Well, that didn’t take long…
The 2023 road racing season is barely out of nappies and – after James Knox’s controversial disqualification from the Tour Down Under last week for some post-concussion protocol team car drafting, and the lines of parked cars that marred the same stage’s finale – professional cycling has already moved on to its third self-inflicted safety scandal of the year.
BAM! Sam Bennett won the opening stage of @vueltasanjuanok , beating Morkov and Nizzolo after a perfect leadout by Danny van Poppel. 👌 It was pretty difficult to watch this dangerous finale and there still are like 5 bunch sprints left... #VueltaSJ2023 pic.twitter.com/3qzFaOZUTv
— Mihai Simion (@faustocoppi60) January 22, 2023
During last night’s opening stage of the Vuelta a San Juan in Argentina, one of the traditional South American season curtain raisers, which has certainly attracted a stellar field this year, the final few kilometres were sketchy, to say the least.
As world champion Remco Evenepoel, working for his Soudal-Quick Step sprinter Fabio Jakobsen, led the peloton into the last kilometre in San Juan at typical Remco warp speed, the peloton was forced to split in two as it passed a central reservation.
While the race organisers apparently assumed that all of the riders would stick to the right-hand side of the road (and indeed placed the flamme rouge in such a position to indicate that was indeed the case), Remco and a few others stayed to the left, effectively scuppering Jakobsen’s chances of the victory.
Several spectators, it seems, also expected the peloton to hog the right lane, and duly stood slap bang in the middle of the road, forcing riders to dodge them as they battled for position at over 60km/h.
— Iñigo Zubeldia (@Inigo_Zubeldia) January 23, 2023
I’ll admit, I was watching it through my fingers.
Fortunately, the crudely planned finish produced no major crashes (those happened earlier), while Bora-Hansgrohe’s Sam Bennett took full advantage of the confusion to secure a redemptive first win of the season after a difficult 2022.
(Not that we could see much of the actual sprint mind you, thanks to the questionable camera positions. Poor Carlton and Brian…)
🇧🇪 Remco Evenepoel after the extremely hectic final in #VueltaSJ2023.
🗣️ “It was hectic and dangerous. I almost crashed against a woman. It shouldn’t be possible to cross the road 1.2km from the finish. It was maybe an unacceptable finish.” pic.twitter.com/mdN1kKevJW
— Domestique (@Domestique___) January 23, 2023
Nevertheless, many riders weren’t happy with the baffling route design, including world champion Evenepoel, who blasted the finish as “unacceptable”.
“It was hectic and dangerous. I almost hit a woman, I think,” the 22-year-old, who won the Vuelta a San Juan back in 2020, told Sporza at the finish.
“As Michael Mørkøv said, it should not be allowed that there is still such an open stretch at 1.2 kilometres from the finish, where you do not know where to ride and where people are still crossing.
“It’s a pity, because we were perfect at that point and Fabio [Jakobsen] couldn’t sprint due to miscommunication about left or right. It was perhaps an unacceptable final kilometre.”
🇦🇷 #VueltaSJ2023 Remco Evenepoel ha discutido con Dirección de carrera al terminar la etapa porque casi atropella a una mujer. No me extraña 😠 Vaya circo de final de etapa ⚠️ pic.twitter.com/BriqI9cRQe
— Isma Álvarez Cycling (@CyclingIsma) January 23, 2023
The world champion also said that he approached the race organisers after the stage to state the peloton’s case.
“I wanted to know if everyone would get the same time because it was a weird situation,” he said.
“I was not panicked, but I was shocked by the crossing people. A lead-out is without thinking, clearing your mind and accelerating. I was a bit upset and I wanted to ask if everything was okay. Lessons should be learned from this.”
Don’t hold your breath Remco…
Using a phone behind the wheel? Check. Stopping in a bike box? Check. Inhaling nitrous oxide? Errr… check?
We receive a lot of videos here at road.cc of instances of dangerous driving, but I think it’s fair to say that few of them involve a balloon.
The Coventry-based cyclist who filmed the video below, of an apparently “stoned” driver inhaling nitrous oxide while also using his phone behind the wheel, told us that he has witnessed motorists using the substance, commonly known as laughing gas, several times over the last few years.
