about you but if someone crosses the dividing line whilst in control of a machine that weighs more than two charging rhinos and kills someone, I’d call that manslaughter. Hopefully the driver involved in the Giant-Alpecin team crash will be dealt with in a way that reflects the gravity of the damage she caused, and, for that matter, the potential damage too.

This is all a real shame too for Degenkolb as he was looking to defend both his 2015 wins at Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix. Whether he will recover in time to be at either is yet known.

Maybe no ‘Hell of the North’ for Degenkolb this year

Crash Number Two involved Simon Gerrans, the leader of the Orica-GreenEDGE team, one that was far less serious than that mentioned above but one that spurred this very handy rider to a great win at the Santos Tour Down Under. I am constantly amazed at the depth of quality of Australian riders, considering that just thirty years or so ago they were battling to be taken seriously on the continent and come from such a relatively small pool of cyclists.

Two stages in a row for Simon Gerrans at the Tour Down Under

Gerrans, now 36, bounced back from the crash to win two successive stages and his fourth overall TdU title, an impressive feat. There were a few crashes at the Australian season opener and sensational crashes having become far more commonplace in racing throughout the year of late, not just early on when riders are understandably twitchy.

He’s a seasoned pro now, Gerrans, and his win was testament to that experience and typical Aussie grittiness. Some might say it’s no surprise that Aussies do so well at this event but it’s not by chance. Look at the Tour of Britain and consider how seldom British riders shine there. The model for Australian cycling is one that many countries would do well to look at more closely.

Gerrans is a seasoned pro now

Finally, that metaphorical car crash, brought to us courtesy of that old limpet that still sticks on to the underbelly of professional cycling, Phil ‘Too Legit To Quit’ Liggett. The veteran commentator was at the vanguard of those not only supporting and defending Lance Armstrong throughout his glory years, he actively worked to prop up the myth behind which the man hid himself for so many of those years. To me he is an example, a very prominent one, of those journalists who throughout that era went AWOL from their posts, refusing to listen to or face up to the rumors they heard, refusing to join the very large dots and ultimately serving to keep the wheels of deceit and fraud very well oiled indeed.

Speaking to New Zealand Herald, Liggett admitted his part in creating the ‘legend of Lance.’

“I was hoping against hope it wasn’t drugs”

“I built him up,” he said. “I created him into a great cyclist, and he was, even though he took drugs. On the other hand, I feel hurt and cheated that we made him look better than he should’ve and turned him into a star.”

If anyone really cheated anyone it was these fawning journalists cheating the fans who lapped up all that they were served. Liggett goes on to say that he was never in Lance’s ‘back pocket’ but it rings hollow. Many might have forgotten this or even not know of it, but both Liggett and Armstrong were one-time investors in a Ugandan goldmine operated by Liggett’s co-commentator Phil Sherwen. I would at the very least call that a conflict of interests.

Phil & Lance

In the Herald interview he goes on to call Armstrong a ‘brave’ man and a great cyclist, two evaluations I think many of us will have trouble with. Still, far as I can see, many people connected with that dark era are as yet unwilling to take full responsibility for their part in it all, and Liggett is one of those at the forefront of all this, still praising a man that used him, as he did so many others.

So there you have it, three crashes. Better get used to it, plenty more to come, no doubt.

Lance for President or maybe Mr. Trump?

Lee Rodgers is a former professional road racer on the UCI Asia Tour circuit now racing MTB professionally around the world. His day job combines freelance journalism, coaching cyclists, event organizing and consulting work. You can keep up with his daily scribblings over at www.crankpunk.com.

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