Everyday we see stories in the sporting world that just just don’t pass the moral or sportsmanship litmus test. Incidents like doping (TdF, Olympics, Baseball), gambling (NBA referees), and recruiting violations (NCAA) to name just a few. I think anyone would be hard pressed to find a sport that hasn’t been tarnished in some form, or fashion, over the last decade. What does this have to do with the 2008 Tour of Utah? Read on.
A short way into the start of the Stage 1, an attack took place that saw several riders get away. Working together, this group managed to build a lead of more than seven minutes over the peleton. As could be expected, the peleton formed up and gave chase to try and reel in the breakaway before the finish. Here’s where it gets interesting. With about 50 miles left in the stage, and their time gap down to around three minutes, the breakaway group somehow managed to get themselves off the race route (either by their own error or a race officials – I’m not sure). Regardless, the breakaway group continued in the wrong direction for over a mile before realizing the mistake and turning around. By this time, though, the peleton had already passed them and was heading towards the finish.
The peleton, after realizing what had happened, pulled up to wait for the breakaway. That’s right, over 100 riders pulled to the side of the road to allow the breakaway group to pass them. Once the breakaway caught up, and built up the three minute time advantage they had had before deviating from the race course, the peleton set out again to chase them down.
How’s that for sportsmanship? It reminds me of when Lance Armstrong was pulled down on Stage 15 of the 2003 Tour de France when a fan’s musette bag became entangled in his handlebars. The riders who were with Armstrong when he went down included Jan Ullrich, Tyler Hamilton, Ivan Basso, Haimar Zubeldia, Christophe Moreau, and Iban Mayo (who also went down with Armstrong). Ullrich and Hamilton told the other riders to pull up and wait for Armstrong and Mayo. That was a classic show of sportsmanship and just goes to show you that what goes around comes around because it was Armstrong who waited for a crashed Ullrich in the 2001 tour. Guess who won Stage 15 of the TdF that year. That’s right, Lance Armstrong. Who won Stage 1 of the 2008 Tour of Utah? Jason Donald – one of the riders in the breakaway that the pelton pulled up and waited for.
Although professional cycling has had its ups and downs with doping, I believe we are on an upward swing of higher morals and sportsmanlike practices in our beloved sport. This was never more evident than yesterday during Stage 1 of the Tour of Utah. My hat goes off to all the riders in the peleton for showing us how it’s done.