“Over the last few years, I’ve seen an increasing number of drivers with balloons in their mouths like this, but this is the first one where I’ve got decent video,” says road.cc reader James, who you may remember from yesterday’s run-in with the reversing close passer (he’s had an eventful few months on the road, has James).
“As you can see in the video, the driver dropped the mobile phone fairly quickly but beyond that he’s not very responsive. And later in the video he appears to forget he’s trying to hide the phone and picks it up again.
“When I’m alongside him at the junction you can see the N20 container sitting on the passenger seat. I’d have to say he looks stoned.
“I reported this to West Midlands Police but I have no idea if any action was taken since West Midlands Police don’t normally provide any feedback.
“I say they don’t normally provide feedback because they do provide some feedback but it’s really quite rare. I’d be surprised if there wasn’t any action taken.
“With hindsight I should have immediately called 999 and reported this.”
While driving under the influence of nitrous oxide is illegal, the substance only stays in the body for a short time, making it difficult to trace in drug tests.
Motorists using laughing gas (or ‘hippy crack’, as it’s also known) have been responsible for several deaths on the road in recent years, prompting cycling activist Mike van Erp – known to regular blog readers as Cycling Mikey – to call for a change in the law to ensure that drivers found in possession of nitrous oxide can be prosecuted.
On 1 January, the Dutch government banned the sale, import, and possession of laughing gas, amid growing concerns over its effects on health and road safety.
According to a police survey report, there were almost 1,800 road safety incidents, including 63 fatal collisions, involving drivers using nitrous oxide between 2018 and 2021 in the Netherlands.
“The LTN resistance cannot win - as they rarely have the time, platform or economic bandwidth to stop an anti-democratic Lycra Lobby”
— Charlotte Gill (@CharlotteCGill) January 22, 2023
“All across the UK, a war is being waged against car drivers”, “a ‘Lycra Lobby’ of cycling activists and eco wonks”, “I don’t drive, enjoy cycling and probably have a relatively low carbon footprint”, “an assault on democracy”…
The latest anti-LTN article to hit the shelves, from the conservative magazine The Critic and written by GB News producer Charlotte Gill, criticising a new study on Low Traffic Neighbourhoods in London (despite failing to address any of that study’s findings), is sure to keep the anti-cycling bingo players busy for a few weeks at least.
Needless to say, it hasn’t gone down well with cycling and pro-LTN Twitter:
Leaving aside lazy stereotypes re-Lycra, LTNs are implemented by democratically elected Councils via instruction from (Conservative) central Gov't.
Antis have had their views broadcast at length by Times, Telegraph, Mail, BBC Newsnight, local press & radio; local Tories/Lib Dems. https://t.co/IxCKushVDR
— CHAIRRDRF (@CHAIRRDRF) January 23, 2023
— Sevenfold (@Sevenfold1) January 22, 2023
The hypocrisy in this article is astounding. Just one example: you criticise research as being funded by a pro active-travel organisation all whilst writing in a publication funded by fossil fuels.
— Peter Crumb (@MrPeterCrumb) January 22, 2023
The best thing about your article is how it has no discussion of the content of the reports, only the credentials of those that wrote them (& in one case, an unrelated person who works for the same paper). One is criticised coz you've never heard of them. Outstanding journalism
— Dan Maher (@Dan_J_Maher) January 23, 2023
For an actual discussion of the report’s findings – and not a bingo ball in sight – you can read our article on the University of Westminster’s Active Travel Academy study:
Some interesting takes on the laughing gas-using driver in the comments section today:
Along with this incredibly astute observation from Twitter:
Are the first sentences linked? I’m pretty sure that’s not Cav driving
— teeks (@teekser) January 23, 2023
Strava's "local legend" thing is a bit of a laugh. But I especially love how I can live rent-free in someone's head by constantly taking it off them.
Dude has done the same little segment down the road from me 7 times this morning to get back to the lead 😂
— Chris Cox (@CoxyJindas) January 22, 2023
In another telling indicator of how the passage of time has ravaged pro cycling’s Class of 1990, rumours are currently circulating that one of its alumni, Nairo Quintana, will announce his retirement from the sport later this week.
