Vuelta Skelter: Sagan, the Incredible Sulk
Our daily sideways glance of the ups and downs of the Vuelta a España features an almighty meltdown by green jersey Peter Sagan, plus withdrawals aplenty on a controversial day in Spain.
On paper it looked like a fairly routine stage but the outcome was anything but as four riders crashed out of the race while Slovakian showman Sagan was apparently mowed down by a race motorbike.
Throw in that treacherously twisting and narrow descent of the Cresta del Gallo dual ascent and all the ingredients were there for a highly charged and ridiculously contentious day in the saddle – resulting in a win that no-one (bar Ian Boswell) would have predicted.
Let’s take a closer look at the movers and shakers of a sensational Saturday in Spain…
DOWN- PETER SAGAN
With all his sprinting rivals blown off the back by those two ascents, Sagan looked to be cruising towards his second win of the race as the stage entered its final 10 kilometres.
Three escapees still rode up the road with the narrowest of advantages as pit-bull Sagan led the chase. He then peeled away as if to regard the pack from side on, weighing up his options and checking out who he’d have to beat in the expected sprint.
The next thing we saw was Sagan's legs akimbo on the side of the road after the Tinkoff-Saxo all-rounder has seemingly been send sprawling by a passing Shimano support motorbike.
How do we know? Well, the reaction didn't leave much to the imagination.
It was a melt-down in the vein of Bruce Banner’s finest, the green-clad hulk lashing out with his arms, legs and knees as he remonstrated with the gathering entourage on the side of the road.
At one point he even punched the medical car when it drew up alongside, before kicking his own bike with a dropkick worthy of any Marvel comic.
Once back on his bike, Sagan simmered away in anger, his torn shorts revealing some gruesome gash graffiti across his left buttock. Refusing medical attention, Sagan stewed in fury as he came home more than five minutes down in a stage he was meant to win.
Of course, it wasn’t the first time a green Sagan had come to blows with an official race motorbike this season…
UP- JASPER STUYVEN
In Sagan’s absence, 23-year-old Stuyven of Trek Factory Racing picked up the first professional win of his career – not bad considering the Belgian was one of many who went down in a pile-up 50km from the finish.
If we didn't, then one Team Sky rider apparently saw Stuyven’s win coming… or so the American youngster claims.
Incidentally, Team Sky's Boswell clearly had an otherwise riveting day in the saddle...
DOWN- ALEX HOWES
Earlier in the day a break of six riders had managed to carve out a maximum lead of five minutes over the pack – and it was Cannondale-Garmin’s Howes who looked to give his team an instant and much-needed boost after the shock withdrawal of Ireland’s Dan Martin.
The American soloed clear on the first of two ascents of the Cat.3 Cresta del Gallo climb – only to overcook the first bend on the descent.
What happened next can be seen here in this video…
UP- ANGEL MADRAZO
The 27-year-old Caja Rural rider was the last man standing of the break before being swept up with 33km remaining. His baby face made an impact on social media, that’s for sure…
Although Madrazo reminded others less of a cartoon character than the Christopher Mintz-Plasse character in the film Superbad.
DOWN- TEJAY, DAN, KRIS & NACER
What sounds like the line-up of a terrible boy band was in fact the casualty list from the pile-up that tore the pack apart with 50km remaining.
Belgian Kris Boeckmans (Lotto-Soudal) looked the worse off, closely followed by American Tejay Van Garderen of BMC, who held his arm in a broken collarbone-ish kind of way as he lay on the side of the road.
Both riders were forced to retire from the race and, although stable, were taken straight to hospital. They were joined a bit later by Dan Martin – riding his last Grand Tour for Cannondale-Garmin before a switch to Etixx-QuickStep – and serial tarmac tumbler Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis).
UP- MOTORBIKE STUPIDITY
Time to return to the main talking point of stage eight...
Will the upward trajectory of collisions between riders and motorbikes never end? We thought it had reached its nadir with the incident involving Greg van Avermaert in San Sebastian earlier this month, but this latest controversy will further fan the flames.
Like BMC following the Van Avermaet incident, Tinkoff-Saxo have threatened legal action.
Indeed, not only did the collision deny Sagan a clear chance of a second stage win – and some vital points in the green jersey competition – it was, above all, outrageously dangerous. A rider not boasting the bulk of Sagan could well have seen his season – or career – ended; as it were, Sagan got away with a cheese-grated backside and some torn shorts.
Tension, however, was understandably high on social media in the wake of the debacle.
There was, of course, also room for a light-hearted take on the whole issue, courtesy of the man who is proving to be the must-follow Twitter account of the Vuelta, the mysterious Senor Fiestina.
Someone care to fill Sagan’s boss in?