This was one of the main talking points of the Giro d’Italia, at least for Australians. Pink jersey contender, Richie Porte who was riding for Sky at the time, punctured in the final run to the line on a sprint stage. With no team-mates around to assist, Porte accepted a wheel from fellow Australian, Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEDGE).
Porte lost over a minute as he failed to make it back to the peleton, then was docked an additional two minutes by race officials for receiving illegal assistance from a rider not on his team.
Collusion has been a problem in cycling in the past, most notably with the big nations preferring to help a rider of their own nationality if there’s an outsider in the running to win a major race. On the other hand, a blind eye has often been turned to riders who have suffered from a mechanical and are behind the race through no fault of their own.
There weren’t too many doping cases throughout the season, which was refreshing. Giampaolo Caruso (Katusha) and Lloyd Mondory (AG2R) were the biggest names caught for EPO use and the resulting sanctions will probably end their careers.
The Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec team was suspended for 30 days after recording two positive tests with Davide Appollonio and Fabio Taborre. This was due to a new rule instituted by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) at the start of the year, in response to the doping controversy at Astana, where five positives were recorded in the back end of 2014.
Astana continued to court controversy after starting Lars Boom at the Tour despite low cortisol levels, forbidden by the Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC), an organisation which the team decided to leave rather than comply by its rules. The whole thing leaves a rather sour taste for cycling fans who want to believe in the results they witness on the road.
Sticking with the Astana theme, one of the most lasting memories of the season was when Vincenzo Nibali received a tow from his team car in the Vuelta a Espana. He had been caught up in a crash, as had a number of others, and they were working to get back on. When it became clear that they weren’t making any headway in crossing the gap, Nibali grabbed onto the team car and it rocketed him across to the peloton, leaving the riders behind Nibali swearing and throwing the hands up in the air.
Nibali was thrown out of the race once footage emerged of the incident. He wasn’t the only one guilty of such antics. Eduardo Sepulveda of Bretagne-Seche was kicked off the Tour de France when in the top 20 after suffering a mechanical and hitching a ride about 100 metres up the road to get a spare bike.
Safety vs sanity
Another incident that had many questioning riders' sanity was the train crossing debacle at Paris-Roubaix. The gates closed as the peloton was going through. Some riders continued riding over the crossing after the gates were down and the train was only seconds away. The peloton reformed and it had zero impact on the race, which made the riders’ decisions look all the more silly.
Another episode of safety negligence happened at the Vuelta al País Vasco where two metal poles remained in the way of riders after the final corner into the home straight of a sprint stage. Peter Stetina (BMC) was the worst affected, his season was essentially over after he was nearly impaled.
Shimano received terrible publicity during the spring classics when two of their neutral support vehicles were involved in taking riders out at the Tour of Flanders. Then it was the motorbikes’ turn later in the year. Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) was hit during the Vuelta a Espana while on track to win the sprinters' jersey and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) got taken out in the Clasica San Sebastian while he was in the race-winning position.
Crashes are inevitable, but some of these were clearly avoidable. On the upside, positive conclusions were made in the aftermath of a lot of these incidents. Dopers continue to be caught and punished and the signposting of race hazards has improved markedly after the Vuelta al País Vasco debacle. A relatively quiet year for scandalmongers in the end.