The former Giro and Vuelta winner is currently without a team after being let go by Arkéa-Samsic – despite recently agreeing a three-year contract extension – following his disqualification from last year’s Tour de France due to a positive test for the painkiller Tramadol.
Quintana on his way to winning the Giro in 2014 (La Presse)
The Colombian star has been linked in recent weeks with a move to Team Medellín-EPM, the third tier outfit currently providing a refuge for another homegrown climber tainted with the doping brush, Miguel Ángel López.
Italian second-tier team Corratec were also reported to be interesting in signing the 32-year-old, a move which would have guaranteed Quintana a spot at this year’s Giro d’Italia.
However, team manager Sergio Parsani claimed last week that “it would take a miracle for us to sign him” after ASO and RCS (the organisers of the Tour de France and Giro respectively) encouraged Corratec to sign up to the anti-doping advocacy group, the Movement Pour un Cyclisme Crédible (MPCC).
One of the MPCC’s stricter anti-doping rules prevents teams signed up to the voluntary group from signing a rider coming off a sanction (though Quintana’s case is somewhat complicated by the fact that he didn’t serve a suspension, but was merely disqualified from the Tour for his use of Tramadol. Old school).
Noticia de última hora que entrega el canal de Ciclismo en Grande de Colombia, y es la retirada del ciclismo activo del corredor colombiano Nairo Quintana pic.twitter.com/UEFbCG3yHA
— Nieves Moya (@NievesMoya) January 23, 2023
With the season underway and his options running out, reports in Colombia suggest that Quintana – who arguably acted as the figurehead of the Colombian climbing renaissance at the top of the sport during the 2010s – will announce his retirement on Wednesday.
Ciclismo en Grande, the channel that broke the news, claims that the former Movistar rider is also very unhappy with his treatment from the UCI, a matter that may be discussed further during the rumoured press conference.
In a winter of waiting patiently for announcements, I suppose we better set our alarms for Wednesday then…
As well as offering up arguably the most exhilarating racing of the entire winter, the cyclocross World Cup’s foray to the Costa Blanca at the weekend also provided scope for more jokes than, well, an episode of Benidorm:
Benidorm? What number of these 15000 do we think are British ex-pats who've heard that CX races are places where you can swear and throw beer at cyclists? https://t.co/x8gB0oI8hH
— Jens Hagström (@jenscer) January 20, 2023
There are Spanish people in Benidorm?
— Edward Pickering (@EdwardPickering) January 22, 2023
Looking forward to the CX riders enjoying some bingo and karaoke in Benidorm tonight.
— David Hunter (@cyclingmole) January 22, 2023
And while we’re all lounging by the pool (I wish), let’s relive those dramatic elite races one more time:
Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert battled it out over an incredible final lap in Benidorm. 🇪🇸
— GCN Racing (@GcnRacing) January 22, 2023
The #CXWorldCup's first ever visit to Benidorm served up one of the best last-lap battles of the season between Fem van Empel and Puck Pieterse! 🇪🇸
— GCN Racing (@GcnRacing) January 22, 2023
Police in Hertfordshire have renewed their appeal for information concerning a hit-and-run collision which left a cyclist in his late 60s with life-changing injuries, for which he is still receiving care over two years on.
The cyclist was riding on Roydon Road in Stanstead Abbotts on 16 December 2020, at around 4.30pm, when he was struck and left injured on the road by the driver of what is believed to be a black Land Rover or Range Rover. The motorist fled the scene.
Hertfordshire Constabulary have so far been unable to track down the car, and have re-appealed for witnesses and information related to the hit-and-run.
“We have made extensive enquiries into this incident since it was first reported to us,” says Detective Sergeant Ben Heath, from the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Serious Collision Investigation Unit.
“As we surpass the two-year anniversary, I am re-appealing for any information that hasn’t been shared with us yet. It is believed the cyclist was in collision with a vehicle, which was not at the scene on police arrival.
“Despite our best efforts, we have been unable to trace that vehicle and are urging the driver to please come forward. I am particularly keen to hear from anyone who may remember seeing a black Land Rover or Range Rover travelling in the area between 4pm and 5pm on that day, or who may have seen a similar vehicle with damage to the passenger side wing mirror.
