Mick Rogers added a glittering notch to his palmares on Monte Zoncolan in Stage 20. But not everyone was happy and is has nothing to do with tainted meat. Oh no. With just over 2km to go Rogers and Bardiani-CSF rider Francesco Bongiorno were locked in a ding dong battle at 15%+. Bongiorno was on the Aussie’s wheel when a roadside fan, no doubt trying to help the Italian rider, decided to step out give him an almighty push – and promptly shoved him so hard towards Rogers’ wheel that the rider in lime green had to unclip his left foot. In doing so he lost precious metres at a critical time trying to regain his balance and rhythm. Whether he could have stuck with Rogers to the finish in any case is debatable, but Bongiorno never recovered and finished third on the stage.
Yet again in this Giro it was a regrettable moment that took the gloss of what should have been a gloriously heroic moment on one of world cycling’s most magnificent stages. As you can see from their post-stage round table (click above image for the link) the SBS commentators weren’t very impressed. In fact, this is about as fired up as I’ve ever seen Mike Tomalaris.
Tomalaris makes some entirely valid points. But seriously even if there are police standing every 50 metres on these final climbs, heck make it every 10 metres, you still can’t prevent twits from doing this kind of thing if they really have their mind set on it (especially if they’ve been drinking for the preceding four hours waiting for their 15 seconds of fame on telly). Having barriers all the way up might stop it, then again watching the Stelvio stage last Tuesday there were several fans clearly inside the barriers anyway.
This all raises a far bigger point, however. Hoards of crazy fans standing at incredibly close quarters on brutally epic climbs provide remarkable theatre for world cycling. It’s been this way for generations and this is certainly not the first time a fan has overstepped the mark, nor will it be the last. What do you do? I’m not sure. But as someone who has long loathed the impact of the ever-encroaching fun police on our lives, I fear that if we become too heavy-handed with crowd control we may very well risk losing one of the those things that truly separates our sport from all others.
This is no consolation for Bongionro, of course. But let’s not forget that a slightly lesser push from the fan, or perhaps a different lean on the bars from the rider, and no-one would be even talking about it. No matter how hard you try or how much money you spend you’ll never be able to control every eventuality.
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Quintana nearly came a cropper earlier in the same stage for the exact same thing. Luckily he was able to zip-zag and correct himself, held a hand up to the fan. Unsurprisingly his expression didn’t change at all 🙂