“I am urging motorists who were driving in the area on 16 December 2020, and have a dash cam fitted, to please review any footage and contact us if you have captured anything that may assist us in our ongoing investigation. While the victim survived, he requires ongoing care, and we are doing all we can to fully investigate the collision.
“If you have any information, remember seeing the vehicle, or have any footage, please email me at ben.heath [at] herts.police.uk.”
Why is Team DSM retweeting this though? 🤣
“Sorry we’ve taken a break from tweeting about our cycling team to bring you this.” pic.twitter.com/ZbrjXS0Kcp
— Anna Mac 🌈 (@AnnamacB) January 22, 2023
My worst nightmare… Not that I go about retweeting weird viral videos, of course (I save those for the live blog).
The veteran Argentinian sprinter and lead-out man Max Richeze, who has started his final week as a pro cyclist at the Vuelta a San Juan, has told reporters at his home race that he is “disappointed” in Mark Cavendish, who was officially unveiled as an Astana rider last week after months of seemingly endless speculation surround his future.
According to Richeze, the former world champion had originally asked the 39-year-old to join his sprint train at the now-defunct B&B Hotels outfit but, after the French team’s collapse, allegedly “disappeared” and “stopped answering his phone”, with Richeze only finding out about Cavendish’s move to Astana in the press.
Richeze, who is riding for Argentina’s national team as he brings the curtain down on his 16-year pro career this week, was set to join B&B Hotels as part of Cavendish’s personally selected lead-out train alongside Cees Bol, and even attended a pre-season meeting in October.
However, while Bol was able to join Cavendish at Astana as Jérôme Pineau’s ambitious project fell apart in early December, Richeze was seemingly cut adrift, despite believing that he remained part of the British champion’s plan for 2023.
Cavendish in his new Astana colours for 2023
“We should have raced together at B&B, but then the project foundered. I kept talking to Mark, he told me he wanted to take me with him, and we also talked about Astana,” the former UAE Team Emirates and Quick Step rider told Tuttobiciweb.
“Racing with him, thinking of tackling the Tour de France together to try and hit an historic record gave me great motivation. In recent months he had always been looking out for me, so I continued to train seriously because today, even in the first race of the year, you have to be at least 90 percent.”
The 39-year-old also revealed to Cyclingnews: “I was going to be part of his package, along with Cees Bol. There were going to be three of us. But then, from one day to the next, Mark disappeared, and so did his agent, so I only found out in the press that they had signed for Astana.
“In December, he stopped answering his phone, and it was the same with his agent.
“Normally, I was part of his project, he had called me to be a part of it. If he had said to me at the last minute, ‘I’m sorry but there are only two places and I can’t take you with me’, I wouldn't have been angry at all.
“He just needed to be upfront and tell me how things were playing out. I would have understood that. I just didn’t like this attitude where one day, everything was in place and then two days later, I see in the press that he’s signed, and he doesn’t respond to me on the phone anymore.
“That's the only thing, it was a question of respect. I would have understood if I was left without a team, and I would have thanked him all the same for trying to bring me with him. But I didn’t like the lack of communication.”
“A phone call or a message would have been enough,” Richeze concluded to Tuttobiciweb. “He is a great champion, but from a human point of view he disappointed me.”
After Jay Vine secured the first stage race win of his career at the Tour Down Under at the weekend (don’t mention Zwift, don’t mention Zwift), eagle-eyed viewers noticed that his UAE Team Emirates squad was looking somewhat light on numbers as they clambered onto the podium to accept the race’s team prize…
— @UAE-TeamEmirates (@TeamEmiratesUAE) January 22, 2023
Well, that’s because two of Vine’s key domestiques, George Bennett and Marc Hirschi, decided to ditch the cuddly koalas for a quick trip to the local Maccies and a celebratory Big Mac:
— abby 🎗️ (@wildewisteria) January 23, 2023
Classic Cat 4 energy, right there.
Fancy a Monday morning catch-up of the weekend’s cycling news and tech stories? Well, you’ve come to the right place…
Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.